A Report from the annual National Fiery Foods and BBQ Show
By Alfred Wasilewski
I’ve seen it reported on the news. I’ve seen the collection of knuckleheads competing to see who can eat the hottest chile peppers, gagging and puking and chugging milk — testing themselves over some kind of painful endurance rite of passage. Testing to see whose palate is made of stone, the stomach is made of cast iron and anus is made of asbestos. Eating hot food does not have a pretty outcome.
I decided to visit the annual National Fiery Foods show this weekend at the Sandia Resort and Casino, just north of Albuquerque.
If you have an idea for a hot sauce (And who doesn’t these days?), this is the show where you want to be, where you want to test if your hot sauce is different enough to stand out above the rest.
To be sure, the hot sauce market is…well…hot. The market stands at $2.4 billion in annual sales last year and is projected to grow to more than $4 billion by 2028. Everyone wants in on the pain and sweat-inducing condiment. But as I strolled around sampling different sauces, from producers/vendors from all over the country. it was clear that the hot sauce market suffers from the Me Too/Copy Cat syndrome. Just how many different flavors can you create when your main ingredients are pineapple and habanero? There were way too many vendors and too many sauces to try to not end up with a bad case of gastroesophageal reflux disease, AKA, GERD, at the end of the day. Sampling this many hot sauces can be painful. You learn real quick the value of the Scoville unit, the measuring standard for determining the level of heat. Definitely bring a bottle of Tagamet or Pepcid, if you go.
A few standouts are worth mentioning, which ended up in my tote bag: A nice chipotle infused mustard, a foursome of different hot sauces; a cranberry salsa, a jar of Cowboy Candy from some nice ladies from Oklahoma; biscochitos from a bakery in Albuquerque; and the hottest edible at the show, a bar of chocolate that was infused with a new hybrid chile named simply X Chile that is hotter than the ghost pepper and the infamous Carolina Reaper. A little tiny corner of this chocolate bar nearly killed me. They say that ingesting certain foods with extremely high levels of heat can induce a kind of lightheaded euphoric feeling. I felt that sensation. They say my face was bright red and sweating. A guy walked by with a margarita in his hand. I would have paid anything for that drink at that moment. A half-hour and a beer later, my mouth was still burning with the heat of a thousand suns. I went back and bought a bar for a friend who boasts a high tolerance for hot food. Won’t this be a lovely confection?
The verdict for me is that everyone should go once. It is an experience for those who enjoy hot food…and pain, a masochistic endeavor, for sure.
But, please, be sure not to step on the lady passed out in the middle of the aisle.
And tomorrow will be…well…not just another day.
Post Script: Some nice ladies from Santa Fe were selling all kinds of tinctures of custom-blended bitters for making craft cocktails. Apparently, the bar Tonic is using their products for their craft cocktails. Worth a try.
Santa Fe Foodie member Al Wasilewski is a retired corporate public relations executive with a passion for cooking and dining out.
After retiring from the corporate world, Al redirected his attention to perfecting his kitchen and cooking skills, attended baking school and received certificates in artisanal and sourdough bread baking.