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Like your food a little hot?

By the end of July, a hot, spicy, sweat-inducing dish may seem like sadomasochism. But some of us know that the reason spicy dishes come from the tropics is because sweating is a good way to cool off, and that kick overcomes the appetite-deadening heat of the day. Too often, spice fans have to train the kitchen that when we say we want to sweat, we mean it. These Tampa Bay restaurants, bars and shops get it, offering some truly unique tear-jerking dishes. When you ask for it hot, they give you a knowing smile and deliver the pain. — Jay Cridlin, Susan Thurston, Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Laura Reiley, Justin Grant, tbt* files


Outsiders may believe these wings, served at Rapscallions in Land O'Lakes, are the hottest foods in Tampa Bay. That's because they were recently featured on the Travel Channel's Man v. Food Nation. The restaurant's "Davy Jones Wings Challenge" involves eating 10 of the wings in 30 minutes, with no drink or bleu cheese. Only a handful of brave participants have completed the challenge. But everyone can play the take-home version — the restaurant sells Black Beard's Revenge Hot Sauce, which is the same sauce used in the challenge. Rapscallions, 4422 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Land O'Lakes.


Hot ice cream? We found it here in Hometown Heat, and it's not a melted mess. Datz Deli in Tampa sells spicy chocolate gelato packed with jalapeno and chili paste. It's cool going down, but once you've finished a dish, you'll be wiping your nose. It comes from Gelateria del Duomo, which has a shop at International Plaza. Head gelatomaker Roberto Mori says mixing unusual flavors is commonplace in Italy but less so here. He typically doesn't sell the spicy chocolate at the mall store but says it's quite popular at Datz. Look for the dark chocolate garnished with dark-green jalapeno peppers in the freezer case. 2616 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 831-7000;


Don't be put off by the name — this pie at Wood Fired Pizza in New Tampa won't leave your tongue blistered and burned. Created with local food writer and historian Andy Huse, it contains Italian meatballs, ricotta and sheep's milk cheeses, and sauce infused with sriracha, a Thai chili sauce. The result is a pizza that'll leave the inside of your mouth nice and toasty. 2822 E Bearss Ave., Tampa. (813) 341-2900.


When you order dishes "hot" at Cilantro in Tampa, you get a raised eyebrow and the retort "Indian hot?" This is no idle question. Order lamb vindaloo "Indian hot," and sweat is a certitude. Good thing the lamb and potato hunks are so flavorful and tender that it's water under the bridge. 11009 N 56th St., Tampa; (813) 983-8220;


Pretty much anything Nitally's makes can be hot, from ginger tacos to panang mole. They do not kid around about their spiciness. A dozen kinds of hot peppers go into this soup at Nitally's in St. Pete, including three varieties of habanero and one ghost pepper, which is the hottest pepper on the planet — about 100 times hotter than the jalapeno. And the soup is massive. The Thai-Mex restaurant has challenged anyone to eat a bowl in 30 minutes, with a $1,000 prize as motivation. One of our writers attempted it last fall, writing: "After a couple of spoonfuls, my scalp was sweating, my face reddened. A few more spoonfuls and my mouth was on fire, my earlobes sweating. I felt light-headed. I was done." Nitally's, 2462 Central Ave., St. Pete. (727) 321-8424.


"Hot coffee." Doesn't sound so exotic, does it? But there's a twist to the Cafe Corona at King Corona Cigars in Ybor City. It's espresso made with spicy cayenne caramel, which adds a sweat-inducing kick to your cup of joe. If Ybor in July isn't steamy enough for you, pick up a couple of stogies and a Cafe Corona, and let the vapors commence. 1523 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City, (813) 241-9109,


Here's an interesting twist on spicy coffee: At Cafe Hey, you can get it ice cold. The shop's Red Hot Latte is made with cinnamon, chili powder and chocolate. You can get it hot, too, but the iced version is the hottest way to cool down on a hot day. (Got all that? Good!) 1540 N Franklin Ave., Tampa; (813) 221-5150,


The chocolate artisans at William Dean Chocolates in Largo offer spice lovers a special horseradish and ginger kick with their Wasabi Chocolate Bar. It's a dark chocolate bar with wasabi peas, crystallized ginger and dried pineapple. It's $5 online and in the store at 12551 Indian Rocks Road;


No tour of the hottest foods in Tampa Bay would be complete without a trip to the Spiceman's Kitchen in Tarpon Springs. Offering more than 250 varieties of hot sauces, with intensities ranging into the millions of Scoville units, it's for serious heat lovers only. They also serve rubs, spices, jellies, coffees, teas and much more. 815 Dodecanese Blvd., Tarpon Springs; (727) 945-7101,


If you're hankering for a spicy cocktail, pick up this drink at St. Pete's Mandarin Hide. Their Tito's Blind Pig beefs up a simple vodka soda with cucumber and jalapeno pepper — and it's good. Very. It can be made hotter by requesting the bartender shake it longer (thus bruising the jalapeno more). 231 Central Avenue, St. Pete; (727) 231-4007;


At Casa Tina in Dunedin, the owner's hot sauce collection runs the length of one wall, and they have a BYOB policy. If you bring them a bottle of hot sauce, they'll buy you a drink. We recommend the Mexican Beer: Modelo Especial, Valentina hot sauce, Maggi sauce, fresh lime juice and a salted rim with lime garnish. It's awesome. The meals are not so spicy in and of themselves, but they do make their own hot sauces that give them plenty of heat. Veracruz-style fish tacos and sizzling fajitas are crowd-pleasers, and there's vegetarian and vegan versions of most dishes. 365 Main St., Dunedin. (727) 734-9226,

Competition heats up

At a "Top Local Chef Competition" this weekend, seven professional chefs and six amateurs will each create a dish using LocalShops1 Girl Hot Sauce, with local celebrity judges choosing the top sauce dish in reception. Chefs include those from Pia's Trattoria, Twisted Cork and Milk n' Honey Tea Room. Bring two canned goods to benefit the Warren Backpack Program's Pinellas Chapter to feed homeless and hungry children. 6 p.m. Saturday. Free (with advanced online reservation); $5 at the door, plus bring canned goods to donate. Canvas Zoo, 1750 N Hercules Ave., Clearwater. (727) 637-5586.

Like your food a little hot? 07/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 10:54am]
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