By Nathan Smith

It was hot, hot, hot at the Austin Chronicle’s 2011 Hot Sauce Festival last weekend with more than 300 contestants vying for the top spot. Salsa verde, queso, habenero, cactus pear, serrano and  jalapeno flavored–it was all good. Add good music and you have the makings for a great time in Texas. The best part was all the proceeds went to the Capital Area Food Bank as cash or canned food donations. 

If there is one thing Texans know, it’s salsa and, despite reaching more than 110 degrees, thousands turned out for the annual event near the Capitol Building of the Lone Star State.


Celebrity judges like Adam Gonzales, founder and executive chef of Serrano’s and Mama Ninfa’s; Rob Walsh, restaurant critic and true Texas foodie; and Rebecca Rather, chef and author of the bestselling cookbook, The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes From the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery,  ranked the spicy sauces from homemade, commercial and restaurant entries.

 Competitors also brought homemade chips for sampling and sale. Somehow, great salsa tastes better on a great corn chip! 

 Austin natives and out-of-towners braved the record heat just to get a taste of the best salsa and music in town. Plenty of cilantro here!

Queso and specialty sauces were available for tasting as well. Let the people vote! Salsamakers set out samples for the people’s choice award and set tastebuds on fire.