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Presenting: L.A. Taco’s Hatch Taco Knockout Friday Night! Macheen vs Evil Cooks (First 100 People Get Free Tacos)

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Northgate Markets.  

As summer winds down, hatch chile season comes into full swing. 

This year your pals at L.A. Taco and Northgate Market are teaming up to bring you the first-ever Hatch Taco Knockout! We are hosting a good ‘ol fashioned taquero throwdown featuring the swift taquero hands of Macheen and the ‘pirates’ of the taquero world, Evil Cooks. These two taco pistoleros are arguably some of the best taco youngbloods in the game right now and they're ready to go at it.

Who will win? It will be up to you, hungry reader, to decide! 

A Hatch refresher: The popular chile comes from the Hatch Valley located in the lower southeastern part of New Mexico, just outside of Las Cruces. It’s sweet and spicy taste is quintessentially southwestern in its flavor profile. In New Mexico, Hatch is a way of life. When it is Hatch season in New Mexico, every single city in the ‘Land of Enchantment’ celebrates it with harvest festivals and Hatch-flavored nuts, ice cream, and everything else you can think of. Slowly, this Hatch way of life is creeping into California as well. 

The Hatch season itself only lasts approximately six weeks, starting from the beginning of August through the end of September. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of someone’s Tio or Tia going to great lengths to secure a batch and later bestowing plastic Ziploc bags to friends and family to store in one’s freezer to be enjoyed year-round. Or for people to dedicate half of their freezer to grade-A frozen roasted Hatch strips ready to be rationed out for the rest of the year.

L.A. Taco attended a recent roasting kick-off at the Northgate Market in Norwalk, where we spoke with Melissa’s Produce employees. Peter Blake and Matt Steinbrick are overseeing the mesmerizing roasting process in which pounds upon pounds of chiles are slowly charred in a rotating drum under powerful embers to unlock their tantalizing aroma and heat. When asked why the hatch chile has such a lasting appeal above other chiles, Blake mentions that “the distinctive flavor, the variety of things you can do it with it” are key in terms of what makes it so attractive to customers.

However, Hatch chiles’ distinct flavor is due in part to the unique microclimate brought on by the extreme heat and sudden downpours in the southwestern states. This extreme desert contrast  makes for the chiles to take on a sharp, fruity, and electric-like heat punch. The Hatch Valley‘s elevation of 4,000-5,000 feet above sea level makes for perfect conditions to grow the peppers. 

In terms of the lasting appeal, Steinbrick mentions how the phenomenon has grown over the years, especially with people who have connections to New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest. “it’s the small vocal community of followers...You get more transplants. Now we are getting second and third generations.”

The local rockero Chef Alex Vazh from Evil Cooks plans to include incorporating the roasted Hatch chilies into the masa for the tortilla for a dose of extra Hatch-ness. On top of a “Tijuana style guacamole” made up from avocado, McCormick mayonnaise with lime juice, and sour cream atop his carne asada.

When I asked Vazh if he has any personal connections to the chile itself, he said he hadn’t tried it before coming to the States as a teenager.  He does recall a similar type of chile from his upbringing in Queretaro, called chilaca. “It’s the same size, same shape, but a little bit greener.” He states how the spice level of both peppers is similar in their taste. 

Jonathan Perez from Macheen, who will be Vazh’s challenger on Friday, plans to top his own carne asada taco with chile verde frijoles prepared charro-style made with pork belly and a salsa borracha, which is usually made with pulque or beer. Perez plans to use the espuma or frothy beer head that will be cooked down to perfection. He will be topping it all off with a smoked Hatch chile salsa which he plans to smoke on the premises with applewood chips for that extra bit of the flavor. 

The taco Perez is preparing recalls his mother’s cooking when she would make trocitos (stewed pork spare ribs) for him and his siblings. He hopes to create something similar with his dish at the throwdown to capture some of that hatch chile magic.    

Come and take a bite both of these Hatch taco bombs tomorrow at 6 PM at the Norwalk location of Northgate Markets, and bring the family. The champion is up to you. 

The first 100 LA taco members get a full plate of food and drink FREE.

Also, L.A. Taco will be selling a very limited number of an original Taco Man white T-shirt in honor of the event 

Find all of the details here. 

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