Words & Deeds

After 24 years, Flying Pie is torching a Boise pizza tradition. Try not to cry

Between tearful gasps of "Wooo!," Flying Pie staffer Anthony McKenzie is complaining of pain and suffering to the pizzeria's human resources director, Kayce Bradford.

As he taste tests a slice of Single, Double, Triple and the truly diabolical new Quadruple Habanero Pizza, McKenzie becomes increasingly animated.

"It only gets worse as you go on," he moans. "Oooh, my stomach is starting to get angry now."

Bradford looks on in amusement. There will be no workers' comp claim at the Fairview Avenue restaurant.

"He just drank someone else's milk, and he doesn't care," she observes.

McKenzie begins dancing. When I ask his age, he holds up fingers making a "3" and a "5."

"It hurts, dude!" he blurts, lunging for another tumbler of milk. "It's burning!"

"That's why we have teamwork here at Flying Pie," Bradford informs him with a grin. "Because I can't eat that!"

Buckle up, Boise. Flying Pie Pizzaria will begin selling its seasonal habanero pizzas July 2 at all five locations. Available through Labor Day, the hot-pepper pies have been a summer favorite at the Idaho pizza institution since 1994.

This year, Flying Pie is torching the tradition with a culinary flamethrower. A new Quad Habanero Pizza is making its debut. About 24 habaneros are piled on a 12-inch pie, which costs $22. That's the heat equivalent of 20 pounds of jalapenos, the restaurant warns. In comparison, a Triple Habanero Pizza contains about 18 habanero peppers, or the punch of 15 pounds of jalapenos.

To make things hellish, the Quad is also drizzled with ghost pepper sauce when it's pulled from the oven. Ghost peppers are roughly 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

At a tasting event Tuesday to finalize this year's recipes, a handful of employees and super fans willingly and enthusiastically ingested small slices of all four habanero pizza varieties. When the steaming, orange-colored pies were arranged on a table, a crushing, multi-sensory wave of citrus and spice overpowered the room.

The Single Habanero Pizza is not blowtorch hot. It's quite delicious. (If you're worried, ask for free ice cream on the side.) A sprinkling of fresh habanero peppers lightly firebombs a mouthwatering blend of dough, red sauce, cornmeal, mozzarella, chicken and olives. "It gives you just enough heat," Bradford says. "I like the Single."

As for the Triple? Uh, Bradford hasn't touched that one since a hallucinogenic incident in 2006. "I remember it, like, made the floor move," she says, laughing.

Some customers crave dizziness. That's why Flying Pie set its summer tradition ablaze with the new Quad.

"The Triple I could eat all day and not even think about it," admits Peter Jurhs, 42, of Nampa. He's looked forward to Flying Pie habanero pizza every summer since a colleague introduced him to it more than a decade ago.

"I just love the stuff because it's spicy, but it's flavorful," he says. "You can get other stuff that is so hot that it's not fun. This is fun.

"It's like an annual event for me," he says, standing up to grab another slice of Quad. "Woo-hoo!"

Mike MacLean, 63, of Boise, sits across the table. MacLean is seeking out slices of Quad that contain an entire "puddle" of ghost pepper sauce drizzle.

Is he even perspiring yet? I can't tell.

"I hit the puddle," he announces calmly. "I said I was looking forward to that bite. Oh my God. Because it's so hot. Oh."

"Did you get a puddle?" he asks Jurhs, who has returned with a reloaded plate. "Oh my God, you want one."

"I got one!" Jurhs says a moment later, his voice rising in intensity. "Wow. That's really loosening up the mucous membranes!"

At least I think that's what he said. By this point, my brain feels "loose." I've devoured two slices of Quad and one of the Triple, which seems like a bell pepper pizza in comparison. Everything tastes amazing. I grab a napkin to wipe my nose. My eyes aren't tearing up, but if they were, I'd know better than to rub them.

I've built up a heat tolerance since college. Back then, in an attempt to utilize the bottom of a bag of tortilla chips, I would dump the mashed bits into a cereal bowl. Then I'd pour in hot Pace Picante Sauce as a substitute for milk. I'd ladle the mixture into my burning mouth with a spoon.

That was the start of a lifelong journey. Pepper-fueled endorphin rushes are a sick, wonderful thing.

"Pace cereal" can't hold a candle to Flying Pie's habanero pizzas. That's why people come from out of state to eat these pies. Flying Pie's Triple Habanero Pizza was even featured on the Travel Channel's "Man V. Food" in 2009.

It's not just habanero pizza. It's a way of life.

"This is something I'm going to keep doing forever," Jurhs says, sweating and smiling.

"It's good for the blood flow," MacLean adds. "Yeah. Now I'm starting to cry. The drizzle stays with you. Yeah!"

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