A few days ago, I saw grown men cry. But no one's feelings were hurt, and we weren't even watching The Notebook. No, we were suffering the wrath of the hot wings from Skinny Jay's, located at 800 28th Street, in the Outlook Hotel in Boulder. These are crispy little appendages of unrelenting doom.
I was in the manliest of situations: five college guys drinking beer while watching the NCAA tournament. Two of the guys were actually Division I athletes who play basketball and football at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. The only thing missing was an overwhelming mound of food, which is why we called Skinny Jay's.
We ordered 24 of the "hot" wings (second only to "inferno") and waited -- i.e., drank more beer. When the wings finally arrived, one of the guys dug in gleefully. I then watched for the next five minutes as he tried to conceal obvious pain, disguising his facial expressions as sweat was beading on the bridge of his nose and his eyes welled with tears.
Another guy jumped in, and I witnessed the same reaction. It was like he had been pepper-sprayed but was trying to hide it from everyone -- until he let out this calculated, articulate thought: "These are fucking hot," he said as the heat began an assault on his mouth. "Tyler, try one."
I laughed, because I am a food writer and have a palate of steel! This was a challenge I would not lose. I would eat a wing while these overgrown children gawked at my strength.
I grabbed a wing, which was sauced but not saturated, gnawing it to the bone in about six seconds. Then I waited...and waited....waited until a sneaking bit of spice began to climb my tongue, like it was about to ambush my tastebuds from behind. And it did. And I cried.
There was a five-minute window when I couldn't talk (air passing over the spiciness hurt too much) and I couldn't keep my mouth shut (it would burn too badly), leaving me awkwardly attempting to breathe like it was my first time out of the womb, gasping for air.
The heat finally began to wear off and my brain sent plenty of endorphins to the rest of my body, giving me a feeling of relief and general stability.
So went back for wings two through six, approaching very cautiously, and then very reliably burned my mouth to a crisp every time.
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I eventually called the makers of destruction (Skinny Jay's) and asked what the hell their problem was. And manager Curtis Stringe said this: "Hot is really hot. The inferno is really, really spicy."
Thanks, Curtis. But he also let me in on the main ingredient in the sauce: Dave's Insanity Sauce from California. Dave's sauce brings gods to their knees and has a disclaimer on it warning people with heart or respiratory conditions.
So don't say you haven't been warned.