Taqueria Del Sol’s Eddie Hernandez Talks Hatch Chiles

ATL Food Chatter: September 6, 2011
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New Mexico’s Hatch spicy green chiles come into season every August and September, when they are celebrated through the Southwest. This year, we’re seeing the chiles as inspiration for specials in restaurants like Bocado, One Eared Stag, and Woodfire Grill. But the longtime local champions of Hatch chiles are Taqueria del Sol’s Eddie Hernandez and Mike Klank, who began importing them back when the Cheshire Bridge Road location of TDS was still Sundown Cafe. Hernandez’s take on Hatch chile rellenos—stuffed with cheese, coated with a crisp batter, and served with a roasted tomato sauce—are an annual treat always anticipated by customers.

Last year Hernandez and Klank inaugurated a Hatch Chile Festival modeled after the celebration held in Hatch, New Mexico. The event drew 800 people. This year the block-party-like festival will be held on September 11 at the Howell Mill location. Purchase the tickets in advance for two time slots—5 p.m. or 7 p.m—at $18.25 per person. (There are no ticket sales at the door.) The event also serves a charitable purpose: a portion of the proceeds benefits the Ossabaw Island Foundation.

Hernandez fills us in on the Hatch happenings:

Q: Before you began the festival, you ran hatch chile rellenos for years at TDS (and Sundown before that): When did you first taste hatch chiles?

EH: I first tasted Hatch chiles in the mid-’80s when I lived near Waco, Texas. Mike Klank first experienced the chiles when he lived in New Mexico, and he was the main advocate for bringing them to Atlanta. It wasn’t until the mid-’90s when we started bringing them to Atlanta. We were interested in developing a relleno recipe that was different from the rellenos in New Mexico and that appealed to our Southern market. Mike was very interested in the Hatch festivals that they had every harvest season and wanted to be able to provide our customers with the same experience. We didn’t have much space or parking at Sundown, and we always found an excuse not to do a festival—until last year.
Q: Do you run other specials with Hatch chiles beside the rellenos?
EH: Yes, we run specials year-round. Customers will begin asking in July for the rellenos. We ordered around 5,000 pounds this year and will roast and freeze them to be able to incorporate into specials throughout the year. We use the Hatch chiles in a variety of dishes—from sauces, like on the buttermilk fried chicken tacos, to enchiladas and burritos—and I’ve created a green chile barbecue sauce that we are using at the festival that I’ve never served before. I’m excited. We don’t serve the rellenos for very long because they are super-time consuming, so we keep it as an annual special. (The special will run through the end of September at all area TDSs.)
Q: What are your plans for the future for of the event?
EH: The event in New Mexico draws people from all over the world. I look at the success of the Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival [thrown by JCT Kitchen in the same Howell Mill complex] as a model for what can be achieved here in Atlanta. In four years, expect bigger crowds as the word gets around.
Q: For the festival, can you give us an example of some of the dishes people can expect?
EH: The menu includes ribs with green chile barbecue sauce; green chile cheeseburger tacos; the chile rellenos, of course; green chile stew over rice; hot dogs with green chile relish; tossed salad with green chile vinaigrette; brownies spiced with green chiles; and green chile ice cream.


Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares show will be filming in the ATL the week of September 5, according to the AJC. Two restaurants, College Park’s Michon’s and Inman Park’s Park’s Edge will receive the technical assistance that is the theme of the show. During production, the two restaurants won’t be able to take reservations by phone because producers have to turn phones off while shooting.

Eater Atlanta notes that Chateau Elan has a new chef, Brandon Frohne. The 24-year-old Frohne, a CIA grad, arrives at the Braselton, Georgia winery from Nashville where he was the founder of Nashville Urban Gardeners, a farm-to-table program.

Alpharetta. Beginning September 11, Ray’s at Killer Creek will serve Sunday Supper from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., replacing brunch. The family-style meal—featuring classic dishes like fried chicken and biscuits—will cost $16 per person.
Brookhaven. CineBistro, an Alabama-based luxury cinema chain that features dining along with first run films, is slated to open late September in the TOWN Brookhaven development.

Buckhead. Farm Burger Buckhead opened September 2 at Tower Place.

Eater Atlanta is reporting that The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) will soon have a wine bar—tentatively titled The Wine Market at ADAC West—that will be open to the public. Real Estate guru Gene Kansas has been hired to develop the concept, which will also include a provisions market.

Downtown. On Monday September 19, a starry line-up of Atlanta chefs will discuss the mouthwatering experiences of their careers and offer a small taste of their craft at Chefs That Stir the Soul!, a benefit for Theatrical Outfit, a non-profit organization housed at The Balzer Theater at Herrans. Guest chefs include Cathy Conway of Avalon Catering, Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene, Todd Richards of the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Steven Satterfield of Miller Union, and pastry chef and former AJC food critic Meridith Ford Goldman.

Kessler reports that owner Fabrice Vergez is now offering a more value-priced menu at FAB. Most entrees are now under $20 and the decor has been slightly altered to reflect a more casual, modern look.

East Atlanta. Creative Loafing is reporting that the owner of So-Ba, a Vietnamese resto located at 560 Gresham Road, is planning on creating a “restaurant within a restaurant” that caters specifically to the late-night tastes of restaurant industry professionals. It will operate 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Owner Nhan Le is redoing his patio, adding new art work and enlisting the aid of chef Angus Miller of Miller Union to design a menu for the concept slated to open on or about September 17.

Midtown. What Now Atlanta is reporting that Murphy’s Den Restaurant and Lounge, described as a sixties style piano bar, will open in the former Avra Greek restaurant space at 749 Juniper Street. No opening time frame yet.

We got an email informing us that pastry chef Chrysta Umberger has left her position at 4th & Swift to work for Woodfire Grill, where she’s expected to debut her new menu dessert menu this week.

Roswell. Pico has closed and will reopen in the coming weeks as a second Fickle Pickle (both Pico and Fickle Pickle are owned the Andy Badgett and his restaurant group).

Virginia Highland. According to the Patch, Brent Banda, a sous chef at La Tavola, will replace current head chef Craig Richards who will become the new head chef at Ecco in Midtown. Richards is replacing Micah Willix, who is leaving the company.

Westside. Star Provisions’ Cheesemonger Tim Gaddis will host several of the nation’s top cheese makers September 15 to 17 during the third annual Cheese Week. The program will feature a series of interactive demonstrations that are free and open to the public.

Question of the Week: Name the two restaurants in the metro area that cook with Acunto ovens imported from Naples?

P.S. The answer to last week’s QOTW—What New York–based BBQ chain is looking at Atlanta as one of its first ten markets for expansion plans?—is Southern Hospitality (commentor ryans_0413 answered that one correctly last week).

Do you have restaurant openings, closings, or other news to share? Email James Oxendine at atldiningchatter@gmail.com