Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

See it there? In the background? That little, innocuous green thing? Yeah, looks harmless, doesn't it? Don't trust it. It's possibly the single hottest thing I've ever eaten.

The previous record was held jointly by two items. A hit of Dave's Insanity, one of the most lethal (but surprisingly flavourful pepper sauces) known to man and a small green chilli that was lurking on a prawn skewer at New York's Rosa Mexicana. And, on a vaguely connected note, there's a great little shop in San Antonio selling pepper sauces including the full range of Dave's including this particularly memorable example.

Pepper Sauce & Garden Spray? W, as I believe you youngsters have it, TF? Apparently, it stops rabbits and pigeons and things nibbling your crops because they can't take the heat although one would also suspect that giving pigeons chilli sauce might not be the wisest thing you could do for your car windscreen or washing.But I digress...

The chilli in question today - just a humble fresh jalapeno - was to be found on the plate at the excellent Mi Tierra, a remarkable San Antonio stalwart. You can read a more detailed history here but, in a nutshell, it started in 1941 with just three tables. Since then, the descendants of the original pair, Pete & Cruz Cortez, have turned this neighbourhood restaurant into the sort of funky, local success story you couldn't ever plan. They now seat over 500 people, the room is festooned with Christmas decorations all year round, and they never close. Not ever. If you're ever stuck in San Antonio alone at Christmas, go here.

The joy of the place is that they are still family run: indeed, George Cortez stopped by our table to have a chat and talk about family history and passion. The word "love" came up a lot, which isn't always the case with restaurateurs. Everything they do is in the memory of Pete & Cruz, like a year-round El Dia de los Muertos, from the style of the food, to the welcome you'll receive, via fabulously eccentric touches like the ongoing mural celebrating the family and assorted famous Mexicans. George, in case you can't spot him, is in the red apron.

The food was also excellent, particularly the slow-roasted, orange marinated, Michoacan, a mole sauce that starts sweet, rapidly hits spicy and then mellows to rich, lip-smacking woodsmoke and the range of sipping tequilas. I will never say bad things about anyone that gives me Patron and Don Julio 1942 (amongst a couple of others) to savour. Or gives me surprisingly delicate, shortcake-style cookies covered in sprinkles and cut to look like a Longhorn. Bless.

The presence of THAT jalapeno proved that this is no place looking to keep the tourists happy. Mi Tierra serves "real" food and it's not surprise it's a San Antonio legend. They're keeping it real, as I understand certain popular hip hop combos would say...

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Stetson to go and stretch before heading to the rodeo. Damn this freakishly large head...


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