My favorite spicy food festival is back and ready to delight all those that attend. Why is this event my favorite? It is not to knock all the other great shows out there for which there are quite a few, but there is something very intimate about this festival that the bigger shows can not possibly achieve. It all kicks off Friday the 14th at the CaJohn Flavor & Fire warehouse where John and Sue Hard have their annual Open House event. Food is spicily prepared by Chef Steve Lawrence for those that want to grab a bite, and you have the full arsenal of CaJohn’s condiments at your disposal to add a kick or enhance your food. Not that Chef Steve’s food ever needs any form of doctoring.
The Open House allows for the spicy product makers vending at the festival and the chileheads going to sample, to mingle with each other in this relaxed setting. “The Wall” in the warehouse is like leaving your footprint behind for others to see on future visits. People scrawl their signatures and companies’ names and logos, and sometimes messages of their presence in this dedication to the chilehead community. If you come to the Open House, you MUST grab a marker and add your name to the lengthy list of fiery food fans from days gone by. It is all part of the tour you get from the CaJohn factory guide who will answer all your questions except for the secrets of the trade that have won them more product individual awards than any company in the fiery food business.
The Open House will continue on for as long as people want to hang out. For this group it could be a while. Although, setup time for the vendors is at 6am on Saturday morning, so they might not be hanging out too late for that very reason. Either way if you come by, the Hards will not turn you away. Hugging arms are always extended. Don’t even think of shaking hands in their house.
What else do I love about this special weekend. Well, I get to participate in judging an amateur contest, participate in another and sample the rest. We have the 2nd Annual Great Spicy Chicken Salad Challenge to kick off the event for vendors only. The event will have contests throughout the day. There are a lot of new things in store for you at the North Market show this year including 3 new contests ILIS will be co-sponsoring with 3 of our friends – Ed Currie of Puckerbutt Pepper Company will be introducing the Ballpark Challenge, Tim Bader of Volcanic Peppers will be testing the Fiery Pizza Challenge in the Columbus, Ohio market and Patter Fam Sauces and I will be bringing back the new and improved PB & J Sammich Stackdown. Plus you have the Peppered Pulled Pork Challenge from Joel Mowrey of Smoking J’s and returning even hotter and messier than ever is Chad Lowcock & Race City Sauce Works’ Schweaty Balls Challenge. Something you will not want to miss! There is the annual chili contests, both amateur and restaurant competitions, plus the amateur guacamole, salsa and hot sauce contests that many of the bloggers will get a chance to judge in, including yours truly as stated above. At the end of the festival on Sunday, the traditional wing challenge presented by CaJohn’s Flavor & Fire is always a crowd-pleaser as the one and only Steve “The Machine” Smallwood will be back to defend his title.
Then there is the awesome food downstairs in the marketplace. There will be spicy cuisine served up from most of the artisan food markets, and that will be something else to think about considering all the great ethnic food choices. Plus entertainment for the kids including face painting. There will be caricatures for all ages, a photo booth and a juggling performance both days. Plus live music. It is a family fun time for all ages.
Another highlight is the chilehead feast at the 4th Annual Fiery Asian Dinner Saturday night after the show. You can visit this page and add your name: Fiery Asian Dinner if you have any interest in attending. A head count is important to assure yourself a seat. There will be a few mild dishes for those too timid to tackle the intense heat that is assured to be coming from some of these delicious Asian dishes. You can see the menu on the page too.
This 2 day event is a lot of fun, and while it is only 18 vendors, which is small compared to other fiery fests, it is the reason why everyone stays together for the whole weekend. We are in a sense immersing ourselves in the culture that we have created with spicy food, and embracing it with each other. CaJohn Hard and the North Market have cultivated an event that people are willing to travel across country to attend. If you attend once, you will want to come back again, and that speaks volumes for this great weekend.
59 Spruce St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Phone (614) 463-9664
Facebook Festival Page: CLICK ME
Show Date: February 15-16, 2014
There will also be an open house at CaJohn’s Fiery Foods on the Friday before the event.