I first tried green chile on a trip to Albuquerque many moons ago. I devoured a whole plate of them with chilaquiles and eggs, looking out over a dry flat plain baking under that expansive blue sky that is particular to the southwest. The next morning I ate huevos rancheros smothered with green chile. I managed to eat green chile with at least every other meal during my trip.
As a native New Yorker and equal opportunity chile lover, I’ve come to view green chiles as a kind of mythical food that I could only truly enjoy amidst the red rocks of Jemez, or during a gem-toned desert twilight at the west end of Route 66. Perhaps it’s that mythical quality that inspired Noah Chaimberg, owner of Heatonist and fancy hot sauce purveyor, to put on the “Chiles & Chili” event last Sunday.
Despite the bitter cold whipping in off the East River, yuppies, hipsters, and OG Brooklynites alike came out to sample the offerings. Jon Bratton, Colorado native and founder of NYC Hot Sauce, got his arm workout while rotating the green chiles shipped from Hatch, NM in a traditional chile roaster over an open flame. “When you hear that sound, you know it’s working—they’re roasting,” he said as the chile skins blistered and sparked.
The charred flesh of the chiles was no contest for my fork, and because I’m cavalier about spicy food, I added a generous drizzle of Bratton’s hot sauce before eating it, seeds and all. My taste buds managed to stay functional enough through the assault of capsaicin to enjoy the tender roasted flavor of the chile. I helped myself to more chiles to eat with a bowl of Chili Colorado made with—you guessed it—green chile, slow stewed pork butt, potatoes and a classic mirepoix, garlic, spices, topped with a squirt of lime and a small pile of fresh cilantro.
“I’m new to eating spicy,” said Tasha, a Williamsburg resident who came to support the event, enjoying a can of PBR despite the cold weather in Heatonist’s backyard. “But it was very delicious, not too spicy, definitely manageable.”
Tyler, a hobby mixologist who lives in the area, poured me a glass of the cocktail of the day, made from scotch infused with habanero for 12 hours, cinnamon, simple syrup, lemon, and cider. He described what he was going for with the drink: “autumnal, spicy but accessible.” It was a tasty cocktail that included 2 of my favorite things—scotch and spicy—but might have done better as a hot beverage. But another Allison, from Greenpoint, was jotting down the ingredients: “I love it! Scotch and habanero is such a unique combination.”
Heatonist, located at 121 Wythe Avenue, is rolling out an exciting project soon. In addition to their usual curation of small batch hot sauces (including popular mainstays like Marshall’s Haute Sauce and Lucky Dog) look out for some heavy hot sauce science. Heatonist has joined forces with a top data scientist to create a hot sauce algorithm (the first of its kind for any food) for the holidays so “heatonists” can get a personalized flavor profile.
What should Heatonist’s next data science project be? A dating site in time for Valentine’s Day for people who want to put the “hot” back in hot and heavy (rimshot here).