Thursday, August 13, 1998
If it''s heat you''re seeking, bigger doesn''t mean better. In fact, when it comes to choosing the power pod that packs the most punch for firing up your salsa or adding some caliente to your carnitas, the capsule rule for genus capsicum is "the smaller--the more lasting the memory." For purposes of your pepper edification, bigger equals benign.
The fresh, green Anaheims that Lucy Zarazua uses for her chile rellenos at Taqueria del Valle come in up to about six inches long, (a good size for stuffing with cheese) and are gringo-friendly at the low end of the heat scale. This is usually the kind you''ll find canned on the grocery store shelf, the kind you''ll most likely grab if you grew up in Wisconsin and your palate is fluent in Limburger but halting when it comes to haba¤ero.
At Gil''s Gourmet Gallery in Sand City, almost half the product line sings the praises of the diminutive, but nonetheless hearty, haba¤ero. Gil Tortolani and his son, Dylan, utilize these tastebud torpedoes in some 30 products, either fresh, dried, or pickled. If your condiment file is needing a flavor boost, reach for a bottle of their Crying Tongue Hot Sauce to make those effete dining rituals a thing of the past. Or, if you''re from Wisconsin, you might want to start with serranos. Similar to jalape¤os, this is the heat source frequently found in salsas labeled ''hot.'' If you''re trying to liven up your next social soiree, put out a jar of Gil''s Double Trouble Olives that come studded with garlic and serranos, a guaranteed ice breaker.
Anybody who names his restaurant Peppers had better know his capsicums. Owner Scott Gonzalez shuns the idea of chile powder, often of both questionable origin and age. At Peppers Mexicali Caf, they use no fewer than five dried chiles to create their trademark enchilada sauce, a traditionally-inspired blend of Anaheim, New Mexico, pasilla negro, ancho and guajillo chiles, ranging in heat from yawn to oh-my-god, a labor-intensive method that requires soaking the chiles to soften them before cooking. Then, instead of thickening the sauce with flour or corn starch, they use a puree of bell peppers, onions and tomatoes for even more flavor.
And speaking of that travieso little demon ("the mischievous one," in Espa¤ol), it''s the guajillo chile that Executive Chef Kurt DeGuzman uses to pump up the volume on their house-made ketchup at Rio Grill. It adds a little something extra to their onion rings. And what do you get when you smoke a jalape¤o pepper, asks the chef? Aside from a stringent warning from the U.S. Surgeon General, you''ll get a delectably earthy flavor in your sundried cherry reduction that comes from the chipotle chiles, jalape¤os that have been delicately smoked over peat, and just the thing to enhance the smoked duck it teams up with on this menu. It''s enough to get you hooked on the habit.
Lots of great upcoming tasting events are in the works at Rancho Cellars, where the owners'' prime motivation is ''to offer a wide choice of premium and affordable wines''--while having fun doing it. Take a sipping tour of Australia tonight (Aug. 13th), followed by tastings from Ventana Vineyard and Chateau Ste Michele on consecutive Thursdays. Only $10(!) each evening. 625-5646, 26340 Rancho Blvd., Carmel. cw