This was the scene from my hotel room the morning of the second day of the expo. It was after the first day that I attended. So unassuming, but this is where the magic HAPPENS!
The Arizona Hot Sauce Expo
The park opened at 10am sharp, and we were there close to open. It took a little while to pick up, but Arizonians came out in droves to participate in the spectacle that was about to befall upon them. November is a spectacular time to hold a Hot Sauce Expo in Arizona, because those Arizona summer’s can get pretty brutal. Growing up in Las Vegas, I can say without a doubt that Arizona’s summers are hotter. Today was a typical November day in the desert, at a balmy, and even hot at times 85 degrees.
When you get to the expo, there are a couple things you can do. The first, and most obvious, is to taste the sauces! Think of this event as the farmer’s market of hot sauces. You have a large number of vendors, who are selling their wares, and in order to tempt you to fork over the dough, they give you samples. Come ready to buy your favorites, and take them home with you. They last quite awhile, and make excellent Christmas or birthday gifts too! The hubbs and I end up buying multiple bottles of the ones we like to give away. Generally if you buy a case of something you really really like, the vendor will oftentimes cut you a deal! The cases normally are 12 bottles, but it does depend on the company, so ask if you’re curious!
They don’t have just hot sauce vendors either. These guys from Cutco were awesome! The brand is awesome too. Quality made right here in the USA. There knives are sharp as f#@$, and when they get dull, you can send them in for sharpening at the factory for FREE! I own a couple Cutco’s already, so I had zero intention of buying, but my love of shiny sharp things won, and I ended up purchasing 5 new pieces! Just a heads up: when you see booths like this at expos like this, you get really GREAT discounts, so keep an open mind when you attend. If you’re in the market, pull the trigger at the expo! You won’t regret it. If you just can’t wait, contact Alec, he’ll take great care of you!
Every person who walks through the gates got a washer. That washer was your voting mechanism to choose your favorite hot sauce of the day. The booth that gets the most washers gets this beautiful, shiny trophy! I wonder who will win?
In between tastings, it’s always a good idea to give yourself a break, and re-set your palate with some beer!
Texas Biker Chef’s Fiery Tamale Eating Challenge
Besides tasting and purchasing hot sauces to come home with you, there are some pretty wicked challenges. With the first challenge of the day, the contestants were optimistic and happy to start!
As the challenge went on, everyone starts to realize exactly the fiery hell they’ve got themselves into.
Only one will emerge victorious!
Heartbreaking Dawns Spicy Tacos of Doom Challenge
There is never a shortage of events to keep you entertained at the expo. These tacos look so good, don’t they? On to the next eating challenge!
I can hear what you’re saying in your head right now. Just three little, itty-bitty tacos?! I can do that, no problem! Well, I had a chance to taste this sauce right here, the Reapercussion from Heartbreaking Dawns, and this might as well be fire in a bottle. Just one stir-straw dipped in that bottle, and I was rendered useless for about 5 minutes. That was probably the equivalent of two solid drops of this sauce that did that to me. They POURED this all over those itty bitty tacos, so I can see why this was definitely not a challenge to take lightly!
If you want to have the most luxurious experience at one of the Hot Sauce Expo’s, it’s totally worth it to purchase VIP tickets. First, you have access to unlimited food, but you also get free beer and cocktails! There’s also places to escape the heat while chit-chatting and sampling the sponsors wares.
They switched it up this year, and the booze was not unlimited as it had been in the past, but you got a card that was checked off as you acquired your liquid gold. One martini = one sample sized drink, and two martinis got you a full sized beer or cocktail. At first we shied away from this idea because we were used to free reign, but actually it worked out. We didn’t even fill our cards up by the end of the day. It turns out that 8 beers/cocktails are PLENTY! Plus, did I mention they had good beer? Golden Road made a strong appearance, along with a lone Bud Light tap handle. Don’t worry, my craft beer buds. I’m going to see if I can convince Steve to give some smaller, but mighty breweries a chance in Long Beach next year!
There were quite a few tequila vendors there this time! Yum!
I was thrilled to have Steve Seabury sign my copy of Mosh Potatoes. Not only is he the organizer of this expo, he’s the driving force behind High River Sauces, AND he’s an author too! If you’d like to order his book, check it out on Amazon – Mosh Potatoes: Recipes, Anecdotes, and Mayhem from the Heavyweights of Heavy Metal. It’s awesome.
Burns & McCoy’s Screaming Pigs From Hades Hot Dog Challenge
Another challenge? But of course! This one looked like the most painful of them all so far. The chili must have been super spicy, and with the rules of the challenge being that you could not touch the product at all (you could touch the paper boat), you got the chili EVERYWHERE. To up the anty, you had to eat a spicy pepper after you finished your dog!
Chili face is unfathomably painful. You may have recognized this man from earlier. This was his second of THREE challenges he chose to participate in that day!
Mexican Moonshine Tequila & Chaco Flaco’s Margarita Mix-Down!
The activities take a different direction with the Margarita Mix-Down. This event showcases the elite mixologists of the region, who compete to make their best margarita. There are 3-4 rounds, and each margarita is scored by a panel of judges.
I was about 4 beers deep by this time, so I got distracted, and was goofing off with Steve. Thanks to my husband, The Barrel Aged Vegetarian for taking over the camera, and letting me cut loose a bit! Steve puts on one hell of a party!
Original Geno’s & Volcanic Peppers’ Spicy Pizza From Hell Challenge
The last eating challenge of the night was this delightfully hellish pizza.
This guy! Again, not only does he participate in a challenge, he WINS!
People’s Choice Award
To round out the night, the people’s choice award goes to Big Reds! Sadly, I was unable to make it to their booth this year, but have had their sauces at the other expos, and they are damn good!
The event continued on Sunday, along with the Chicken Wing challenge sponsored by Arizona Wings N’ More, Homeboy Salsa put on the Slaytanic Burrito Eating Challenge. The Bloody Mary Mix-Down, like the Margarita Mix-Down is always a crowd favorite, and finally, the event that really takes the cake – the Guinness Book of Records Reaper Eating challenge where contestants will try to eat as many Carolina Reapers as they can in 60 seconds! The record isn’t always broken at these events, but this time it was at 120 grams ingested! Unbelievable!
I hope you enjoyed the photos, and if you enjoy hot sauce, come and support these small business owners who are extremely passionate about what they do. There is something for every spice level; it’s not always about the hottest bottle out there. I, myself, am a “middle of the road” kind of hot-sauce enthusiast after sampling some that were so hot, they induced instant hiccups. No matter if you party like a rock-star with the VIP pass, or go the general admission route, there is always something for everybody!
Hot & Spicy Lovin’,