High River Sauces presents the third annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo
The Hot Sauce Expo was not for the faint of heart or the susceptible to heartburn. The Brooklyn Expo Center was filled with inflamed coughing, heaving exhales and whispery “whoas” as the heat of each sample wrestled tongues and taste buds. Grown men and women left stations in tears, and the culture and personality of this industry burned bright from every corner.
This industry is unapologetically boisterous. They can be loud, they can be in-your-face, but they are never unfriendly. This is a crowd that doesn’t just have a passion for hot sauce – they have a passion for their field. We’re talking barbecue sauces, cooking oils, horseradish, spice blends, marinades, salsas and more, just sitting in one building ready for sampling. Then there were the guys and gals behind each booth with anywhere from five products to 20, ready to talk about peppers, heat levels, heat tolerance and cooking uses. Sure, they were there trying to sell, but it was universally obvious that for them this was about getting the right product to the right consumer.
Nonetheless, some failings stood out. Access was a cheap $10, but that basically gave you unlimited access to hot sauces. So unless you only planned to spend a few hours there or intended on making a meal of popcorn and chips, you were looking at about an additional $30-$40 for food and drink per person, and the options were pretty close to sample sized. Then, there’s the palette cleansing and neutralizing: there wasn’t much in this realm. It was sampling after sampling with only the chips at each station to reset the taste buds. Some guests came to the Expo prepared with pretzel necklaces. Farmland’s booth had samples of milk, but it was awkwardly placed outside, away from most of the hot sauce samples and not immediately obvious to attendees.
Overall, High River Sauces and the event’s governing body put on an excellent show that managed to spin what could have been an event of simple samples of hot sauce on little plastic spoons into a spectacle with many enjoyable, industry-related festivities. However, this isn’t amateur hour for any average Joe or Jane Doe. Here, jalapeños are for kids, the ghost pepper is a star and the reaper pepper is celebrated like the Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango. They had a few hiccups, but if you like heat with your food, there’s no better way to get this much hot product all in one spot.
Photos: NYC Hot Sauce Expo
For further information about the NYC Hot Sauce Expo and future events visit here.