FUN-HATING Sylvester Graham called spicy foods “some of the most powerful of the class of artificial stimulants” and warned good Christians against them. Maybe that’s why chileheads have a bit of a wicked streak? Taboos are such a kick. And so are edible gifts!
Got a chile-lover on your shopping list this year? Add a personal touch and save some cash by filling a basket with hand-selected spicy goodies! You can go low-brow with Atomic Fireballs, sriracha-flavored popcorn, and Frank’s Red Hot Pringles, or you could put together a more gourmet collection of dried chiles, chile pastes, and heat-infused snacks from your friendly neighborhood international market.
If you’ve got scratch to spare, though, you could also just kick back and leave it to the professionals. Fuego Box is a hot sauce-of-the-month club that sends small-batch and craft hot sauces right to your (or your loved one’s) door! If you prefer a one-time deal rather than a subscription, you can order their festive gift box. It’s an adorable tiny wooden crate stuffed with a delicious array of hot shit, including Portland’s very own Bee Local Hot Honey (ready to drizzle all over your pizza or fried chicken), a smoked ghost pepper salt, and a shakable dry hot sauce that’s way easier to stash in your purse than hot sauce. (BONUS: Mercury readers can use the code MERCURY for 10 percent off the first box!)
Want something a little more elegant than Professor Phardtpounders Colon Cleaner (yes, that’s a real thing)? Locally made Marshall’s Haute Sauce has gift packs ($35) and hot sauce subscriptions ($40+) that won’t offend your Auntie Chilehead’s delicate sensibilities. Or why not buy your special someone a Marshall’s Haute canning class ($45)? Teach a man to fish and whatnot! Also, when your friends and significant others learn to make awesome hot sauce at home, chances are good you’ll get a taste.
And hey! Marshall’s teamed up with Union Wine Company to produce Kings Ridge Red Haute Pinot ($18). It’s berry-forward, with warm holiday spices and a soft chile heat that sweeps in early and dissipates relatively quickly. If you’ve got some culinary skills, serve it at blood-temperature with a home-cooked meal that improves your odds at getting some nookie; it’d pair well with seared duck breast or a farro-stuffed roasted acorn squash.
For satisfying chileheads with a sweet tooth (these are the world’s best people, btw), give jars of Alma’s habanero caramel sauce ($10), their Salty, Spicy, Sweet box of chocolate bon bons ($22.50), or the entire Spicy Sweet Collection ($33.50), which also includes their ginger-almond toffee, Thai peanut butter bar, and chili cinnamon drinking chocolate. Pick them up online, at either of their stores (140 NE 28th or 1323 SE 7th), or at about a million other retail locations and holiday pop-ups around town.
If you really want to inflame passions, Batch PDX’s Ghost Pepper truffles are a must. They’re spicy, but not too much so; the creamy white chocolate shell and dark chocolate ganache melts away smoothly, leaving a slow, deep-throat burn of naga peppers that founder Jeremy Karp grows in his back yard. Seriously, these put the “hot” in “hot sex.” Their Spicy Passion truffle is also a real toe-curl, with chile-infused passion fruit ganache encased in a delicate white chocolate shell. Pick them up online, at the Burnside Zupan’s, or at Cacao shops.
WARNING: SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION AHEAD! Did you realize that most of the world’s spicy cuisines are only a couple hundred years old? Imagine kimchi, Sichuan hot pot, Hungarian goulash, and chicken vindaloo without the chile pepper! Well I wrote a whole damn book about it, and it is infotaining as fuck! Mixing history, botany, and cooking, my brand new book Chillies: A Global History (Reaktion Books; $19.95) is the exciting tale of chile’s cosmopolitan journey through time, following all the interesting rabbit holes along the way. It tells how the spread of one odd little fruit forever changed the way the world eats, the way it hurts and heals itself, and the ecstatic mania that ensued in the process. Buy it at Powell’s or directly from the publisher! It’s hardcover, has tons of color photos and illustrations, and makes an excellent gift!