Hot sauce addicts be warned: Resistance is futile. Indulge your benign masochist and push your taste buds to the limit this weekend at the 2nd Annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo at Penn Plaza Pavilion on Saturday, March 29 & Sunday, March 30, 2014. The event melds the pain and pleasure of two hard-core fetishes, hot sauce with a touch of heavy metal and attracts hot sauce makers and fanatics from around the country.
Capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, is the stuff of food legend and has been touted and credited with a host of uses and health benefits, from pain relief, to regulating digestion and blood sugar, to preventing cancer of the pancreas, to cooling the body through producing sweat. Gardeners make their own hot pepper sprays to use as an effective pest deterrent, and police use it for riot control. But for true “chile heads,” it’s the pepper’s purported effect on the brain, releasing pleasure-producing endorphins as it inflicts the sting of pain on your tongue that makes hot sauce so special. This may be more than folklore; as some studies have shown, peppers activate pain receptors in our tongue, and that unlike other unpleasant substances, for many people, the capsaicin also flips a switch turning the pain into pleasure.
A & B American Style (NYC)
Baron’s International Kitchen (West Hurley, NY)
Born to Hula (Highlands, NJ)
Deano’s Jalapenos (Hardwick, VT)
Defcon Sauces (Milburn, NJ)
Dragon’s Blood Elixir (Woodstock Valley, CT)
Gemini Crow (Montague, NJ)
Heartbreaking Dawns (Rosendale, NY)
Horseshoe (Rhinebeck, NY)
High River Sauces (Long Island, NY)
iBurn (Houston, TX)
Jacky’s Jams & Jellies (Pine Beach, NJ)
Jordan Brenners (Hudson Valley, NY)
Karma Sauce (Pittsford, NY)
Mr. Saucy (NYC)
Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix (Long Island, NY)
Southern Belles (NYC)
Swamp Yankee (New Haven, CT)
Tom’s Roid-Rippin Hot Sauce (Stratford, CT)
World Famous Hot Sauce (NYC) and
Whitehouse Station (Hunterdon County, NJ)
Doors open at 10 a.m. on both days. Saturday’s events include two spicy-food eating contests, spicy chicken wings and spicy pizza, and a hot lollipop, “lick-a-thon.”
One of Saturday’s highlights is the “2nd Annual Screaming Mi Mi Awards.” Awards in 13 categories to be announced on Saturday, March 29 at the Hot Sauce Expo for three winning contestants — gold, silver and bronze — in the following categories:
Fruit Based Hot
XXX Hot Sauce (Non Extract)
Best Label Artwork
Spicy BBQ, and
Entries were submitted in February and an esteemed panel of celebrity TV and NYC restaurant chefs, food critics, and food bloggers met and tasted the entries behind closed doors during a press preview at Jimmy’s No. 43 on March 6, 2014. NYC Foodscape was there, sampling from a table filled over 100+ hot sauces and pairing them with beer from Lagunitas and pork sliders, bruschetta and other small savory bites prepared by guest chefs, including Tyson Ho from Arrogant Swine in Bushwick.
First place winners in each category get their winning sauces picked up by Peppers, one of the largest hot sauce distributors in the country.
On Sunday, Stoli Vodka and Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix co-present the “Bloody Mary Mix-Down.” Top bartenders from all five NYC boroughs and Long Island competed in preliminary rounds from Feb. 10 – Mar. 10, 2014, for a chance to advance to Sunday’s championships at the Hot Sauce Expo–the top 3 mixologists from each venue will compete at the Expo. Celebrity judges include: John Shipley, Brand Ambassador for Stoli Vodka, Brand Ambassador, Stephen Murphy, CEO of Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix, CEO), Pamela Wiznitzer, President of United States Bartenders Guild of New York, Stretch, owner of Kansas City Grinders and TV personality on Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” and Food Network’s “Guy’s Big Bite”), James Wreck, “The Hot Sauce Boss,” and Matt Timms, founder of thetakedowns.com.
Another of Sunday’s attractions: the Guinness Book of Records is judging PuckerButt Pepper Company’s “The Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper Eating Challenge” at 4 p.m. Guinness World Records recently called Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper the “World’s Hottest Pepper.” The pungency or spicy-heat of a chile pepper is objectively measurable and is rated on the Scoville scale. The degree of heat in a particular pepper (or hot sauce made with peppers) is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) and is a function of the amount of capsaicin in the pepper. To give a sample of SHU ranges, cubanelle and pimento peppers rate about 100-900 SHUs; jalapenos (and Tabasco sauce) about 3,500-8,000 SHUs; the habanero and scotch bonnet peppers about 100,000 to 350,000 SHUs; and the two hottest peppers on Earth, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and the Carolina Reaper, a soul-crushing 1,500,000 to 2,200,000. According to Expo promoters, Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper delivers an average of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units [SHU]. Not for those with a low pain threshold, to be sure.
Hot Sauce Meets Heavy Metal
Also on Sunday, two hot-sauce loving rock stars will be at the Expo to join in the fun and sign bottles of hot sauce: Chris Caffery, lead guitarist of Trans Siberian Orchestra, will sign bottles of High River Sauces; and Eddie Ojeda of Twisted Sister will sign bottles of his line of hot sauces at the Rippin Red booth.
Hot Sauce Expo is co-produced by Steve Seabury and his multi-award-winning NYC-based hot sauce company called High River Sauces, and Food Karma Projects, a creative producer of food and media events throughout the New York area. Created by Jimmy Carbone — a NYC-based restaurateur and dedicated social entrepreneur — Food Karma Projects is dedicated to community building by creating unique events that showcase the best local food, chefs, beer and wine, and create a social impact that benefits worthy non-profit groups. Carbone is proud to have Edible Schoolyard NYC as the charitable partner for the Hot Sauce Expo 2014. Seabury is a music industry veteran, food junkie and cookbook author for Simon & Schuster (Mosh Potatoes) and uses a portion of the profits from the Expo to donate thousands of dollars to the Meals on Wheels charity. He is also the Director of Marketing for eOne Entertainment and organizes a touring music festival called The Metal Alliance.
How to Get Tickets
General Admission to the Hot Sauce Expo is only $10 (day of tickets are $12). $35 tickets include six commemorative NYC Hot Sauce Expo Poker Drink Chips that may be redeemed for any large beverage, a bottle of High River Sauces, and a NYC Hot Sauce Expo Collectable Postcard (advance sale only via Eventbrite). VIP tickets ($100, available only via Eventbrite) include all the perks of the $35 ticket, plus access to a private VIP lounge with all-inclusive food and beverages (Lagunitas beer, Stoli Vodka, additional spirits, food from Expo vendors), cooking demos from celebrity chefs, VIP gift bags, VIP seating, coat check, and a 1-year subscription to Chile Pepper Magazine.