Perhaps you’re ready to warm up from the inside during this “chilly” month (see what we did there?). Or maybe you’re feeling extra spicy in anticipation of Valentine’s Day romance. For those who love chile peppers, we dug up some info on our favorites and found ways for you to heat things up till margarita season arrives.
Claim to fame: The brand name for a sweet piquanté pepper from South Africa that looks like a cross between a pepper and a cherry tomato.
Scoville rating: 1000-2500
Try it: As an appetizer at Jack Rose Dining Saloon ($8)
Tasting notes: The kitchen stuffs this popular starter with blue cheese foam, prosciutto and caramelized onion purée, all helping to cut the spiciness.
Claim to fame: An heirloom varietal historically associated with the Baltimore, Philadelphia and Chesapeake Bay region.
Scoville rating: 5,000-30,000
Try it: In Baltimore chef Spike Gjerde’s Snake Oil ($15) and several Woodberry Kitchen dishes
Tasting notes: The chef pickles them whole for use in such dishes as the Greek salad at Woodberry Kitchen; dries and grinds them to spice up a fish pepper mayo served with the onion rings at Shoo-Fly; and bottles them as his Snake Oil hot sauce, which is presented with the oysters and other dishes.
Claim to fame: Anchos are the dried version of the semi-hot poblano pepper, commonly used in Mexican cooking.
Scoville rating: 1,000-2,000
Try it: On the blackened fish taco at Fish Taco ($10.95)
Tasting notes: Chef Michael Harr uses them on his signature fish taco, pairing them with guajillo and pasilla peppers for the blackening seasoning and spiking the chile-lime mayo with it.
Claim to fame: Cultivated in India and also called bhut jolokia, there aren’t many peppers hotter than these.
Scoville rating: 850,000-1,000,000
Try it: In the ghost pepper salsa that comes with tacos at Fuego Cocina y Tequileria ($7 for two tacos)
Tasting notes: Since it’s so hot - and not native to Mexico - they serve it on the side with tacos as a sort of challenge to pepperheads.
Claim to fame: These Japanese peppers keep diners guessing - in any given bunch, about 90% of them are sweet, with about 10% packing heat.
Scoville rating: 100-1,000
Try it: As an appetizer at Trummer’s on Main ($8)
Tasting notes: Chef Austin Fausett blisters the peppers, seasons them with salt and sugar, and serves a pile of them sprinkled with garlic flowers and a pool of housemade tzatziki dip.
Claim to fame: As you all probably know, this is a spicy one, folks. The ancient chile has been cultivated in South America for centuries and packs a floral flavor.
Scoville rating: 100,000-350,000
Try it: On the hot dog on the siesta (late-night and weekend mid-day) menu at El Centro Georgetown ($6)
Tasting notes: This Richard Sandoval spot makes a bacon-wrapped dog with Mexican slaw, black bean purée and a habanero mustard, which incorporates roasted habaneros that are puréed. A habanero aïoli is also used to season the slaw.