There are a few things--regional food things--which, once they become a part of your life, can never be shook. Like a childhood love for Jesus or heroin addiction, they stick with you no matter where you travel.
Hatch chiles, the pride of New Mexico
Former Kansas City residents will never be happy until they find barbecue that approximates what they had at home. Southerners will pine for grits and good fried chicken. New Yorkers need proper pizza wherever they find themselves or they will never stop bitching about the lack. Philadelphians, no matter where they roam, will always be on the lookout for cheesesteaks.
Actually, Philadelphians will literally go fucking bonkers without cheesesteaks. They will drive any distance, follow any lead, pick fights in the street over who has the better steak sandwich. And many of them will even go so mad that they open cheesesteak restaurants of their own just so they can get their fix whenever they want. Philadelphians are just flat-out crazy.
For those who've spent any amount of time living in the Southwest (anywhere along the I-25 corridor, from the Mexican border to Northern Colorado), green chile is the obsession. And this week's question comes straight from one Southwest transplant to another. Sean Stampley writes:
Oh Jason, How happy I am to have you on this side of the Rockies, mountains that is. Welcome to Seattle. Please help an ex Denverite, like myself, find some kind of approximation of the Green Chile from Chubby's, or Pete's Kitchen in this town. Nobody here knows the wonderous delights of the southwest's best cornstarch enhanced concoction. Welcome to Seattle where the crabs are Dungeness, and the spicy is not. P.S. Could you tell the non-believing snooty west-coast foodie types that a real Philly Cheese Steak is made with Cheeze Whiz. They don't believe me, and I know you stated that in one of your colums.
P.S. Could you tell the non-believing snooty west-coast foodie types that a real Philly Cheese Steak is made with Cheeze Whiz. They don't believe me, and I know you stated that in one of your colums.
Okay, that's really two questions, but I can handle that. I'll answer the easy one first:
Dear Snooty West Coast Foodie-Types,
Stop giving Sean shit. He's right. You're wrong. In Philly (where I have spent a fair amount of time), a cheesesteak can be made with Cheez Whiz. It isn't always made "wit Whiz," but this is a bonafide regional variation, popular among a certain segment of the cheesesteak-eating population. Personally, I prefer mine with cheap white American cheese, but that's a matter of taste. What a cheesesteak NEVER has on it is bell peppers and mushrooms. I don't know what west-of-the-Mississippi jerkoff came up with that idea, but that is just wrong wrong wrong. Steak, onions, cheese and an Amoroso roll, maybe some Tastykakes and a black cherry wishniak on the side--that's the Alpha and Omega of the cheesesteak experience. Anything else is just a fucking sandwich.
Hugs and kisses,
Now, onto the more difficult question: finding real verde in Seattle.
Short answer, Sean? You're fucked. The very particular Colorado-style green chile you're talking about is a taste that doesn't seem to travel much outside the region. What's more, Chubby's verde is completely singular. There's not another place on earth that makes green chile the way Stella Cordova did. It wasn't my favorite in Denver (that would've been Santiago's most days), but I do understand your desperation.
On a side note, seriously? Pete's Kitchen? I get it from a pure nostalgia angle, but that was never a green that I will miss.
As for green chile in general (including all possible varieties, from Santa Fe and Albuquerque style, to the thickened and pork-shot Colorado verde, and even the canned and bottled stuff), I have a couple suggestions.
First, go on the Twitter or Facebook or whatever and make some friends in Southern New Mexico. Be very, VERY nice to them. And then, when the relationship has progressed to an appropriate level, suggest a trade. You will offer up one of Seattle's better-known exports (smoked salmon, maybe, or frozen crab or ironic hipster beard trimmings) in trade for a bag of fresh Hatch chiles once the season is in full swing. You can roast them yourself at home pretty easily, then make gallons of your own green chile in whatever style you prefer.
Second, believe it or not, Slim's Last Chance has a decent green chile. Not a great one, mind you. But it's what I have when the cravings begin to get overpowering. It's a bit thin, but nicely porky--actually a kind of 'Burque/Denver mash-up. And the best thing? They'll serve it over grits which, to me, work as an excellent accompaniment.
Third, just wait. I have the same addiction you do, Sean (minus your weird affection for Pete's), so, given time, I will find a place that does chile right. I will find the big bowl of gooey, green-y goodness, the hunks of pork, the tortillas still warm from the kitchen. It took me for-EVER to find a decent New Mexico-style green in Denver after I moved there from Albuquerque, but eventually I did. And now, I am equally committed to finding both styles in (or near) Seattle. It's just gonna take me a little time.
So go to Slim's. Order two bowls (one just isn't enough), make some friends on the internets and bide your time. Check out the small Mexican groceries in your neighborhood for canned or bottled varieties and then check them again once chile season hits (in the fall) to see if they have any roasted chiles on hand. Don't shy away from the frozen ones. They actually freeze quite well after roasting and peeling and don't suffer much in the thawing.
And, in the meantime, I will put out a plea right here on your behalf.
To all my displaced brethern: If you've done time in the great American Southwest and now find yourselves washed up on these damp and salmon-filled shores, let me know what you do about the green chile situation (other than weep). Is there some place for us junkies to get our fix? Is there some secret bastion of Colorado/New Mexico green chile where you feed your need? Don't keep it a secret. Make your voice heard now and help out those who are as bereft today as you once were.
Say it loud. Say it proud. Say it in the comments section below.
And from Sean and me and all the other misplaced chile-heads out there, thanks in advance.