EVENT: Best Hot Sauces & The NYC Hot Sauce Expo | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures EVENT: Best Hot Sauces & The NYC Hot Sauce Expo | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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EVENT: Best Hot Sauces & The NYC Hot Sauce Expo

It’s the first annual New York City Hot Sauce
Expo! Image courtesy Expo.
  Our palate is so sensitive that a hot chile will wipe it out for 45 minutes. But three members of THE NIBBLE team leaped at the opportunity to attended a media preview for the first annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo. If you’re a hot sauce fan, get thee to East River State Park in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the weekend of April 20th and 21st. General admission tickets are $10.00; for $100.00 you can be a VIP.

An expo just for hot sauce? “Hot sauce production has been rated one of the 10 fastest-growing industries in the U.S.,” say the event organizers. “The trend shows no sign of cooling off.”

If two days of fiery food is your idea of the ultimate endorphin rush, the weekend promises to be packed with live music, fire breathers, spicy food vendors, eating challenges and contests, adult beverages and the best hot sauce producers in North America.

Awards will be presented on Saturday afternoon in categories that include Chipotle, Fruit Based, Fruit Based Hot, Habanero, Jalapeño, Louisiana Style, Novelty Hot Sauce, People’s Choice, Pepper Blend, Scorpion and a category we always appreciate, Best Label Artwork.


We grew up in a household that used hot sauce for Bloody Marys. Everything else was flavored with fresh-cracked pepper and fresh herbs. True hot sauce fans shake the condiment on just about everything, from grilled cheese and other sandwiches, eggs, fried foods, French fries and hash browns, meat loaf, ribs, soups and anything else you can think of, including, of course, chili and Tex-Mex cuisine.

Dave Pace, founder of Pace Foods, who began to manufacture hot sauce in Texas in 1947, would even shake hot sauce into his coffee. Whether he added sugar and milk as well, we don’t know. But we do know people who sprinkle hot sauce on their oatmeal and ice cream. (More about hot sauce.)


Leah Hansen was one of THE NIBBLE writers who tasted her way through the media preview. “It was so much fun, and the hot sauces so terrific, that I’m going to attend the two-day Expo,” she reports.

Here are the favorites of all she tried. Even if you can’t get to the Expo, you can order the sauces online.

1. NYC Hot Sauce Co. A traditional red hot sauce with more depth of fruit flavor (from the flesh of the chiles) than the large commercial hot sauce brands. It‘s heavy on the vinegar flavor in a good way, and went really well on the mini grilled cheese sandwiches served with it. I loved the squeeze bottle too; it made it easy to squirt as much sauce you want. Ingredients: habanero peppers, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, fresh squeezed lime juice and creole seasonings. More about NYC Hot Sauce Co.

The favorite in THE NIBBLE’s tasting, from locally grown chiles. Photo courtesy NYC Hot Sauce Co..
2. High River Sauces ”Rogue.” This company makes a line of attractively-packaged and named hot sauces, including Grapes Of Wrath, Hellacious and Tears Of The Sun (the fourth favorite—see below). We all liked Rogue: very hot, but with a nice depth of flavor. It was a third-place winner of the 2013 World Championship Golden Chile Award in the Pepper Blend category. The ingredients include moruga scorpion, jolokia and red serrano chiles; blood oranges, apples and pears; apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, lime juice, garlic and ginger. More about High River Sauces.

3. Big Fat’s 7 to 8. Big Fats makes an impressive array of hot sauces, all with number names. This super-hot sauce started out with a pleasant, subtle sweetness and a good depth of flavor with a big burst of citrus, quickly swirling into a vortex of spices. I really like the Trinidad 7 Pot Peppers used (they appeared in a few sauces, one of the super-hot chiles that have yet to enter commercial production). It takes a whole minute to hit you, but then the heat is pretty extreme and stays with you for a good 20 minutes. Ingredients: orange juice concentrate, onion, water, Trinidad 7 pot peppers, pineapple concentrate, garlic, pomegranate molasses, sea salt, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and white pepper. Learn more at BigFatsHotSauce.
4. High River Sauces “Tears of the Sun.” The different fruit ingredients make this my favorite of the sweeter sauces. It’s not too sweet, with pretty high heat and a lingering aftertaste. How it got its name: “Your taste buds are greeted by the sweetness,” says the manufacturer; then the heat rises like the sun on a hot summer day.” Ingredients: habanero peppers, peaches, papaya, pineapple, mango, cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, red pepper, salt and garlic. More about High River Sauces.

See the different types of chiles in our Chile Glossary.

What’s the deal with “chiles” versus “peppers?” Chile is the correct word, alternatively spelled chili and chilli; chilli is the original spelling in Nahuatl, the Aztec language.

When one of Columbus’ crew first tasted a chile in the Caribbean Islands, he likened the heat to the black pepper known in Europe. Hence, chilli became pepper, or chile/chili/chilli pepper.

To us purists, pepper should only refer to Piper nigrum, the peppercorn, which has no relationship to the chile plant. Capsicum is the genus for chiles, fruits that, when cut in half, have a white spine and seeds that contains the heat (or, in the case of bell peppers, no heat at all). For us, chile/chili/chilli is the way to go.


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