Like it hot? Then don’t miss this! September 7, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: 2012 Bowers Chile Pepper Food Festival, Bowers Chile Festival, hot peppers, James Weaver, Jim Weaver, Meadow View Farm
Silence Dogood here. Today, Friday September 7th, and tomorrow, chiliheads can head out to the scenic town of Bowers, PA for the 17th Annual Chile* Pepper Food Festival. Our friend Ben and I, along with our heat-loving friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders, his girlfriend Bridget, and our also-heat-loving friend, Rob, plan to make the pilgrimage tomorrow. The festival is held 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at the Bill DeLong Memorial Park; get directions on their website, www.pepperfestival.com, or program your GPS to 233 Bowers Road, Bowers PA 19511. The Jalapeno Eating Contest is at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The park is pleasant and peaceful, with playground equipment for the kids, ample bathroom facilities, a stream, and a walking trail. Parking is also ample, for a $2 “donation,” and the festival itself is free, including free live music by The Acoustic Roadshow. The nearby (just a short walk up the road) Bowers Hotel offers plentiful food and drinks to refresh the hungry festival-goer, and just a bit farther down the road, you can tour James Weaver’s Meadow View Farm, either on your own or by horse-drawn wagon, and experience the hot pepper paradise that’s the reason Bowers has a chile pepper festival.
We have huge respect for Jim Weaver and his role in bringing hot peppers in their endless varieties and heirloom veggies in general—which you can also buy at Meadow View—to prominence in our area. And we love visiting the farm and buying the most flavorful, freshest-ever produce, not to mention Alma Weaver’s amazing pepper-enhanced jams, jellies, and pickles.
We also love the festival, even though OFB and I aren’t chiliheads like Richard and Rob. That’s because there’s a lot more than heat going on at the festival. There are handcrafted clothes, jewelry, and other fun finds, tons of chile-themed items like aprons and tee-shirts, food and drink of all kinds (no alcohol, though, you’ll have to head up to the Bowers Hotel for that), and less-hot but super-flavorful options for comparative wimps like us.
Here are some of last year’s highlights to whet your appetite:
We’d determined to try to wander through the festival booths first and scope everything out before actually buying anything, and were doing pretty well at this until we arrived at CaJohn’s Fiery Foods booth. They were not only selling sauces made from the world’s hottest chiles, Bhut Jalokia and Trinidad Scorpion, but giving away fabulous rooster-themed tee-shirts with every purchase over a certain relatively minimal amount (which I’ve stupidly forgotten).
Given our obsession with chickens, OFB just had to have one of these fantastic tee-shirts! But let’s just say that buying enough of CaJohn’s products to get one wasn’t a problem. Richard and Rob were trying to out-macho each other sampling the hot-hot stuff, including the Fiery Foods Weekend Sauce that included Bhut Jalokias and came with its own protective sleeve with the motto “I Survived CaJohn’s Execution Execution.” Yikes.
I was fascinated by their Frostbite Hot Sauce, which is colorless and is meant to be added to drinks like margaritas and martinis. (“Heat up your cocktail.”) They were giving out samples of margarita mix with a splash of Frostbite, and it was just what the doctor ordered to cut the syrupy sweetness. Yum! OFB agreed, and we came away with our own supply in its own customized protective sleeves, plus a tee-shirt. If you can’t get to the festival, check them out at www.cajohns.com.
Oh, did I mention that there were tons of free samples everywhere? I know you’ll be shocked to hear that the guys all seemed to be competing to see who could wolf down the most samples. Even OFB was swept up in the excitement. And unfortunately, once we started buying we couldn’t seem to stop, since there were so many great, unique, artisanal products on offer.
Next up was Maui Preserved (“handcrafted and island grown”). This small-batch company, created by a chef couple, was simply irresistible. The founder’s parents were manning the booth, and I just about died trying to settle on what to buy, asking for advice every five seconds. (They had a three-for-$25 special, and narrowing the choices down to three was agony, I can tell you.) I finally settled on Green Chile Lime Marmalade, Pickled Green Mango Sauce, and Hot Star Hot Sauce (made from starfruit). But this barely scratches the surface of their fabulous selections. See for yourself at www.mauipreserved.com. If you enter the promo code SPICY, you’ll get 25% off your order (excluding shipping), if you order before 12/31/12. Go for it!
Next was what I considered the most gorgeous food item being sold at the festival, Fathead Peppers Gourmet Pepper Spread. Fathead Peppers also had several jarred stuffed chiles that OFB thought were fantastic, but we tried to exert control and restricted ourselves to a jar of the pepper spread, which contains such luscious stuff as hot cherry peppers, artichokes, Provolone cheese, red wine vinegar, garlic oil, and herbs and spices. I couldn’t wait to make OFB an omelette with some of this spread, and the proprietors rightly pointed out that it made a fantastic sandwich spread as well. I’m sure it would make a fabulous pasta sauce, too! Check it out at www.fatheadpeppers.net. Founder Mark Jesse Sr. reminds everyone to use the brine in the jars (as a marinade for chicken, salad dressing, pasta sauce, etc.) as well as the actual peppers.
