I wasn’t really in the mood to do another diary of the show because I know all the other bloggers at the booth were doing play by play of what was going on. So I decided to just tell you my experiences from the show, and tell you the highlights. As I have stated before, the Weekend of Fire Show was my very first fiery food event, so it holds something special in my heart. Saturday morning it was meet and greet all the vendors who were getting ready for the start of the show. Joe & Linda Levinson had the grand idea to get Johnny McLaughlin from Heartbreaking Dawns a birthday cake, and they found the perfect one, that of a giant burger. We split it, they got the card, and I also threw in a 70’s throwback candy bag I found in the ginormous candy area at the Jungle Jim’s Market. Unfortunately, when they gave it out to him I was preoccupied with organizing the after show dinner and lost out in the fun. I did make it up at the restaurant later when I got the waitress to give Johnny a special cupcake with a candle and sing “happy birthday” to him in front of all of us. We had something similar the night before at Terry’s Turf Club, but they didn’t have much to work with in the way of singing.
Once I walked the show and got the greets out of the way, I decided to start my exploration with all the decadent new products that were being offered by Race City Sauce Works & CaJohn’s Flavor & Fire. Starting with Chad’s RCSW he took me through his new products. The artwork on these bottles are amazing. The flavors were good for the most part, but my favorite by far was the Danse Macabre and the best of his new Taco product line was the smokey Deadwood Taco Sauce. Once I hit the Sambal chile paste/sauce it was like I was on fire for the next 15 minutes. I think it was the hottest thing I tried at the show including the very hot Extreme Gourmet’s Trinidad Scorpion product. Once my mouth was calm, I headed over to CaJohn’s booth to try the highly anticipated new Pretzel Coat Taco Sauce, and boy was I not disappointed. It won my vote and the Blogger’s as well for best new product at the show. An improvement in heat from the mild Oaxacan I liked it so much I bought a case of 12 bottles. I even had some Taco Bell with it all ready, and boy is it good and it will make you sweat.
I was encouraged by some other products that I had for the first time. Ahrun’s Famous has a very nice product line, especially their Voodoo Magic and Zombie Boogie. Over to the Spicey Rooster BBQ Company booth, and I liked all their sauces, but I loved their Hysteria Sauce. It was my 2nd favorite new hot sauce of the show behind Pretzel Coat. High River Sauces introduced their newest sauce, Rogue which I sampled the prototype at Bowers, but was happy to grab some of the finished product. I think this is the best hot sauce that High River Sauces has ever put out, kudos to Steve Seabury. At the Bigfats booth, the Grownup KidStuff Chocolate Sauce was selling at the first day as it did at Bowers. A chocolate sauce made with their 808, so it has serious kick, but sweet enough to enhance your ice cream. There was also a Martinez Salsa company that I liked too, but they were not on the ballot for the public to vote for. I think they had a shot if they had entered their hottest salsa. Pigchaser BBQ had some nice BBQ sauces. There was a pineapple one that I liked a lot. Big Russ’ Beer Cheese was making their debut, and I forgot to get me some for my trip back. Big mistake on my part, but football got in the way and I just let it slip my mind. Great cheese spread if you never have had the pleasure to try it. I had some at the Fiery Food Show and we did a review for them a little after that. They won a WOFI for Best Specialty Product at the show voted on by the public. Captain Jim had this great orange dessert sauce called Molten Orange Oblivion that I made sure I purchased. In fact I almost forgot that, but remembered on my way out the door of the Oscar Event Center for the last time.
Also new to the show was the newest preserve by Heartbreaking Dawns – Strawberry Scorpion Preserves. He had used it on the Brownies in the Brownie Brawl Buster. I had purchased some of these preserves at Bowers so they weren’t new to me. Johnny had played with some pork belly and all 3 of his preserves, and I will tell you it was the best thing I ate at the show, and perhaps all weekend. Since we are discussing the Brownie Brawl Buster, I will tell you it was the hottest Johnny has ever made these brownies and each round was truly a battle. Only 5 people at the end remainded out of 20, and last years champion made a beeline to the bathroom after 1 bite of the ghost scorpion on top of the final round’s brownie with the ILoveItIcing on top which was mixed with some of the hottest peppers chopped in. I will have the video of the event in the days to come. As well as the Wing King Challenge and the Feast of Fire challenges which were a bit of a mess.
The Wing King Challenge was not organized well, and the slow start with the reading of the role call and rules left the crowd very restless. Crazy Uncle Jester was very much leaned on by Jungle Jim’s and by the time Jester got on mic, the long day of the event, (by then over 7 hours had elapsed), the ice cream and PB & J sammich contests had taken its toll on the Crazy One’s voice. He was visibly tired and lacked the umph in his voice to break through the crowd noise. The people watching over the contestants were not watching whether they were really eaten the meat off the wings, but instead on whether they raised their hands or said they were done or not. I did not see many hands go up, and I saw much meat left on the bone. The contestant I filmed, who had a huge crowd following took a couple of bites and threw the wing down. No one was questioning it, so he advanced to the 3rd round where he did it again. The one and only Steve “The Machine” Smallwood cleaned his wings down to the bone, but was eliminated in the 2nd round because he did not raise his hand fast enough. The contestants in the 2nd and 3rd rounds were spread out too far for any of the sideline judges to see what they were doing and not doing for that matter. The video does not lie, and you will see all that went wrong as I sat at the table and filmed it from the 2nd round on.
