By B.C. Manion
Anyone acquainted with Michele Northrup — the former Guv’na of Lutz — knows that she’s not exactly a shrinking violet.
So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that this woman — who handles marketing for Learning Gate Community School in Lutz — has come up with a new creation that she debuted last weekend at Zest Fest 2011 in Irving, Texas.
The fiery foods festival is just one of numerous Dallas-area events leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers.
At Zest Fest, Northrup picked up four awards for her sauces and also arranged a different kind of smack down.
She pitted heat-seeking aficionados against one another in the Intensity Academy Lolly Lick-A-Thon.
The object of the contest was to see who could be fastest to lick his or her way through an Extreme Lolly. No chewing or crunching was allowed.
Licking a lollipop all of the way through doesn’t seem much of a challenge.
But these suckers were hot. Practically scalding.
“That lollipop is torture,” said Northrup, who makes anyone who wants to try one sign a waiver.
She estimates the lollipops have a 1.5 million rating on the Scoville scale, which measures the spicy heat of a chili pepper. Northrup said the rating wouldn’t be official until a chemist tests it, but she bases her estimate on the ingredients she used on the African pepper extract she uses to make the lollipops.
“That’s not a little hot. That’s super, super hot,” said Northrup, who sells the candy treats for $3 a pop.
She created the spicy suckers in response to a constant query by patrons at hot sauce festivals she’s attended. She said when potential customers drop by her booth, they frequently inquire: “What’s the hottest thing you’ve got?’”
“Typically, I’m all about the flavor,” Northrup said, noting she uses chili peppers and other spices, but focuses primarily on creating flavorful blends with organic ingredients.
Still, she wanted to satisfy customers in search of a fiery treat, so she decided to create a novelty item.
“I wanted to do something different,” she said. She said she thought to herself: “Why not a lollipop?”
She began researching lollipop companies across the country to see if she could track down one that would be willing to make her super hot suckers.
“I wanted to have organic tea in it,” Northrup said, and to use extract from African peppers — to turn up the heat.
She began calling companies.
Some of the people she reached thought she was out of her mind.
She said that they told her: “You want tea and pepper in your lollipop? Are you crazy?”
“I had a couple of people hang up on me,” she said.
After searching all over the country, she finally found a company right in her backyard.
The company called Lolly Labs is based in Tampa.
When Northrup checked out the company’s website, she knew it was a perfect fit for her project. “They already made Earl Gray lollipops,” she said.
While Northrup’s lollipops got lots of exposure in Texas, you haven’t heard the end of them yet.
There’s already a posting of the competition on YouTube and the contest will be featured on the reality television show, “Midlife Road Trip.” Rick Griffen, a co-host on the show, competed in the contest.