2015 NYC Hot Sauce Expo: History in the Making

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For those of you that made it down to the 3rd Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo, you found yourself in the middle of something special. One of the most important moments this industry/community has ever had was the Inaugural Hot Sauce Hall of Fame. We got to see 5 of the biggest names inducted live in what will be a start of something bigger than all of us. I was lucky enough to induct the great Dave Hirschkop of Dave’s Insanity Sauce fame. It all started with Tabasco creator Edmund McIlhenny as the first inductee as it should be. The other 3 greats were the ever-entertaining Chip Hearn of Peppers, the legendary Pope of Peppers Dave DeWitt, and the most award winning hot sauce maker of all time, CaJohn Hard. Chip, the Pope and CaJohn all received their official HoF red jackets and rings in person on stage. I felt like I was apart of something truly great and even got myself in a couple of pictures with the legends. I can not thank host, promoter and visionary Steve Seabury enough for giving me the honor to be a part of this historical moment. Hear what Dave DeWitt said about his experience on his blog: CLICK ME

That was not the only historical moment though. There was the Guinness Book of World Records attempt for the most Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reapers eaten in a minutes time. It was actually done by weight to be as accurate as possible. The Puckerbutt Pepper Company was the center of the universe for an hour plus, and the frenzy of the crowd loved every second of the self-induced pepper pain. On the downside of that was the wreckage the bathrooms took following the record attempt. I was told that every competitor but one had fallen prey to the capsaicin tummy rejection. This information came from the sole survivor, but I do not have facts to follow whether this is true or not, nor do I know whether that last person did not himself finally give in to the chile volcano. I was in the bathroom an hour later after it was supposedly cleaned, but there was still plenty of remnants to be found. It was not purdy I can tell you that much. No matter what, this contest might be most memorable to those that got sick, and one wonders whether it will be worth it to them to go through this again. I have had bad cramp attacks from capsaicin and it is not fun at all. Here is our Pizza Eating Champion, Wayne Algenio who took 2nd place in the Guinness Book of World Records Challenge. This guy is a heat-seeking missile of destruction!

Speaking of Pizza Eating, ILoveItSpicy, Volcanic Peppers and Grimaldi’s held our 3rd Annual Fiery Pizza Challenge. I am very thankful that Wayne filmed himself so we can share the fun with all of you. You will see first hand how he took the greatest trophy in the world of competitive eating home with him. Was it history too? Well, maybe not, but it certainly had the crowd whipped up into a frenzy as you will soon hear. A big thanks to Frank of Grimadli’s who has been so good to Tim Bader and myself in helping us put on this event for the 3rd year in a row with his infamous pizza. If you have never eaten there, please check out a location near you. It is worth it to sit there and get one of their freshly baked pizzas. Yum!

Besides the above mentioned festivities there was also other eating challenges – Ice Cream both Saturday and Sunday, plus Taco and Burrito challenges and the finals of the Bloody Mary Best Bartender contest. The crowds were always interested in whatever was happening on stage, and they certainly showed it in their enthusiasm. New Yorkers know when to stay quiet and when to howl. They had total respect to those on stage, and it was very much appreciated.

The event was more wide open than last year with the aisles very easy to walk through without having too much difficulty. The stage area was another story entirely, but you could just as easily avoid it by walking down the opposite end of any row. I loved having that separation between rows and I am sure the vendors did as well. Seabury has stated that he is happy with the amount of vendors, keeping it around 45, and does not plan on adding more. He could so easily get more, but he knows as a hot sauce maker that attends other events, that the less vendors, the more money that there is to go around. The more vendors, the pie slice gets smaller. Having the experience on both sides of the fence, Steve feels like he owes his fellow sauce merchants a chance to succeed at his event. I did not hear anything negative about sales from all the vendors I asked. Not saying they were white-lying it, but their faces seem to be all smiles. Being in NYC, there is a lot of expenses for those that had to travel and stay at a hotel, and perhaps fly in or travel a long distance by car. The food is expensive, the gas is crazy high because of taxes, as in New Jersey which is around 50 cents cheaper. If you take a cab, you might be surprised how much you will end up paying to travel a few miles. Rental cars are cheaper per day. Seabury understands all these things, and his booth prices are reasonably priced and much cheaper than all the other major shows.

