On Sunday, we ventured to Austin's hottest festival (in more ways than one) and tried all of the hottest sauces so you didn't have to. Here's a sampling of our favorites from the 25th annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival.
Big Daddy's Hot Sauces
"Hell going in, hell going out" is right — this stuff was hot. Co-founder Becky Trevi served samples herself, describing which sauces matched best with which foods. There was a sauce meant for cooking; a smoky sauce that screamed barbecue; and a mustard sauce, The Flaming Lips Three Drops Of Death, which uses St. Arnold's Lawnmower beer, pineapple, ginger and habaneros (and a label designed by Wayne Coyne himself). We had to take a few laps and sweat it out after tasting Big Daddy's, but the attention to detail and the owners' passion for flavorful sauce with a kick ranked it among our top picks.
Cin Chili and Co.
One word: Pickles. Cin Chili served up two flavors of Passion Pickles: one made with habanero peppers, one made with ghost peppers, and each flavor was sour and sweet and spicy and luscious. With so much flavor packed in, we couldn't get enough (we may have sampled more than our fair share of these). Cin Chili isn’t just about pickles, though — the sauces are also unreal. Serrano sauce with cumin would blow your mind on a plate of nachos, and the Cajun Girl sauce tastes like something right out of New Orleans. Cin Chili also had a cinnamon apple barbecue sauce that made us crave a nice, juicy pulled pork sandwich.
Sometimes, the Hot Sauce Festival is about more than just the sauce. Stellar Gourmet’s lavender jalapenos would taste good on anything — pizza, a hamburger or just served up with some cream cheese. Two flavors you never thought would go together blend perfectly in this dish. More importantly, though, if you’re a fan of Chuy’s creamy jalapeno ranch, Stellar Gourmet's hatch jalapeno ranch packs a spicy punch to rival Austin’s favorite local Tex-Mex chain.
High Octane Sauce Company
High Octane is definitely high octane. The company probably had the most sauces out of any booth we tested, from hot sauce to barbecue sauce (and sometimes even a nice little mix of the two). High Octane served our favorite tomatillo sauce of the day, the Green Machine Hatch Chile sauce, which was a winner at the 2013 fest. Also mind-blowing was the Peach Bowl Speedway, a nice red sauce with a sweet, tangy finish — perfect with tortilla chips or cream cheese. The most interesting sauce at this booth was an Asian soy sauce-salsa-wasabi combo that had us craving sushi rolls. None of that compared to the Tailgater barbecue sauce infused with St. Arnold’s root beer.