If Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint is one of the hottest pizzerias in the city right now, their Hellboy — a sopressata and mozzarella pie — is on fire.
That’s because it comes drizzled with a liberal dose of Mike’s Hot Honey, a fiery red, chile-spiked concoction made in small batches by Mike Kurtz, Paulie Gee’s pizzaiolo, bartender, and budding apiary entrepreneur.
“When I started working here just about a year ago, I brought Paulie a bottle of the honey,” said Kurtz. “He was doubtful at first, but when he tried it on a sopressata pie, he just loved it. So it ended up going on the menu.”
Kurtz first began tinkering with his unlikely pizza topping in 2004, after a surprising discovery made while studying abroad in Brazil.
“I came across a tiny town on a hike through the Northeastern region,” remembered Kurtz, “which had a family-run pizzeria selling margherita pies. On every table was a bottle of this chile-infused honey. It seemed an unusual combination, but when I tried it, it was like a revelation.”
Kurtz hurried to replicate the recipe back in the states, importing the very same Brazilian chile peppers (the identity of which he keeps top secret), and using clover blossom honey from a Pennsylvania beekeeper.
“It’s very light, so it really takes on the flavor from the chile peppers. And since it’s not overpoweringly sweet, you can use it on a lot of different foods; from pizza, ribs and fried chicken to ice cream and fresh fruit.”
The goal of any honey entrepreneur is to make a sweet living, but for now, Kurtz — who operates the one-man operation out of his Long Island City apartment — just wants to get his product out there.
“I want chefs to taste it and see what crazy uses they discover for it,” he said.
Mike’s Hot Honey at Paulie Gee’s [60 Greenpoint Ave. between Franklin and West Streets in Greenpoint, (347) 987-3747] or online at www.mikesh