Another thing that sets this show apart from the other shows is the VIP area. It is filled with so much premium liquor vendors of all kinds, it even has foo-foo drinks for yours truly. You have heard of Apple Ale, now imagine Pineapple Ale! There was also a grill going non-stop for 2 days serving up some sliders, BBQ, Sammiches, Kielbasi, Potato salad, and Kale Salad. Beyond the VIP tent outside, you could walk off and find some other types of cuisine in the parking lot. I saw people very happy to sit down on the cement and drink, eat and be merry under the warm sun. It was nice to venture outside every now and then for some fresh air, although this was the retreat for those needing their nicotine fix. There was a milk vendor at the show supplying all the eating contestants some quick relief, and they even had a tent in the parking lot too. Right next to them Monster was giving away their new non-carbonated Pink Lemonade and Ice Tea cans of Rehab. You didn’t even have to be a VIP for that. Steve did not have any barber or tattoo artist this year, but the level of VIP happiness was raised up a notch.

Aside from all these great things that made up the event, you can’t have a successful Expo without the vendors, and these vendors are some of the best this industry has to offer. Some of my very favorite ones under one roof might make me spend a little bit more than usual, and I did. Perhaps the most I have ever spent at one fiery food event in my life. I was in spicy heaven. So many great new sauces, and I even got to chat with some that I had tried before ever meeting them. One such one was Queen Majesty who Johnny McLaughlin of Heartbreaking Dawns introduced me to last year. They took home two 1st place Screaming Mi Mi Awards for the only two products they have. You can’t do any better than that. I was very happy for them. Speaking of Johnny Mac, he had a tasting of his new verde sauce which will be coming out in the near future. I do not know if that was the final tweak of what I tasted, but it was perhaps the best tasting verde sauce I ever had. If you love Cilantro like I do, then you best be looking out for that new HBD temptation in the near future. Johnny also gave me some good and bad news. His lovely wife Nicole and him are expecting a boy in June, but the bad news is he is leaving the East Coast to the warmer climates of Arizona near Phoenix. While I am sad he is leaving, I wish them both and their kids a great new start when they decide to trek there in late fall.

I had the pleasure of also getting tp sample some exclusive spicy offerings of 2 sauces that are making their debuts outside of the Expo very soon. Firstly, Zack & Zane’s World Famous Pepper Company has a “50 Shades of Hot” sauce. I do not recall ever having a burn take that long to hit me from any hot sauce or chile pepper. It took about 4-5 minutes before I actually fell the extreme burn. I got a nice high off of it, and loved the flavor of it, although there is a slight bitterness that has to be removed. Otherwise it is sticky sweet and reminds me of Apple Jack cereal, and the people I share it with all enjoyed it before the burn climbed up their legs and bit them on the arse, (for my new friends at the Clifton Chilli Club).

The other sauce is long in the making, and with the help of Tim Bader of Volcanic Peppers who is now making it for him, Joe “Undaunted” Belcher has now his first official Crooked Creek Farm Howling Dog hot sauce. His cayenne pepper sauce is smooth, with what I believe is the right amount of vinegar to pepper blend, and after today I know if goes very well on food. I shared it with many of the vendors at the Expo, and the majority of them gave it a positive endorsement. I can not wait to have some with some jambalaya in the near future.

As for the vendor offerings, there was so much great new stuff my tongue was never so happy. Dragon Blood Elixir’s Douglas Crane is one of my favorite sauce makers that puts out about 6 new small batch products ever season. It is hard to keep up with all the fresh flavors, so I just went down the line of about 15 products and was wowed how much different and wonderful each flavor was. I left their booth with 6 different sauces. I have all ready gone through more than 1/2 a bottle of his Cayenne Herb upon my first meal home. His maple bacon hot sauce has chunks of real maple bacon, and is without a doubt, and no offense to my hometown neighbor at Voodoo Chiles with their awesome Porcus Infernum, but it is the best bacon hot sauce in the spicy universe. That is not to say we do not have room for more than 1 great bacon hot sauce, in fact I have never had so much bacon hot sauces at one show. AND, Voodoo Chile Sauces out did themselves by creating 2 bacon hot sauces I think are better than his original Porcus. First, the AEternus Sauceworks introduction of Bacon-X brings a more well rounded burn that gluttons of punishment like yours truly were looking for. Bacon-X is the hotter version of Porcus Infernum. Even better than that is the new Bacon Taco sauce which I asked for a little over a month ago, and Thom Toth delivered with perfection. The flavors are almost like you are eating a taco right from the bottle. I look forward to trying out on some Mexican fare soon.

