As most of you know, I am the founder of HeidiTown. As the Mayor of that little town, I have been writing about the Colorado festival scene since 2010. I have written and attended many events over the years—beer, music, medieval, winter fests, etc.
So, when I discovered there was a festival fit for TacosandPho.com, I got super excited.
I found out about this show right after it happened last year. “It is just down the freeway in Albuquerque,” I thought. Of course, the reality is that it is a 7-hour drive south on I25, but still, doable. I decided then and there that I would go. And we did.
I will cover some of the other things we did in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on HeidiTown.com. In the meantime, I want to tell you about this show. It just may inspire you to make the trip in 2024.
The show ran Friday through Sunday, March 3-5, 2023, at Sandia Resort & Casino. Our tickets were for Saturday’s session and we got there a bit before 11 for the 11 a.m. start. The line was already wrapping around the casino floor.
Two things to know about this casino, and all casinos in New Mexico. There is no drinking alcohol on the casino floor in New Mexico. I am used to the waitstaff going around taking drink orders from gamblers, and that happens here, they just take orders for coffee, water, juice and soda. Alcoholic drinks must stay in the restaurants, lounges, or in the convention center area where the shows are held. And now you know.
On to the show!
We got into the convention center at 12:04 p.m.
I had read that most vendors only take cash so I was ready with $100. Determined not to use a card, that was my limit. Ryan had a bit of cash and I happened to have about an extra $30 also. I would spend the extra if it came to it, and it did.
Deciding not to try anything too spicy first, I started with Wisconsin Cheese Curds, salsa and beef jerky. However, I didn’t even make it out of the foray before I had hot sauce from Taos Hum. I was there, after all, to try hot sauces, specifically spicy hot sauces. Th
This is what I told myself as I tried a lot of theirs including the Chocolate Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which burnt. However, it still had flavor and this is what I have come to believe about Trinidad scorpion peppers which we grew last summer—flavorful sauces can be made using them.
I ended up buying Taos Hum Fatalli, which some people thinks taste less hot than the aforementioned sauce and some think tastes hotter. I thought it was slightly less spicy and will go well on a lot of things. It is slightly tropical and derived from the Fatalli Pepper (like a ghost pepper but with lower Scoville units). I didn’t know that pepper existed, but now I do and I like it.
That’s what is great about this show—it is likely that you’ll discover a new pepper or new taste or both at the same time, and I think that’s a lovely thing.
At this point. my mouth was on fire, but it went away, which is one reason I think Taos Hum hot sauces are excellent.
I have a strong, personal belief, not backed up by science, that New Mexico makes the best red sauce of any I have tasted in Colorado or Arizona. It doesn’t seem to be in any other states. I was on a mission to find my favorite red sauce at this event.
The Bossy Gourmet made the first red sauce I tasted and nothing was better. Before we left, I went back and bought a jar. They are from Las Cruces and thankfully, are available online.
Here is what is weird about this show. I tasted mushroom jerky. True story! It wasn’t spicy, but I am now on Matt’s Mushroom Farm mailing list, and I have to say, the first taste sort of threw me, but after a second and third taste, I actually enjoyed this version of “jerky.” I don’t know if mushroom jerky will catch on, but if it does, I can say, I was there when.
Packaging is important at this show and differently shaped and sized bottles always caught my eye., but taste ultimately wins the day. If I really, really liked it, I bought it.
Ryan found a bar in the corner of this humongous convention room and bought me a Bloody Mary, which ended up being a good accompaniment as I made my way from table to table, tasting, tasting, sipping and tasting.
I was enamored with Fool’s Gold because the business is located in Denver, and they were running a show special of $5 for all the things. This was a great deal as most bottles of hot sauce or barbecue sauce ran $10 to $12, with a few priced at $8.
RELATED: Surprised by Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a Good Way (HeidiTown.com)
I bought two hot sauces and a barbecue sauce. While I was swayed by the fact that Brian, owner of Fool’s Gold, was from Colorado and items were only $5, everything was fresh tasting, which goes far for me.
Next, Fantastic Fuego originally caught my eye because the business name was so, well, fantastic. However, the Machete salsa was one of my top two favorite items at the show. Made using olive oil, this salsa has a real appeal to the cook in me, and I can’t wait to pair this with anything and everything.
My other show favorite is a chili paste from Denver called MisoHeat Reaper Edition. I swear I am not being a homer on this, although I was very excited to see a chili paste made locally here in Colorado.
There are very few hot sauces here with an Asian flair. In fact, I only found one chili paste that I can’t wait to put on pho. Albuquerque is in the Southwest but at the largest show of its kind, I did expect more Asian hot sauce representation. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I was exuberant to find one I loved and it was from Denver.
At this point, we were on a mission to get a couple of hot sauces for friends which we found at Flavor&Fire, Cooper’s Small Batch and Swamp Dragon. Instead of using vinegar, Swamp Dragon, out of Louisiana, uses liquor like tequila, rum, and bourbon, as a base for their hot sauce. Sort of gimmicky, but also yummy.
By the way, at this point, my tongue was hurting and I took a break from hot sauces eating just barbecue sauces for a bit.
Ryan bought barbecue sauce and rubs from various vendors, but I didn’t track this. Follow me on Twitter because I will surely make note of each time he uses this on a particular barbequed meat.
I would be utterly remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Colorful Colorado Creations. This hot sauce company is located right here in Loveland, and it is available locally at Artisan Kitchen at 243 E. 4th Street. I bought Colorado Green which is not spicy but will be amazing on tacos because of the fresh cilantro and lime kick.
I won’t lie, the National Fiery Foods & BBQ show is popular and therefore crowded. However, it wasn’t completely insane. There is an opportunity to talk to makers, although a little patience is necessary. By the way, the makers are here, there are very few distributors at the event.
We spent a total of two and a half hours at the event going up and down every colorful aisle. In total, we spent no more than $150 cash, and this was our haul was three and a half bags full.
It’s a bit of a drive to get down to this event from Northern Colorado, and my tickets, time, and lodging were covered 100% by me. Honestly, this show was completely and totally for me first, and for you, the reader (and taco and pho eaters/slurpers), second.
I am lucky to have Ryan who eats my spicy food without complaint although with a little heartburn. He supports my need for spice by going to this type of event with me.
This show is just $10.50 if you buy a ticket early, and it will expand your culinary mind and palate. And, if you like spicy, they got it! Also, Albuquerque is affordable, at least more affordable than Northern Colorado.
It is easy to find a safe hotel room for $100 per night. Plus, Albuquerque is fun. There are 40 breweries in the area, plus Old Town (where we stayed) is super fun and photogenic.
Albuquerque has a lot to offer beyond spicy food, but really, what more do you need? The #SpicyLife is the life for me.