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Turning up the heat: Chile festival

Local market chile roast attracts fans of spicy fare

Posted: August 28, 2009 9:56 p.m.
Updated: August 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The Hatch chiles are roasted in a steel, cage-like drum and spun over open flames for about three minutes before they are ready to be boxed.

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For local chile-lover Tom Summers, the trick to recognizing a great chile is not the taste, flavor or texture.

"If you're eating a really nice chile, you're going to start to sweat and you have to wipe your brow," he said.

On Friday, he attended the Hatch Chile Live Roasting at Bristol Farms. The 41-year-old chile fanatic often uses the spicy peppers in his recipes, and takes pride in watching his family feel the burn.

"That's when I know my family loves my food," he said. "They're sniffling and they're sweating and they're wiping their foreheads."

The festival, which originated in Hatch, N.M. - the chile capital of the world - is well-known amongst chile fans. Its main event is chile roasting, in which cases of green chiles are roasted in a steel, cage-like drum and spun over open flames.

The chiles are roasted until their green skin bubbles, blackens and cracks, filling the air with their spicy scent.

"(Roasting) changes the whole complexity and the flavor profile of the chile itself," said Bristol Farms produce director Raul Gallegos.

The process also allows the chiles to be peeled or frozen.

It's especially convenient for enthusiasts who want to get their fix of the peppers all year long, as fresh New Mexico chiles are only available only four to six weeks a year.

This is the first time the event has run in Valencia. At a recent roasting in Long Beach, people lined up for an hour and a half for chiles, Gallegos said.

The grocery store will be offering samples of both hot and mild chiles for the uninitiated.

But for Summers, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the Bristol Farms parking lot.

"Mild? Why bother?" he said. "If you want mild then eat, y'know, pasta."

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