I‘m not one for big outdoor festivals in the Texas summer heat, packed with people, where waiting in lines or crowds is the only means to an end. I’m willing to take some slack for what I’m about to say and I may even regret it if I lose readers as a result, but I’m about honesty and… yep, that means ACL is not my thing. Been there, done it once, but I much prefer concerts in smaller venues, where the artist or band is showcased and the audience’s energy is contagious since it’s focused in one place. End tangent.
This weekend I made an exception to my “I don’t do hot outdoor crowds” rule for the 19th Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. And, it was very worth the trip, sweat, and tears. Sounds painful, now that I write it. Tears of Joy is so appropriately named, and was the first stop we made after parking for free! in the garage nearest Waterloo Park and donating 3 cans of food as our ticket to taste. It is a hot sauce shop located on E. 6th that produces its own sauces and sells a variety of others. It was love at first taste for the Tears of Joy 6th Street Green Salsa, so of course I went back at the end to buy a bottle. My buds must have good taste because it ended up winning “Commerical Bottlers 3rd Place Celebrity Judged Green Sauce” and “Commerical Bottlers People’s Choice Green Sauce”.
Our next stop was Logan’s Habanero Relish, which my hot sauce partner in crime was insistent upon buying. Logan McClinton is a senior at UT and wasn’t sure he would have any customers for his home-made recipe. His booth was a hit. He sampled it on Ritz crackers with cream cheese and in a chicken salad recipe. And, he took home the title of “2nd Place Special Variety Commerical Bottlers People’s Choice”.
After waiting in line to try the “Restaurants and Individual Red” hot sauces, we made our final stop. Cin Chili just looked like another ordinary tasting booth. However, they wanted tasters to experience the flavor unbiased and unaffected by the flavor of a salty chip. So, we sampled their sauces on mini spoons, straight-up, like true Texans. After trying a few of their sauces, I went for the gusto to brave their strongest. Let me tell you! I come from El Paso, Texas, where hot salsa is served on every corner. I can handle spicy. Not only can I handle it, but I am drawn to and often crave really spicy things that make me temporarily lose focus while I’m transported into stimulated-tastebuds mode, and in fact, can be an excellent stress reliever. Put it this way: I eat spicy the way some people drink…
Thanks to Cin Chili, I ended on a good note by tasting the hottest salsa I have ever experienced: Devil’s Lightning Hot Sauce with Jolokia. Time stopped. My eyes started tearing. Soon, my mouth was radiating heat aside from the 95-degree weather. Suddenly, I needed a drink, and fast. I knew there was something special about this one that did me in. I found out after I got home, that Jolokia, otherwise known as the Ghost Chile, the key ingredient and the cause for my tears of joy, was named by Guinness World Records as the hottest chili in the world in 2007. My tastebuds knew it–this potion was intense, and although I struggled for a few minutes after eating it, it made my whole trip to the Hot Sauce Festival worth it and memorable. (I challenge you to handle this bottle, which is sold at Spec’s.) And, my expectations for great salsa just got that much higher. Stay tuned for my favorite Austin salsa list….
Rebeccammended Summer Food Festival Event: Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival! Free parking and entry with food donation, delicious salsa sampling, cleared sinuses.