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The last days of a hot food festival produce a foodie panic: Where to get your fix

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Hatch Chiles on truck bed
Hatch chiles, fresh from the field Photo courtesy of Central Market
Del Frisco's Grille Hatch Green Chile Double Cheeseburger with Jalapeño Jack, Lettuce, Tomato, Frites, Pickle - $14
Del Frisco's Grille hatch green chile double cheeseburger with jalapeño jack, lettuce, tomato, frites and pickle, $14 Photo courtesy of Del Frisco's Grille
3 Line & Lariat Hatch-22 cocktail at Line & Lariat
Hatch-22 cocktail at Line & Lariat Photo courtesy of Line & Lariat
Line & Lariat roasted hatch vodka infusion at Line & Lariat
Roasted hatch vodka infusion at Line & Lariat Photo courtesy of Line & Lariat
Hatch chiles August 2013 Hatch tamale burger from Hubcap Grill
Hatch tamale burger from Hubcap Grill Photo by Jodie Eisenhardt
hatch yellow onions at Central Market
Hatch yellow onions at Central Market Photo by Jodie Eisenhardt
hatch peppers mild at Central Market
Mild hatch peppers at Central Market Photo by Jodie Eisenhardt
Hatch Chiles on truck bed
Del Frisco's Grille Hatch Green Chile Double Cheeseburger with Jalapeño Jack, Lettuce, Tomato, Frites, Pickle - $14
3 Line & Lariat Hatch-22 cocktail at Line & Lariat
Line & Lariat roasted hatch vodka infusion at Line & Lariat
Hatch chiles August 2013 Hatch tamale burger from Hubcap Grill
hatch yellow onions at Central Market
hatch peppers mild at Central Market
Jodie Eisenhardt, head shot, column mug, January 2013

Hatch chilies rock. They just do. I get so excited every year during Hatch season, which includes the 18th annual Hatch Chile Festival at Central Market featuring the New Mexico beauties (it runs through Tuesday).

There are also several local restaurant menu items that have caught my eye that celebrate the hatch.

First, let’s talk about the chilies. Hatch chile refers to the varieties of chiles grown in the Hatch Valley, an area stretching north and south along the Rio Grande from Arrey, N.M. in the north end of the state to Tonuco Mountain towards the south of Hatch, N.M.. Most of the varieties of chile cultivated in the Hatch Valley have been developed at New Mexico State University for more than a century.

 I use the mild ones more so than the hot ones and am almost paranoid about running out. 

They range in heat from very mild to quite hot and growing conditions in the Hatch Valley contribute greatly to the consistent flavor, which is unique. Most importantly, distribution outside of the region is limited, so when I can get them, I get happy. They’ve received the “New Mexico True” stamp of approval from the New Mexico Tourism Department so the Hatch Chile Festival is the real deal and not something to be taken for granted.

For years, I have taken the opportunity during the Hatch Chile Festival to buy the roasted onsite chiles (both mild and hot), do a rough puree in the food processor and then keep the treasures in small freezer bags to use throughout the year. In everything from soups and stews to burgers, corn chowder chicken enchiladas and au-gratin potatoes, or just stirred into mayo for a sandwich spread, I find that the chiles add a unique flavor — sweet, clear and defined.

I use the mild ones more so than the hot ones and am almost paranoid about running out.

Through the years, Central Market has continued to expand Hatch product offerings during the festival and this year there are more products than ever. Some that have obtained holy-grail status include the Beemster Gouda from Holland studded with the roasted chiles; a crazy-good apple/Hatch chile cobbler from the bakery; an incredible yummy spread I’m dying to put on crab cakes and a fabulous limited-edition bar of chocolate by small-batch producer Patric American Handcrafted Chocolate.

I was also excited to learn that Hotel Icon's Line & Lariat's mixologist Houston Farris is currently pouring a new cocktail called the Hatch-22, using the seasonal chile in an infusion cocktail. Hubcap Grill is doing a Hatch Tamale Burger on random nights during the season and I’ve fallen in love with the Hatch Green Chile Double Cheeseburger at Del Frisco’s Grille that's on both the lunch and dinner menu.

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