All the featured items this week in some way incorporate chiles. And speaking for myself, I'm often drawn to heat on a menu. You could say that it's a subconscious thing having to do with my body type, and the types of foods I should be eating, if you buy at all into Ayurvedic traditions and eating for your dosha, or your blood type, or along your lines of ancestry or whatever.
Regardless, I firstly just love the flavor and brightness of hot foods, or drinks. It's not some masculine thing where I think it's cool to sweat or drip snot over a plate of curry. (Though my brothers and I did do a stupid horseradish-eating contest during Passovers as kids.) It's a simple love of spice.
San Chang House
3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-1707
No argument that Korean dishes, particularly those featuring fermented items, are generally nutritious, but I don't think anyone is buying the tagline on San Chang House's menu: "You can eat as much Korean food as you like without gaining weight!"
Otherwise, the eatery is basically bulletproof, as evidenced by its annual wins in Indy Best Of competitions, super-fast service amid the transporting din of boisterous Korean chatter, and my entrée choice of the nakji bokum ($12.99). It's comprised of chewy octopus pieces stir-fried with mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, jalapeños and kimchi in a punishing spicy red sauce. Between the crisp vegetable bites, it's all earthy chile heat, building to such an intensity that the banchan (array of complementary side bowls) become palate refuges. Sapporo-like Hite beer also buffers. — Matthew Schniper
136 E. Second St., Salida, 719/539-5219, amicassalida.com
Folks from all over Colorado who pass through the adventure launch-point of Salida might remember when this Second Street spot was an Il Vicino location. The wood oven pizza and house beer served now by Amicas is still generally great — which isn't to say there aren't occasional duds.
Enter Amicas Green Chile Ale ($4.99/22-ounce bomber), a light pale ale spiked with serrano chiles for the Southwest's green chile enthusiasts. This 4.5 percent ABV brew has a fiery nose but a super-mellow follow-through. If you're fired up for a kick-in-the-mouth chile explosion that leaves you sweating, you'll think this is nothing more than a skunked Pabst Blue Ribbon. (Twisted Pine's Ghost Face Killah it is not.) Of course, if you're new to the chile beer world, this may be your perfect gateway beer. — Steve Hitchcock
Einstein Bros Bagels
30-32 N. Tejon St., 445-4795, einsteinbros.com
Though I can't celebrate another chain opening in the heart of downtown, I have to concede that Einstein Bros' products taste pretty damn good. And besides, this location had been a Mrs. Fields cookie store forever, so there's no bemoaning the loss of another mom-and-pop to make way for a fourth local Einstein site.
The Lakewood-headquartered franchise procures its coffee from an Oregon-based roaster, according to store employees. That coffee is surprisingly good, if my simple decaf with a splash of half-and-half provides accurate indication ($1.75/12-ounce; free with any purchase through the third week of January). The Spicy Elmo ($4.80) melts Swiss cheese over green chiles, scrambled egg and bacon with a mildly spicy red chile cream cheese inside a wheat tortilla. Perfectly pleasant for carbon-copy cuisine. — Matthew Schniper