The New Mexican desert is dotted with pinkish-beige adobes, which are made by pouring a mixture of mud in between wooden frames. "Recipes" for adobe "mud" differ between Pueblo tribes, and are passed down from mother to daughter. Nearly all of the buildings in Santa Fe are adobes, and recently there has been a push to interview women elders of Pueblo tribes in order to record and preserve this uniquely "green" building method.
In addition to architectural recipes, New Mexico's distinctive culture is reflected in its cuisine, which may be some of the best food this country has to offer. Below are a few of our most memorable epicurean moments...
The locally grown green chile is an absolute staple of New Mexican cuisine (even for breakfast) and has more of a flavor-packed punch than a tabasco-like heat. I love NM green chile, and was anxious for Diana to try some as soon as possible. So, for our first breakfast in Santa Fe, we ate at our hotel's restaurant, Luminaria, which turned out to be wonderful. Diana and I both had eggs scrambled with green chile, tomatoes and avocado, with a side of hash browns, homemade warm tortillas, and fresh pear / ginger juice. It was the perfect start to a delicious trip.
In addition to the green chile, I could not leave Santa Fe without introducing Diana to my beloved sopaipillas, which are puffy, deep fried squares of dough, made in the same tradition as Navajo fry bread. Locals and tourists alike agree - the place for these tasty-pillow-treats is Tomasita's. While people have strong opinions on how to best enjoy their sopaipillas (savory or sweet), I subscribe to the local three-step process:
Step One: break off a large piece of the sopaipilla and smother it in honey-butter.
Step Two: squirt a little local honey over the honey-butter (and no, it's not too much honey).
Step Three: dredge your sticky, golden, buttery bread through a mixture of spicy chile - preferably "Christmas style" (1/2 green and 1/2 red chile).
Diana and I perfected this ritual with a main course of Huevos Rancheros, (corn tortillas layered in chile, beans and cheese with two fried eggs on top) - another Tomasita's classic.
Santa Fe is at 7,000 feet, and the altitude does get to you. One afternoon I took a short nap as Diana tooled around. When I woke up, I got a text from her: "I'm at the gelato place across the street" - leave it to Diana to hunt down an Italian pit-stop in NM. This little cafe turned out to be a winner- with good coffee, creamy salted caramel gelato, and high quality prosciutto wrapped melon.
We had two outstanding dinners: chicken enchiladas at The Shed and pork tomalles at The Pink Adobe. At both places, we were giddy with the explosion of flavors - and thanked the food gods for leading us to the promise land.
If you look closely at the picture above, you will see some posole on the left hand side of my dinner plate. Posole is a little like a dry popcorn soup, and is made with lime, hominy, pork, chiles, garlic & spices. There is an expression in NM: "rice is nice but posole is holy" - and an argument can be made that you aren't really eating a traditional New Mexican meal unless posole is a part of it. It's sort of bland on its own, but takes on the heat and flavor of whatever it compliments, which makes it a perfect side to any chile-smothered dish.
They say "if you can't stand the heat, stay out of New Mexico: Here chile is king"; I say - long live his majesty's reign.
Some Santa Fe Food Links:
Hatch Chile Festival: Sept 3-4
Santa Fe School of Cooking
Gil's Thrilling (and Filling) Blog