I’m not a spicy food aficionado by any means – I fancy a touch of heat on occasion, but I don’t go crazy for chili peppers or wild over wasabi. I snagged a bottle of Sriracha before it was cool, but I’m not sure I even finished it, and I’ve yet to buy anything Sriracha-flavored since.
So, when an editor asked me to interview the founders of Saint Lucifer Spice, a dry spice blend based out of Philly, I was trepidacious. Though I’m open to trying anything new, and always up for shining a light on great local food businesses, I was afraid my taste buds wouldn’t be up to the challenge.
Yet I was pleasantly surprised. St. Lucifer Spice #11 isn’t just about hammering home the heat. Instead it brings together a blend of garlic, salt, paprika, vinegar (yes, dried vinegar!) and finally habanero peppers in a way that’s both well-balanced and packed with complex, diverse flavor. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a serious kick here too – but that’s not all this is, meaning that the spice can be used in a variety of ways and, more importantly, enjoyed even by those of us who aren’t obsessed with heat. (Best have a few cold boys standing by though, just in case.)
“It’s a condiment,” co-founder Tom Hewell tells me, in response to my comments about the heat level. “We didn’t want it to be just another hot spice. We wanted it to be a flavor. A lot of people will say ‘ooh St Lucifer, that sounds hot, I can’t try that,’ but you really can. You can control the heat level by how much you add, unlike other sauces or extracts.”
Though it’s delicious simply sprinkled over popcorn or nuts, this is my favorite recipe so far: St. Lucifer Spice Sweet and Spicy Candied Nuts.
Hewett and business partner Ted Ebert don’t see St. Lucifer as some niche thing that sits in a pantry next to a bunch of little-used hot sauces either. “We want to be next to the salt shaker,” Ebert says. “We have ambitious goals. We want to be found on every restaurant and household table across the nation.”