When it comes to food, August is a heady month for heat-seekers. Blue Mesa Grill and Central Market are about to launch their Hatch chile fests, with Chuy’s doing its fest later in the month, and other Hatch fests will hatch as well. Fort Worth’s Melt Ice Creams has been offering a flavor called Chilly Chili (made with Moore Jam’s Sweet Ghost Chili Jam); it starts sweet, and then you feel the fire in the back of your throat.
And then there’s Austin-based Torchy’s Taco, which is doing something a little insane: This month’s “Taco of the Month” promotion is called Some Like it Hot, and it’s actually four tacos — a new one every week, each one progressively more spicy than the one before.
Or maybe that should be exponentially more spicy, since this week’s offering, “The Barn Burner,” is rated Level 1 with a “X4” by it. Aug. 11 brings the “Firecracker Shrimp,” X8; Aug. 18, “The Creeper,” X16; and Aug. 25, “The Scalding Pig,” a terrifying X32. Or promising, if you’ve got the tolerance for it. All tacos will be available from their start date through Aug. 31.
Being a spicy food fan, I thought I might try each of these on their Monday debuts, but the first bite of the Barn Burner at lunch at the Fort Worth Torchy’s made me wonder if I’d underestimated Torchy’s or overestimated how much I can take.
The grilled-beef fajita/bacon taco comes with Manzano chile salad, goat cheese and cilantro, topped with avocado & diablo sauce. All the spicy ingredients seemed to attack at first bite; the heat came on immediately, my eyes began watering, nose running, me suppressing a cough. This was embarrassing. I wasn’t sure I could take on a “X32” taco, but surely I could handle a X4.
But then the heat leveled off, and the burn became more pleasant. Subsequent bits had more goat cheese, which counteracted the inferno from the diablo sauce and chile salad. The beef’s flavor stood up to the palate-blowing potential of the spicy ingredients; the bacon was a little skimpy, and the cilantro pretty unnoticeable.
I chased this all with a second taco, a standard Torchy’s chicken fajita, in part because it’s one of the milder things on the menu and in part because I wanted to see if I could even taste any of it after the Barn Burner. But by that time, the fire had pretty much gone out, and the chicken fajita’s flavor came through just fine.
But parts of my mouth were still burning a little bit upon my return to work — and work, unfortunately, meant I couldn’t try this month’s other offering, the Chingon Margarita, a frozen mango margarita swirled with sweet Chamoy sauce and served with a spicy-sweet tamarindo straw, housemade chili salt, and lime. Don’t think that will cool anything off, but it could make an after-hours visit worth it.
Still planning to take on the Firecracker Shrimp next week. We’ll see if I make it to the end of the month. Apparently that last taco in served with a “dare-to-go-there” eye dropper.