If you have never been to the Fiery Food & BBQ Show and you are a chilehead, then this is your Mecca must do. For me this is my 6th year coming as a blogger, 3 years for TastetheFear.com and 3 years for ILIS. I think once you have done it this many times a lot of things become from commonplace. I think I have done all I can do here, and this by all accounts will be my last trip there for the foreseeable future. Unlike most of the other shows I attend, this is a very business like experience. There is so little entertainment like the eating challenges at other shows. Once the show is over, unlike the North Market venue in Columbus, everyone goes in splinter groups for dinner. There is no plans on sticking together except for the lounge drinking back at the hotel after that. The show hours are also huge. 11am-8pm on Friday, 9am-7pm on Saturday, and 9am-6pm on Sunday. By the time this is over, the weariness on everyone’s faces shows the tale. Money does not come easy.
For me, there is no profit, it is all spend. This time around, there were no other bloggers to travel to Santa Fe with or to go to lunch with. I did hang out with Xero and Fiber Joe for some quality time at the show, but they had family obligations afterwards. I did help a tad with a couple of booths and EatMoreHeat Live webcast on Sunday. While it was fun, I don’t like the crowds terribly much. I rather be away from the event when it gets so crazy that you can barely move. The people I had hoped to travel with could not make it, so I was left to my wears and rather than risk more money gambling I just left the Sandia Resort for a few hours to get some alone time. I looked forward to the time when everyone was free after the show to hangout. It was the hours at the Nativo Lodge that I cherished the most. As well as the time spent with a select few.
Before I get to the after show hour stuff, let me talk about the event for those that have never attended. This is the show of shows when it comes to the number of spicy food vendors. I am not sure what the exact number was, but it must have between 150-200, albeit some were none spicy product related. If you turned back the clock a few years ago, there seemed to be much more vendors than the last 2 years. Maybe that is why the show has done well for most of the vendors in attendance these 2 years. People came strong on Friday even in the limited 4 hours, perhaps one of the strongest Friday showings ever. Saturday did better than Sunday, and many people said last year was a better sale year than this was, but most that I talked to were quite pleased.
When you walk through the event center, you have to pace yourself or else you will get overwhelmed with the “burn” you can obtain. You can also get plenty of food samples, but mostly in the way or chips and pretzels. There are so many flavors out there your taste buds are on overdrive. The best way to walk the show is to take notes. If you take a liking to anything, write down all the information from the company, product, and which aisle/row it is at. You might even want to write down something about why you liked this particular product. You can easily forget if you don’t because you can taste 100′s of products if you really want to explore everything. If you have the time like I have, then you can spread out your 3 days trying the medium to mild products and then tackling the hotter stuff later on. I have been to the show so many years, I know what I like, and most of these vendors I have met before whether there or at another show. Which makes my tasting limited. I look for new products and new companies.
Two newbies stood out. First there was the mild sauce line full of flavor, Frog Bones Cajun Sauces. I do not think there was anything hot at all in their mix, but I really enjoyed the Remoulade, Cocktail Sauce & White BBQ Sauce. It is a shame though that their website is not ready to take orders yet. The other company is Dragon Breath Sauce. The issue with this company is that they only have 1 sauce. Whilst that might be a problem when you want to keep potential customers from sampling and walking away, this sauce was my new favorite of the show. I did get a chance to sample it on some carne asada at Fiber Joe’s house, (which I will explain below), and the sauce rocked with the savory meat. It was the only glass bottle I bought at the show, even if I left it behind because of my air travel. It was tomatoey with a little kick, and the flavor was right up my alley. The type of sauce that I can see using in large quantities. It left enough of an impression on me that I all ready bought 3 bottles (free shipping).
There is one last company that did not have a booth, but still managed to make an impression on me. While at the EatMoreHeat Live webcast, they got a chance to interview the good people of Primo Popcorn, a unique flavored popcorn company out of Hawaii. I could not believe the list of flavors they had on the sheet that they brought along. Including many spicy flavors like their National Award Winner- “WHAT?!”. They have won National awards for some of their flavors. I know I should not be talking about a company that did not pay for a booth, but I am a big fan of popcorn and theirs was really good.
Overall the show for me is the case of been there, done that. So I am not going to talk much about all the great vendors and people I got to hang with. There are way too many, and I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings if I forget anyone. Let me talk about a few of the gatherings and side trips I got to experience.
On Friday for a late lunch I got to hang out with Mike Isenberg of Wicked Cactus and his sister Elizabeth. We had a great time at El Bruno’s which was the atypical New Mexican style restaurant. While the food was decent enough it was the entertainment that was the most memorable. There was a mariachi band of 3 singing throughout our corner of the restaurant. Showing our delight at the rendition of 2 Johnny Cash classics, Elizabeth and I were grooving with the Mexican minstrel. They came over to us, and we soon rewarded them with money for the entertainment and then for the CD they flaunting at us. Once I later heard the Mexican Polka music in my rental car, I was quite disappointed with my purchase. There wasn’t anything close to what we heard in the restaurant. Not one single mariachi song. It was so not my kind of music, I left it behind in the rental in hopes that someone would find some use for it. Elizabeth also bought a CD, and I am left wondering what she is thinking after she tipped them $20 and spent another 20 spot for that CD. Mike knew better, and left with a clean conscience.
On Saturday evening, Fiber Joe opened up his home for a little Chilehead gathering. He made us some pulled pork and carne asada tacos. Some of the makers brought their sauces along with them and that just added to the good eats. Thanks to Joe and his family for opening up their home and welcoming us with some really good food. I had a good time as I was accompanied by the one and only Sauce Goddess. She made a great road partner, guiding me to and fro.
Then on Sunday evening, much like all the show nitecaps, we had a huge pie party back at the Nativo. Pizza and Dessert pies. Yum yum. It was a nice way to end the long weekend of spicy food with the people that make it so much fun. I miss them all ready. While I do not miss the show as much as the more activity driven shows, this is an event everyone should experience, and you should do it with all my chilehead buds at the Nativo Lodge. They were my saving grace in what could have been a lost weekend. Thanks my friends. Enjoy the rest of the pics…