Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Mexico marvels

Just returned from a lovely few days in New Mexico. Saw old friends in remote Carrazozo and then met up with Sheila in Albuquerque and on to Santa Fe and Taos. Sheila was there for the Asso. of Food Journalists annual conference. It's green chile season so had to partake as often as I could. An amazing sight is in front of grocery stores where people stand in line with bags of chiles waiting to have them roasted in a rotating drum. Then I guess they rush them home, chop em up and freeze them for using during the year.

The real highlight of the food conference is the taste of the host city. 8-10 chefs from the best restaurants make one of their signature dishes and one table hops trying them all. Last year in New Orleans was incredible but Santa Fe was pretty damn good. Highlights were sopapillas with ether pork, chicken, or chile/cheese from Atrisco Cafe and Bar, roasted baby pig over fresh market pickled salad from Boca, hamachi-wrapped tuna from Restaurant Martin, and quesadillas from Zia Diner. The dessert from Terra at Encantado resort in Tusuque was sublime, a cherry compote on meringue. The night before we had dinner at Terra, a really beautiful restaurant in a beautiful resort, which ended with a cherry tart that blew my socks off. A top ten all-time dessert--wonderful crust with marinated cherries bursting with deep, rich flavor-- simple yet sublime. Sheila's scallops with pork belly was also terrific as were the fresh-made biscuits.
We had excellent breakfasts at Zia Diner and Tia Sophia and can recommend any dish with green chiles. I also returned to a breakfast favorite, Tecolate Cafe, while Sheila was at the conference. Huevos rancheros were great, altho the potatoes could have been crisper. They serve fresh made muffins including an excellent corn one. I also returned for the incredible green chile cheese burger at Bobcat Bites, my 3rd visit. What a great burger, 9 oz. of cooked to order freshly ground chuck! It's 10 miles south of town in a seemingly desolate spot, but once you taste the burger, you find yourself in burger heaven. It's very small so go at off hours. When I was driving from Southern NM up to Albuquerque I had a chile cheeseburger at Manny's Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, voted the 7th best burger in the US and winner of a throw down with Bobby Flay. Good it was but Bobcate Bites eats it alive.
Our favorite dinner was at Boca, a tapas place in Santa Fe, where we celebrated our anniversary. A daily special was grilled peaches wrapped in serrano ham with melted Mahon cheese, which was divine. Anchovies, superb fingerling potatoes, and skewered pork were also special. The chef gets his padrone peppers from Happy Quail Farms right here in East Palo Alto!
Other restaurant highlights were Orlando's in Taos, a low-key family-run enchilada palace north of town and the classic El Paragua in Espanola, another family-run excellent restaurant with a fantastic Enchilada Suprema, a giant chicken enchilada with red and green chile sauce, lots of cheese and sour cream and lovely sopapillas. And I could not leave Santa Fe without buying some red chile sauce from The Shed and bringing some healing dirt from Chimayo.