Costa Rica News – When you savor hot sauce or a salsa do you know where the ingredients really come from? Chances are, you can find that most hot sauces or salsas have a Latin origin and a flavorful island spin.
This past weekend I attended the Second Annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo 2014 and found that while I was ‘en fuego’ like some other newbie “chileheads,” I also was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an array of tasty and tolerable sauces that packed a flavorful punch, rather than just set my taste buds on fire.
While I was initially leery of turning up the heat, I was thrilled to meet someone who celebrates the Latin origin of hot sauces and salsas that were present at the expo, despite the low number of Latinos in attendance.
In addition to several funny costumes, there was a man in a chicken hat who caught my attention — I am not sure if it was because he looked adorable or because I had just missed the Chicken Wing Eating Contest and was hungry. Nonetheless, I was delighted to speak with the spunky and loveable Chip Hearn, owner of Peppers.com, who hails from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Not only did he don a chicken hat, but he sported a Hawaiian shirt, which gave off a chill, island vibe, thus sparking a conversation about tasty sauces that are derived from the islands and have Latin roots.
Chip’s enthusiasm for the islands and the Latin connection to his sauces was contagious and I wanted to learn more — and it turns out that this knowledgeable pepper lover is also a Screaming Mimi Award recipient as well.
While we were technically at the New York Host Sauce Expo, Hearn recognizes that when it comes to Latin food, its cuisine doesn’t necessarily equate to hot spices, but it comes down to several factors.
“It’s about matching different foods with different sauces; it’s a very broad sense to say that Latin food is this, or Latin food is that. But let’s face it, Latin food is not supposed to be spicy, but it’s supposed to be zesty, it’s supposed to be flavorful,” he told Latin Post. “A lot of us now are making sauces from Costa Rica or Belize simply because they have the fresh products right there.”
Having been to Costa Rica recently, I can attest to its fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables, which seems like a no-brainer to add to one’s salsa or hot sauce concoction.
“The Costa Rican concept is — and it just happens to be Latin — but the beauty of it is, is that it’s fresh. The peppers, the pineapples, the whatever is grown right there,” Hearn added. “So in the States, a lot of times we have to use a powder, but in Costa Rica, you’re using the real thing.”
According to Hearn, he sells hundreds of sauces from the islands, which all put their signature spin on peppers.
“In America, we call the habanero, the habanero — down in the islands and in almost every Carribean island has a version of the same pepper that is known by different names in that island. And it is actually different because of the soil, the rain, everything,” Hearn said. “So if you go to Antigua, it’s called a ‘Peggy Mount,’ and if you go to Jamaica, it’s called a ‘Scotch Bonnet,’ and if you go to Trinidad, it’s called a ‘Congo.’ It’s the same basic pepper, but over the years it has grown into something more.
“So when we all come back from vacation and the islands…and you can’t get the same concepts here in the United States, but luckily you guys are in New York and you can actually get more than the rest of us in the country because you’ve got these importers in Brooklyn, and you’ve got these killer markets up here that are bringing in sauces from the islands,” he said.
He mentioned the Carolina Reaper (the Guinness Book of World Records’ hottest pepper) is a pepper grown in South Carolina, and the Scorpion, which is also grown in the United States, but they started in other areas — like Trindidad. “A lot of these peppers have Latin bases if you think about it.”
Hearn’s love of the islands transcends into the local arena as well — even the Jersey Shore.
“There’s an example — if you have every been to the Jersey beach, saltwater taffy is a big deal, so we took the saltwater taffy, made at a place called Dolly’s Taffy, and we added the ‘You Can’t Handle It’ hot sauce to the peanut butter … and so what you’re going to get is the flavor of the saltwater taffy and then you’re going to get a little bing, but it’s not going to knock you down. It’s just designed to be a part of the taste of the saltwater taffy. Why am I going to knock you down if you want eat another one.”
From Costa Rica, Belize to the Jersey shore, peppers and fresh fruits are universal for the daring chileheads to your average foodie, and it is sure to wow the senses regardless of the level of heat.
By Melissa Castellanos, latinpost.com