A Tale of Two Hatch Chile Roasts

Picture to come once my chica updates her blog...

Maybe there's really nothing to do in La Habra. Maybe Newport Beach was too drunk already tailgating for the USC game to care. But, boy, was there a hell of a difference at the county's two public Hatch chile roasts.

The first one occurred August 22 at the Albertson's in La Habra. It was to be a two-day affair, but when my chica and I arrived Sunday morning around 9 a.m., we were 24 hours too late. According to store management, they sold out of 12,000 pounds of the New Mexican pod in two hours. By six Saturday morn, a line already stretched around the block waiting for the chance to buy 30-pound bags of the stuff. Six tons gone in two hours. Does know one have a life in La Habra.

Now, compare that madness to the insanity of Newport Beach.
Not to be denied, my chica and I rolled into Bristol Farms' Newport Beach branch at 6 a.m. this past Saturday, where we met...Mexicans. Specifically, the Mexicans who work at the various businesses in the shopping plaza. There were also other workers prepping for the Hatch chile roast. One of the guys looked at me with a bemused smile when I asked where was the line for the roast. "You're it, buddy," he said with a nice laugh.

My chica snored in the back seat of my sturdy Camry. Me? I walked down PCH and kept myself busy for two hours. By the time it was eight, we were still the first people in line to get our chilies roasted.

The actual roasting wasn't supposed to start until ten, but the workers were gracious enough to prep our chilies once we bought them. They spread out recipes and pamphlets praising Hatch chilies next to the roasters, and they gave my chica advice on how to work with them. The actual roasting took no more than four minutes per box, and to see the dark-green chilies slowly blacken was beautiful. We bought three boxes (two hot, one mild) and spent Sunday making them into a paste, a future blog post.

In fairness, La Habra and its surrounding environs has more of a farming tradition, so people actually know how to work with fresh food and appreciate it, as opposed to Newporters who probably rely on wabs from SanTana or chefs to make their food. But word to the wise: next year, if you want your Hatch chile fix, go to Newport or other rich gabacho-heavy enclaves.

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