We then arrived at the Miller’s Mustard Stand. I’m a sucker for artisanal mustards, but even I was stunned by OFB’s fanatic and immediate response to Miller’s, both straight up on a pretzel and mixed with cream cheese. Needless to say, we departed the booth with a jar of their Hot & Sweet Mustard, which notes that you can enjoy it on burgers, sausage, chicken, fish, poured over cream cheese, on sandwiches, pretzels, and over cheese and crackers. Their description of the mustard as “highly addictive” was certainly true for OFB! Check it out at www.millersmustard.com.
Seeing a stand with tons of kinds of homemade pastas, I dragged OFB away from the mustards to Pappardelle’s Pasta (www.pappardellespasta.com). I wanted to buy a package of every kind, there were so many that sounded just fabulous, but ultimately (after asking to smell my favorites) settled on their Tunisian Harissa fettucine (definitely not something I’m likely to find at the local grocery!). It proved to be out of this world, simply sauced with butter and garlic. Thank God they weren’t offering samples, or doubtless I’d have sampled myself silly.
Then we encountered Chef Tim. Chef Tim Foods, LLC, doesn’t sound especially promising compared to many of the catchy names of the other foods. But after meeting Chef Tim Jutzi, we hastily revised our impression. Chef Tim’s Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette became a must-buy item, and I’m just sorry we couldn’t afford a case. Unlike so many horrid, gummy commercial balsamic vinaigrettes, Chef Tim’s is the real thing: light, flavorful, healthful, delicious. No horrifying and/or disgusting adulterants. And Chef Tim had very strong views (with which I wholeheartedly concur) about how to keep and use his vinaigrette, summed up on his business card: “Shake, Shake, Shake, Don’t Refrigerate.” Yum!!! Check it out at www.ChefTimFoods.com.
I also succumbed to Rolling Hills Farm Garlic Vinegar. Rolling Hills was offering drinking samples of both their Garlic Vinegar and the honey version, and I noticed that pretty much everyone was declining the opportunity to sample them. Their mistake. Anyone who’s ever sampled really good balsamic vinegar knows that vinegar taken straight up can be delicious, not to mention incredibly good for you. Rolling Hills Farm’s vinegars are extremely delicious. Again, I’d have killed to be able to buy an entire case. You can order their vinegars from one of my all-time favorite sites, www.LocalHarvest.org, if you can’t make it to the festival.
Then we discovered the Easton Salsa Company, practically next door in Easton, PA (www.EastonSalsa.com). Their salsas were so irresistible, I’d have bought all three if OFB hadn’t contained my enthusiasm. So I limited myself to their Pineapple Salski. (I refrained from mentioning to OFB that apparently their products are available at Healthy Alternatives in nearby Trexlertown, so I can satisfy my cravings anytime.)
Unfortunately for us, the festival closes down at 6 p.m., so we weren’t able to get back to some of our old favorites. I literally ran to the Meadow View Farm booth to buy a box of heirloom cherry tomatoes before everything was packed up. Thank heavens, we can get our favorite Alma Weaver hot pepper jams, like Blackberry-Czech Black and Apricot-Lemon Drop, plus all her other marvelous jams, jellies, and pickles, and various chile-infused vinegars and hot sauces made by family members, including Jim Weaver’s Dutchy Gun Powder powdered hot peppers, anytime, since we live about 20 minutes away.
But we’re still outraged that we missed stocking up on our longtime favorite Csigi sauces, Honnie T Sauce, Southwest Chile Supply products, The Happy Jalapeno Company’s yummy relishes, Green Kamikozees homemade hot green tomatoes (which OFB simply loved), and High River Sauces Rock & Roll Outlaws’ fabulous stuff (gotta love a guy who makes hot sauce inspired by Led Zeppelin and King Crimson, yeah!!!!).
As you can tell, we can’t wait to head out to the festival on Saturday. I’ll be flaunting the beaded chile necklace I bought at the festival many years ago, and hope to aquire a red-hot chile pepper temporary “tattoo” to shock my firends and neighbors (a $1 spray-on). If you see me and our friend Ben (look for a short woman and a very tall guy), feel free to come on up and say hello. We’d love to meet you! But whether you attend the festival in person or simply check out all these marvelous products online, please do give them a look. You’ll be glad you did!
‘Til next time,
* The festival uses the spelling “chile,” referring to the hot peppers themselves, rather than “chili,” which is generally associated with the dish made with meat and/or beans and hot peppers.