Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where Have All the Peppers Gone?

Just a brief rant about a food pet peeve of mine that I was reminded of the other night: In the middle of an otherwise hectic evening of errands, my Lovely Bride® and I stopped off at the local iteration of Wood 'n' Tap, a small Connecticut chain of bar-and-grill restaurants featuring nice pub food and a pretty decent selection of import and craft beers. I'll likely have more to say about W-n-T in a future post, but on this occasion I was seduced away from trying anything new by my favorite dish there, their four-cheese Mac-n-Cheese.

Now, it's a perfectly fine mac and cheese, but the main reason I like it so much is that it's spicy. Except the other night it... wasn't. Still tasty; the same cheesy crust, creamy sauce, perfectly cooked short tubes of pasta... but no bite. Something tickled at the back of my mind, and I rechecked the menu description. Hmmm... I don't recall it saying "a hint of chipotle..." before. Sure enough, our server confirmed that the recipe had recently been changed to make it less spicy, because customers had complained about the pepper.

Damn! Now, I don't want anyone else to have a (by their lights) bad meal, but... this is why we can't have nice things! Time after time I've seen chain restaurants — whether fast food or table service — introduce tasty spicy dishes, only to immediately start blanding them down for the masses. Back in the day, the original Popeyes Chicken spicy recipe was really spicy, and their Cajun rice would blow the top of your head off; nowadays... meh, not so much.

I recognize businesses have to cater to their customers, but we pepperheads (say that carefully if you're reading aloud!) are customers, too! Can't we have just one spicy dish on the menu? Can't the people who think it's too spicy just order something else?


  1. I currently live in upstate New York, not known for spicy food of any kind (except maybe greens). My workplace has a themed employee lunch every summer, and this year's theme was "Mexican". I steeled myself for the horror I knew was to follow, read the menu, and found this at the end: "PLEASE NOTE: Menu will be Mild & Medium only and is sure to satisfy any appetite."


  2. Satisfy any appetite... except yours, eh? But actually, it makes more sense to tone it down at a work event (presumably with a limited menu) than in a restaurant. If a dish is called "spicy" on the menu, presumably the folks who order it want spicy.

    This also bugs me when judges on shows like Chopped criticize a dish for being too spicy: Unless it's just inedibly hot, you have to presume anyone who would order it wouldn't dislike it for that reason.

  3. I'm with you here...the only places to get decent spice in my town are the locally owned Chinese and Indian places. Which, don't get me wrong, are delicious, but it'd be nice to be able to go somewhere else and get spicy for once.