Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Mexico Green Chiles

 Okay, time to vent, people. 

There is no such thing as a "Hatch chile" -- let's just get that straight RIGHT NOW, as we're getting into the chile season. They are all variations on New Mexico green chiles, and in New Mexico, they are known as GREEN CHILES. They are predominantly grown in the Mesilla Valley, which stretches about 40ish miles from Las Cruces to the northwest on Interstate 25, to the little town of Hatch. It's a fertile agricultural region, that also sees pecans, lettuce, cotton, onions, all within Dona Ana county.

This whole "Hatch" thing is something that's become trendy here in Austin from the fine marketing people at places like Central Market and Whole Foods -- places where you can buy large quantities of them, and who will dedicate a week or more-long festival to them. Also, the town of Hatch is known for it's Hatch Chile Festival every Labor Day weekend. But they can call it "Hatch" because they're IN Hatch!

Why is this such a pet peeve of mine, you ask? Because, my grandparents were farmers in Las Cruces, and one of the things they raised were green chiles. Furthermore, my great-uncle, was a researcher at the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Known as "Mr. Chile," he developed several varieties of green chiles, including Big Jim.

Sandias are bred for their heat -- they're long and pointy. Big Jims were bred to be meaty -- a mild to medium flavor, and good for stuffing, like for chile rellenos. Other popular ones are the NuMex 6-4, Rio Grande, even the ordinary Anaheim. A good history of green chiles can be found here.
There's also a movement to preserve the heritage of the green chiles grown in New Mexico, as much of the green chile that's on the market now comes from Mexico, where it's cheaper. NPR even ran a story on the local growers and the NM Chile Association.

The pictures here are ones I took in 2005; the top one is of chile fields, with Picacho Peak in the background. To the east, are the beautiful Organ Mountains, this taken from outside my aunt's house.
Enough on this soapbox (or rather, sack of chile) for the time being. Now, ask me what "Christmas" means in New Mexico.

Bits and Bites

Yours truly is a member of the Austin Food Blogger's Alliance, and one of the organization's missions is philanthropy. I've been sitting on that committee, and am excited to share an upcoming event, open to the public! The Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar is holding a screening of the movie Waitress, on Sunday, August 21st at 1 pm. The movie centers around Jenna, a diner waitress, trapped in a bad marriage, who dreams about having her own pie shop. We'll have a table outside the theater with pies donated from local businesses that will be available for sale (on a donation basis) after the movie.  Proceeds from the ticket and pie sales will benefit Safeplace. Advance tickets can be bought here. Come down and see us!!

The food bloggers will also have representation at the first Slow Food Quiz Bowl, this Sunday at the Highball. Local food peeps will compete for the title of foodie geek, in a food-based trivia challenge, hosted by Statesman food writer Addie Broyles.

From a recent Twitter conversation between @BarleySwine and @tomcolicchio, it appears Tom dined at Food & Wine Magazine's  Best New Chef Bryce Gilmore's place at the end of July, with Tom saying he'll most likely be back in town for September's ACL fest. But this lends more proof to the pudding that Top Chef has been filming in the area. Another rumor recently seen somewhere online was that Uchiko Chef and East Side King King, Paul Qui is apparently doing quite well in the competition....

Local food blogger Austin Gastronomist compiled a fantastic list of some of the top movers and shakers in Austin's food circles who are under the age of 35. The 35 Under 35 list is a great reference and resource, and a lot of hard work was spent compiling it!


-- GoodPops All Natural Frozen Pops is launching a pop-up location (pun intended?) near South Congress and Riverside Drive through October. The locally sourced pops are also available at Whole Foods and Royal Blue Grocery. No high fructose, refined sugars or artificial junk!

-- The now defunct Screaming Goat at Lamar and 10th is about to become a restaurant called Bacon. Drool. Seriously, this has the potential to be amazing!!!!

-- Kerbey Lane moving a hair south, for bigger location, more parking. The Statesman reports they are moving to 3001 S. Lamar, where Torchy's and Half Price Books are located. Since Baker Street Pub took over the Old Aligator Grill spot, I think this is the old Blockbuster video locale. 

-- Guess I am behind the times, because I wasn't even aware that Vivo had a second location; I haven't been to their original spot on Manor Road in a number of years, but I never felt their food was extraordinary. Now, there may be reason to check out the newer spot up at 620 and 183 --  Paul Peterson is now the executive chef. After time at the Gage Hotel in Marathon, and a stint on The Learning Channel's Pittmaster BBQ road show, he's back in Central Texas, where he belongs!

-- A new upscale pizza wine bar (yes....) is expanding from Dallas to the trendy 2nd Street District; Coal Vines is scheduled to open on August 29th, at 314 W. 2nd, right across from City Hall.

-- The only Austin location (Burnet and 183) of Benihana's has closed.