The heat is on!

GOOD­NESS GRA­CIOUS GREAT BOWLS OF FIRE: SPICY FOODS ARE GOOD FOR YOU

Boston Herald - - FORK LIFT -

Heat-seek­ing Amer­i­cans were pep­pered with good news last week, when the Har­vard School of Public Health re­ported that spicy foods help you live longer.

“If you eat more spicy food you have a lower risk of pre­ma­ture mor­tal­ity,” Har­vard School of Public Health as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Lu Qi told the Bos­ton Her­ald.

The re­port comes at a time when Amer­i­can con­sumers are em­broiled in a steamy love af­fair with spicy, hot-sauce-soaked and chili-splashed food — from the pep­per-laced condi­ments in our re­frig­er­a­tors to the col­or­ful global cuisines, Thai, Ja­maican, Cen­tral Amer­i­can, that are red hot right now.

Chef Chris Coombs is one of of those con­sumers. The chefowner of el­e­gant Deux­ave in Back Back, stylish Bos­ton Chops in the South End and neigh­borly dbar in Dorch­ester boasts one of Bos­ton's most so­phis­ti­cated palates. He was named the state's top res­tau­ra­teur ear­lier this year by the Mas­sachusetts Res­tau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion.

Yet he's help­less in the face of the scorch­ing sauce-soaked chicken from leg­endary hotwing honky-tonk Wen­dell's in Nor­ton. Its wings are served in wooden salad bowls, where they bathe in pasty red-hot sauce and of­fer rare com­bi­na­tion of elec­tric heat and mouth­wa­ter­ing umami.

“You get a high eat­ing these things,” Coombs said Satur­day as he tore into a messy dou­ble or­der of hot wings, joined by beer bud Jason Goldie and Deux­ave chef de cui­sine Adri­enne Wright Mosier. In­deed, that “hot pep­per high” is real: spicy food inspires a rush of en­dor­phins that cre­ate a happy glow.

“The con­sumer pref­er­ence for bolder, more fla­vor­ful food is here to stay, es­pe­cially among mil­len­ni­als,” said Ge­orge Manak, an ex­ec­u­tive at South­east­ern Mills in Ge­or­gia. His com­pany bought the Louisiana Hot Sauce brand in April af­ter “ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing” the deal based on in­dus­try trends.

Amer­i­can hot-sauce sales grew 150 per­cent from 2000 to 2014, ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­search firm Euromon­i­tor In­ter­na­tional.

Food mak­ers are now adding a pep­pery splash to al­most ev­ery­thing: Heinz in­tro­duced a Sriracha-fla­vored ketchup ear­lier this year, French's now sells a spicy ver­sion of its fa­mous yel­low mus­tard — spice on top of spice — while su­per­mar­ket shelves are stocked with spicy ice cream, cheese, candy, beers and spir­its.

Sa­muel Adams re­ported last week that highly hopped beers ac­cen­tu­ate the spici­ness in the all-Amer­i­can bar­room fa­vorite Buf­falo wing. Fire­ball Cin­na­mon Whisky is the hottest brand in the booze biz. It re­cently sur­passed Jim Beam bour­bon and Jose Cuervo te­quila to move into No. 7 on the list of most pop­u­lar Amer­i­can spir­its, ac­cord­ing to Chicago

re­search firm IRI.

East Coast Grill in Cam­bridge has been at the fore­front of the hot-food phe­nom­e­non for two decades. Its leg­endary Hell Nights are the most tempt­ing ticket in town, fea­tur­ing Thai bird chili shrimp, ghost chili grilled sir­loin with scotch bon­net jam and the “world's hottest chili dog.” No more death-de­fy­ing pasta from hell, how­ever — so hot it's since been dropped from the menu. The next Hell Nights are Sept. 14, 15 and 16.

Bos­ton's ob­ses­sion with spice was on dis­play Sun­day at the South End Open Mar­ket at SoWa.

The Herb Lyceum of Gro­ton and Spring Brook Farm of Lit­tle­ton pitched piles of home­grown Havasu and jalapeno pep­pers; you could sam­ple ha­banero-spiked spicy dill pick­les from Rhode Is­land's Fox Point Pick­ling Co.; pome­gran­ate jalapeno bar­be­cue sauce from `Cue Cul­ture of Maine; and cayenne hot sauce from Alex's Ugly Sauce.

Somerville choco­latier Taza of­fered chipo­tle and gua­jillo chili choco­lates; Q's Nuts, also of Somerville, sold cayenne mango pecans and “flam­ing” al­monds; and Fire Cider of Pitts­field hawked horse-radish-and-ha­banero-vine­gar.

A sim­i­lar scene un­folded a block away at the SoWa food truck court: visi­tors sa­vored pep­per jack fried chicken with jalapenos and chipo­tle aioli from Eat Wal­loon's; jerk chicken, pork and wings from Ja­maican Mi Hun­gry; tongue-sear­ing Mex­i­can-Korean fu­sion fare from Kim Kim BBQ; and Mex­i­can chili al­mond ice cream from Batch.

EAST COAST GRILL’S ORIG­I­NAL PASTA FROM HELL

2A T. olive oil 1 yel­low onion, diced small 1 red bell pep­per, diced small 2 bananas, sliced D c. pineap­ple juice Juice of 3 or­anges 4 T. lime juice D c. cilantro, chopped 3 to 4 T. Scotch Bon­net or Ha­banero pep­pers, finely chopped D c. parme­san cheese, grated 1 lb. fet­tuc­cine 2A t. un­salted but­ter Salt and freshly cracked black pep­per to taste

Heat oil in large sauce pan and saute onion and red pep­per over medium heat for about 4 min­utes. Add bananas, pineap­ple and or­ange juice. Sim­mer over medium heat un­til bananas are soft, about 5 min­utes. Re­move from heat. Add lime juice, cilantro, hot pep­pers and 3 ta­ble­spoons of parme­san. Mix well. Cool fet­tuc­cine in 4 quarts salted boiling wa­ter un­til al dent. Drain and put in stain­less steel bowl. Add spicy mix­ture, but­ter, and mix well. Sea­son with salt and pep­per to taste. Gar­nish with the re­main­ing grated parme­san. Serves 2 to 4.

FRENCH’S SPICY MUS­TARD BEER CHEESE DIP

1 8-oz. pack­age cream cheese,

soft­ened 6 oz. sharp ched­dar cheese, sliced D c. French’s Clas­sic Yel­low Spicy Mus­tard 1 T. French’s Clas­sic

Worces­ter­shire Sauce 1A t. gar­lic pow­der

A c. fa­vorite beer 3 scal­lions, chopped

Com­bine cream cheese, ched­dar cheese, mus­tard, Worces­ter­shire and gar­lic pow­der in mi­crowave safe bowl. Mi­crowave on high 2 to 3 min­utes, stir­ring once half­way, un­til smooth. Stir in beer. Mi­crowave 1 minute or un­til hot. Sprin­kle with scal­lions. Makes about 2 cups of dip.

PHOTO COUR­TESY HERB LYCEUM FARM­STEAD; TOP, STAFF PHOTO BY FAITH NINI­VAGGI

HOT SPOT: Chefs Adri­enne Wright Mosier and Chris Coombs, top, en­joy spicy wings at Wen­dell’s in Nor­ton. Herb Lyceum Farm­stead’s Havasu hot pep­pers, above, and Fox Point Pick­ling Co.’s spicy pick­les, top right.

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