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It's All About The Chilies At Ridgefield Restaurant

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – It is the season for chilies in Ridgefield and the Hatch Valley chilies from New Mexico have made their way into the Southwest Café.

For the past 25 years Barbara Nevins has been hand picking around 1,000 pounds of chilies to bring to her restaurant in Copps Hill Common in order to share her love of what she calls “New Mexican-Mex” food.

The restaurant, Nevins said, is a place to share her love of New Mexican culture, and she wouldn’t want to do anything else. “It’s a part of my soul,” Nevins said. “I like the whole picture. I like the food, I like the culture and the art.”

And the chilies are just one way for her to share it. The chilies she orders will last from the harvest season, in August and September, and last until just after New Year’s.

“I used to go down to nm and bring my staff and we used to bring big duffle bags of chilies back. But now you can’t check those. Now I work with a farmer who ships them to me,” Nevins said. The chilies come from Hatch Valley New Mexico, where basically she said, the New Mexican Green chili is their only crop.

Once the chilies arrive in Ridgefield they are immediately roasted. “You have to roast them as soon as you get them because they’re very fresh, and my chef is going to do all sorts of things with them,” Nevins said.

Mostly, she only uses the chilies for specials. But there are two recipes that never come off the menu during Hatch Chili time are the Hatch Chili Stew with shredded pork.

“We also do a real fun thing that we made up called Hatch Chili Roulette. And that’s basically a fancier quesadilla with a little bit of cheese one chili pepper and a flour tortilla, but we don’t know if the chili is hot or not. Hence the roulette,” said Nevins. “They are extremely popular.”

The chilies will last through about New Years, so there is some time yet before Nevins runs out, but you never quite know what the specials are going to be.

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