Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | April 24, 2016

Feeling the Burn: At the 2016 NYC Hot Sauce Expo

By Ernest Barteldes

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    The Carolina Reaper

Last year I discovered this annual event happening at Greenpoint’s Brooklyn Expo. Back then I went alone after not being able to convince anyone to join me. This time Renata and a couple of other friends joined us in trying some of the tastiest – and hottest – sauces on the market.

Many of the featured brands were the same that I reported on last year’s blog, including Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix, Tahiti Joe’s and Deception Sauces ( I immediately  scooped up a jar of their Aloha brand, a mild salsa made with pineapple and habanero peppers – a delicious concoction that goes well with tortilla chips), but there were a handful of newcomers that we were able to check out.

The first was Big Fat, which has some interesting mixes of different heat types. My personal favorite was the 408, which is moderately hot with a Jamaican jerk-style feel. Another one that got my attention was Bonfatto’s Tongue-Thai’d, a very spicy yellow curry sauce with a nice coconut base. I also grabbed a bottle of Marie Sharp’s Belizean Heat habanero sauce, which packs a nice kick with good flavor. Also notable was Boca’s, a milder sauce with a Caribbean feel.

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    The Heat Index


We all tried some of the hottest sauces in the stands, but nothing could have prepared us for the Carolina Reaper.  Developed in 2012 by Ed Currie, of the PuckerButt Pepper Company, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, it is claims to be the hottest pepper in the world, packing a cool 1.6 million Scoville units (just to illustrate, Tabasco only packs about 5,000 units while Habanero has about 300,000 SCHs)

In 2013 there was a piece on the New Yorker that discussed these ultra-hot peppers, and they quoted a Maxim article by Steven Leckart in which he described eating one was “like being face-fucked by Satan.”

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    Tongue Thai’d 

When I approached Currie’s stand, I had the chance to briefly talk to him and compliment him on his efforts. I handled a sample of the pepper for a few seconds, and then walked over to one of our friends, who seemed like he was recovering from a seizure. He’d told me he tried “the hottest sauce on that table” and felt like he was about to die. I asked him which stand, and he pointed me to Currie’s.  “Holy shit, bro, you just had some of the Carolina reaper,” I said and walked right back and asked for a taste. Renata had a bit and then I put the spoon in my mouth.

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    Tahiti Joe’s 

There was very little flavor, and then the heat came. It was the most intense I’d felt since trying the “Suicide Wings” at a Myrtle Beach, SC restaurant (incidentally, the same city where the Reaper was first marketed from).  I took a few sips from my friend’s soda and ran to the concession stand for a cold drink, and the heat did not quit for about 15 minutes. I later found out milk was being handed out for free, and that came handy when I tried The Cobra, a sauce made with garlic, olive oil, basil and – yes, I am a glutton for punishment – Carolina Reaper.

We walked away with several bottles of my favorite sauces (I spent about $30) and then we all went for a bite at Karczma, a Polish restaurant a few blocks away from the venue. It was a nice meal – which I will report on some other time.

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