Roasting Hatch chiles at Central Market
As Eats Beats columnist Bud Kennedy writes, if it’s August, it must be Hatch chile time. But can you have too much green chile?
For some of us, that’s a silly question. But a couple of colleagues have wondered about it. One even went as far as to say that Hatch chile fests are starting to feel a little like the “pumpkin-spice everything” craze that of the past few years.
Of course, pumpkin-spice products are already on the shelves, and it’s more than a month before the beginning of fall, and the pumpkin-spice stuff will be there till long after Halloween. Most Hatch chile fests last a couple of weeks, including one of the longest-running, Central Market’s Hatch chile fest.
Monday, Central Market Fort Worth held a media preview for the 22nd annual fest, whch runs through Aug. 22 and this year bears the nickname “Land of enHATCHment.” The preview was almost overwhelming, with something like a half-dozen food stations, each of them offering several green-chile items.
For me, and I imagine for a lot of others, Hatch chile time is more than just a taste experience —it’s time travel. For three years in the late ’80s, I lived in Las Cruces, 40 miles south of Hatch, and during harvest time, the aroma of roasting chiles permeated the air. You could step out of a movie and into the theater parking lot and smell them roasting miles away.
There is a Hatch Valley Chile Festival every Labor Day weekend, but I never went — having grown up in El Paso and lived in southern New Mexico, I took green chiles for granted.
And then I moved to Fort Worth, and the Hatch green chiles became less ubiquitous — until Blue Mesa Grill moved to the FW side of DFW in 1996, with its own Hatch Chile Festival (Blue Mesa’s fest, now in its 21st year, is going on now till September — “or until the chiles run out!”).
But back to Central Market. Among the things we learned Monday: Of the nine stores in the Austin-based mini-chain, the Fort Worth one is the No. 1 store during Hatch chile festivals. And people come from as far away as Oklahoma and Marfa to get their Hatch chiles (Hey, Marfa? Hatch is a four-hour drive as opposed to a seven-hour drive to Fort Worth. You may want to rethink this.)
A brief overview of what was offered: Healthy Hatch (kale, cotija and corn salad with Hatch lime vinaigrette). Down the Hatch (iced tea with Hatch-chile infused simple syrup, plus a selection of Hatch chile wines and Salsa Verde, the Hatch chile and tomatillo ale from Fort Worth’s Martin House Brewing Co.). Sweet-and-salty Hatch (Hatch chile corn relish with Hatch salted creme fraiche, sweety drop peppers and toasted pine nuts). Even sweeter Hatch (Bellefontaine Hatch chocolate lemon swirl ice cream, possibly my favorite item of the night).
Unusual Hatch (Brun-usto, a cheese that grills without melting, topped with a corn salsa and Hatch lime dressing). Hatch seafood (a variety of crab cakes and shrimp, my favorite savory items). Sweet and savory baked Hatch (a load of stuff from the bakery, ranging from Hatch cornbread to Hatch chocolate-chip cookies, cheesecake pound cake and apple pie, all fest staples).
As it turned out, this slightly dizzying array was only the tip of the Hatchberg, with the store also offering Hatch-stuffed chicken breasts, Hatch meatballs, meatloaf, salmon, chocolate bars, chile-and-sweet-lime sandwich cookies (another returning item, and a quickly disappearing one at my house), waffle chips, tortilla chips, crackers, condiments, dinner rolls, nuts, tamales, ravioli, cheeses, hummus, scones (another personal favorite), hush puppies (or in this case, Hatch puppies), mac ’n’ cheese and more, including, of course, salsas, quesos and actual mild or hot peppers.
Fort Worth chef Jon Bonnell put in an early appearance at the preview. Reached by email later, he said he does plan on doing something with Hatch chiles but wasn’t ready to say what yet. Also there was Kari Crowe Seher of Melt Ice Creams, who said she might do something green chile.
And here’s what else is going on in the Land of EnHATCHment (updated Aug. 11 with new info on Fireside Pies and Steel City Pops).:
Cane Rosso: “We love Hatch chile season!” says Jay Jerrier, the boss of the Neapolitan-pizza mini-chain, who adds in an email that all the locations will be making pizzas with Hatch chiles. There will also be a Hatch chile burrata: fresh mozzarella stuffed with cream, curds and some roasted Hatch chiles. 815 W. Magnolia Ave, Fort Worth, 817-922-9222, http://www.canerosso.com/fort-worth
Chuy’s Tex-Mex: The Austin-based chain is about to launch its 29th annual fest, which will run Aug. 14-Sept. 3. Among the special menu items: the Burrito en Fuego, described as a “Big As Yo’ Face burrito covered in a new spicy salsa fuego.” Multiple DFW locations. https://www.chuys.com
El Fenix: The Mexican-food chain is doing a limited-time Hatch Chile Festival, and keeping it pretty basic: Hatch green chile & chicken enchiladas, queso blanco enchiladas, roasted Hatch queso blanco and a green-chile-infused margarita. Multiple DFW locations. www.elfenix.com
Fireside Pies: More pizza, at this point Fireside Pies is still perfecting its Hatch pizza recipe — but other than pizza, the restaurant’s Hatch fest will include Hatch crostini (roasted Hatch peperonata, housemade ricotta, cilantro and toasted crostini) and a Hatch chee salad (mixed greens, hearts of romaine, four-cheese blend, chopped tomatoes and roasted Hatch chile ranch). Multiple DFW locations. http://www.firesidepies.com
Melt Ice Creams: Melt founder Kari Crowe Seher says the Magnolia Avenue ice-cream shop will have a roasted Hatch chocolate ganache swirled ice cream as a weekend special, beginning Aug. 19. 1201 W Magnolia Ave. No. 115, Fort Worth, 817-886-8365, melticecreams.com
Reata: The downtown Fort Worth restaurant is keeping it simple, with a Hatch chile relleno special next week. This being Reata, we’re expecting a big, satisfying chile relleno. 310 Houston St., Fort Worth, 817-336-1009, http://www.reata.net
Snuffer’s: The chain’s burger of the month is, naturally, a Hatch chile cheeseburger: a ground chuck patty stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and diced green chile, topped with more Hatch green chile as well as applewood smoked bacon crumbles and sliced tomatoes, and dressed with Hatch green chile mayo. Multiple DFW locations. www.snuffers.com
Steel City Pops: The frozen-treat shop will have a Hatch chile lemonade pop at all of its Tarrant County locations. 908 Currie St, Fort Worth, 817-381-7791; 5924 Convair Dr No. 400 (Waterside), Fort Worth, 817- 631-7337; 1151 E Southlake Blvd #370 (Park Village), Southlake, 817-631-7339. steelcitypops.com
Swiss Pastry Shop: The west-side bakery/dinery/burger joint is offering, for a limited time, “I Dream of Greenie”: a sandwich featuring a pecan-smoked Hatch chile meatloaf (Wagyu beef and pork) with grilled poblanos and onions, asadero cheese and “Hatchup” (house-made Hatch chile/tomatillo ketchup) on brioche. When we say “limited time,” we mean it: Owner Hans Peter Muller says he expects to offer the sandwich through Saturday. 3936 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-732-5661, http://www.swisspastryonline.com
Other places you might see Hatch specials: Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine (chef Jon Bonnell plans a Hatch special but wasn’t ready to say what yet, although he does have a Facebook post that features loads of green chiles); and Fred’s Texas Cafe (we’ve got a query out, based on the fact that Fred’s has done a mean Hatch green-chile cheeseburger in the past).