Some like it hot. In my case, I like it REALLY hot. We’re talking habanero-infused tequila, fresh jalepenos in my omelettes, and always a side of hot sauce. I was in heaven when living in Southeast Asia for the last few months since chili oil is a tabletop staple.
As such, I was thrilled when we were offered tickets to the NYC Hot Sauce Expo held at the Brooklyn Expo Center, now in its fourth year.
I attended the expo with my boyfriend Robert, who also has a high tolerance for spice. We met up with a few of his friends at the event, who have all attended the last three consecutive years, which gives testament to the quality of the exhibition. Festival goers had the option of purchasing entry for a nominal fee or buying a package which included five drink tokens and a BBQ lunch. By the time we rolled into the expo hall after brunching in Williamsburg, it was clear our crew had already dipped into their drink token allowance.
Initially, the event was a bit overwhelming because there were so many vendors and guests. However, the event space was quite accommodating with room for plenty of booths, a stage, and a spacious outdoor area for people to soak up the sun, play lawn games, and chow down on some bites.
Our basic strategy was the take a lap, noting the booths that had lines or intriguing product offerings, and limiting our tastings to small spoonfuls or partial chips so we wouldn’t fill up. This proved exceptionally hard because many of the vendors offered creative tasting vessels such as popcorn topped with dried spice or brownies baked with dried hot sauce, like by Benny T’s Vesta, the world’s first dry hot sauce.
After snagging a portobello sandwich from Jimmy’s No 43, Robert got creative and added a bit of different hot sauces to every bite. During the sandwich taster, two particular hot sauces were the clear winners. We both loved the “sweet heat” of the thick mole from Hell’s Kitchen Hot Sauce, aptly titled “Undercover Lover.”
Robert deemed the Caribbean jerk sauce from Baron’s International Kitchen as his favorite spread of the afternoon. It was authentic and the unique flavor profile stood out against the sea of standard American hot sauces.
I was instantly drawn to the adorable old woman manning the table at Dirty Dick’s Hot Sauce. She was passionate about her award-winning product. I appreciated that her company only had one sauce rather than an entire portfolio like other brands; just focus on doing one thing right!
My personal favorite pick was the all natural “Oh My Garlic” sauce from Torchbearer Sauces. It was thick, creamy, and super garlicky. When paired with a salty chip, it tasted just like a fancy French onion dip. This seemed like a versatile topper for anything from burgers to veggies.
As an exciting grand finale to the event, competitive eating veteran Wayne Algenio destroyed the existing Guinness Book of World Records’ title for the most Carolina Reaper peppers (the hottest pepper in the world) consumed in less than one minute. He took down 119 grams of this practically lethal veggie, stomping on the previous record of 72 grams. Ay yi yi!
As our devoted friends can attest, the NYC Hot Sauce Expo is not to be missed! It spans an entire weekend and is a fun – and different – way to spend a spring weekend in the city. It was great to chat with local small business owners, fellow hot sauce lovers, and pick up some goodies to spice up our kitchens.