Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Austin Hot Sauce Festival

So if you know Han and me well, you know that we love to eat spicy foods. And if you know me even better, you know that I am completely overconfident in the amount of spicy food I can handle, and often bite off more than I can chew, so to speak. My best story was when Han and I went to BW3 and I had to quit midway through a dozen Blazin' wings. My mouth was so red that Han said I looked like a little child who had been drinking Kool-Aid all day.

On Sunday, Han's new classmate Alyssa got to see this first hand when we all went to the Austin Hot Sauce Festival in Waterloo Park. We were actually a little surprised to see how big of a festival this was and how large the crowd was. Tents were sprawled out all over the place, with everyone from large restaurant chains to small independent bottlers letting everyone try free samples of their hot sauces and salsas.

It was a really hot day which made waiting in line pretty awful (and that comprises about 90% of your time at the festival) but what was great though is that a lot of places had a wide variety of sauces. So once you got to the front you could take your time and try as many as you like. We later figured out that some of the longest lines weren't necessarily for the best salsas, but just that they were in the shade. We didn't end up getting to try even a significant fraction of the sauces available, but here were some of the highlights:

TacoDeli - I actually ate here on Friday at lunch, but I didn't even bother to get any hot sauce. My mistake. Their green sauce was creamy and very tasty with a spice that sneaks up on you. I'll definitely know better next time.

Aztexas Habanero Supreme - One of our favorites and winners of their division several years in a row, including this one. We actually took a bottle of this home, and it's already going pretty quickly. It's very flavorful, VERY spicy, and goes with absolutely everything. Our favorite so far has actually been peaches.

Big Daddy's Ass Burn - Their motto is "Hell going in. Hell going out." These guys were actually Houston-based. We took home a bottle of their "Flaming Lips" sauce, which is made with pineapples and St. Arnold's Lawnmower.

Austin Slow Burn - This group had one of the bigger selections that we saw. They had a green sauce, a red sauce, and a queso --all delicious-- but they also had a selection of spicy jams and jellies and a "Fire Dusted" peanut butter. I made myself a hot little PB&J with them.

Honorable Mention: HEB - Above average for a supermarket brand, they still had a tough time competing with all the other guys at the festival. But what was really impressive was that, while most supermarkets probably only have three types of salsas (mild, medium, and hot, if that many), HEB had no less than a dozen gourmet-style salsas ranging from roasted garlic to peach pepper.

We actually didn't get a chance to try all the individual contenders, which I regret, but the line was incredibly long and we had already eaten more than our fair share of tortilla chips, but I'll definitely be looking forward to it next year.

Here are the list of winners, some of whom may be available in your area, even if you don't live in Austin:

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