Forget Oktoberfest. What better way to celebrate the refreshing fall weather than the Chile Pepper Fiesta at Brooklyn Botanic Garden? The cooler (and dryer) weather was perfect for sampling spicy treats and dancing to the beat — and keeping your mouth from overheating.
Saturday’s 18th annual celebration of all things spicy featured ‘Sizzling Bands,’ ‘Peppery Performances’ and ‘Blazing Cooking Demonstrations.’ Edible delights included Rick’s Picks ‘hotties’ pickles, packets of Bhut-Pepper, also known as ghost pepper (the hottest pepper in world) and even Chipotle Ale and Chocolate Stout from Rogue Ales.
While the fiesta map showed that activities were spread across the 52-acre park, the organizers smartly placed the ‘Chile Chocolate Cabana’ section by the Washington Avenue entrance, where many people stopped first. Hoards of spicy- and sweet-toothed fans waited to sample a few (or many) peppery cocoa deserts.
The chocolate trend this year was spicy hot chocolate — half the tables offered their own version of this cold-weather indulgence. Tumbador Chocolate easily took the crown for the spiciest version. Jean-Francois Bonnet, owner of the Sunset Park hot-spot told shot drinkers waiting on line that his spices of choice included cinnamon, ancho pepper and nutmeg. Immediately after taking a sip of the concoction your mouth is hit with all the spices Bonnet’s drink had to offer — and for some (like me) it was too hot to handle.
The longest line at the chocolate-themed section was at The Chocolate Room’s booth, which offered dark spiced hot chocolate shots (which went down a bit easier), as well as caramel popcorn drizzled with dark chocolate. The Zagat-rated destination said they offered over 2,000 shots on their Facebook page.
However, the best spicy chocolate treat at the Fiesta was the Passion Spice Candy Bar from Liddabit Sweets, a chocolate line sold in stores in Brooklyn, Manhattan and around the country. Owners Liz Gutman and Jen King cut up pieces of the bar, made of passion fruit, cayenne caramel and crisped rice, for chocolate fiends to nibble on. Many (myself included) liked them so much that the treats easily sold.
While the pepper celebration is close to two decades old, the trend of spicy foods infused with chocolate appears to be growing. The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. offers spicy chocolate sauce over chicken. Spoon, a new fine-dining establishment in Pittsburg, Pa. offers “frothy chocolate milk spiced with cardamom, coriander and just a hint of cayenne.” Even in Thailand, spice meets chocolate in famed Chef Pongtawat Ian Chalermkittichai’s signature baby back ribs with a chocolate and chile twist in his latest restaurant project, Koh, in Mumbai. Not sure if you’d like the sweet-and-spicy combo? Check out these spicy chocolate recipes and see for yourself!