As NYC Foodscape posted yesterday, the Third NYC Hot Sauce Expo takes place on April 25th and 26th at the Brooklyn Expo Center (Get your tickets here). As part of the events leading up the Expo, the organizers hosted a media event to preview the Expo at D.B.A. Bar in the East Village, including a panel gathered to judge the Expo’s coveted Screaming MiMi awards. In the ultimate taste test of endurance, NYC Foodscape and about 25 other judges sat together and tasted almost 200 blind hot sauce samples in the following categories:
Fruit Based Hot
XXX Hot Sauce (Non Extract)
Best Hot Sauce Label Artwork
Awards in each of these 13 categories, plus a brand new category, Best New Hot Sauce of 2014, will be announced on Saturday, April 25 at the Hot Sauce Expo for three winning contestants — gold, silver and bronze. First place winners in each category get their winning sauces picked up by Peppers, one of the largest hot sauce distributors in the country.
Hot Sauce Tasting A to Z
Sitting down to taste upwards to 200 sauces is not for the faint of heart. A group of hardy souls, including celebrity chefs, bloggers, food critics, journalists and pepper lovers gathered at D.B.A. Bar on First Avenue in the East Village (which graciously offered its back patio for the event after Jimmy’s 43 became a collateral casualty of last Thursday’s East Village explosion and remains closed). The event was both the location for the blind judging and for a press preview of the Expo, with open label samples for non judges (and judges who may not have had enough hot sauce and wanted to try more).
The judges broke into tables and tried multiple categories. For example, NYC Foodscape tried 15+ samples each of Habanero, Fruit-based Hot, Best New in 2014 and the killer category, XXX Hot Sauce. Though in the end, most judges did not try all entries, each averaged about 80-100 tastes of sauces. varying in flavor and heat, from nipping playfully at your tongue, to sneaky and slow-burning, to never-ending, to burning the roof of your mouth right off and praying for salvation. In the end, each judge probably downed the equivalent of a bottle or two of hot sauce in one sitting.
Here are the photos from last night’s tasting, capturing every emotion and dramatic moment from A to Z.
Anticipation and Apprehension
Steve Seabury gets us excited and nervous as we watch him finish setting up the blind tasting.
Hot sauce is so sexy, so alluring, and so very dangerous.
Capsaicin Comes in All Colors and Flavors
The many ways that hot sauce can vary in appearance, aroma, texture, flavor and FIRE.
Doubt meets Defcon, Damn!
Just when you thought you might have the mettle, damn!
Euphoria from the Elixir of the Gods
Capsaicin gets you high. There’s no two ways about it.
Friend of the Devil is a Friend of Mine
The labels tell the story of the sauce.
Give Me Peppers or Give Me Death (or perhaps, not mutually exclusive?)
The photo, though not from last night’s tasting, is from a recent New York City Community Garden Coalition Rally at City Hall to Save our Gardens. This fellow’s patriotic love of peppers and protest captures our American enterprising spirit that goes into every bottle of artisanal and often locally-made hot sauce.
Habaneros and Hallucinations
The capsaicin starts to have an effect, but chocolate habanero sauce helps calm things down.
Impresario and Co-Producer of NYC Hot Sauce Expo, Jimmy Carbone
Without him, where would NYC’s local food scene be? He’s a mensch and a treasure!
Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged
And we indeed were judged, for what will seem like an eternity, all throughout the night and into the morning, in our own private hells.
Kool Whip kills the pain
It really does. Milk, preferably organic, hormone-free, is better.
Lovely Label Art Category Entries
Like record album covers of yore, label art is part of the cult following.
Mad Dogs and Irishmen
And hot sauce aficionados.
NYC Hot Sauce Expo Rocks!
Don’t forget: April 25 and 26.
On Break of Beer and Brotherhood
No sign of internal regret yet.
A heart-shaped harvest of chile peppers from the 2014 Children’s Garden at Campos as a symbol of NYC Foodscape’s love for the world of hot sauce.
Questioning Our Own Sanity
Why, God, why?
NYC Foodscape says goodbye to long-time fellow Campos Community Garden member, chef, East Village denizen, all-around character and great guy, Christo Gonzales, with a memorial this Saturday at Grace Church. Christo died suddenly in January. His spirit, his humor, his food and his New Mexican peppers will be sorely missed.
Steve Seabury Cheers Judges Into the XXX Round
Mr. High River Sauces and Hot Sauce Expo founder.
The intrepid tasters who made it through all seventeen XXX sauces.
Under the Wicked Chile’s Spell
The Devil’s brew is strong and seductive.
Venerable and Daunting Task of Scoring
Tasting notes getting more incomprehensible as the night wears on.
Which Hot Sauce Will Win?
Veteran judges working hard.
XXX Hot Sauce Tasting Round — Sweet Jesus, What Have I Done?
Seventeen dangerous sauces, straight from the depths of Hell.
Yes, We Can!
Halfway through the XXX Category, looking strong.
Zen and Zest of Hot Sauce
When you approach your hot sauce judging like all of life, understanding impermanence is key to transform suffering into enlightenment.