The Feast of Fire had similar problems with the incredibly long introduction and reading of the rules and swear-ins by the contestants that they were not professional eaters nor taken lubricants to coat their tummies. While some of it was very funny, it was way too long and drawn out and the contest end up being a confused failure. After having a ghost pepper to chew for 30 seconds and swallow, they were given a plate of food that consisted of sliced kielbasa with Bald Eagle horseradish, a ghost pepper sausage sandwich, and a HBD brownie. As far as I could see only 1 contestant was able to eat all the horseradish kielbasa and have one bite out of the sausage. Everyone else was choking on the horseradish and could not get them all down. Some were spitting them back up, some were coughing and drooling, it wasn’t purdy. All of a sudden a winner was declared and I was still filming waiting for them to eat more. Everyone seemed disappointed and confused by the ending. If that was what they were after, they got a C- from me. It was a very noble idea, but boy does it need some serious tweaking. I will give them credit for the appearance of the event which was something you would do at a special Halloween dinner to scare your guests. I would love to see what Chad Lowcock and/or Johnny Mclaughlin would do with this event if they were handed the reins. Their creativeness would shine, and I think they should consider collaborating.
My overall take on the show is that Saturday seemed like the crowds were constant throughout the day, and the vendors for the most part said they did very well. Sunday on the other hand, was a dismal failure. The Cincinnati Bengals were playing at 1pm at home, and that must have played a huge toll on the attendance. If the show’s hours are 11am-5pm, and the game is from 1pm-4pm, then you are going to lose a lot of your potential audience. You can not predict the NFL schedule, and the only way to avoid it is not to have your show during the football season, move it away from Sunday, maybe Friday-Saturday instead or start earlier on Sunday like at 9am to capture some of those that want to watch football and still get their burn on. The last option probably won’t make too much of a difference I believe, but it is an option. The vendors did bad Sunday. I did not hear much positives coming from the vendors about their Sunday. There is also a problem with the show stealing the crowd from the vendors in exchange for entertainment. Sometimes less is better. You do not have to have something going on every hour. A successful show starts with your vendors, not with how many t-shirts and tickets are sold. If the show makes money that is great, but if your vendors do not, then you need to consider some changes. Some of these people come from all over, spend money on hotels, food, gas, etc just to attend the show, and all they expect is for the show to fill the house so they have a chance to sell their wares. If that does not happen, then word will get out, and it will get harder and harder to fill the show up. The 6th year should be your turning point of success, and the meter was stuck in the red. The show had suffered from this in the past, and it looked like it was finally turning the corner, but Sunday was just a bad turnout.
I do not want to seem like I did not enjoy myself, because I had a blast and a half. The Blogger’s Round Table on Sunday was one of the best ever in my opinion, and thanks to Scott for piecing it all together, and keeping the pace moving along. Video is coming. The video has been rendering on my computer for over 3 hours now and is still only 58% finished. It is long, and I probably should have cut it in half, but too late now. Besides the Blogger’s Booth we got to vote on the Best New Product and Best Overall Product. As I stated before, CaJohn’s won best new product for their Pretzel Coat hot sauce(Quetzalcoatl), while the Sauce Goddess won best overall for their great Sweet Red Devil Sauce. Very happy for both of them. The WOFI Winners were:
Best Hot Sauce
Papi Joe’s Tennessee Pepper Sauce
2nd – High River Sauces – Tears of the Sun
3rd – Teaspoon Willie’s – Spicy Sauce
Best BBQ Sauce
Kentucky’s Smokin’ Grill – Too Hot for You
2nd – Black Swamp Gourmet – BBQ Sauce
3rd – Ahruns Famous – Zombie Boogie
Chili Rocks – Ghost Pepper Hot Salsa
2nd – Don Sabrosa – Sweet with Heat
3rd – Bald Eagle Foods – Grizzly Bear Salsa
Best Hot Specialty
Big Russ Beer Cheese – Habanero
2nd – Bald Eagle Foods – Horseradish
3rd – Bronco Bob’s – Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
Sauce Goddess – Sweet Red Devil
Best New Product
CaJohns – Quetzalcoatl
The after show dinners were full of laughs and just the usual general lighthearted moments that you get with this group. We went to SmoQ on Saturday, and it was such a success with everyone it looks like this will be a future haunt for the future. Afterwards with CaJohn on his way to West Virginia and others had different hotels a group of us hung out at the Holiday Inn Express and drank 14 different kinds of root beer that I had purchased at Jungle Jim’s. You can’t leave me in charge of the beer or this is what you get. On Sunday we went back to Papadeaux’s for the 4th year in a row. We had a great time and much fun was had with some of the dessert I brought with me to the restaurant. What happens at Papadeaux’s stays at Papadeaux’s.
Monday morning we left Fairfield, and the memory of the Weekend of Fire behind and drove up north to Columbus and went to the Cajun Island Open House. Our host, Nick Ney, owner of his own food court at the Market Place of the Americas Mall laid out the red carpet for all those that attended. Being the first to show he gave me a tour of the kitchen and wanted me to film his version of the infamous Cajun dirty rice recipe. Then a little later he let me film his delicious Blackened Chicken with bow tie pasta recipe as well. I will have those in due time for you all to see. All of his food was awesome. I am not just saying that to be nice, it really was great. The Alligator gumbo, the pasta and dirty rice were my highlights. It was a great way to end the long holiday weekend. Thanks again Nick for making us all feel like your honored guests.
As a capper before I share the pictures with you, I would like to give a special shout-out to our newest chilehead Kevin Roberts. He braved some very spicy things this weekend, and took on the HBD’s Brownie like a champ, and even if the brownie won this time, I know Kevin will best it next time. Kevin also introduced me to a new soda drink Dr Dew in which I fell immediately in love with. Thanks for putting up with my endless talking and my scary sleep mask. It was a pleasure to hang with you and your old man.
Many of the pics were from the various contests like the kids event with the worms in the oreo pudding. Lots of fun to watch the kids go face first and come up looking like they had a fight in the mud. Enjoy.