Keeping Austin Hot! 26th Annual Hot Sauce Festival

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending The Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival. It’s my 3rd time attending since I moved here from Chicago. And I look forward to going every single year. Drawing in hundreds of restaurant chefs, commercial bottlers, and home-style cooks to compete for hot sauce victory. The hot sauce festival brought together local residents and visitors alike, who are local and hot sauce product aficionados. There was even a panel of some serious judging going for the Top 10 sauce categories. The panel included top chefs, local celebs and food writers like Anastacia Uriegas, writer for Thrillist and Time Out, Tameca Jones, R&B singer and Brandon Watson, food editor for the Austin Chronicle.

In the past, I’ve gone solo to these events. I figured most of my friends didn’t like hot sauce as much as I do and would’ve thought I was loco for even mentioning going to a festival in 100+ heat that is summer in south Texas (much less being for a hot sauce event).

However, over the years I’ve made some great friends that have allowed me to revel in my own way of keeping Austin Weird. Thus by allowing me and perhaps, maybe even encouraging my chile addiction. They even came out to show their support this year. Before I get all sentimental… first, let me explain the factual reasons why I love–not just hot sauce, but spicy food and chiles so much:

1) It tastes great with everything. Pizza, pasta, soup, eggs, beer, popcorn, salads, ice cream, lollipops–Everything.

2) I am Mexican. Back in my Pamper days, we grew up eating chili’s before we learned how to walk. But regardless if you’re Mexican or not, you know tacos and tamales just don’t taste as good without that salsa roja o verde.

3) Breathing better. It clears up stuffiness and/or sinus issues. Especially, during cold season 

4) Health reasons; medical studies have proven that a steady diet of hot peppers of salsa can aid digestion, fight heart disease, boost metabolism, and lower cholesterol.

5) Endorphins. I’ve learned that eating spicy food tricks the body into releasing endorphins to relieve pain. Kind of what we experience during exercise, the so-called “runner’s high” endorphins, that make you feel good. This may explain why I competed in the Fort Worth, TX Jalapeño Half Marathon eating contest, last month in July—after running 13 miles (half marathon). Crazy? Maybe. But I got double the endorphins! First from the race and then after eating five jalapeños. I ended up winning the contest too, so maybe it counted as triple endorphins?! You can check out the jalapeño video here

This year, I convinced several of my good friends to go, including my boyfriend, Ben (pictured in the center).

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Ben even shared my beloved event with our Circle Brewing crew.

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Mickey V's in the House
Mickey V’s in the House

My uncle, who is visiting from Mexico City this week, even made a guest appearance too!

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I am so happy that my friends and family were all able to share in this experience. Not only did they brave the rain, but the heat on their taste buds too!

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Some of our favorites this year:

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Hot Sauce: Yellowbird Blue Agave Sriracha
The heat balanced out nicely with the agave finish to calm down the heat.

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Hot Sauce: Winston’s Kitchen Coming in HOT!
Jamaican Hot sauce with spicy habanero and bell peppers. Very hot and savory with a touch of tamarind sauce, reminiscent of chutney.

2016 winners can be found here.

The event has helped raise more than 50,000 meals for the Central Texas Food Bank. The money goes to help hungry families in need all over Central Texas.

Do you have a favorite hot saue? Would love to hear your suggestions. Feel free to comment below. Stay HOT, mis amigos.

Tortoise Power! The secret to living a long and healthy life.

My very first pet, growing up in Mexico City, was a tortoise. I think I asked my parents for something softer and furrier like a puppy or a rabbit. At the tender age of three, I was totally ready to upgrade Toto (my stuffed; rainbow dragon) to something more lively and cuddly. However, my parents didn’t think I was emotionally ready for a live, cuddly, pet at that time. So they got me a tortoise instead–the complete opposite of soft, furry, and cuddly. I named him Julio. He lived in my grandma’s jardín, mostly hanging out near the raised garden beds. I would visit Julio in the mornings, feed him veggies, and try my best to enjoy petting his hard, scaly, shell. Julio, lasted about a week under my watch. One morning he was in the garden sunbathing, the next day he was gone. I was sad he left me so abruptly. Where could he have gone? …
A few days ago, I was sitting on the back porch of Mozart’s Cafe, drinking an iced tea. I was sitting there with my friend Mandy, trying to figure out my next writing topic. The Wi-Fi was taking forever to connect, so I decided to take a breather to look away from my screen and glance over the beautiful backdrop that is Lake Austin. Sitting there contemplating, I noticed two turtles swimming in the lake

Turtles swimming
Turtles swimming
How peaceful they looked just gliding in the water. Most people, should take the time to slow down go with the flow, and enjoy life like turtles (plus, I heard they live like a 100 years, they must be doing something right?). And then I had that AHA Moment-I’m going to write about turtles and tortoises on my next post!
A little lowdown on turtles and tortoises (just learned there is a difference between the two creatures). They are all reptiles and they all have shells; however, the main difference between them is turtles live in water, tortoises live on land. Turtles typically have a life span of 20-40 years (not 100 like I originally thought, my bad) whereas tortoises live 80-150 years. The oldest one living today is a tortoise named Jonathan, going strong at 183 years of age! Also, tortoises are mostly herbivores and turtles tend to be omnivores. Interesting.
So WHY do tortoises live such a long time? And what does it have anything to do with you and me? Let me explain first by declaring…
I love Bikram yoga! Today marked my #444th class today since 2011; (I like nerding out on data by logging numbers, if you can’t already tell) when I started going to the Pure Bikram studios in Austin, TX. The 20th posture of the 26 posture sequence series involves a yoga pose, aptly named , Half Tortoise Pose (Ardha-Kurmasana).
Half-tortoise pose  PC: Ron Natal
Half-tortoise pose
PC: Ron Natal

“By training us to slow our breathing and relax, Half Tortoise Pose can actually help us to live longer—in fact, longevity is Tortoise’s number one benefit. Think about it: The tortoise is the longest living animal on Earth…Why? Because it’s the slowest-breathing creature on Earth. Each inhale and each exhale is 2 minutes long; it’s like a meditation in itself. We do ourselves good when we imitate the Tortoise; 30 seconds in this posture can provide the same benefits to the body as sleeping for a full eight hours. You can get this restorative, relaxing effect by practicing Tortoise at any time, even in bed”
–Bikram Choudry, p.187 Bikram Yoga: The Guru Behind Hot Yoga Shows the Way to Radiant Health and Personal Fulfillment.
Basically, you too can start adding years to your life-expectancy by slowing down, practicing yoga, deepening your inhales and lengthening your exhales. How amazing is that?!!
I will never know if Julio ever made his great escape by digging himself into a deep, underground burrow in my grandma’s garden, becoming recluse by pulling a Bobby Fischer on me somewhere down in Mexico. Or if he skipped town in search of a better flower bed? Wherever he is, I hope he is happy, breathing…taking a moment to slow down and enjoy life.