This past weekend, in conjunction with the Patchwork Edible show at the SOCO Collection, was the first-ever OC Weekly-KCRW hot sauce-salsa contest, and what a contest! We had 40 entries, from as far away as Perris and as nearby as Costa Mesa. There were great ones, and there were rancid ones; there were jellies and there were pepper sauces and there were salsas. India, Trinidad, Mexico, Texas--most of the world's chile regions were represented.
For this edition, we decided to only feature two categories: pro, and amateur, judged by myself and Dave, two crazy kids from Foodbeast, Andy Harris of KLAA-AM 830's SoCal Restaurant Show, Placido Miranda of Alta Fresca LLC (which provided bottles of Tucson's legendary Poblano Hot Sauce for everyone who placed), and Alfonso Cano of 1810 Revolutionary Clothing Company, which provided the $100 cash prize for the amateur winner. Judging was done blindly, so no favorites for anyone.
And the winners are...
Third place went to Gringo Bandito, who entered not their regular batch but a new one forthcoming called Angry Bandito (they should REALLY change the name to Angry Gringo!). Second place went to Irvine's Clay Oven, which submitted a vicious salsa (not a chutney) that combined chile de arbol, scorpion pepper, ghost pepper, habanero and more, yet made it into a palatable thing. And first place went to Ernest Miller, who teaches the master food preserver classes for Los Angeles County. He won with a magnificent tabasco sauce made from fermented Hatch chiles--YUM...
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Third place went to Jorge Casella of Cypress, who entered an ají verde sauce. I didn't think it would stand any chance against some great sauces, but the judges seemed piqued by its Andean assertiveness, which was just a tad spicier than what you'll find at Peruvian restaurants, and brighter (his yellow ají, alas, didn't place). Second place went to Diana Sanchez of San Bernardino, who earned her spot with a stunner: just a simple salsa roja that wasn't too spicy, the kind tías have been making forever as a sort of appetizer before the main salsa. But the balance of flavors impressed the judges--and as Evan Kleiman always says, sometimes the simplest entries are the best.
And first prize went to Abigail Wald of Los Angeles, who won with the most surprising entry of them all: salsa de semilla, which was essentially the seeds of various chiles, oregano, and olive oil--as dessicated and delicious as zaatar. It wasn't my choice for a winner--though I liked it, I felt it had a tad too much olive oil and not enough heat, but I was in the minority.
Congrats to all winners! And think you can win? Enter next year, cabrones...