I could not believe the giant crowd that turned out Saturday for Johnson’s Garden Centers Second Annual Iron ChileHead competition at the 2707 W. 13th St. store, where I served as a judge.
The event is intended to draw attention to the fact that Johnson’s is selling the Hatch, N.M., green chiles that owner Marty Johnson acquires each year, brings to Wichita and roasts for his customers.
Even though it was hotter than hades on Saturday, the people just kept coming, and I suspect it was because of one thing: free beer samples.
Johnson’s had five local breweries there offering generous samples of beers they’d brewed using Hatch green chiles. Part of my job as a judge was to sample all the beers and help decide which was best. That was difficult because they all were good and had a very interesting spicy finish to them. But ultimately my co-judges Joe Stumpe, Greg Gann and I chose a dark, Guinness-like beer poured by the guys from the about-to-open Central Standard Brewing. Is was dark and smooth and perfect. Other competitors were Hopping Gnome Brewing, River City Brewing, Walnut River Brewing and Wichita Brewing Co. (WBC won the people’s choice vote.)
We also were asked to choose the food truck that used Hatch green chiles to make the best dish, and this was another difficult job. All the food trucks were creative, and the dishes were outstanding. Ultimately, we named Chino’s Parrilla the winner. The taco truck owners prepared a street taco on corn tortillas made with pozole, pork and green chiles, and it had layers of flavors. We also loved Hopperoni Express’ green chile pizza, which was topped with lots of the chiles plus a sweet sausage from Douglas Avenue Chop Shop.
In other green chile news, because the green chiles are in season, several local restaurants are using them to spice up their specials
Freddy’s Frozen Custard, for example, has brought back its limited-time double steak burger topped with Hatch green chiles. It’s available through Sept. 10, and Freddy’s co-founder Scott Redler is so excited about it, he e-mailed me a photo of himself in a green chile field in New Mexico.
And Old Mill Tasty Shop at 604 E. Douglas also is offering green chile-topped burgers during the dinner hour the last Saturday of every month, which means they’ll have some this Saturday.
Know of any other restaurants dealing in green chiles? Let me know.
And besure to scroll through all the pictures above if you want to see Redler in a field plus highlights from the cookoff.