Day 2.5; New Mexico

Continuing with my English Major Diet, wherein the narrative matters as much as the food…

Like i was saying yesterday, hard to believe that i had 2 of the best meals ever on the same day, but travel is like that sometimes. Of course, travel food is hit or miss. It can be the best thing ever, or it can be a string of bad chains that stretches all across the country.

It was day 3 of our drive/move from Kentucky to Arizona. We were getting to the good stuff–western New Mexico starts to look like a movie set (lots of stuff was actually filmed in that part of the country in the hayday of genre films). The dramatic change between, say, central Texas (tear out your eye-balls flat) and the desert high country (tear out your heart awesome) is striking, inspiring, and awe-some in the truest sense of the world. And you know, travelling makes you hungry.

When we crashed at an Albuquerque Courtyard Marriott around dinnertime, we were looking for a meal that would mirror the landscape and the journey. So we went to the front desk and Jeremy (hotelier to hotelier) asked the woman where we should go for dinner.
“Well,” she said, pointing across the street. “There’s an Applebees right across the way there, and an Olive Garden, and if you go on down  little further…”

“Let me stop you right there,” said my hotel manager husband–very kindly. “Where do YOU like to eat?”

She thought a minute. “Do you like New Mexican food?”

We looked at each other. “We do now!” we said in unison, feeling like real westerners for sure. So she directed us to a place–not really a hole in the wall, but definitely not a lame-ass Taco Tico– just a short drive away.

New Mexican food, as it turns out is AWESOME. It combines Native American, Mexican and Spanish cuisine, with a subtle American flair. This is not your grandma’s tex-mex (or, what we have learned with dismay to be Phoenix suburbs tex-mex). Most dishes feature the New Mexican chile. It can be eithe red or green, and lends the unique flavor to dishes that could otherwise be found in any other part of the country. If you ask me, it’s what the best of all worlds tastes like.

If i recall, that was the meal where i discovered Pork Adobada, a slow roasted meat dish that’s been simmered in a rich, spicy sauce. I’ve tried ordering it several times since, only to find it greasy, salty, and nearly reeking of MSG.

Maybe some things only taste good on the road. Or in the middle of a life-changing journey. Or both.

We thanked the front desk clerk profusely upon our return. I hope she started sending guests there as a regular practice, instead of throwng business to the places across the street.

Meanwhile, we’re going to be heading back that way on our sabbatical trip this summer. I’ve scoured the internet for New Mexican places in Albuquerque, and i haven’t been able to find that one again. I think I’d know it if I saw it. So, anyone who knows the area, can you point me back that way?? It was very festive and colorful; i’m remembering high ceilings, maybe even a second level for dining… If you can find it for me, i’ll buy you a margarita. Sopapillas are on the house.

 

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About Erin Wathen

Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Olathe, KS (www.sacchome.org). She's a Kentucky native, a long-time desert dweller, and she writes about the sacred thread that runs through pretty much everything. For more info, click the 'about' tab above...

  • http://gravatar.com/jgawne55 jgawne55

    While I have no idea what restaurant you were at in Albuquerque, I can HIGHLY recommend a New Mexican restaurant here in the Valley of the Sun (actually 4 locations, with the downtown Phoenix location being closest to you, but the South Mountain location being my favorite) and that would be Los Dos Molinos http://www.losdosmolinosaz.net If you just can’t wait until your Sabbatical, then go to Los Dos soon. Be sure that you carefully read the menu, as some of the dishes are hotter than hell (well, hotter than Phoenix in August to be sure).

  • Laura

    The restaurant in Albuquerque that has the best New Mexican food is El Pinto. It is off the beaten path a bit, but sounds like it might be the place you are looking for. I grew up in NM and it’s the best I’ve found. While we live in Phoenix now (and Los Dos Molinos it great) we often think about driving to Albuquerque just for a great dinner from El Pinto. The website is http://www.elpinto.com/restaurant. Enjoy!

    • http://www.azfoothillscc.org irreverins

      I think that’s it! Well, and i owe you a margarita. Good thing you live in phoenix–Msg me and we will make it a date!