Mild to spicy: When one fla­vor of chile isn’t enough

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I was sit­ting at the bar at Ta­que­ria del Sol (2165 Cheshire Bridge Rd., 404-3211118, taque­ri­adel­sol.com), feast­ing on my fa­vorite dish there, only avail­able six weeks of the year. At the end of the bar, I heard a woman ask the peren­nial ques­tion raised by the del­i­cate of palate: “Is it spicy? Will it burn my mouth?”

The man be­hind the bar be­gan an in­stant poll of those of us eat­ing the dish, re­peat­edly ask­ing, “How spicy is it? Medium or hot?” Ev­ery­one an­swered medium.

The scary dish was a chile rel­leno, but these are not made with the usual poblano pep­pers. They are made with Hatch green chiles from Hatch, New Mex­ico. They come to the ta­ble fried with a thin, crispy-like panko coat­ing, stuffed with a lus­cious, melt­ing white cheese, served over a small pool of a roasted-tomato sauce. Ev­ery year, Ta­que­ria del Sol buys a cou­ple thou­sand pounds of the in­fa­mously de­li­cious chiles dur­ing the an­nual Au­gust-Septem­ber har­vest. Chef Ed­die Her­nan­dez in­cor­po­rates them in reg­u­lar, chang­ing spe­cials for six weeks. He also freezes a lot of them for dishes later in the year. But noth­ing com­pares to the fresh ones.

What’s so good about them? The Hatch is a long, rel­a­tively nar­row chile with an un­usu­ally in­tense fla­vor that holds up quite well to roast­ing, not yield­ing all its taste and tex­ture to other in­gre­di­ents. Many chile rel­lenos you find around town turn into vir­tual mush even when made with the usual poblanos. And, yes, Hatch chiles do come with a nice blast of spicy heat. You can’t al­ways pre­dict the heat’s in­ten­sity, but I don’t re­call ever eat­ing a su­per­spicy one in my many years of ap­pear­ing at the bar sev­eral times a week to eat them.

The Hatch chile rel­leno is not on the reg­u­lar menu. A few signs are posted that they are avail­able, evenings only, mak­ing them kind of an open se­cret. They’re about $5 each and you can eas­ily make a meal of two of them, es­pe­cially if you get some chips and salsa to start or a side, like my fa­vorite corn and shrimp chow­der.

Now, if you want to taste the Hatch chiles cooked in nu­mer­ous ways, you need to at­tend the mad­cap

Fox­e­ria del Sol Hatch Chile Fest (4-8 p.m. Sun­day, Aug. 28).

Cospon­sored by Fox Bros. B-B-Q, it’s held in the large park­ing lot in front of Ta­que­ria del Sol’s West­side lo­ca­tion

The menu of about 15 dishes is in­sane. The most com­pelling to me, be­sides the chile rel­lenos, is the smoked pork-belly steamed bun with Hatch tomatillo jam and pork crack­lins. There are green-chile cheese­burger slid­ers, green-chile jam­bal­aya, and a short-rib taco with Hatch chile slaw. On the sweet side you’ll find peach and Hatch chile ko­lache, as­sorted chile cook­ies, and a fried Hatch chile and ap­ple pie.

Tick­ets are $30 and en­ti­tle you to eat your heart out. Al­co­hol drinks are sep­a­rate. I do en­cour­age you to buy tick­ets im­me­di­ately on xor­bia.com. I also sug­gest you show up early. The last one I went to a few years back was like try­ing to get some grub amid a plague of lo­custs.

(1200 How­ell Mill Rd.).

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­stock@gmail.com.

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