There isn’t really a lot that happens in the North West of England when it comes to proper Chilli Festivals and the like. So when something does pop up I like to try and go. I heard about the Southport Chilli Fiesta just a couple of days before it was due to happen. As it was a nice sunny day (for a change), and my wife was at home (not working for a change) we thought we’d drag the teenage boy out of his room and pop along and see what it was all about.
The event started at 10:30 but it was well after that by the time we got there. It was just after 13:00, we only properly made the decision to go at 11:00. Not exactly the most organised outing.
We choose to park in our “usual” place for visiting Southport. We love about half an hour away and probably visit a couple of times away. My wife regularly runs the Natterjack race event they hold there on a regular basis. It’s about a 10 to 15 minute walk away from where the Southport Chilli Fiesta was being held, at the Town Hall Gardens on Lord Street.
There was a smell of spice in the air and I spied the Daddy Cool Hot Sauce stall at the back so I figured we must be the right place after all.
A little disheartened we got in amongst the stalls. We’d saved ourselves room for food on the walk from the car park hoping to get something at the Fiesta. But this would idea would lead to disappointment. There was only one stall there selling food to eat as meal there and then.
Barbecue Chicken Wraps. Not exactly the Gourmet Artisan Burger I’d had in mind while walking there… So, we decided that we’d give it a miss and check out the rest of the stalls instead.
While there wasn’t many stalls, what was there was all good quality. And, of course the advantage of going to these types of events is that all of the stalls there had samples you could try before you buy. This to me, is the best part of any food event. You can try things off recommendations but it’s always best to have a little sample first. But, if you’re like me then this can be very hazardous to the wallet and you end up wanting to buy all the things. Especially when my wife and son like to try everything as well.
Though, anecdotally, when I stopped by Daddy Cools stall for a catch up the teenage Boy opted to try out his Bad Boy sauce. He more or less instantly regretted it. He later went on to say it was “like eating pins and needles”. Got to love the Boy, he tries but he’s a ways off yet. At least he does try though! 🙂
Most of the stalls had 3 for £10 type deals on which is great. If you want to get just three things. I found on most stalls there was a fourth option that was just as appealing as the three I’d already picked.
It wasn’t just for spicy foods, there was a cheese stall there, another selling Turkish Delight in various guises, and various other bits and pieces. So a bit of something for everyone really. There was even a selection of Chilli Draught beer to try if you wanted to do. Unfortunately I was the designated driver for the outing so I couldn’t. Shame there was no bottles of it to take away.
It wasn’t all about the food either. There was entertainment of sorts in the form of fire breathers, which I guess ties into the whole “chilli heat” thing quite well. They where a good act but I couldn’t help feel a bit sorry for them as there wasn’t much in the way of fanfare for them. We just sort of turned around and they were there.
In other entertainment news, no decent Chilli themed event would be complete without a Chilli Eating competition. On this front it didn’t disappoint, a regular booming voice told us there would be one a little later in the day.
We’d spent an hour or so wandering and sampling the goods of the stalls. After we’d made our minds up about what we wanted we went back and made a few purchases. We wanted to watch the Chilli Eating Competition but we still had a little while to wait. So we headed off back into Southport itself for something to eat. Settling on a tray of chips from the sea front. Again, not the Gourmet Burger I’d envisioned chowing down on, but it’d do.
We arrived back at the Fiesta just in time for the chilli eating competition. Billed as “Clash of The Titans”, ten people would sit down and see who could eat the most raw chillies before giving in. It was good to see a crowd there as well at this point, something that had been lacking an hour or so before. We’d heard lots of announcements for this on our earlier visit, proof that a little advertising goes a long way.
I’ve not been to a “live” Chilli Eating competition before so it was quite the novelty to see it all happen. I’ll be first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of eating raw chilli past the heat of Scotch Bonnets. I’ll try new ones to get an idea for their taste but once is enough for me most of the time.
The rules to the competition where simple enough. The contestants had to eat the whole flesh of the chilli pod and chew it for 10 seconds before swallowing. Milk was on hand to deal with the pain if needed, but if they drank it, they were out. They where also given sick bags if they needed them, but again, If they used them they where out. Unless they where just sick in their mouth and swallowed it back down…
Yeah. But, anyways…
I’ve got to say the guy hosting the event did a good job of it. He asked all the competitors to introduce themselves and really got the crowd involved. He made a point of letting the crowd know that these weren’t the “usual” chillies that you’d find in supermarkets, but “special” ones way beyond those. Unfortunately beyond him mentioning “Ghost Chilli” once he didn’t really say what it was they where eating. Would have been nice if he had for those of us in the crowd that cared.
All the guys and girls seemed pretty confident about it when giving their introductions. But, it wasn’t long before we’d have our first drop out, just three chillies in.
And then they started to fall like flies. There was much regret to be had by some…
As the competition moved on more and more dropped out. The ante was risen from eating one chilli, to two. Each round lost more competitors, much suffering ensued. Much more regret by others it would seem. One of the sick bags might have been used. I’ll spare you that picture 😉
About twenty minutes later just two brave chilli eating combatants remained.
Right down to the wire, the final round had them seeing who could eat the last three chillies the fastest. It really wasn’t long before I winner was decided, just one chilli in to the three and a winner was born.
And you know what? Fair play to the bloke. It was a very hot day and he sat there like a champion (even if his hands where shaking under the table as my wife observed). Me? I’m not judging, there must have been some serious heat going on in that fellas mouth.
After the competition though, the day was pretty much over for me and mine. We’d made our purchases and we’d made the most of the entertainment.
It’d be genuinely wrong to say that I hadn’t enjoyed myself because I had overall. I’d sampled some good food and I’d bought the best of what I’d found there.
Some gorgeous sauces from Daddy Cools Sauce.
The Ghost Pepper Extreme XXX was right up my street, I’ve had Fatalii Attraction before and loved it. The Scorpion Annihilation one I’ve been wanting to try for a while, if for nothing else my sense of Gamer Pride 😉
(I do regret not buying that Bad Boy sauce I mentioned earlier mind you :-/ )
Sweet ‘N Sour, Naga Masala and Safari Masala (There is a website for the sauces but it doesn’t appear to be working at the time of writing).
I’ve since learned that this was the first time for the Southport Chilli Fiesta, it had previously been hosted in another favourite Northwest Seaside town of Blackpool.
Perhaps that could explain the lack of food stalls or the seeming lack of organisation? It might not have helped that one of the bigger Chilli events of the year was taking place in Reading? I’ve not been to another other Chilli Fiesta so I don’t know how they normally are, and it seems like there are many to choose from!
Would I go again next year to the Southport Chilli Fiesta? Absolutely! Hopefully it will find its feet a bit as time goes on. I will even keep on eye out for other ones close to me as well!