The 3rd annual California Hot Sauce Expo brings the pain to Anaheim
By Michael Vallens
The 3rd annual California Hot Sauce Expo graced us lucky attendees with their amazing presence at the Grove of Anaheim with an expanded number of hot sauce companies proud to show off their hard work to the Southern California crowd.
This year’s sponsor, High River Sauces showcased their popular hot sauce collection, which included their Cheeba Gold, a Barbados-style Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce. This sauce features curry sweet peach and Fatali pepper to bring out the tropical flavors.
Rogue, the Blood Orange Scorpion Pepper hot sauce really was unique and stood out from the group. In addition to the scorpion pepper, Rogue blends apples and pears as well as Jolokia Peppers for sweetness and kick respectively.
Irvine’s Inferno Farms presented their line of hot sauce at the CA Hot Sauce Expo which featured personal favorite Shallow End, a mild hot sauce made with roasted red peppers, Fresno chilies, garlic and onion.
Don’t sleep on the Pineapple XXX-press, a sweet heat sauce prepared with fresh pineapples, ginger and scotch bonnet peppers. This hot sauce has been known to compliment deserts like ice cream and cheesecake.
PuckerButt Pepper Company is home to the world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper Pepper, offered samples of all their offerings. I particularly enjoyed the Shoot That’s Hot mild sauce, a light and tasty blend of jalapenos and vinegar. This particular hot sauce is recommended for beginners and mild sauce enthusiasts.
Humboldt Hot Sauces made the trip down south to Anaheim to please the crowd with their tasty array of hot sauces. The stand out for me was the addictive Habanero Mango Blackberry Smoked Ghost Pepper hot sauce.
The sauce was displayed creatively in a wooden coffin, crafted by JimEmi’s Nails and Knots Handcrafted Items.
Lucky Dog hot sauces is most certainly “Food’s Best Friend” and their complete catalog of hot sauces, including some new recipes were available for sampling.
I enjoyed the Year of the Dog, a Thai chili pineapple hot sauce layered with flavors from toasted onion, roasted garlic, toasted sesame, Aleppo peppers, honey, lime, and hints of Chinese mustard and ginger.
Mixologists were represented at the CA Hot Sauce Expo and Boy Drinks World was one of the featured brands.
The mad scientists use the catch phrase, “Pharmacology of the Spirit” to emphasize their grass roots foundation. Passion Fruit and Aromatic Walnut Bitters were on display and would be a welcome addition to one’s bar at home.
After experiencing the wide array of eclectic hot sauces, there was only one way to cool down, that was to head straight to the bar and order some adult beverages.
The Pink Panther is a cocktail made with Infuse Origin Vodka and Owl’s “Pink and Black”, Darjeeling tea with strawberries and hibiscus. The light sweetness was refreshing on a sunny day.
The Spicy Moscow Mule is concocted with Black Craft Ghost Pepper Whiskey and Ginger beer. This adult beverage had a decent kick with a lovely ginger aroma which lingers nicely.
The Black Craft Whiskey and Ice Tea is prepared with Owl’s Brew English Breakfast with lemon peel and lime. This stiff drink is sure to be enjoyed by cocktail junkies and is a new personal favorite.
At this point, the professional wrestlers of the AWS promotion appeared ready to battle in front of the CA Hot Sauce Expo attendees.
Mixed tag action was indeed gender bending and the match featured intense physical exchanges and fantastic comedy between the athletes.
The crowd was solidly behind the baby faces and booed the heels with unrelenting animosity. In the end, good triumphed evil and everyone left the ring area more engaged and ready for the rest of the days events.
With hunger striking intensely at this point, I made a dash to JJ’s Snack Shack looking to taste some spicy offerings.
Starting with the savory Funnel Fritters, a funnel cake drenched in hot buffalo sauce topped with ranch dressing and green onion for garnish. The funnel cake was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and absorbed the sauces quite nicely. For those with a sweet tooth, there was an option to top your funnel cake with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar.
The Hush Puppy Pops come with three golden fried hush puppies served on a skewer drizzled with spicy aioli and topped with smoked chipotle pepper shake and fresh cilantro. Each bite was filled with flavor thanks to the perfectly seasoned hush puppies.
There was no better option to wash these tasty treats down then with JJ’s Melon Agua Fresca, a refreshing beverage that cools and hydrates. Tanaka Farm’s melons are used and mixed with a touch of agave, lime juice and fresh basil to create a beverage that could satisfy the thirstiest of individuals.
All events led up to the PuckerButt Carolina Reaper Eating Contest, which was being observed and judged by representatives from Guinness Book of World Records.
With many competitiors seemingly up to the task, the rules were laid out. Competitors must chew and swallow each pepper for it to be counted. All excess, including non swallowed and stems will be weighed and a winner will be determined.
The current title holder of this Guinness challenge was one of the participants, Gregory Foster of Inferno Farms. He has the record of 120 grams consumed in one minute with an added minute after the first to torment the contestant even more. Once finished with the extra minute, contestants are offered ice cold milk to soothe the intense heat caused by the Carolina Reaper.
The top three contestants were:
3) Jason Bruner
2) Jesse Ignacio
1) Sal Rodriguez with over 70 grams consumed.
With no Guinness records being broken this year, we look ahead to next year’s event and hope that there is someone out there that can stand to break the world record and impress the CA Hot Sauce Expo crowd. This event has to be seen to be believed, there are some wild contests, even wilder hot sauces to test your limits with. Be sure to attend next year’s festivities and experience all levels of heat and competition at the spectacle known as the CA Hot Sauce Expo.