1st Annual California Hot Sauce Expo in Long Beach, California

The first annual California Hot Sauce Expo took place at the Rainbow Lagoon in front of the Long Beach Convention Center. 29 vendors from around the country served up mild to tongue-scorching hot sauces and chili-related products to hundreds of hot sauce aficionados. The weather was perfect for a summer day with clear blue skies, bright sunshine, and occasional sea breeze. Many of the attendees got into the spirit of the expo by wearing their favorite hot sauce t-shirt – Sriracha and Tabasco to name a few.

Proper’s Pickle, from Long Beach, CA, served up some of their Proper’s Serranos with their smoky, spicy flavor and hints of garlic and dill. These would be great on a sandwich or on top of a hot dog.

Big Red’s Hot Sauce, from Phoenix, AZ, served up their line of hot sauces. Smokey Habanero has a smoky flavor from the slowly smoked chipotle pepper. The addition of habanero gives it the heat. This would be great on pork chops and steak. The Big Yella Sauce is more on the tropical side with sweet mango flavor intensified by habanero pepper. This would be great on chicken or fish.

Infinity Sauces, from Santa Ana, CA, are made in the 4th Street Market East End Kitchens. Double Chipotle has a nice smoky flavor with medium heat. This would be great on a pork chop, steak, hamburger, or even to add some heat to a barbeque sauce. The Ghost Monkey is very spicy! Do you remember cartoon characters that would eat something hot and steam would come out of their ears? Well, this sauce actually made me feel like that. The heat went directly to my ears and I could feel it in my ear drums. That’s one spicy mofo!

The Flame Beverage, from Las Vegas, NV, is a mixer to infuse fruit and cayenne pepper into cocktails. The Mango Mixer has a sweet mango flavor. The spicy kick is not too hot and hits you right in the back of your throat. Add it to a white sangria for a perfect summer drink.

Lucky Dog Hot Sauce, from Hayward, CA, started as a hobby for Scott Zalkind in 2005. With growing demand, it became a small business in 2012. Dia Del Perro is made with alderwood-smoked serrano peppers, green tomatillo, toasted onion, roasted garlic, and chili tepin. It has a nice heat but is still flavorful with each vegetable note apparent. This would be great with carnitas, roasted pork, and even kalua pig. Brown Label is a chipotle sauce mixed with mustard, cumin, Bartlett pear juice, figs, and scotch bonnet chilies. This has a spicy kick to it but has a nice balance of sweet, savory, and spicy. This would be great on chicken, pork, and meaty fish like tuna or swordfish.

We needed to let our taste buds cool off a bit. Strawberry Lemonade and Funnel Cake topped with strawberries & whipped cream sounded like a cool deal. The strawberry lemonade was good but I did not care for the half of a lemon taking up all that valuable space in my cup. I would have preferred an additional ½ cup of lemonade instead of a lemon. The funnel cake was really good – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The whipped cream helped cool off our taste buds.

Tapatio, from Maywood, CA, has been in the hot sauce business since 1971. After signing up for their newsletter, we received mouse pads. One lucky winner won a 10-foot tall inflatable Tapatio bottle.

NW Elixirs, from Portland, OR, is the work of Chef Andrew Garrett and Mitch Miller. Chef Andrew was also on the “Hot Stuff” episode of Chopped. Hott Smoke #3 is smoky, spicy, and thick like barbeque sauce. It’s like the molasses of hot sauces. This would pair well with pork and chicken. Bangkok Hot #4 is slightly spicy and Asian in flavor with the salty hint of fish sauce. This would be great in a stir-fry or on Vietnamese bún.

Bravado Spice Co., from Houston, TX, focuses on raw flavors instead of just heat. Pineapple & Habanero is sweet from the pineapple and spicy from the habanero. It has just the right balance of heat to sweet. This would be great on fish tacos and pork. GhostPepper & Blueberry is a beautiful hue of purple. It’s a bit spicier than the Pineapple & Habanero as the berry sweetness is more subtle. This would be great in a marinade, dressing, or added to game meats like venison.

Jabberwocky, from Altadena, CA, had the most imaginative booth with an English butler-greeter, swashbuckling wenches serving up hot sauce samples, and a hipster mixologist. Their sauce has a jerk flavor profile which matches with their motif. The mixers reminded me of vinegar-based sodas without the bubbles. The mixers would work well as part of a dressing or marinade as well.

The first annual California Hot Sauce Expo seemed to be a success. Hope to have it back next year with more vendors (especially more food & beverages) to go with these hot sauces.

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