Chile today, hot tamale!
There are several things I really like. I like my coffee, I like my ‘sweets’ (a little too much), and I like hot spicy foods.
When I was a boy, there were only four spices in the entire world. Salt, pepper, ketchup, and mustard. Or, at least those were the only spices my late mother ever heard of, and we know what a ‘wonderful’ cook she was. It takes a lot of talent to burn water.
I never even tried salsa or hot peppers until I was at a party in college and a friend explained the concept of nachos to me, but after that initial introduction, I began to explore the world of hot sauces. One year a seasonal kiosk opened at my local mall. I think it was called ‘Mo Hotter Mo Better’ . They offered samples of different ‘XXX+’ hot sauces, and I could buy what I liked. The first super hot sauce that piqued my young palate was Endorphin Rush. For years, this was my hot sauce of choice.
After my Aunt Arleen died, I had to move my mother into my apartment for the last five years of her life. She had cancer, and her social security didn’t even begin to cover her bills. It was either that or my mother would have been homeless, so I had to do the ‘right’ thing. It was quite the culture clash, and a very stressful period.
My mother could not understand that bottle of Endorphin Rush in the kitchen. To her, it was death in a bottle. She could not comprehend that I enjoyed the hot spicy kick it gave to what I was eating. Of course, one day while I was at work my mother somehow managed to ‘accidentally’ break the bottle, and suffered the consequences of getting hot sauce into her eyes while cleaning the broken mess from the kitchen floor. Karma, it’ll get you in the end.
For every conceivable type of food, somewhere there is a food festival. In big cities, these annual gastronomical extravaganzas tend to take place in convention centers, large city parks, or the occasion ‘street fair’ which shuts down traffic in that area for the event. The beauty of food festivals is two-fold.
Primarily, it’s for the businesses. At least half of these companies are small start-ups, hoping to break into their niche market of choice. They are desperate to attract the attention of food critics, supermarket chains, and specialty product retailers. Every one of them has some new twist, secret recipe, catchy name, or flashy logo. They have to pay for exhibition space, and are offering samples in the hope of going national. They love the support of the little guy, but they are really there praying for the big retailers and restaurants to take notice of them. Many of these entrepreneurs have risked their life savings to launch their dream, and they could lose it all if they can’t compete against the sea of rivals surrounding them. For them, the food festival really is life or death.
Secondly, for the consumer it exposes you to many different vendors and products which may not be available in your area. Some of these companies have fantastic goods for sale. Many of them have traveled from great distances, and spent a lot to get to these food festivals. As a consumer, you suddenly went from having a limited selection of your food of choice, to a plethora! The best part is, free samples! As you walk from one stand to another, you can sample the products as you go. The next best thing is special pricing! As many of these vendors have traveled from afar, they have packed cases of their products, hoping to sell every last good they loaded on their trucks. Most of them have multiple item deals which can save you 10-20% in volume deals. Plus, since many of these vendors are from out of town, if you were to buy from them online, you’d have to pay shipping, so not only are you getting a discount at the show, you save on shipping fees! It’s nearly impossible to get this item any cheaper than you will at the festival, so if you like it buy it, and buy a lot of it!
Every year for at least six years now, I have been going to the annual Bower’s Chili Pepper Festival. It’s held every year on the weekend after Labor day in Bower’s PA.
Fortunately for me, this event is local, only about a 45 minute drive from my apartment, or 20 minutes from my job. Each year, two of my best friends join me on this fun-filled trip. Because Berks county is largely a rural area, we have the bonus that the annual Bower’s Chili Pepper Festival is located lest than 1/2 a mile from Meadow View Farm, which has a pick your own peppers field open to the public that coincides with the festival. My friends and I scour the fields picking some of the hottest peppers known to man, and we pay a fraction of what we would at the grocery store, not to mention obtaining exotic hot peppers like Carolina Reapers, and Trinidad Scorpions which are not stocked at the local supermarket. This year I picked nearly 10lbs of peppers for which I only paid $11.50! In turn, I pickled those peppers yesterday, yielding nine quarts of super-hot pickled peppers which will last me until next year!
I personally endorse all of the following vendors and their products, and urge you to try them.
Some of the business are local Pennsylvania business. Two have the PA PREFERRED endorsement on their brand.
Chef Tim is a great guy and his SWEET BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE is the best salad dressing / marinade you can get. No added preservatives, gluten Free & cholesterol Free, made with 7 All Natural Ingredients: Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Sugar, Kosher Salt, Granulated Garlic, Black Pepper, Oregano. I see time whenever I stop at The Green Dragon Framer’s Market in Ephrata, and his vinaigrette can be found in over a hundred retail stores in PA, including SKH (Stauffers of Kissel Hill). If you haven’t tried Chef Tim’s SWEET BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE I urge you to do so.
Red Hawk Peppers
They make a Fiery Pineapple Spread that I can’t get enough of! I buy a half dozen jars every year.
All of their products are 100% ALL NATURAL with no chemical additives or preservatives.
Pilsudski Brand Mustard
This is a great mustard, and I’m nuts about their wasabi and sriracha flavors.
WOODY’S ORIGINAL CLAMLUBE BRAND HOT SAUCE
I got to admit, it was that catchy logo that first caught my eye, but the favor of these hot sauces can’t be beat!
Memphis-inspired, award winning spices & hot sauces. Social enterprise, all profits to food pantries. Small batch, vegan, all natural
A wonderful seasoning, I can’t wait to experiment with it in my tex-mex dishes.
Save someone’s business!
I can’t stress this enough, if you love some awesome food product you’ve tasted, support the business! Buy their products, give them as gifts, tell friends about them and share contact info on social media. Many of these new business depend upon you to endorse and support them. It takes money to run a business, and slumping sales can kill a start-up. For every great product that’s on the verge of going national, there’s a struggling entrepreneur desperate for widespread exposure. I was saddened to discover that this year my favorite pepper jam maker was not at the festival, and she appears to have gone out of business. The website says they are sold out online, and a call to the listed number went unanswered to voicemail. I love https://jackysjamsandjellies.com/ and I was planning on buying an entire case of pepper jam. Wherever you are Jacky, I wish you well.
Again, super hot foods are a niche market, and many of these items can’t be found in local supermarkets. The average millennial turns to Amazon.com for the majority of their online orders, so getting nationwide distribution is imperative for the small brand. As many of these products lack chemicals and preservatives, they are better for your body, but they cost more and have a shorter shelf life. Isn’t your health worth spending those extra pennies for a superior product? If you want to keep these companies alive, buy, share, and promote them. As always, I wish you success and happiness!