Serious Salsas

A yearly Austin festival gives hot sauce the recognition it deserves.

Penny de Los Santos

In 1991 SAVEUR contributor and then-food editor of the Austin Chronicle Robb Walsh wrote an article for Chile Pepper magazine that called Austin the hot sauce capital of Texas. A writer in San Antonio wrote back and said bull. And so, the Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival was born. That first year, a hot sauce from Austin won, but it didn't much matter: the rest of Texas wanted in. Today more than 15,000 people from all across the country descend on Waterloo Park to taste hundreds of hot sauces, pico de gallos, and "special variety" condiments (dried pepper sauces, mango-habanero salsas, and other entries that don't fit neatly into the standard "red" and "green" categories) from home cooks, professional chefs, and commercial bottlers. "The homemade ones are always the best," says Walsh. Pictured, a lively chopped-tomato salsa that was a finalist in 2008.