Hotheadz

Bath Chilli Festival 2014Last year saw the first ever Bath Chilli Festival held on campus at the University Of Bath. Without going into too much detail, the event quite simply fell flat on its face. Not so this year!

Organisers Pete and Rich pulled out all the stops in the run up to this year’s event and I’m pleased to say that it was a huge success. Setting off to go and set up I was only 5 miles out of Stroud, just getting onto the A46 heading south, when I saw a sign post advertising the festival which is some 30 miles away. A good omen I thought!

The University is easy to find and access for set up was hassle free and straight forward. The first thing I noticed was that the show layout this year was far more structured. No great expanses of ground for tumbleweed to roll through! Once it filled up with visitors (and it did) this show had the feel of a summer fete – except with hot sauce, chilli, beer, cider…and sunshine! Yes the weather was kind, which is always a huge advantage.

There was a good selection of vendors from hot sauce companies to curry sauce companies, spice vendors, drinks, chilli plants and seeds, spicy sausages – all the usual, but not so many stands that the product offerings were duplicated. Entertainment was laid on in the main tent with local bands and performers, talks on chilli science, a curry cook-off and later the chilli eating competition run by the Clifton Chilli Club. For full details visit the website: http://www.bathchillifestival.com/index.html

Like a lot of other companies selling there I’m sure, I was too busy to have a proper look around! The show was extremely well attended and what impressed me was the number of “chilli virgins” who came just to see what it was all about. These are the life blood of any show. I always get a buzz from the sheer enthusiasm (and wide-eyed terror when being introduced to the hottest of the hot) that newbies bring to these events. Lots of visitors praised the show without being prompted and many stayed and made a day of it. The queues for the food vendors suggested that they all did good business.

The day seemed to absolutely fly by and breaking down after the show was made all the more easy by the fact that most of us had almost sold out of stock! Luckily my wife was coming to the show so after the first hour I was able to call to tell her to bring more stock and even then I sold out of many product lines. Happy days!

Organising, running and promoting a successful show is far from easy and I think Rich, Pete and all the staff that helped make the show such a success should be congratulated. I certainly hope they do it again next year.

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Chilifest Finland

Chilifest Finland

In 2010 the Finnish city of Tampere, Finland held a show called Naga Fest and although I was invited I couldn’t attend – gutted or what?! It was a great success so they decided to run the show again this year at a new location in the town square in Tampere, under the new name of Chillifest.

Well this year I was invited along again to assist my distributor Poppamies, on the stand selling Hot-Headz! products to the masses of Finnish chilliheads that turned up. Believe me, I didn’t know what I was in for…….

This show was like the Chilli Fiesta at West Dean 15 years ago. Masses of chilliheads and a handful of exhibitors! The event was free for the public to enter and it was estimated that between 20-30,000 people attended over the weekend.

Having arrived late in the evening my hosts managed to make sure I had time for a few beers and a quick catch up before crashing out. The following day was spent in preparation for the show. The warehouse was buzzing with activity and radio and TV crews were calling most of the day for interviews with my great friend Marko Suksi, the show organiser.

The show was set up in a day and a half with an enormous drive on stage that unfolded from a truck to form an impressive stage – like some kind of Transformer toy! The final touches were made to the stands on Saturday morning with Hot-Headz! being allocated an impressive space at the end of the stand to display our products. The first day opening times were mid day to midnight Saturday so I had visions of sampling product for a while, wandering around other stands talking to exhibitors and having a few beers. No chance! There were 8 staff behind the stand and we sold pretty much hand over fist all day long until about 8pm when it slowed from mayhem to manageable as the visitors enjoyed the bands, fire jugglers and other entertainment, none of which I got to see!

ChiliFest Finland 2011 - Copyright Matti Suksi

ChiliFest Finland 2011 - Copyright Matti Suksi

The highlight of the day for many was the Naga eating contest. The winner consumed 181.57g of fresh Naga – the equivalent of 27 fresh pods! A new Finnish record. All these results were reported in real time on-line by the Finnish Chilli Association. These guys were kind enough to bring me a bowl of their home made chilli both days to keep me going!

Other stands included several hot sauce sellers, chilli sausage vendors (very nice habanero sausage!), Mexican foods, Chipotle Beer, fresh chillies from Finnish growers, Chilli plants, growing kits and so on, plus the essential bar!

All day long the “Too Hot To Handle” girls were doing a great job out in amongst the crowds sampling out products. Bands played the main stage in between other events which meant that the atmosphere remained constantly upbeat.

The next day was expected to be slower with opening times from mid day to 7pm but it was just as busy. Exhausted I crashed around 11pm and my thoughts drifted to the past couple of days. The Finnish people are really friendly and polite and it was an absolute pleasure to meet so many of them in my favourite environment – surrounded by hot sauce! What struck me was their sheer enthusiasm for new flavours, their willingness to try new products and of course their excellent English, without which I would have been stranded. Several times a day came announcements on the PA that “Special Guest” Stuart McAllister from Hot-Headz! in the UK was present which was pretty cool once I got over the embarrassment of people coming to the stand to shake hands and say hello.

ChiliFest Finland 2011 - Copyright Matti Suksi

ChiliFest Finland 2011 - Copyright Matti Suksi

Every exhibitor had great sales and many sold out half way through the Sunday.

Monday was spent visiting the supermarkets to see our products on shelf and get a feel for the food trade in Finland. They don’t seem to be monopolised by large chains over there so it is possible and profitable to sell to several small chains of shops.

Monday evening was reserved for a post show party hosted at Marko’s restaurant “Roast” but prior to that I was treated to a tour of Tampere by my friend Jarkko in his brand new Porsche convertible. It was so good to see the city, which has enormous lakes on both sides of it, the parks and lakeside houses and soak up some of the culture. The tour ended with us reaching Roast and I have to say the food was absolutely excellent. I had a smoked fish starter with nettle pesto which was amazing followed by a Habanero Burger. It was hot but manageable and absolutely delicious. My friend Lasse ordered a Naga Burger which he offered me to try – a couple of bites and I was done! Anyway I had to leave space for the beer, Jaloviina the “noble booze”, Black Russians, White Russians, drinks I couldn’t pronounce and more beer that fuelled the Karaoke evening Marko had planned for us!

Last memory was singing (or rather shouting) along to a duet with Marko of Iron Maiden’s Run To The Hills!

Having never been to Finland before I didn’t know what to expect but I have to say it was a really wonderful experience from start to finish (no pun intended!). In summary I’d say that I was treated like a king by some of the friendliest, most genuine people one could ever wish to do business with and I’m proud to call them my friends.

Along with all the exhibitors taking part they have made Tampere the Chilli Capital of Finland.

Tampere Rocks!

http://www.chilifest.fi/


Copyright Matti Suksi

Copyright Jukka Vahter

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Sinful Sauces - Wicked

Sinful Sauces - Wicked

Hello there fellow Hot-Headz! This is the first product review I’ve done for the Chilefoundry so please bear with me. As I’ve been lucky enough to be in a position to taste literally hundreds of hot sauces in my role as “Chief Hot-Head!” I can tend to waffle on a bit. Get me in a pub and put a pint in my hand, mention hot sauces and that’s it – you just can’t shut me up! So, I’ll try to get on with it….

Having said that I think it will be hard to keep this review on track without gushing. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m no sychophant (to save anyone looking it up = “Arse Kisser!”) but every now and then in my aforementioned priviledged position I sometimes get to taste some extraordinarily good sauces. I do get some real snakes piss sent to me also so it’s not all rock ‘n’ roll! Some time ago I met a couple of really nice people who came to me saying that they wanted to make their own sauces (yawn, here we go again) but wait, there was something different about these guys. To sum it up, that one thing that made the difference in my opinion – ATTENTION TO DETAIL.

“Who are these Hot Sauce Heroes?” I hear you cry! Well they are Paul & Kelly and the company is called Sinful Sauces. Not content with just making some very fine test batch sauces, these guys set about researching their market, flavours, raw materials and ingredients in some considerable depth. The concept they came up with is Seven Deadly Sins (I know, why hadn’t I thought of that? I even checked my Top Secret list of Hot Sauce names and concepts, you know the ones that come to you in your sleep or when you’re day dreaming or driving along listening to music…oh am I the only weird one here?!).

Now one look at the label design and quality of print will tell you all you need to know. These Sinful Dudes are serious about making an impression. The branded safety seals are a really nice touch that most sauce making start ups don’t go for due to budget. These guys have jumped straight in to make their first full production items look and feel simply superb. Well what about the sauce?

The sauce I’ve chosen from their initial selection of seven is called Wicked – Red Pepper Tomato Serrano and it’s been a favourite of mine since I polished off a test batch bottle in no time some months ago.

Ingredients: Roasted Red Peppers (35%), Tomatoes (24%), Red Onions, Red Serrano (10&), Sugar, Red Wine Vinegar, Garlic, Black Pepper, Rosemary, Olive oil, Salt.

It comes in a UK standard “Lea & Perrins” 150ml bottle.

Now when I first tried this sauce it reminded me of a Sriracha sauce – good on garlic and up there with the heat. However, the full production batch is even better. On opening the bottle you are hit with a strong roasted pepper smell with a really fresh tomato undertone. Joining these flavours to lightly dance on your tongue is a slight sweetness that works really well. Then the heat of the Serrano chillies kicks in. Now I regard the Serrano as a much overlooked chilli which is why we included a Serrano Pepper Sauce in our own Hot-Headz! range and I think it is the perfect match for this recipe. It’s well rounded heat builds to a decent enough heat level to gain your attention but does not blow you away by any stretch of the imagination. This sauce works very well with most meats and is sublime with bacon sarnies. It’s so fresh and almost fluffy in it’s consistency that I’ve found it an absolute must for pasta dishes. Fish like tuna and swordfish would gladly jump on to dry land and throw themselves onto your plate if they knew this sauce was waiting for them!

At £4.99 per 150ml bottle it represents good value for money for a hand made speciality sauce.

All in all an extremely impressive sauce from a new company that’s destined to go places.

See www.sinfulsauces.co.uk or www.hot-headz.com for more details or to order on-line.

Flavour
(9/10)
Heat
(6.5/10)
Packaging
(10/10)
Value
(8/10)
Overall
(9/10)

Editors Note: Our reviewer is Stuart McAllister  owner of Hot-Headz and well know hot sauce expert..

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See www.sinfulsauces.co.uk for more details or to order on-line visit www.hot-headz.com

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