Sunday, August 26, 2012

Worth the Drive!

Ah, August... I normally hate you. After living on the Gulf Coast for more than 1/2 a decade, it's hard not to. In the south, August usually means the arrival of the 3 Hs: Heat, Humidity, and Hurricanes. Blech. While I won't say it hasn't been hot here in California, it is true that a dry heat is much better than a humid heat. It may just have been my best August yet!

I drove to the coast this weekend to attend an alumni event out in Ventura. The event was titled Chile Fest XX, and was basically an excuse to gather, eat good New Mexican cuisine, and buy roasted green chiles at cost (which is nearly impossible outside of New Mexico). What is green chile, you ask? Well, to explain it to Californians, I usually have to refer to an Anaheim pepper. They look about the same, but a Hatch green chile (Big Jim/Medium or Sandia/Hot) has a deep, semi-fruity flavor with a biting heat. Have it roasted, and it gets a nice smokey flavor as well.

Green chile is a staple of any real New Mexican's diet. We put it in everything. It's so common that you don't really think about it. It's in your breakfast, lunch, dinner... and sometimes your desserts and wines too! Needless to say, we take it for granted. So imagine my surprise when I moved to Houston in 2005... and couldn't find it anywhere! I was shocked - sad - disappointed. How would I ever eat well again?

Houston proved to be an ok place to eat (ok, so the food there is amazeballs, but that's not the point). Luckily, there was at least one restaurant that had a Hatch green chile sauce, and both Whole Foods & Central Market both had roasted green chile available for a couple of weeks in the fall. But it never was the same. It was super expensive for one, and you could only buy it during that short window of time. I had been spoiled by the convenience of finding green chile year-round... it took some getting used to.

Seven years later, I find myself in Southern California, where chile verde is a staple in Mexican restaurants. Still not the same, but it's the closest I've had in years so I'll take it! And even better news? As I mentioned before, my alumni association has an annual green chile roast on the coast in Ventura! Hurrah! Did I mention how much I love California? :)

Today was definitely a treat, both for my tastebuds and my olfactory system. The scent of green chile roasting is so intoxicating. I'm sure I won't get the smell out of my car for months, and I love it! Oh, and did I mention what we had for lunch at the festival?  They served 3 types of tamales with your choice of red or green chile sauce (I made mine Christmas), posole, Spanish rice, and pinto beans. It was so good!

Alas, it is Sunday so I couldn't stay as long as I would have liked to... I had a 2 hour drive back to my house. So I packed my chiles in the ice chest, took my time wandering through the mountains, and enjoyed my ride home. Upon my arrival, I packed the chiles in smaller baggies for freezing, and told my brother about the fun I had today.

Being tired from all that driving, my lazy bones couldn't bear the thought of cooking tonight. Instead, I went down the street to the local In-N-Out burger for a cheeseburger and fries. Of course, I just had to add a couple of my freshly roasted green peppers to it - it tasted so much like home! Sigh. I will sleep good tonight! I'm so excited to have this in my freezer now, and can't wait to try all of my old recipes here in California. If my friends are nice, they may just get to sample some of it too! Ha!

Until next time...

--- Becks

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