Some Like It Hot and Spicy

Lonny Root wants to promote local flavor at his hot sauce shop in Huntington.

SomeLikeItHotAndSpicy_MirellaCheeseman

Huntington’s newest specialty market is billed as “the hottest place in town,” and with nearly 350 hot sauces, barbecue sauces, marinades and spice rubs in stock, there’s plenty of heat to go around. But owner Lonny Root says he’s out to educate customers that there’s more depth to hot sauce than a slow burn.

“There are stages when you taste a hot sauce,” says Root. “First you get a flavor, and then you get layers of flavor, and then the heat comes into play as you’re experiencing the flavors.”

Capsaicin is the substance found in peppers and chilies that produces their fiery flavor. An irritant, it creates a burning sensation in the mouth. There’s an official index used to assess the amount of capsaicin in a pepper and the level of heat it delivers. Root says some customers really crave extreme heat.

“I’ve had people come in and ask for the hottest sauce in the store,” he says. “There’s an endorphin rush that people get from trying these very spicy sauces.”

The store is sleek and elegant with accents of rustic natural wood and volatile bursts of bright color. A former tradesman and paperhanger, Root renovated the space himself.

Some Like It Hot and Spicy curates an eclectic selection of sauces. A scan of the shelves reveals just how scorching the hot sauce business can be. Products carry provocative names like Hellfire Devil’s Gold, Original Death Sauce with Chipotle, Psycho Curry and Ass Blaster Hot Sauce, which is packaged in a replica of an out house.

A culinary enthusiast who loves flavorful, spicy food, Root wants to promote “local flavor” and features artisan companies from the Northeast that are stoking the fire when it comes to flavorful ingredients. Jersey Barnfire Hot Sauce—created by a New Jersey–based duo that source ingredients locally—is “selling like crazy,” according to Root.  Look for artisan sauces with surprising combinations that pair heat with everything from black garlic or ginger to strawberries and peaches.

“We have some sauces that are so versatile you can use them as a finishing sauce on the grill, or you can pour in a bowl and serve with chips or as a condiment,” says Root.

The store includes a tasting bar and Root serves as an informative guide on a sizzling flavor journey. “If I can get customers to the tasting bar, I can open their eyes to the differences in the types of sauces there are,” he says. “It helps to get people to understand the differences between just heat and flavor.”

When tasting, Root advises understanding your limits if you want to enjoy the ride. “You have to know what your level of heat tolerance is, and then we can pick sauces that don’t go beyond that level of heat,” he says. “We’re trying to direct people toward things that they’ve never tasted before.”

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T.W. Barritt is a passionate baker who studied the art of bread and pastry at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. He is the author of “Long Island Food: A History from Family Farms and Oysters to Craft Spirits" published by History Press.