Gretchen VanEsselstyn

Gretchen is the editor in chief of Chile Pepper magazine. She is a James Beard award-nominated journalist and a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. Drop her a line at

  • Website
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Favorite foods: Louisiana-style hot sauce, green chile enchiladas, Humboldt Fog, rye toast with butter, fried potato pierogis with sour cream and pepper jelly

Latest Comments

The Hottest Pepper Ever: Introducing the Really Mean Bhut Jolokia Pepper

The introduction of bhut jolokia to the USA was pretty much the biggest thing that happened to me in 2007. Granted, I edit Chile Pepper Magazine, and super-hot foods are my beat, and my love.

For me, the best thing about bhut jolokia (aka naga jolokia, aka ghost chile) is that you can get a dish to an extreme level of heat without sacrificing flavor. I am not a fan of pure capsaicin extract, which is used to give some XXX sauces their killer bite -- to me it tastes bad and overwhelms anything it touches. The same amount of fresh, dried or powdered bhut adds intense heat, but also contributes a wallop of flavor.

If you're looking to try bhut jolokia and don't want to grow it yourself or cook with it, I heartily suggest the Jolokia product line from Cajohn's. Their salsa, hot sauce, sausage (!) and many other products have intense, pure pepper flavor and mind-boggling heat. Check out our post on this and other salsas:

and our article on growing jolokia in your garden:

and this great piece by one of our former editors who now writes for the Village Voice:

Viva bhut jolokia!

Sugar Rush: Can Pancake Frozen Custard from Shake Shack Be Considered Awesome Even If It Doesn't Taste Like Pancakes?

I have a suggestion/theory on this one. Yesterday I ordered the Apple Rosemary custard at Shake Shack and enjoyed a few spoonfuls in the park. Apple: check. Rosemary: check. I capped it and took it back to the office, stuck it in the freezer, and shared it with folks in the office about 90 minutes later. Upon re-tasting, it was sweet and super-creamy, but the apple and rosemary flavors just weren't there any longer. Perhaps in your case the pancake essence was too ephemeral to survive the trip?

Chile Pepper Magazine Presents: Cowtown Eats

Ha! Only YOU can prevent bad barbecue!
Thanks, Smokey!

Chile Pepper Magazine Presents: Cowtown Eats

I do like Angelo's a lot, and have had great ribs at Riscky's. The fact of the matter is that our rental car was otherwise occupied, and Railhead was a short stagger from the hotel for our ZestFest-weary bones! I do believe that sausage is worth a stop, though -- I've had a lot of chile-cheese sausage, and it's rare to find it that hot and juicy.

Wall Street Journal's Ten Foods to Eat This Fall

I find Concord grapes challenging to eat -- the skins are very tough and tend to stick in my throat, and the flesh really clings to the large seeds. They make wonderful juice, though -- I put them in the blender with cold water (1 cup stemmed grapes to 1 cup water), add a dash of simple syrup, honey or agave nectar, and buzz until blended. (Be careful not to blend too much or you'll break up the seeds, which are bitter.) Strain, and drink -- tastes like Welch's but fresher. I also like to add a handful of frozen strawberries to the strained grape juice and re-blend.

Rutabagas -- we make a mix of 1/2 mashed potato, 1/2 mashed rutabaga for Thanksgiving and always say "we should have this more often" and never do.

Why Pepperoni Pizza Sucks

Jane and Michael Stern turned me on to the wonderful hot oil pies at Colony Grill in Stamford, CT. Believe it or not, what pepperoni sometimes needs is MORE oil -- as long as it's the super-spicy, fresh-tasting olio santo with which their crazy thin pies are drizzled.

NYC Food Events for the Weekend and Beyond

Another good one: A Taste of Jackson Heights. Saturday, September 12, 12-4pm


Gretchen VanEsselstyn hasn't favorited a post yet.