Pete Legrady quit his corporate job in a cubical to open a one-of-a-kind hot sauce wonderland, with close to 1,000 flavors of sauce with varying intensity levels. Legrady said each and every one has a perfect pairing in the world of food.
“Our cherry pomegranate hot sauce is sensational on cheesecake with chocolate gram crackers. The contrast between the flavors is phenomenal,” said Legrady, “and not all the sauces are hot. There is a sauce for every food.”
But some are. Upon entering Peppers of Key West on Greene Street, expect to be seated at a hot sauce sampling bar, where sauce bartenders will serve whichever suits your taste buds. There are sweet sauces with mangoes, passion fruits and cherries best tried on tortilla chips and flaming hot concoctions that are sampled a drop at a time on a toothpick.
John Gannon is a visiting tourist from upstate New York.
“The hot sauce tasting is a great time and something I have never done before,” said Gannon. “It gives the opportunity to find what sauce suites your palate.”
Some of the condiments are extremely hot and require extreme caution.
“You have to be careful when touching some sauces because you can get blisters from the capsaicin. I have a chemical mask from when I was in the Marines to clean up some of the really hot ones if they spill,” said Legrady, with complete seriousness.
Capsaicin is what makes the sauces spicy and they are measured scientifically with scoville units. The ingredient is in all peppers except bell peppers and the extract also has medicinal uses, according to Legrady.
“I read a New York Times article that capsaicin treats colon cancer and reduces prostate cancer. They also use it in creams and ointments for an effect like Icy Hot,” he said.
Most hot sauces feature ghost, habanero, jalapeno, scotch bonnet and red peppers. Spices can have a euphoric effect of the body. According to Legrady, it’s similar to a high from running a short sprint or lifting weights.
Some of the Peppers signature sauces are Legrady’s own concoctions, others are a team effort with the help of employees. The labels are exclusive to the Key West store and not sold anywhere else.
“I have customers in Japan, Sweden, Greenland, Germany and Canada as well as all over the states,” said Legrady. “Hot sauce is supposed to expand 11 percent in 2014 and it is becoming increasingly popular.”
Peppers of Key West ships internationally and is constantly working on new recipes. Visit their website at peppersofkeywest.com or like them on Facebook.