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The Gourmet Chile Pepper and Salsa Festival: Heat, Eats and Margarit-Ahs

Yellow Ornamentals

After the trek and detours mentioned in my previous post, we finally arrived at the Festival. I knew this wouldn’t be a big event (like maybe ZestFest ’08), so I wasn’t worred about getting there early and leaving late; we reversed that, actually. With the beauteous & clever Paula Jo out on point (so I didn’t have to elbow the bystanders too hard), we adroitly maneuvered our way inside the expo arena.

Actually, it wasn’t as adroit as I had planned; the ticket sellers just couldn’t bring themselves to believe I was under 12 years old. Nor would they let me through as credentialed press, since there weren’t any. Maybe next year. We paid the entry price, $8 each, and moseyed out into the vendor stalls.

I had planned to take notes about each vendor, their booth decor and awards, and all of their tasty offerings. As with any other plan, it didn’t survive first contact with the food, er, enemy. I got so busy tasting I forgot to write.

I did collect a lot of brochures and cards, though. Here’s some of the highlights (from my point of view), in no particular order.

Jams, jellies and pickles were abundantly represented at GCPASF, more than I’ve seen at previous pepper festivals. Austin Jam Company (actually in Cedar Park), owned by Lin Monroe, \ had a nice selection of fruit jams with a moderate punch to them: Mango, Blackberry, Peach, Cranberry, Pecan and Raspberry, to name a few. We purchased a jar of AJC’s Mild Pepper Jam, a new offering (and not yet on their website). I think Lin has a most attractive website, by the way; I especially like the feature that lists events where AJC will be showing their wares.

Kathy Powers had her Chile Beach Jams in attendance. Kathy has been winning awards in the industry for a decade now (at least), . CBJ has a relatively large product listing, and she had quite a number of her tasty jams and other goodies on hand. I enjoyed the Jerk Habañero Jam, but PJ and I settled on the Spiced Chipotle (to preserve connubial harmony). I like the layout of CBJ’s website, and especially the nutritional information! Great Job, Kathy…

Brad Duggan and his Proud D Foods booth was a great stop. Their pepper jellies have great names, like Raspbanero, Peach Bonnet and Cranbanero. Proud D sells only a few products, but they are very well crafted and tangy. I think the Cranbanero might be the most novel jam/jelly we sampled. Visit their website too; it’s very clean, with one of the most eye-catching cart layouts you’ll find.

Two pickle purveyors attracted us. A good friend and neighbor, we have known Joy Peppers for many years (our kids swam in the Armada); it was good to see her offering her tasty pickles and jams/jellies. Her line of products has really expanded the past few years!

We also enjoyed the Bread-and-Butter Jalapeños offered by West Texas Pepper Traders (Tony Spradlin’s bunch). These folks make a point to employ disabled workers, and they exhibit their great wares with earned pride. (A little secret: They also had the best prices in the whole show!)

I want to mention the hardest working salesman we saw: Steve Bigham of Pepper Creek Farm. (He had help, of course, from Mom and others.) He grilled chicken samples as you watched, and exhibited all his tasty sauces with a great flair. PJ and I noted he was a hit with the ladies, especially those under about 10 years old. Steve showed all the tricks, and his samples were delish.

I tried every sauce he used, even the Island Flame Glaze, habañeros and all. We purchased his Agave Raspberry Chipotle Glaze as a gift for a diabetic; no sugar, you see, just lots of flavor. Steve also had a unique drink on demo: Habañero Margaritas. Cooled you down on the scorching afternoon, then heated you up on the way down!

Other notable booths and items:

Several of these vendors have recipes on their websites too; so if you’re looking to make spicy and novel, give them a look.

I’ll be back next year, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise too high. In the meantime,

Enjoy the (Jam, Jelly, Pickle, Salsa, Glaze and Chili) Heat!

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1 comment to The Gourmet Chile Pepper and Salsa Festival: Heat, Eats and Margarit-Ahs

  • I want to thank you for your comments and recognition of our company and our product. A freind of mine located your article and forwarded it to me.

    We will not attend the Wildseed Farm Festival this year as we continue to expand our brick and mortar market. If you would like to attend the festival that started us off. It will be at the end of August the last Sunday to be exact in Austin. Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival is quite popular and only happens on the hottest day of the year in downtown at Waterloo Park. Bring your pepcid, meat tendorizor and cold beverage to put out the fires that will occur as the hottest of sauces prepare to out-do each other in a scorched taste bud affair. Needless to say we do not compete with the fire breathers.

    Again, thank you for your recognition of us and our hard work. My mom and I are greatfull for the attention.

    Please email me with the authors name so I may properly show my gratitude for a glowing piece.

    P.S. We have a vinegarette now that is just hitting the shelves.


    Steve Bigham
    Pepper Creek Farm, Inc.
    P.O Box 935
    Belton, Texas 76513