Sunday, August 1, 2010

How to Train Your Mouth to be like a Dragon's

Remember that cartoon, Knighty-Knight Bugs, where there's a dragon who's been sneezing fire throughout? And then they end up in a room filled with explosives? Then the dragon makes like he's going to sneeze and Yosemite Sam says "Don't sneeze, ya stupid dragon - or you'll blow us to the moon!"

Sure enough, the dragon lets rip, the castle tower blows and takes off like a rocket, prompting Sam to grouse "Dragons iz so stupid!"

Well, I would be an excellent candidate to play that dragon now - because on Sunday, I survived The Weekend of Fire, which is essentially a hot sauce extravaganza at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield. See my newspapers' photo gallery here.

Now, those of you who know me might be surprised to learn I attended this. After all, bad experiences with hot food run in my family. I have told many people my dad's famous "Hot apple pie" story, when my grandma made an apple pie with cayenne instead of cinnamon. And then there was the time I was lame enough to handle a Szechuan pepper and then rub my eye with the same hand. That was in about 1992, and I think I only got the red out in about 2004.

So hot foods and the Robinettes have not always agreed with each other. But I decided to brave the Weekend of Fire,  because I just recently proved my mettle eating my way through the Broad Street Bash in Middletown, and I thought "Eric vs. Food, Episode II: Attack of the Spices" would be fun - except this time, the spices won.

My first stop was One Drop Barbeque Sauce, where I had about 4 or 5 drops of a sauce called Orange Blossom. Start slow and work my way up, I figured. It's an interesting mix of citrus and zing.

Stop 2 is sauces by Charcoal Buddy. Luckily, these are not lighter fluid. The one I try is a medium sauce that's vinegary and spicy - a mix I particularly like. Still, I had not run across anything truly hot yet.

The third stop offered a variety of sauces called 'Roid Rippin'. I sample one called Tapestry, which, befitting its name, is a mixture of different flavors. Can't identify them all, but here's where a trend starts: It goes down fine at first, then once I swallow, the ZING kicks in. The first beads of sweat start to drip from my brow. Now I'm cookin'.

Then, I come to a place about which I was truly curious. When I wrote my preview story about this event for the newspaper, I learned about Ghost Pepper Brownies, and the idea of combining sweet and hot intrigued me. I noticed that they didn't offer whole brownies for samples - just crumbs. I very quickly found out why. I tasted chocolate for about a second, then it felt like someone poured an entire pepper shaker down my gullet. YEOW! And this was all from just a crumb! NOW I'm cooking with gas! I immediately decide a drink is in order.

The next booth I visited was called Cajun Island, where I have a bourbon barbecue sauce with a smattering of chicken. This is NOT exactly what I had in mind when I said "drink," but luckily it's not hot at all.

Nearby were some sample of Mudflap Jones Chili  Mix. The name alone is catchy. If you put the word "Mudflap" in front of about anything, it sounds more interesting. It's good stuff. I taste brown sugar and hear the Rolling Stones in my head.

Being a salsa fan (the sauce, not the dance) I try a couple brands of Frontera. One is a double mustard. The other is a chipotle flavor that's labeled "hot" but it seems fairly mild to me - maybe the ghost pepper numbed me.

Next I spy a brand called Sweet and Saucy - and again, befitting their name, these are more sugary than spicy, but they are awfully nice. I try Peanut Butter Fudge, Chipotle Fudge (which is a lot like dishes I've tasted in authentic Mexican joints) and Cinnamon Caramel. The last, especially, is delectable, as I am a great fan of both cinnamon and caramel.

By this point, I am feeling a distinct lack of heat, and that's a problem at an event called The Weekend of Fire.  I come upon the DEFCON booth. You might say with a name like that, I'm asking for it, and you would be right.

It starts inauspiciously enough. I try the mild sauce, thinking even that's going to burn me, but I'm just fine with it. The guy behind the counter indicates a much tinier bottle and says "The smaller the bottle, the spicier it is." I detect a mischievous glint in his eye. The bottle says "Competition Wing Sauce." The sample cup has just a couple of drops.

"How bad can it be?" I muse - then I take a sip.

For maybe about .0001 seconds, I taste wing sauce. Then, an intense wave of heat erupts in my mouth, which EXPLODES like Mount Krakatoa. Then the fumes start to burn my nostrils. And no, I am NOT exaggerating. All I can think of is "H." Not "HOT." Just "H." I think maybe I meant to say HELP! This makes the Szechuan pepper in the eye feel like a tickle by comparison. Without question, this is the hottest substance I have ever ingested.

And all this from such a minuscule amount! I shudder to think what an entire chicken wing would be like, but I can say this much - once you get done with that, you'll do an excellent impression of a chicken, as you will not have any lips left!

Finally, I try one more item: Queen City Cayenne Ice Cream by Jeni's from Columbus. Blessedly, the stuff is not like my grandma's hot apple pie, but is more like chocolate ice cream with a mild kick to it. Having had my dessert, I decided if I knew what was good for me, I would beat it out of there. But I had to anyway. Had to get my 4th kick from Inception at the IMAX nearby!

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