There used to be this show on Food Network called Heat Seekers. It followed, regular Chopped judge, Aarón Sanchez and Cooking Channel’s Roger Mooking on a journey to the spiciest sauces and foods in the United States. I loved this show because I love hot sauce so much and I loved watching Aarón punk out and turn bright red and listening to Roger talk so much shit as he struggled through his meal, hailing his Trinidadian roots as his reason for being oh-so-superior at consuming spicy foods.
So I was more than pleased to cover The Sixth Annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo in Brooklyn this year and try to re-create my own Heat Seekers. I dreamed of dousing tortilla chips in red, orange, and green concoctions. I yearned to talk shop with the creators of these blessed mixtures and find out the secret to a terrific sauce. Give me all the capsaicin-y goodness and let me bathe in it. Heat Seekers: Rebooted … here I come!
Only problem was, my partner on this journey (and in life), was none other than self-proclaimed hot sauce hater, Winston “Stone” Aubrey Ford. Stone does not understand the “I put that shit on everything” world. He wants there to be balance, sweet and savory all dancing together in your mouth to give all your tastebuds a chance to be happy. He’s diplomatic that way and perfectly suited for Japanese culture because his favorite taste is umami. Can such a person be converted into a hot sauce lover? I just wasn’t sure but I figured I could find out at the Expo.
When we arrived to the Expo in Greenpoint, NY, I was pretty dang excited to try everything but we also had VIP access so Stone had the bright idea to grab a drink first. This will help gear him up for the
pain experience. After our cocktails were consumed, we made a stop at Horseshoe Brand just outside of the VIP entrance. The guy offering tastes didn’t seem too into it so we gobbled up a couple tastes and ran into the thick of the booths. I needed someone who loved their product to help me lure Stone to the peppery side of his palate. Ya feel?
We found Benny T’s Vesta and Stone started hovering but I dove right in for the first kick to my throat. The heat is sensational and I must confess, stayed with me through most of my time at the Expo. They do a dry hot sauce which is basically just dried up crushed up chile and that’s it. I got a taste of the limited Scorpion flavor and WHOA! talk about a slow burn. …And yet I want so much more. Like right now. Like I want to feel that pain again. Am I a masochist?
Right next to Benny T’s was my savior and Hot Sauce Hater Conversion Therapist, Purple Pam. I’ve just bestowed her with this title and if you’re reading this, Pam, I would like to open my home to you as your clinic. Welcome. Pam didn’t know it at the time, but my husband was about to subscribe to her religion and buy all her CDs and start preaching to you outside the subway stop the ways of Pam. Well maybe not that far but I truly saw a change in him at that moment that he tried this lady’s goods. It was the same look he gave me when … nevermind.
From that point on, Stone was making plans of attack for the rest of the Expo. He called the shots. Said where we should stop (The guys at Torchbearer Sauces and Stone spent a lot of time together) and where we absolutely should not (no shade, but let’s just say they got a wee bit racist with the branding considering who was actually selling the sauce.) We smiled at fellow travelers on this saucy road as we watched people eat spicy burritos and wings for glory and when he needed a break from being saved, Stone had us retreat to the tequila and mezcal-drenched shores of VIP.
Of course we had to bring home some goodies to commemorate the occasion of The Day Stone Learned to Love Hot Sauce. We didn’t make it to all the booths but darn near and this is a great sampling of what was available, sauce-wise:
My new favorite sauce is from a company called Cobra Chili. It’s their Ultra Hot Magic Sauce. Look at all the things it can go on according to their website: “Gyoza, pot stickers, stir fry, fried rice, plain white rice, noodles, dumplings, Ramen, on steak or chicken, Oysters Kilpatrick, as a marinade, in a Bloody Mary, on a pizza, dim sims, spring rolls or as a salad dressing.” It is your new Frank’s Red Hot and I am in love and their out of stock, so if you want some, guess you’ll have to wait until the next Expo because I’m not sharing.
Stone’s new crack sauce from the guys at Torchbearer Sauces is an XXX Hot wing sauce called, Sons of Zombie and oooooh damn is it tasty. It’s got a little zip just like you’d want in a wing and the fire doesn’t last too long so you just want to keep going in for more. Also: how cute is hot sauce guy?
I want to take a minute to give a shout out to a gal I met working at the Sam & Oliver booth. We were walking around with our tequila to-go shaker cups and she couldn’t even get one and I think they’d run out by the time she caught a break. Even though she missed her chance at a little buzz while working, she gave us a taste of an incredibly unique sauce called Mind Flay Strawberry Reaper. Stone especially was a big fan of this one and the crew working there was so especially thankful that we came back to buy. I’m thinking of trying it in my next peanut butter and jelly sandwich … not even kidding.
The Not-So-Hot Hot Sauce award goes to my pals at Dragon’s Blood Elixir. I was still dying from Benny T’s Vesta and they slid me a “soother” made with avocados. I’ll probably never use it again and can’t even find it on their website but it helped me make it over a hump to more fiery action so we bought a bottle.
While Stone was hosing down, I was getting my kicks at CaJohn’s. I could have spent all day at this booth just chatting it up with their team. I think I may have tried one of everything. In the end I came home with their Black Cherry Vanilla Bourbon Infused “Chipol-tay”-Habanero (their pronunciation, not mine) hot sauce and a true revelation in heat, the Tiki Bar Torch sauce where chiles is on the ingredients list twice. YES! YES! YES!
I’ve already told you about Purple Pam. The woman is clearly all rock and roll and when I looked into her lavender-lined eyes, I knew I had to go home with her product. Kiss of Death has a wonderful tomato-y flavor that really shines through while it’s knocking you over the head with powerful jalapeño. I think this sauce will be really fun on a pantry pasta or if you like Bloody Marys, this is probably terrific in place of Tabasco. I’ve also got big plans for her suggestion to chase some tequila with it. *praise-hands*