It started one drunken evening that got out of control quickly.  One minute I’m mixing up a strange brew called “Straight To Hell” at this party.  The next, there are incredibly ill advised joyrides in BMWs, cut-up cigars, and leg splits.  This was a dinner party that lost direction and veered off the deep end.

I can’t pinpoint precisely when, why, or how it came up, but the party decided that we needed to reconvene in a few weeks to take the Phaal Challenge.  Phaal, undisputedly the hottest curry in the known universe.  A dish conjured up by a sadist’s sadist for the sole purpose of inflicting excruciating palate torture.  I don’t really know what goes into a phaal curry, I just know of its legendary crippling powers.

Now, I don’t believe you can find phaal at just any corner curry house.  Most curry houses wouldn’t dare cook this.  We’d have to go to the Brick Lane curry house in the city, named after the famed street in London for all things India.  The Brick Lane curry house is THE place to get phaal in New York because they’re one of the few places outfitted to cook this curry.  Which – no joke – involves a full-face respirator and thick biohazard gloves.  The curry is cooked in a pot and stirred by what looks like a biochemical instruments.  It’s like Breaking Bad, except more lethal.  I’m pretty sure there’s witchcraft involved in making phaal.

In any case, about a dozen of us made this exceedingly poor decision about three weeks ago.  Of the dozen, only two or three of us were going to brave the phaal.  I wasn’t about to back down from this.  (I’m told that this whole phaal idea was my idea from the beginning but since I have no recollection of ever suggesting this, I’m not willing to own it – either way, I was in no matter what.) The rest of gang would cheer us on, laugh at our insanity, or have their fingers ready at their phones to call 911.

2 Hot Sauce BottlesI welcomed the three-week lead-up.  This would give me time to “train,” whatever the fuck that meant.  The best thing was having a good and proper excuse to order all the spicy shit when I ate out.  “Don’t mind me, I’m in training.”  Some people train for marathons, some people train for century rides, I was training for a bowl of curry.

It gave me a great excuse to eat unhealthy grub any chance I could.  And while I was at it, dump every imaginable hot sauce on everything.  I probably had hot wings a couple of times a week.  I loaded up my nachos with the hottest hot sauces I had.  Super spicy burritos.  All of it.

Then my friend – and fellow competitor – suggested that I try something called Dave’s Insanity Hot Sauce.  Made a beeline to the store and scored a bottle.  Turns out this sauce is so over the top, so willing to live up to its name that you’re only allowed one drop.  And that’s one drop into whatever you’re cooking – a big pot of chili, a vat of pasta sauce.  Just one drop.

Chili with DavesGoing balls to the wall, of course I ignored that advice.  The missus made chili one night, and I put a drop of Dave’s into my bowl of chili.  Not the whole pot, as suggested, but into my own serving.  Holy fuck.  I was completely unprepared for this level of heat.  There was no aroma or flavor like you get with other hot sauces.  This was bottled-up Hades by the drop.

I now had a new threshold of heat I had never previously experienced.

A few days after that, the missus whipped up a large pot of spaghetti arrabiata.  She kindly left me a note, warning me that it was spicy.  I thought bullshit, I’m in training – so I made myself a bowl of this pasta and dropped in a slightly more generous drop of Dave’s into the lot.

Pasta with DavesPain.  Nothing but searing blinding pain.  It was like eating glowing coals plucked out of your Weber.  I started sweating buckets and my vision started to tunnel.  I ran to my bathroom and brushed my teeth.  I must’ve drunk about a pint and a half of milk – somehow I seemed to remember some advice about milk being a good flame douser.  Which also turned out to be complete bullshit.  None of it worked until I cracked open a can of PBR and shotgunned the entire thing.  I had to lie down for about 20 minutes after that.  All that over pasta.

I was starting to lose hope.  If I couldn’t handle some bottled up sauce you can buy off the shelf, how the hell was I going to stand up to a secret recipe that single-minded designed to inflict maximum pain?

This was all going pear-shaped.


NEXT:  Ring of Fire – The Event