Spicy sweets aren't exactly new: Look on any trendy dessert or cocktail menu and you'll likely find a concoction that melds chili peppers with sugar. Whether you like a bit of jalapeno in your margarita or a dusting of chili powder on your dark chocolate, the combo can make for a bracing, and addictive, sensation. But if you're ready to experience the most extreme, try-it-if-you-dare result of what happens when sweet meets spicy, head to a certain ice cream shop in a popular East Coast beach town for a scoop of their signature super-fiery ice cream.
Photo courtesy of Instagram/@FoodRepublic.
The Ice Cream Shop in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware has been dishing out Ghost Pepper Ice Cream for a few summers now, but its success is more than a passing fad. The ice cream, made with the world’s hottest pepper, the ghost pepper, features African vanilla ice cream mixed with strawberry sauce and a combination of various hot sauces, including the aforementioned ghost pepper. The ghost pepper measures 1 million in Scoville units of heat: That’s a lot of heat, when you imagine your typical Tabasco scores in at around 2,500 units.
Just how popular IS this ghost pepper ice cream? Owner Chip Hearn tells The Feast that hundreds of thousands of people a year stop by for a taste.
“We have free tastes of all flavors at all times, and 50 a day come and taste the ice cream or the ghost milkshake,” he says. And how hot is it? Well, your heat threshold IS subjective, but not as bad as you may think: “Because it contains all that milk and cream and sugar it’s not going to be as much heat as it COULD be. You’ll feel it,” says Hearn, "but not as much as people think.” Still, the heat is taken very seriously: You have to be 18 to try it, says Hearn, and you will get carded. Yes, at an ice cream shop. Customers even have to sign a waiver before tasting the ice cream.
Hearn, who says that his business gets a great deal of traffic from destination tourism—i.e. people come to the boardwalk specifically for salt water taffy and ghost pepper ice cream—was inspired by some destination ice cream tourism of his own “There was once a company down in Carolina that did an ice cream that was so hot, no one could eat it, and we stopped in and tried it," says Hearn. "I wanted to make something that would knock your butt but wouldn’t KILL you. I added three ghost hot sauces, and then a ghost pepper mash—four kinds of ghost!—as a base with a very strong butter fat!” The original recipe was actually a Scorpion pepper ice cream, but ghost pepper has been much more popular (and digestible).
As for those waivers: Any food with the level of heat found in a ghost pepper can be risky if you eat too much of it. An article in The New York Post last year even went so far as to say the peppers can be lethal. But is that really something you need to worry about? Chances are, no: “The article said three pounds could be lethal to someone of 150 pounds. Three pounds of ghost peppers means that you would have to eat over 150 peppers! Your stomach and mouth are going to stop you well before you reach that point,” Mason Day, agricultural scientist and cofounder of the social gardening app GrowIt, told The Feast.
If you can’t get your hands on ghost pepper ice cream, you can get your sweet-spicy fix in other delicious ways: Brooklyn-based cult favorite Ample Hills Creamery makes a Mexican Hot Chocolate variety that mixes dark chocolate with Saigon cinnamon and ground chili flakes, and Steve’s Ice Cream offers a similar concept, Mexican Chili Chocolate, made with dark Mexican chocolate mixed with cayenne and guajillo chilis.
Sweet. (And spicy—but not quite ghost pepper spicy.)
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