Hot Sauce Expo fires up Portland's extreme eaters
Some like it hot. Some like it even hotter.
And then there are the attendees at the PDX Hot Sauce Expo — who should probably turn it down a notch.
"It hits you afterward, so you've got to eat fast," said Bill Frost, who wolfed down a "Slaytanic" burrito spiked with Carolina Reaper peppers in record-winning time. Two of the other nine challengers couldn't stomach the meal and had to drop out halfway.
It was a bittersweet victory for the Denver, Colorado resident — who was sticking out his tongue and wiping perspiration from his brow after tasting victory. Yet he rated the heat as a mere nine out of 10.
"The hard part is eating all the food," he said on Sunday, Aug. 5.
The crowds streamed in during the two-day Hot Sauce Expo, now in its third year. It was hosted over the weekend at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, located at 1945 S.E. Water Avenue in Portland.
At least four of the dozens of vendors were offering up sauces brewed here in Oregon.
Catharine Sutherland of Hoss Soss said the spicy condiment is now a billion-dollar industry — and she wants a piece. Her company in Salem has been cooking up bi-bim sauce, based on a Korean dish, and a guajillo sauce based on Mexican enchiladas since August of 2016.
"We like a little less heat," she explained. "We're trying to see how much flavor you can pack in."
Despite the hype, plenty of entrepreneurs have eschewed the extreme-heat demographic for a subtler palate. Many sellers at the exposition offered detailed pairing suggestions, the way foodies match wine with fish.
Take for example flavor-creator Matthew Hilla, of the Portland company Hotmaple, who creates sauces that combine maple syrup with jalapenos.
"A lot of hot sauces are so hot you taste it for the rest of the meal," Hilla said. "The heat is for flavor, not to burn your face off."