By Ernest Barteldes
The annual New York Hot Sauce Expo has become a bit of a tradition for us – I first went during the 2015 edition on my own but have convinced Renata to come along with me for the last two editions. This time we got there on the very last day of the event. Like in previous years, it was quite crowded with a mix of curious locals and intense hot pepper enthusiast. On stage some kind of competition was going on – there are several contests going on for the duration of the event, going from pizza and chicken wing eating tournaments and some involving pro bartenders.
We got there in the early afternoon on Sunday and went on to taste some the samples made available there. We started with Long Island’s Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix – a delicious recipe that comes both in mild and spicy. The “hot” version does not burn that much, and it is quite flavorful. I was disappointed not to see Ed Currie, the creator of the Carolina Reaper there – I had the pleasure to get my mouth severely burned by his pepper – awarded by the Guiness Book of Records as the hottest chili pepper in the world.
This year, however, I was looking for flavor, and we got what we came for – among our purchases was “Dia de Sol,” a delicious Portuguese-style sauce from Nebraska’s Volcanic peppers – a mild concoction made with peri peri peppers, red peppers and garlic (among other things) that serves as a great topping for omelets or meats. From them we also got Jamaican Holiday, a sauce made from yellow scotch bonnet peppers – quite hot.
Other highlights included Upstate New York’s Baron’s Caribbean Hot Sauce, a blend based on habanero peppers and little else – flavorful but with one heck of a kick later on, and Torchbearer’s Pshycho Curry – a mild to hot curry sauce that I plan to use very, very soon.
The only sour note was the fact that Florida-based Tahiti Joe’s – a producer I used to admire – decided to politicize his brand by creating “Hillary Not For President” and a”Trumped-Up for President” sauces. I questioned him about it, and he gave me the usual Trump supporter schpiel about the emails and Benghazi and how Trump is the second coming of Jesus. His choice to bring those “options” to Brooklyn had consequences – his table was pretty much empty when I stopped by – it is clear that hot sauce and politics don’t mix (I was surprised not to have seen any “Feel The Bern” sauces anywhere – missed opportunity?.
Apart from this two-minute incident, I must say it was once again an enjoyable afternoon. We stocked up with quite a few bottles, which should last us until next year’s edition.