Hello, my blog friends! Justin and I have returned from the Land of Enchantment, and found it…enchanting. We saw mountains and gorges, rivers and forests, and lots and lots of highways. In fact, we’ve sworn off road trips for a while. We ended up putting just under 2,000 miles on our little hybrid.
We did, in fact, eat tons of chile, both red and green, as well as sopaipillas. We both put on some weight, most likely from the large amounts of cheese and fry bread that we ate. I was inspired by New Mexican kitchens, though…deep, earthy flavors, simple ingredients, and layers of texture and taste.
One of my most memorable meals in New Mexico was at Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe. I ordered huevos motulenos: a base of corn tortillas, topped with black beans, over-easy eggs, green chile, feta cheese, green peas, and served with sauteed plantains. The crunch of the peas, the smoothness of the egg yolks, and the tang of the plantains seemed to melt together perfectly. This was topped off with a frothing cup of Mexican hot chocolate, redolent with cinnamon.
A few of my travel notes to give you a glimpse of our week:
*We drive through the mountains, the road like a spaghetti strand, twirling between the trees, which are tall and golden, sometimes images of mascara wands.
*It’s amazing to me that all this life exists at the base of the mountain. I’ve lived on the plains. I’ve lived in the hill country. But these mountains…majestic, beautiful, breathtaking…do the people who live in Taos realize how lucky they are?
*Outside, it sounds like a light rain is falling, but it is hundreds of golden leaves dropping to the ground.
*We left Albuquerque and the mountains, the green chiles, the ristras, the Native American art and the painted highways. I will miss the culture, the food, the scenery, and the sense of deep appreciation for the land.
Some food notes:
*Dinner at Apple Tree restaurant in Taos. We shared an eggplant stack (with cubed eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, Parmesan, puff pastry, and a creamy mushroom sauce) and a chile relleno (an Anaheim chile stuffed with corn and cheese, and topped with red and green chile sauces, served with wild rice, pinto beans, and sour cream).
*Breakfast at the bed and breakfast included eggs scrambled with cream cheese and sliced green onions. Surprisingly good.
*Lunch at Michael’s Kitchen in Taos. Good old cheese enchiladas with Christmas sauce (both red and green chile).
*Taos Cow Ice Cream. Wonderful texture and fun combinations. I had the Cherry Ristra, which was cherry ice cream mixed with chopped cherries, roasted pinon (pine) nuts, and chunks of chocolate. Justin had the Cafe Ole, coffee ice cream with cinnamon-chocolate chunks.
*Dinner at El Taoseno. Justin had a Navajo taco with red chile, and I had a bean burrito with red chile. Another inspiration for me to make my own red chile sauce.
*I had Stash peppermint tea with breakfast. I’m going to look for this on my next grocery trip. Delicious.
*Pinon (pine) nuts are in season on Northern New Mexico at the moment. They are picked and roasted in their shells, then cracked open to be eaten like sunflower seeds. They’re so delicate and delicious. They’re an expensive but wonderful treat that can be bought from various Native American vendors along the roads.
*Lunch in Santa Fe was superb. Cafe Pasqual’s was my favorite restaurant of the whole trip. It was tiny, with little pumpkins on each table, marigolds strung around the frames of paintings, and glasses of homemade raspberry jam. This is where I had the huevos motulenos, and Justin had a tamale wrapped in a banana leaf. He also had a cup of chipotle-sweet potato soup, sweet with just a hint of smokiness from the chile, and actually served in a coffee mug. We shared blackberry pie with chantilly cream, then a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.
*Dinner at The Range Cafe in Bernalillo. I actually had meatloaf with mashed potatoes, which was just fantastic.
*Julia’s New Mexican and Vegetarian cafe for lunch. I had the New Mexican breakfast, cheese enchiladas topped with over-easy eggs, red chile, pinto beans, lettuce, and tomato. Justin had the Navajo breakfast, fry bread topped with scrambled eggs, beans, red chile, lettuce, and tomato.
*Snack at Flying Star in Albuquerque. This place was so cute, and made the best chocolate milkshake. We also shared a slice of Tortuga Tart, a dense chocolate tart topped with hazelnuts and white chocolate. This place had the coolest orange juicer I have ever seen.
*Sopaipillas were served with meals. I’ve always had them served after meals, as a dessert, but these were served as the bread with your meal, with honey or honey butter.
*New Mexican meals are served with a “garnish” of shredded lettuce and chopped tomato. Once my friend Leti asked for her lettuce and tomato inside her burrito, rather than on top, and the waitress gave us a funny look, then said, “Okay…garnish inside…”
*Every meal comes with the same question: “Red or green?” They vary in heat depending on the cook. Sometimes the red is hotter, sometimes it’s the green. The green chile sauce is made with roasted Anaheim chiles, and the red sauce is made with dried red chiles. If you want to try both sauces, you order your meal with “Christmas.”
So New Mexico was wonderful. But I missed Austin.
I’ve posted our photos on Flickr if you’re interested. You can view them as a slideshow or just click on each one. If you click on them individually, you can see the captions that I’ve added to describe the photos. Enjoy!