A Spicy Culinary Experience in NYC

I took the World of Chiles class at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC a couple of months ago and still thinking about the wonderful food we made. It’s a great way to learn how to make all those spicy recipes you drool over but never imagine making yourself. It’s also much easier when you have helping hands, especially when the recipes are challenging and include dozens of ingredients, many of which you may not even stock! Dishes like lamb vindaloo, chiles en nogada or spicy seafood laksa are all amazingly delicious dishes but also pretty ambitious to take on oneself. Here’s a peek into our little feast…


We used a variety of chiles and spices and made eight dishes between fourteen of us. We were chopping, dicing, mixing, stirring, grilling, sipping cocktails and when it was all said an done we feasted on Chiles en Nogada…


And spicy jerk chicken…



Lamb vindaloo…


And spicy Korean beef BBQ that we then had in romaine lettuce wraps…


Sichuan cucumbers made with the mouth numbing Sichuan peppers…


And the labor intensive seafood laksa…





We also made a spicy guacamole with fruit which was a different but the flavors worked well. Then for dessert a guajillo and chipotle pepper chocolate ice cream that was super rich and creamy!

The chef surprised us all with this spicy martini made with pepper vodka, a splash of vermouth, a little brine from the olives all shaken vigorously and served in a martini glass with a jalapeno stuffed olive. It sounds spicier than it really is but it’s actually mild with a nice peppery finish.


I’ve taken several courses at the ICE and let me tell you they’re no walk in the park. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and really get into it because for three hours you’ll be working hard and maybe sweating a little if you get stuck with stove/oven duty. The fun part is you get to reap the benefits immediately with a nice cocktail! The dishes all looked beautiful and were so tasty. Definitely a class to take if you love spicy foods. The only thing I would change is I’d add more chile peppers to the dishes because if you’re signed up for a chile pepper cooking class you’re expecting some heat! ๐Ÿ™‚ There was so much food left over that we also got to pack a few containers to go. I’ll post some of the recipes in a future post so stay tuned.


A Hot Sauce Festival for City Folk

I attended the first annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo last weekend held in Brooklyn’s East River State Park. The event was a huge success giving hot sauce companies, small and large the opportunity to share their creations with us city folk! It was the perfect event for tasting and purchasing difficult to find hot sauces. I’m usually skeptical of buying sauces online if I haven’t had the opportunity to try them or come recommended from a trusted source so this was a nice treat.


The general tasting was held outdoors but a little extra loot got you access to the indoor VIP events, great food, vendor awards and plenty of libations.


This Cayrum rum hails from the Dominican Republic and made with honey and ginger for a nice spiced up flavor. I can definitely see this in my tea next time I’m sick, in mixed cocktails or just over ice! A great spicy premium tequila to try is Tanteo made with real jalapenos for very natural tasting, spicy spirit. Most others spicy liquor distillers choose artificial flavoring but this one delivers on both the taste and heat. I also caught a Michelada competition…you see where my priorities are!


Unlimited drinks, live music, unlimited food and all the hot sauce you wanted could be had in VIP area. The general admission got you access to to the hot sauces in the outdoor booths with a great view of the city. Not bad for only $10!


A couple of good sauces here…Dirty Dick’s, Guyank, Heart Breaking Dawn’s 1498…


That Rogue High River Sauce made with scorpion moruga chile, one of the hottest in the world, hotter than the ghost pepper, was killer! I had to try it and amazingly you could taste the sweetness up front for about the first 10 seconds and then BAM! A one-two punch to the face! It’s probably best to leave those super hot sauces for last to save some of your taste buds. So best advice I can give is to pace yourself and walk around with a cold dairy product like ice cream or cheese to neutralize the heat, it really does help!


Ooh Defcon sauces, that Habby Horse hot habanero is AMAZING! Will be grilling with that one and also adding it to some deviled eggs. If you want a great flavored, well balanced, spicy, sweet, tangy HOT sauce, pick up one of my favorites, Cajohn’s bourbon infused chipotle habanero hot sauce.


Here are a few more great sauces…High River Sauces Tear’s of the Sun, Delcastro NYC hot sauce, and Surge of Sandy, which was a collaboration with Cajohn’s to help benefit Born to Hula hot sauce company after hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to their NJ location. Be sure to pick some up if you want to help them rebuild, hot sauces also make great gifts too so get a few.




Needed to fuel up with an awesome beer bratwurst with a little Bajan mustard hot sauce.

There were sweets to be had as well. I had to pick up the Madison Chocolatiers West spicy chocolate caramel sauce which would be great drizzled over ice cream, stirred into a smoothie or for dipping strawberries., the huge hot sauce distributor/sellers also showcased their spicy salt water taffy, a collaboration with Delaware’s Dolle’s taffy company. Look for the spicy peanut butter taffy for an awesome treat! There weren’t too many others but hopefully next year you’ll see hot lollies there! ๐Ÿ™‚


The day was gorgeous, a little windy and chilly for this time of year but plenty of warming elements here. I could have easily overdone it with all the sampling, surely a few more would have put me over the edge but one thing I could appreciate and did many others was the strategically placed ice cream vendors!



