By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Any measure of spice ultimately comes down to the sauces you add yourself. Even at the Jamaican restaurant Natraliart (3426 W. Washington Blvd.; 213-732-8865), which actually claims to have the hottest food around, spice enthusiasts live (and die!) by the scotch bonnet pepper, rated a perfect 10 for heat by the American Spice Trade Association. The jerk-chicken special isn't particularly spicy straight out of the kitchen, but dreadlocked regulars know that just a few drops of the yellow "hot hot hot" Calypso Sauce is all it takes to send steam shootin' out of their ears. Heeeeaaaat!! One Bob Marley was even spotted dicing up fresh scotch bonnets and sprinkling them on his food. Not for the faint of stomach.
Finally, what could be more Hollywood than a spicy gift basket? Artfull Baskets (310-392-6661) offers the Georgia O'Keeffe basket ($39), inspired by the spicy and colorful Southwestern world of the artist and colored with chili chips, salsa, hot Mexican olives, and margarita mix in a chile-pepper-shaped bottle. Only in L.A. (VF) They're Red Hot!
If the sauces aren't hot enough for you, go straight to the source: the red-hot chile pepper. Eating chiles can be quite addictive - the brain releases endorphins to counteract the scorching pain inside the mouth, giving chile-heads a natural "runner's high" without having to get up from the table. Light My Fire (Farmers Market, West Third Avenue and Fairfax Avenue; 213-930-2484) carries all types of pepper fixes, from jalapenos (2,500-5,000 Scoville units of heat) to Thai peppers (50,000- 100,000) to the planet's hottest, habaneros (100,000-300,000).
Green-thumbed aficionados can find the seeds to grow their own chiles at Hollywood Nursery (1201 N. La Brea Ave.; 213-851-3641), which features all types of pepper seeds as well as free advice on how to grow them. And Southern California also holds claim to the world's hottest pepper, the Red Savina Habanero, patented by Frank and Mary Garcia of GNS Spices (in Walnut; 800-870-6657) and reputed to clock in at an eye-watering 577,000 Scoville units. Don't worry, the excruciating pain starts to die down in two to four minutes.
Chile is, of course, a key ingredient in chili. And while chili cook-offs abound in summer, only at the Clothing Optional Chili Cookoff (August 29 at the Glen Eden Sun Club, 25999 Glen Eden Road, Corona; 909-277-4650) can you let off some chile-induced steam by going au naturel. Rumor has it that the extra cooling capacity of the body free from clothing means nudists can handle a few more Scoville units than the average chile-head. (GB)
If your food wasn't hot enough for you, don't worry, there's plenty of hot grog on the way. In L.A.'s semidesert climate, even in the thick of summer the overnight lows frequently dip under 60 degrees, meaning after sundown you can put down your frapuccino and head to Tom Bergin's (840 S. Fairfax Ave.; 213-936-7151) for L.A.'s finest Irish coffee. For those who prefer their hot stuff on the rocks, El Compadre (7408 W. Sunset Blvd.; 213-874-7924) offers an attention-grabbing flaming margarita. And of course, for true lovers of the scorched-eyebrow circuit, who could forget the Bacardi 151-laced Flaming Dr. Pepper, a college-town favorite done quite nicely at Maloney's on Campus (1000 E. Gayley Ave., Westwood; 310-208-1942).
Doctors may disagree, but the experts know there are few things better for a hangover on a hot Sunday morning than a Bloody Mary. The Stovepiper (19563 Parthenia, Northridge; 818-886-2526) serves up this classic featuring bartender Jerry's homemade secret sauce that may be one of the best in the Valley. Putting out the fire is certainly not in order at The Firehouse (213 Rose Ave., Venice; 310-396-6810), with a concoction so hot you won't taste the alcohol at all. Until you try to stand up, that is. (GB)