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Chile Power


I’m old enough now that I can admit that I was a virgin when I moved to Colorado. I’d never even seen a green chile (or jalapeno pepper) when I moved to Colorado. Growing up in Massachusetts in the 1960s, the only pepper I saw was black and ground plus some paprika in the goulash, and no Mexican, Thai or Indian food. I didn’t even know those green bells my mother served baked and stuffed were even related.  

When I first arrived in Boulder, I’d ask for “mild” green or red sauce when we ate these exotic things called burritos and it was still too hot.

But eventually, and thankfully, my tolerance for heat increased.

It was confusing, too, because “chile” was the word for the pepper pod as well as a sauce poured over my burrito and could also be spelled “chili” and include beef and beans and be served in a little bowl and topped with cheese.

It was during a spur-of-the-moment fall road trip to New Mexico that I finally, really understood the magic of green chile.

At the foot of a little trailer parked next to the very old, very beautiful shrine at Chimayo, I ordered quesadillas. The cook took soft, fresh tortillas and layered in white cheese and peeled roasted chile pods and set it on a griddle.

The result of that meal was a religious experience. The quesadillas were one of the best things I had ever tasted to that point in my life—even though my entire mouth was in flames.  

Everywhere I went I was entranced by the smoky perfume emanating from the roadside green chile-roasting stands that line the roads.

I bought a bushel of “mild” and watched as the green pods were dumped into metal mesh barrel that was rotated over a blowtorch until charred.

And then I walked away with a warm plastic bag that I tucked in the car for the long drive back to Colorado the next day. The aroma infused into the seats and stayed there for a week.

At home a friend explained to me the green chile ritual. First, I put on heavy rubber gloves, and I was very careful about rubbing my eyes or elsewhere.

One pod at a time, I peeled off the blackened skin and stripped out the inner ribs and seeds. These chile filets were then frozen on cookie sheets and bagged for a winter’s worth of stews, beef dishes, pork loin stuffing, quiche and sauces.

Pinon pine forest, otherworldly clay red cliffs and the intense sun in a too blue sky are essential ingredients to life in Colorado and I smile…and sweat a bit…when I eat green chile stew with warm tortillas and a cold beer.

Now, green chiles smell like home.

Open, Closed & Coming Soon
Former Frasca bar manager Bryan Dayton is opening a new Boulder eatery in the space that formerly housed the 14th Street Bar & Grill. Chef will be Steve Redzikowski, who has cooked at New York’s Le Cirque and Jean-Georges, and at Aspen’s Little Nell.  …Frasca is closed from Sept. 12 until late October for renovations. …A new taqueria, Cactus Wheel, has opened at 701 Main St. in Louisville in a former service station space. …The lovely Middle Eastern restaurant Arabesque at 1634 Walnut St. in Boulder is now also serving dinner. …The 303 Tasting Bar is open at the Boulder Distillery & Clear Spirit Company, 2500 47th St. in Boulder serving the company’s 303 Vodka and various infusions. Tours of the distillery are available by calling: 303.442.1244.  … The Absinthe House, a bistro and nightclub, has debuted in the former Foundry space at 1109 Walnut St. …The Marketplace Bakery is closed in Louisville after 26 years in business. …Coming soon: Veteran chef Chris Cina will open a new steakhouse at 2345 W. 112th Ave. in Westminster.

Food News

The City of Boulder and the Boulder County Farmers Market are finally looking into a way to make the highly successful market a permanent year-round attraction. With the area’s amazing roster of local growers, ranchers, bakers, chocolatiers, honey producers, coffee roasters, winemakers, brewers, jam-makers and artisan food producers, we hope they find a way. …In a blow to the American mystery meat industry, the St. Vrain Valley School District has begun serving an all-vegetarian meal every Monday at elementary schools with several meatless choices in secondary schools. …Meanwhile, the University of Colorado’s dining area in the new Center for Community building includes 60 linear feet of fruits, vegetables, soup and sandwiches along with Italian, Latin, Asian, Persian, Sushi, Smoke ’n’ Grill, and Kosher stations. With the opening of Penzey’s Spices at 1219 Pearl St., Boulder now has two high-quality stores selling herbs, spices and other seasonings. The Savory Spice Shop is just a block away at 2041 Broadway. Both compete with the extensive bulk spice departments at Whole Foods and other groceries.

On the Menu
Some of the most delicious things I’ve eaten this month are Tempura-fried roasted green chile sushi roll with cream cheese at Sushi Tora, 2014 10th St., Boulder; Meatball grinder—housemade meatballs, marinara and melted provolone and mozzarella on a toasted roll with sweet potato fries at Snowcap Creamery & Café, 615 Mitchell Way, Erie.; a warm, melty Cuban Panini with ham, pork, pickles, cheese and mustard with dilled potato salad at The Brooklyn Deli, 1515 Main St., Longmont; and a glass of memorably well-rounded Sangre del Sol 2008—a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend—from Alfred Eames Cellars
in Paonia.

Culinary Calendar
The Oskar Blues Taproom (The Tasty Weasel), 1800 Pike Rd., Longmont, hosts a women’s only tasting of cheese and desserts with beers on Sept. 15. Details: denvergourmettours.com. …Pastry fans will flock to Mouse’s Pie-R-Square Dance featuring lots of pie tasting and music by K.C. Groves Sept. 19 at the Altona Grange north of Boulder. Bring a pie and get $5 off admission. Details: kgnu.org.

Reader Mail
In the August YS I challenged readers break out of their crust rut and try one of the new local pizzerias. One reader took the plunge and writes:

“People can’t believe how different pizzas can be! At Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, the direction of the food drives this pizzeria: using Colorado and American ingredients without the trend of organic or local.  Such great simplicity to the food but it lacks nothing.  A unique, yet simple and balanced Daisy (Margherita) Pizza now makes me pass the corner pizza joint and drive a little further for what pizza
should be.”
Send your food and dining questions, comments and quibbles to: nibbles@yellowscene.com.

Food Words

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” — Albert Einstein


emailed aug 12, 2009

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