Ken Alexander reporting live from Zestfest 2012 in Irving, Texas.
As my wife and I entered the Irving, Texas convention center this morning, we were greeted by the large archway inviting us into Zestfest, one of the largest hot sauce and spicy food shows in the country. After being greeted by festival “go to” wonder woman Judy Fuhrhop, and being given a brief tour of the beautiful layout, we took off in search of friends, old and new, and some of the most unique, original, and spicy products I’ve tried in a while.
The first stop was a visit with Madison Chocolatiers West. Chef Ricky Sanders and Renee Rohrbach have created some incredible flavor and heat profiles nicely disguised as innocent looking chocolates. I reviewed their outstanding Sweet Burn Butter Toffee back in November, and they’ve added to the spicy product fold with “I Hab a Date”, a habanero spiked, chocolate covered, peanut butter stuffed date, and several other delightful spicy and non- spicy chocolate creations
Sharing the same booth was Volcanic Peppers, and Tim Bader strolled my taste buds and heat sensors through his collection of products. A first year Zest Fester, Tim introduced me to his brand new Lava Trinidad Scorpion BBQ sauce (I highly recommend it) and collection of peppery powders. I especially liked the fresh, citrusy flavor of the yellow bhut jolokia powder.
We visited with Flaming Joe and Red Hot Robin, festival veterans, and sampled Robin’s new Applewood Smoked Rum BBQ Sauce and Joe’s new hairdo!
Then it was on to Chef Kaz with El Gringo Loco, and his award winning line of sauces and salsas. Chef Kaz won a 2011 I Love it Spicy Lennie award and after sampling several of his products, I’m a new fan. He probably has one of the most flavorful, complex, and unique wing sauces I’ve ever tried.
Of course, no big show would be complete without the crew from CaJohn’s, with Vic and Wendy Clinco running the infamous Execution Station. The station challenges unsuspecting, budding Chileheads to try all seven of CaJohn’s hottest sauces, culminating in the new and improved Black Mamba, now made with six million Scoville extract. Ouch!
Not to be outdone, the Intensity Academy is sponsoring the Lolli-Lickathon on Saturday afternoon, where Vic Clinco will try to remain undefeated! More on that later, but Michelle Northrup with the Academy brought her A-game with a couple of new sauces that are sure to please. Check out the video that will be posted soon on ILoveitSpicy.com!
A brief photo op and visit with Defcon Sauce’s John Dilly and his futuristic booth, Mad Man Max-esque costume, and crazy hot sauces rounded out our first pass through the 100 plus vendor showroom floor. I’ll be sending Brian and Marilyn an awards recap later and sending Buddah some initial videos and pics to share as well on ILoveItSpicy.com. Check out the festival website at www.zestfest2012.com for a complete list of vendors and information. Many thanks to Greg and Judy, festival organizers, for their gracious Texas hospitality, and to Brian and Marilyn for allowing me to write you about all things hot and spicy! Stay tuned- more to come from Zestfest2012!