Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Glimpse into New Mexican culture - our food.

New Mexico.
A mystery to all who don't live there.
And for what its worth, a mystery to all who do live there and are used to all it has to offer.

I thought, partially because I miss ol' NM, to enlighten you into how New Mexico works and what we have to offer. To tell you of our culture, our food, our fun places to go. So next time when someone forgets that NM is a state (a part of the union in 1912) you can take the high road and tell them a little about us.

So today you will be educated on New Mexican food.

New Mexican food is delicious. Most people in New Mexico eat it 1-4 times a week (restaurant or home cooked) and tend to "crave" it when they are 100 miles away from the nearest New Mexican Restaurant.

New Mexican food is not mexican food....mostly. Mexican food can be found all over the United States and although good, does not satisfy the New Mexican palate.

How is it different?
New Mexican food is generally smothered in one of two things. Red or Green chile. Our own New Mexican brand of chile in fact. If you take a jaunt down to NM you'll see and hear "Hatch" a lot. "Hatch" is a brand of chile grown in a little town called.... Hatch. Mostly you'll hear "I love 'Hatch' green chile" as the Green brand of chile is more liked and more smothered on things than red chile.

Here is a plate of New Mexican food. (from Ortegas)
You will see the signature beans, lettuce dressing, and (bean) burrito with the accompaniment of potatoes (instead of rice) and a delicious iced tea. Most people I know drink iced tea with thier meal and I assume because it is the best tasting drink that goes with NMfood. If you look in the middle of the two drinks there is a third canister holding honey. If you are at a "New Mexican food restaurant" and it does not have honey on the table, you are NOT at a "New Mexican food restaurant" (NMFR).

Honey is used for sopapillas. Sopapillas are fried dough pockets of delicious. Or in real terms they are a fried bread (from the native american influence) that forms a "pocket" that you can put honey in as a desert. Sopapillas are also eaten with beef and beans, or in any way really, but mostly is eaten as a desert.

If your "NMFR" does not have sopapillas, you should get up, go to the owner and punch him in the face. Tell him he does not have the right to call his restaurant "New Mexican".

These deserve to be together.
Do not deny them this.

Us New Mexicans feel passionate about our food. Why? We like it. It's good.

We don't put meat or beans or onions or other Tex-mex CRAP in our chile. Unless you are eating Green Chile Stew, you shouldn't have meat in your chile.

Red Chili is usually presented blended and pureed in a sauce and smothered on typical plates like enchiladas and huevos rancheros. My favorite breakfast is scrambled eggs, beans, and chile. Deeelicious.

My very own red chile

Green chile comes chopped, in strips, or in a stew. Green chile is more widely used on everything else so much so that Subway, McDonalds, and probably even Burger King (I don't have much on this since I don't eat there often) have there own green chile options for food. Green Chile Hamburgers are most popular amongst...well...everyone.

Now why am I talking about chile so much? Because us New Mexicans put chile on everything. (As you can tell). We eat it for every occasion. Even non-occasions. August and September smell GREAT in New Mexico because of the roasting of the harvested chile's.

So if you happen to be in New Mexico anytime soon, let me give you a few pointers on what to eat, where to eat, and how to eat.

Even though I've lived in New Mexico for 25 years I like to stick with the standard Bean Burrito - with red chile and cheese on top. I usually don't pay attention to what other people get, but I will tell you what I know...
Most people also order
Huevos Rancheros - with an egg over-easy and blue corn tortillas
Enchiladas with red or green chile
Posole (a delicious pork/red chile stew)
Standard Tacos
or for breakfast - the "breakfast burrito", which i'm sure you know what is in there...just add chile.

Don't go to Gardunos. Although an alright place, you will be bombarded with mexican kitch posted all over the place. And the mariachi bands playing while you eat. Plus, why eat there when you can eat like a local?
Also, get out of Old Town. They charge way too much.
Do go to (my top 4):
Charlie's Front Door: located at Menaul and Wyoming - a nice cozy restaurant my family eats at the day after Thanksgiving
Ortegas - Comanche and Wyoming - they use wheat for there sopapillas and serve potatoes instead of spanish rice if you want.
Padillas - Girard and Indian School - Small, quaint, and they use whole beans instead of the refried beans some restaurants serve. They also have very very long lines at lunch so eat there but be prepared.
Garcias - Menaul and Juan Tabo (and other various locations) - they give you a LOT for your money. And are very delicious as well.

Extra Restaurant: The Frontier - central and cornell
Frontier is a wonderful, next-to-the-University, open 24 hours, offers everything restaurant. If you go anywhere in Albuquerque, you must go here. They offer new mexican food (excellent green chile breakfast burritos), regular food, deserts (try the sweet roll) and it is ALL very good. ALL of the food. There is no place like the Frontier.

How to eat: More like how to ORDER.
An example:

Waitress: Can I take your order?
YOU: Yes, I'd like the huevos, over-easy, with blue corn tortillas.
Waitress: Red or Green? (this will be asked every time you order, unless you state the kind of chile beforehand)
YOU: Green. (or red)

=alternate answer= YOU: Christmas...
Christmas is both red and green chile. You aren't stating you would like Christmas and you didn't just go insane by randomly saying, on a July afternoon, the holiday, Christmas. ---try it sometime, why have ONE flavor of chile when you can have both?

So there you have it. A glimpse into New Mexican food and even a part of how we work down there. And now, you can eat like a local.


Phil said...

Dear Leslie...from Jennifer and Phil.
Why... are you taunting us with food we can't have for 5 more months.
jk good post. Made us hungry. Are you going to be home this summer. If so so will we. Yay!

Justin said...

Mouth is currently watering and eyes are tearing up...yummmmm...remember those dang good cinnamon rolls from that one place called Frontier? And a good place worth checking out just south of where I grew up is called Pete's in Belen--New Mexican food is like it's own planet--and you never know what living is until you have touched its surface and bathed amidst the glory of it's taste bud tantalizing inhabitants.

PS--I miss you Leslie! luvs from NYC