Time flies by so fast. It seems just like yesterday that I covered the previous year’s event. But alas, a year later, and time again to cover the events of the North Market’s 2010 Fiery Foods Festival in Columbus, Ohio! The car, Ol’ Blue, was packed, the business cards stuffed in my wallet, and new oil in the engine. I picked up my friend Eric Chmielewski (aka Chem) at 6:50 in the AM and by 7:10 he remembers that he forgot one of the sauces we wanted to enter in the hot sauce contest. He was severely “disciplined” for this mistake.
We landed at the North Market promptly at 9AM and after dropping off some packages to Sue Hard at CaJohn’s booth, we headed to find Chem some food. Last year we had some excellent Pho from the local soup stand (Lac Viet Market), this year’s soup was just as good if not better. Knowing the amount of food I was going to be stuffing myself with, I only had a taste of his.
One of my qualms with the event was that there is never enough vendors. This year, my qualms were squelched. The upstairs “dispatch kitchen” had been converted into a vendor room and stands were set up for the vendors. It was a beautiful sight, one that made me feel like this was finally a hot sauce show.
There were some usual suspects, Chuck Evans of Montezuma Brand, Abby from Mild To Wild Pepper Company, Jeff Stevenson of Crazy Uncle Jester’s. But in attendance were some new comers, Cowboy George and Bonnie Phillips were showing off Blaze Gourmet, Jacs Tailgaters, and making their second event appearance ever were Heartbreaking Dawns.
After saying a quick hello to everyone I knew, it was time to get situated for the first event; The Salsa Judging Competition. My tongue was prepped, proper tasting equipment was handed out and I was ready to judge.
15 salsas were entered and ranged from chunky to smooth. Some were very solid in their formulation and others we really had to question whether the person actually tasted them before submitting. I was disappointed that none of the sauces save two actually had any heat to them but that’s not always what makes a salsa good. All in all it was a blast to be a part of that event! Donna Pots’ Poor Man’s Caviar With Mango came in second place, and Sandy Kraft’s Spicy Sweet Salsa took home first place.
This left Chem and I enough time to quickly get in line for the Professional Chili Competition. The hungry masses had already started to line up and we scooted ourselves up to the front of the line, but not before checking out the awesome looking first place “trophy”.
As each sample of chili was brought to the judge, someone was on the microphone giving a brief description of the chili. There were some really tasty sounding and inventive chili’s. Of note was a one with Fatalii peppers, a venison based chili, a chili with Bison and Wild Boar Bacon (this was the best one there by leaps and bounds by the way), and one made out of Atomic Fireballs (yes, a candy based chili, it actually worked to).
Once winners were announced by the local celebrity food judges, we were allowed to eat. Slowly we worked our way through all 18 contestants. Overall, the chili was decent with a few exceptions being out of this world fantastic. I talked around with people and the consensus was the judges didn’t know a good chili if it bit them. The winners they chose were the worst, non-chili like food in the competition. The winning chili tasted like tomato soup. This coming from judges that have written books and food reviews.
Devastated that the Wild Boar Bacon and Bison Chili didn’t win, Chem and I ran across the street to Barley’s Brewing Company for a quick pint. After talking with the brewmaster, Scott Francis, we had to run back to the event for it was time for the Amateur Chili Competition. Judging had already taken place so we were in the clear to taste. I sampled only a few because there was more eating to be done and I was as close to overstuffed as I could get.
The next event on the list was the Hot Sauce Competition. 10 sauces were entered into the competition and four judges who’s tasting abilities I had complete confidence in would choose the first and second place winners.
Do to Chem’s absentmindedness, we were only down to our green sauce to submit. While it wasn’t our tastiest sauce, it was sure to blow the tongues out of the back of the back of the judge’s heads. Named “Hell’s Green Grass”, this was our green sauce from Hades. Consisting of all unripened peppers, tomatillos, unripened tomatoes, garlic, Tequila, my homebrewed beer, a lager from Germany, vinegar, Celtic sea salt, saffron, and a few other odds and ends. Oh, did I mention that 80% of the unripened peppers were Trinidad Scorpions and Bhut Jolokias? Let’s see if the judges notice…
Yep, they noticed. Bill was cursing me for a good couple of hours according to his wife, Sandi. While ours didn’t win (it was tour tart and thick for the tongues of the judges), it did succeed in killing everyone in the room which made us smile.
Up next was the Jalapeno eating competition. But you are going to have to stay tuned to this website if you want to read all about it! This ends the first part of my four part review of the 2010 North Market Fiery Foods Festival! I will leave you with a picture of the best t-shirt at the show.