Only in Brooklyn: 5th Annual Hot Sauce Expo Lands in Greenpoint

April 25, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ohio-based company CAJohn’s showcases its array of Firehouse sauces and multiple expo awards. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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As the great Donna Summer once said, “I need some hot stuff, baby, tonight.”

And that’s exactly what thousands of Brooklynites got at the annual Hot Sauce Expo this past weekend in Greenpoint.

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Entering its fifth year, the festival showcases the world’s best and spiciest creations from well-known brands like Tabasco to more obscure homemade sauces.

“This is a way for artisan hot-sauce makers to get their product out there so people realize that their only options are not Franks, Tabasco or Sriracha,” said Merle Mortenson, chilimaster of Hellfire Hot Sauce in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

“There are other options out there that will actually blow away the stuff you can get at the grocery store for $1.50 or $2 a bottle. It’s real artisan, gourmet stuff.”

Festivalgoers were able to sample complimentary hot sauces placed on crackers and chips. More daring guests took shots of the fiery red liquid.

More than 50 concoctions from across the globe were on display from Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand and South America.

Over the course of the weekend, there were a host of unique competitions and events.

On Saturday, attendees were treated to The Spicy Bagel of DOOM Challenge, the Margarita Mix-Down, the Chicken Wing Challenge and the Pizza of Hell Challenge.

Sunday’s events included the Spicy Meatballs contest, The Slaytanic Burrito Challenge, the Chihuahua Beauty Pageant, the Bloody Mary Mix-Down National Championship and the most anticipated event, the Guinness Book of Records Carolina Reaper Pepper Eating Contest.

“A lot of people don’t know about this stuff,” Mortenson told the Brooklyn Eagle. “A lot of people don’t know what’s the hottest pepper. A lot of people still think it’s the habanero or the ghost pepper.

“Hot sauce is a health fad. It’s healthy, it’s good for you and that’s another thing people are starting to realize.”

To combat the intense heat, craft beer, margaritas and mixed drinks were available.

But no beverage could better ameliorate the crippling pain that many attendees felt in their mouths and stomachs than milk, which was provided by Farmland Fresh Dairies.

The company served milk cartons and frothy concoctions consisting of milk and whipped cream.

“One guy came up to me later and said, ‘Man, you saved me!’ Our juice put a nice coating on their stomachs to cut the spice,” said JD Altobello, an employee for the New Haven, Connecticut-based juice company Ripe.

To complement the fiery hot sauces, spicy tacos, ribs and wings were served.

“We came up here to support some of our customers that we bottle our hot sauce for,” said Scott Martin, a hot sauce bottler from Saint Augustine, Florida. “It brings people in from all over the world now, internationally, to one spot so we can show our wares and make it more aware to the public of what we’re doing.”

Participants were also able to converse with the artisans, learn how to make hot sauce and how to create blends with the perfect amount of heat and flavor.

Some of the hottest sauces, not even on the market yet, were given to the most ambitious visitors.

Asked what they liked most about Brooklyn, Martin said, “I love the mixture of people. I just love it. I went to a bar last night and it had people from all over the world, all kinds of people. So that’s what I like the most.”

“The artwork, man. The graffiti,” Mortenson added with a smile. “It’s the coolest damn thing. Oh, and the pizza, I got to say.”


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