Thursday, August 16, 2012

Central Market Hatch Chile Festival

Fresh Hatch Chiles
This is actually 2 posts in one.  One for the people who have no idea what a Central Market is and another for the Hatch Chile Festival marketing Central Market.

We live outside a major metropolitan area in Texas, so sometimes it's necessary to drive to a big city to do, see, and buy stuff that's just not available in our home town.  The nearest metropolitan area is Houston.  Moving from Maryland to Texas the one thing I missed more than anything was Trader Joes.  I just loved the stuff I could find there and nowhere else.  Well, for me Central Market has filled that role and more.  Yes, I know a Trader Joes recently opened in River Oaks, Houston.  But I have to say it's too late.  If I'm making the drive I'm going to Central Market.

We visited last weekend to load up on roasted Hatch Chiles and to stock up on other stuff. 

As you can see Hatch Chile Fest has been extended to August 28. The other promotional material stated it will end on August 21. So you all now have an extra week to get your chile fix.
Central Market employees spent hours outside in 100 F temps to roast and sell the chiles.  They even had tasting available.
New for this year are Hatch Chile Ristras.  I learned that these are dried chiles that are hand-tied.  These were originally hung as a display of prosperity because something like this is a sign that the household has food. They're completely edible and last months.  Simply pull off a pepper and add it to whatever recipe you're cooking.  Before seeing these at Central Market I thought they were purely decorative and not edible.  Now I know. 
One thing I really like about HEB and Central Market is that they carry locally made items. These are fundraisers for the FFA.
In case you were unaware it was Hatch Chile Fest when you walked past the tents and roasters, displays just as you walk in the store remind you. And Central Market has Hatch Chiles in just about anything.
A roaster right inside the door.  I suppose so people can see one up-close without it being scorching hot.
One of the items we just can't find at home is...Ghost Peppers.  I'm kind of afraid of what The Lovely Spouse is planning on making with these. He mentioned something about Vindaloo.
Another hard to find item: fresh soft-shelled crabs. $6.99 each. These are lovely lightly seasoned and sauteed. Or breaded and broiled then placed on a sandwich with lettuce and tomato. Nom!
Hatch Chile chocolate truffles.
Not related to anything...I was just fascinated by gourmet, flavored marshmallows.
Just a reminder that Central Market is not your average grocery store.  They have high-end aged balsamic vinegar for sale.
And real truffles. These are not as expensive as the ones you read about in the news because they're small and preserved. The large, fresh ones are the ones everyone talks about.  Still...they're kept under lock and key for a reason.
Another hard to find item.  No, these aren't made from crabs. They're seasoned with Old Bay seasoning, which is used to season steamed crabs in Maryland.
One thing that keeps me coming back time and again: the huge selection of loose tea and spices.
Also a large selection of coffee by the pound. Much of this was roasted in Houston by local businesses.
More Hatch Chile stuff.  This time in the freezer aisle.  There's serious marketing dollars attached to this. And I'm imagining a serious amount of manufacturing and logistics involved.
The Hatch Chile bread is amazingly delicious. Local HEBs are also carrying it.
This picture is posted because it's funny. These are full-sized cakes...and a cupcake.
I don't think you'll enjoy the Hatch Chile brownies as much as you think you will. They just aren't good. No, not at all.
Central Market has an impressive selection of cheeses.
I'll just put this right here... LOL!
They also have an impressive deli.
This is a higher grade of salami than you can find locally.

In case you get a hankern' for some quail eggs....

The most requested items that people ask me to bring back for them are the olives and/or sauces by the pound.
And a slew of in-house-made dishes featuring Hatch Chiles.
Central Market has a dining area. Not a big deal to people who live in large metropolitan areas. But not as common in small towns.
Because this Texas, you can even purchase a chile beer and enjoy it with your meal.
The Lovely Spouse and I purchased the Hatch chile mac and cheese and the Hatch chile crab cake to sample in the store.  In my opinion neither had enough chile flavor to live up to the Hatch chile label attached.  They were good, but not very spicy.  The crab cake was not a Maryland style one, but I don't expect that in Houston. It still was tasty and I might get it again.  I've long since abandoned the expectation that all crab cakes need to be Maryland-style.

I sampled the chile beer, as they had a tasting in the beer and wine section. It tasted like a lager, as it is one, with a mild chile burn. I kind of liked it and it reminded me of the chile ginger ales and sodas that are out there. Not so hot that it'll be unpleasant, but hot enough to let you know it's there.

For those of you reading this from Maryland, yes, I know that Central Market if very much like Wegman's.  Wegman's wasn't in Maryland before I moved to Texas so I never had any association with them.  Trader Joes and Shoppers Food Warehouse was pretty much it for me up there. I'm glad to see there are now more options up there.

[Believe it not I took all these pictures with a cell phone.]

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