Hot to trot, Part I: Chile peppers are hot, all right, and a new store that sells nothing but products containing chile peppers in some form or other may have just the recipe for success. Richard Reed, a Denver musician (formerly of the Hot Pickles and other bands), opened The Original Hot Sauce Co. on November 22 in the Avenue of Shops, at 1421 Larimer. The shelves are stocked with more than a hundred caliente items, everything from chunky salsas and Bloody Mary mixes to chile-infused jellies and dry rubs.

The store's inventory comes from hot spots around the world, including Colorado. I sampled a few items I hadn't encountered before: the Mosquito Coast Pirate's Delight ($4.25), a sauce replete with sun-ripened tomato flavor and enhanced with habaneros; the Bello Special Sauce ($2.25), with its sharp afterbite and strong vinegar flavor; and Andre's Rouge ($4), overloaded with Worcestershire sauce but great for cooking, according to Darren Jacobson, who is helping Reed out.

Every day, the store lays out about eight sauces and two or three other products for tasting, and on Saturday, December 10, Reed will host a free tasting party at the store.

Get it while it's hot.
Hot to trot, Part II: If anything could be hotter in Denver right now than chile peppers, it's coffeehouses. One of the newest additions to the coffee klatch is Jitters, at 1523 18th St., whose claim to uniqueness is a decor rife with the Alaskan crafts it sells. I had a decent double latte ($2.50), as well as a hunk of brownie cake studded with chocolate chips ($1.25). I also met Matt, who works there and told me about a guy who came in one day and ordered a quad latte (the equivalent of two doubles) and even provided his own gigantic mug to put it in. I guess the guy got the jitters for real--"He came back the next day and ordered a decaf," Matt says.

Get blitzened: The Rock Bottom Brewery celebrates the holidays with its excellent Blitzen Ale, which flows free from 5:30-6 p.m. on December 14. But don't be a scrooge; in exchange, the brewpub is asking for donations of new gloves, hats or socks to give to the Samaritan House--Father Ed, the shelter's director, is the guest tapper.

Ch-ch-changes: Speaking of great drinks, I was disappointed to see that my favorite place for green-bean milkshakes, Pho Pasteur, at 1201 South Federal, has closed; a banner hanging out front says, "Coming Soon, T-Bone Express!" I can hardly wait...The Penthouse Grill is open where a Black-Eyed Pea used to be, at 3480 South Galena...Mel's Bar and Grill, at 235 Fillmore, is the happening new place in Cherry Creek. A preliminary visit found them still working out a few kinks, but they're off to a good start. I hope they don't keep the potato-chip garnish on the mashed potatoes, though...Nearby, Cafe Paradiso has reopened in its old location at 2355 East Third Avenue, but with new owners (all six of whom are seasoned food-business types from Vail) and a new chef, part-owner Donovan Cornish. When I called to get some info, I told one of the owners that I usually like to wait at least two months before reviewing a new restaurant because I know it can take a while to make things run smoothly. "Oh, we've already had all the big reviewers here," he said. "Gabby Gourmet, Bill St. John; they're all behind us."

Guess they don't need me, then.

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Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner