The fire alarms went off at the California Hot Sauce Expo in Long Beach this past weekend. Quite literally.

Apparently someone didn’t know their limits, and paramedics arrived on the scene. No one was rushed to the hospital that I could see, but the fiery flavors of what was on hand at the expo took no prisoners.

It was an unusual but nonetheless entertaining expo than what I am used. Alongside Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach, approximately 40 vendors offered their artisan sauces, jams, jerky, and more. Eating and cooking competitions occurred throughout the weekend. There was a dearth of guards so people were strolling into the expo without paying. For those who did buy tickets, for an extra fee, they could purchase access to a VIP area. There, Lucille’s offered all-you-can eat barbecue and  Haggen Daas handed out as much ice cream as your heart desired. Alcohol companies offered samples as well. On Sunday, there was a stack of cases of Justin’s Almond Butter just sitting there. I finally asked the guard if they were free for the taking. “Help yourself.” Unfortunately I didn’t have a large bag or I wouldn’t have taken more. Justins, as my friend pointed out, is expensive! But oh so good.

It’s the 2nd year for the Hot Sauce Expo. There weren’t huge crowds so hopefully the show can be sustainable. They appeared to be pretty much sold out as far as exhibitor space goes, but it’s not a tremendously large area. Hopefully they can rent more seating for attendees. And maybe an on-site medic and water stations.

Many of the offerings were imbued with the Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper in the world.

Needless to say, people were gulping down a lot of water.


–Ken Choy

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