Another Bacon hot sauce, albeit using vegan bacon comes from Rocky’s Hot Sauce, the 2014 Lenny Award winner of Best Taco Sauce of the year. I enjoyed it, and if I did not know it wasn’t real bacon, I would have believed it hook, line and sinker. iBurn was also carrying a Pig Chaser BBQ sauce at their booth, but I failed to sample it. I know there was another bacon hot sauce somewhere else, but I forgot who it was. Lets guess an impression it did not leave. I did have quite a bit of impressionable moments though throughout the weekend with so many other products. So why don’t I just list all my new favorites from the Expo and their company below here. I will say, I bought everyone of these sauces, and some like from CaJohn, multiple.

CaJohn’s Tiki Bar – a Polynesian sauce that won a 1st place Screaming Mi Mi Award
Volcanic Peppers’ Reaper Ketchup (had some on me mini sliders, and had to have me a bottle)
Culley’s Tijuana Green Chile (New Zealand done right, this might be green sauce of the year)
Culley’s Carolina Reaper Chipotle (One of the best Chipotle sauces of all time)
Southern Belles Southern BBQ – Original & Pineapple Twang (Best new BBQ Sauce at the Expo)
Jersey Barnfire – Black Garlic (3 great products, but I was low on money so I picked my favorite. It could have easily been a flip of a coin).
Holy Schmitt’s Horseradish – Mustard Horseradish (I liked all the flavors, so I just picked this one).
High Octane Sauce Company – Thai Coconut Green Curry Wing Sauce (Love me some Thai Wings!)
Hellfire Hot Sauce – Their new sausage sticks. I forgot to get me some! I am pissed, they were so good!!!
Defcon Sauces – Curbstomp (As soon as I get used to one heat level, they raise the bar again!)
Gemini Crow – Jack the Reaper (Pineapple hot sauce, he had me at pineapple)
Dragon Blood Elixir – I mentioned them above, but I need to list my favorite 6 that I bought…
1- Maple Roasted Apple
2- Smoky Maple Garlic Bacon
3- Cayenne Herb
4- Sweet and Sour Horseradish
5- Honey Garlic
6- Dijon Mustard

There are so many other products I purchased, but were more of my favorites, and this event has as I said above most of my favorite spicy product makers. So if I did not mention them, it isn’t because I do not like them. I could go on and on about some of my Lenny Award winning companies at the Expo since there are many, and still leave out some other great artisans. So do not feel left out, because you are really appreciated by me, and many of your fans out there.

This was a great show with great vendors, and I look forward to the next great event. Promoters Steve Seabury and Jimmy Carbone hit a bases loaded Home Run in the upper deck. I had a total blast and I hope you know how much you are appreciated amongst your peers. At the John Dilley Birthday dinner Sunday night, praise was heaped your way in abundance. For me, as a foodie, blogger and fan, I loved it all. Kudos to all those that were instrumental in making it such a success. I added some pics from my camera below. Not the greatest photos, but the light was playing tricks with my photos.

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4 thoughts on “2015 NYC Hot Sauce Expo: History in the Making

  • April 28, 2015 at 11:26 pm
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    It was so great seeing you Buddah! Thank you so much for your tireless dedication and passion for this field. Much appreciated. See ya soon!

  • April 30, 2015 at 2:44 am
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    Thanks Shellie. I look forward to the next event.

  • May 4, 2015 at 5:27 pm
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    Seemed like a lot of the “industry” folks forgot there was a third aisle. The couple we did see back there looked surprised as if they were not expecting anything back there…so I missed some usually faces, but there were plenty of the faces that buy and that’s why we go to that show! Great as always!

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