The heat is on!
GOODNESS GRACIOUS GREAT BOWLS OF FIRE: SPICY FOODS ARE GOOD FOR YOU
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.
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.