In New Mexico, Labor Day marks the beginning of the Hatch Valley Chile Pepper Festival. “Chileheads” (those who enjoy the flavor of chiles) flock to the festival every year for the best chiles in the world. Are you a chilehead wishing you could be in New Mexico? Well, you’re in luck. Z’Tejas located at South Coast Plaza has launched their annual Chile Fest with a special menu in celebration of the versatile fruit and yours truly had a chance to try it out.
The Chile Fest (running from Sept 3rd – Sept 16th) will benefit the Blind Children’s Learning Center and $1 off each entree will be donated. Established in 1962, the nonprofit Blind Children’s Learning Center is dedicated to helping blind and visually impaired youths achieve their full potential and lead lives of independence. Looking to satiate your love for chiles and help a worthy cause? You have a few days left to partake in the goodness.
If you’re new to the hatch chile or an avid fan, you’ll enjoy the menu offerings as much as I did. Here’s what’s on the menu:
Hatch Chile Onion Rings – Hatch New Mexico Chiles and onion rings lightly tossed in seasoned flour, fried crispy, topped with Cotija cheese and cilantro and served with an amazing Hatch Chile sauce and barbecue dipping sauce.
Tamarind Chicken Salad – Mixed greens tossed with a cumin vinaigrette, topped with grape tomatoes, sweet pickled Hatch Chiles, candied pecans, goat cheese and tamarind glazed chicken breast. This was a table favorite and I’d easily order this as a regular menu item.
Adobo Steak Relleno – Roasted Hatch New Mexico Chiles stuffed with seared beef tenderloin, Jack cheese and caramelized onions, topped with a chipotle corn relish and served with Hatch Chile rice, spicy red beans and red chile sauce. When I first saw this on the menu I was intrigued. Juicy steak stuffed inside of a tender roasted hatch chile. Bring it. I love a great chile relleno and this did not disappoint.
Chile and Herb Glazed Mahi Mahi – Herb Hatch chile-glazed Mahi Mahi served with roasted vegetables, spicy red beans, Hatch Chile rice, New Mexico slaw and corn tortillas. This one brings the heat! Not my favorite but then again I’m not really a fan of seafood.
Hatch Chile Coconut Flan – Served with fresh berries and whipped cream. I’m not a big fan of flan but this is unlike any flan you’ve ever tasted. At least that’s how I felt. The consistency of the flan is much like a cheesecake and the heat of the chile hits you at the end of your bite. I quite loved this dish and so did our table. I think we were rendered silent savoring each creamy morsel.
The cocktail menu looked intriguing but the spicy from the cocktails didn’t quite suit my palate so I had to pass on these.
Smokin’ Margarita – Herradura Anejo, DeKuyper Peach, Grand Marnier, fresh lemon juice, agave nectar, and an added kick.
Z’Smash – Herradura Anejo, fresh oranges, fresh lemons, mint, agave nectar for a delicious beginning or end to your Chile Fest meal.
Off menu, we enjoyed the table side guacamole which had a nice addition of pine nuts and the a beautiful savory corn bread with a delicate whipped butter. I’m a sucker for corn bread any day of the week.