On A Spicy Food Mission In NYC

Finally made it to Mission Chinese in NYC and it was everything I expected, mouth numbing, spicy, delicious food with surprisingly complex flavors. Don’t be afraid of the spices, the dishes aren’t overwhelmingly hot but the ones I tried did make my nose run a little andย  that’s not a bad thing.

First up was the spicy chicken wings. Perfectly cooked and coated with a dry spice that sneaks up on you after a few bites. Just push aside those hot chile peppers on top, which seem to be more of a garnish or be daring and munch on a couple but I’d skip that and dive right into the wings. Besides, you’ll have plenty of other flavors to get through and your taste buds should be present for that!


The tingly smoked chicken below is like nothing I’ve ever had before. The flavors are so bizarre to me but I couldn’t stop eating it! Served cold and probably for good reason, this dish is smoky, woodsy, a little sweet, spicy hot, and laced with enough Sichuan peppers to make your lips feel, well tingly and numb.


I also tried the spicy Sichuan pickles which are great to snack on between meals, like some cooling palette cleanser. The nuts provide a good amount of crunch too. The broccoli beef brisket is a great dish but my absolute favorite was the cod fried rice. You must get this rice! Great balance of flavors and so tasty youย  gobble it up before remembering that almost all other fried rice you’ve had had to be covered in soy sauce. Not this one, it won’t even cross your mind. Probably the best fried rice I’ve ever had, fresh, savory and unlike any pork fried rice you’ll get at your Chinese take out.


When you go, expect to wait at least 40 min to an hour or more depending on what time you get there. I’ve heard some people have waited 2 hours which I think is insane but when you do plan to go, grab a snack just in case. What I love about this place is that they’ll take your mobile number and call you when your table is ready so you can shop in the area to kill time. Oh and if you really want to stick around and wait for your table they at times will have complimentary beer for you while you wait. Now that’s my kind of service!


Spicy Malaysian Beef Jerky

The most moist beef jerky you will ever have can be found at Ling Kee’s Beef Jerky shop in Chinatown, NYC. The shop is not too far from the Hester St flea market on the less traveled side of Canal St. Now that it’s starting to warm up around here I will be making a few more trips!


Here you’ll find Malaysian style BBQ jerky made with chicken, pork or beef and their more spicier versions. You can watch the shop owners make the jerky right on the spot and there’s a variety to choose from as well. My favorite is the spicy beef jerky pictured below and spicy chicken. It delivers a slow burn that continues to build long after you’ve polished a few strips. This jerky is peppery and always fresh which is a nice surprise for jerky. I’ve had plenty of jerky that are hard and so rubbery you can chew for days but not Ling Kee’s jerky. I don’t know of many places where you can get jerky this tender and delicious. Get yourself down there and sample a few. The jerky is sold by the pound but I’m sure you’ll walk away with more than that!


Are there great jerky spots near you? Chime in and let me know!


A Stroll Through The Feast Of San Gennaro

Today is the last day of the San Gennaro Feast in Little Italy and here are a few photos to entice you to visit. I went in the early evening so it wasn’t too crowded which was perfect for getting through to see all the vendors.

Entrance to Feast of San Gennaro

First my favorites…I purchased a Thrillist deal for a food tasting passport to the Torrisi and Parm stands set up in front of their restaurants. I thought these were “tastings” but very surprised and happy to see they were huge servings. Great for sharing if you want to get through the rest of the festival. They have these Chinese Ribs that reminded me of the ribs tips I used to get at Chinese takeout but 10 times better! They’re juicy, tender and grilled not fried!! Also on the menu were pork sausage buns with a spicy mayo, a true food mash-up, spicy tater tots, a Caprese salad grilled cheese and Parm’s incredible deli-dog wrapped in soppresata and topped with spicy peppers! Delicious!

Spicy Deli Hot Dog

Mozzarella grilled cheese

Italian sausage buns

The Chinese ribs before…

Torrisi's Chinese Ribs

And after…

Chinese Ribs

Spicy pickles, YUM!!

Spicy pickles

If you’ve visited the San Gennaro Feast in the past you’ll notice that over the years the food served at the feast has changed significantly. You go to the festival for Italian street food but there is so much more to have here. The food is more representative of all the Ethnicities in the area so it’s a celebration of what this neighborhood has become over the years which is pretty awesome. The Italian sausage and peppers sandwiches, zeppoles, cannolis, lasagnas, pastas, seafood, and every possible Italian dish you can think of can still be found here but you’ll also find a few others. Take a look…

Cooking sausages

Mozza-repas! The traditional Latin American griddle corn cakes, Arepas, stuffed instead with mozzarella, usually its Latin white cheese, “queso blanco“! Love it!


Now look at these massive sausage stuffed artichokes! I was tempted but that’s a meal in itself and had already stuffed my face.

Huge Stuffed Artichokes

ooh pretty peppers!

Sausage and peppers

pizza outside

There are turrones (nougats) and cannolis everywhere! Huge chunks of turron…saw a table with like cinder blocks of turron on the table…

Ferrara Desserts

cannolis and desserts

Zeppoles frying…these are the Jersey and NY beignets but better! ๐Ÿ™‚

Frying Zeppoles


And the reason why we feast…to renew and celebrate faith, celebrate culture and to salute the Patron Saint of Naples, San Gennaro. Here’s a shrine dedicated to San Gennaro next to the Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry.

San Gennaro Shrine

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