Fans of masochistic eating, clear sinuses and, of course, all things spicy flocked to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Saturday, October 1, to scorch their taste buds at the 19th annual Chile Pepper Fiesta.
The Terrace Café served up an eclectic mix of chilies, Indian cuisine and Latin fare. Their kala chana kurma, a black-chickpea stew with pumpkin and coriander, was accompanied by a pickled carrot salad and basmati rice. The dish featured the Bird’s Eye chili, an extremely spicy specimen known for its clean flavor.
The tostada de papas con rajas was a delicious blend of potatoes, onions and refried black beans topped with pickled onions and sour cream on a crispy corn tortilla. The poblano chilies gave a welcome kick to the crisp potatoes and creamy beans, while the sour cream and pickled onions helped to balance out the chilies’ heat.
The Osborne Garden, dubbed the Chile-Chocolate Wonderland for the occasion, offered a plethora of spicy sweets. The Chocolate Room offered a particularly delicious bittersweet cinnamon hot chocolate spiked with ancho and chipotle, which was just the thing for a rainy afternoon. Another of their treats, spiced, caramel-coated, chocolate-drizzled popcorn, was completely addictive: sweet and salty with a fiery kick.
But the item that stole the show and drew the longest lines was Rogue Brewery’s Black and Tan, a beer made with chipotle ale and chocolate stout. It was smooth and rich, like a dark chocolate soda tinged with alcohol, but bearing a hot pepper aftertaste. It was deceptively delicious.
Taste-bud beatdowns also came in the form of everything from kimchi to pickles, plus an impressive array of salsas. But it was the hot sauces in every hue of the red-orange spectrum that ruled the festival.
One sauce in particular, The Rapture, claimed to be the hottest in the world, packing even more heat than its close cousin, Zombie Apocalypse, a cult favorite hot sauce also made by Torchbearer Sauces.
“After zombies got really big, people started to think that we named our sauce after them to market on the craze,” Vid Lynch, Torchbearer’s lead sales and operations manager, explained. “We didn’t like that, so we came up with another sauce—a hotter sauce. We wondered, what’s worse than a zombie apocalypse? The end of the world!”
The sauce is one-third scorpion peppers, one-third ghost chili peppers and about one-tenth habanero peppers. Not surprisingly, after one drop, the only thing your taste buds will register is pure fire.
Perhaps that afternoon’s rain wasn’t such a bad thing after all—many a mouth needed a good cool down after this fiesta.