New Mexico Cuisine

No adventure in New Mexico is complete until you have experienced our cuisine. Unlike any other, it is a blend of flavors from Spanish and Native American cultures that has been perfected over the course of 400 years. At the center of it all is the New Mexican chile, in both red and green varieties, which is used in everything from enchiladas to ice cream. Whether you are looking for a dining experience that has received a James Beard award or an authentic dive off the beaten path, you will find it here.

The Tortilla Trail New Mexico’s well-rounded meals begin with homemade tortillas

“...New Mexico obviously didn’t originate the tortilla; in fact, versions of flatbread made from corn and wheat can be found worldwide”

It is hard to imagine New Mexican cuisine without the tortilla. It’s usually not the star of the show, but a good tortilla can exhibit star quality in a supporting role – especially when it wraps its contents in a warm embrace. At other times, it’s happy to play bit parts that are more cut and fried. Like a versatile actor, the tortilla can step in at the beginning, the middle, or the end, is happy to serve as a sidekick, and predictably gives a performance you can sink your teeth into.

New Mexico obviously didn’t originate the tortilla; in fact, versions of flatbread made from corn and wheat can be found worldwide – chapati, naan, pita, and laobing to name just a few. Our corn tortillas can be traced back to Mesoamerica, where the industrious Aztec and Mayan civilizations developed the process of “nixtamalizing” maize (soaking and cooking the corn in a mixture of lime and ash to loosen the hull). This chemical change helped ease the womenfolk’s back-breaking labor of hand-grinding corn and allowed the formation of a dough called masa. It also released the corn’s niacin – an important nutrient that prevented malnourishment and disease. Centuries later, wheat was introduced to the New World from Spain, and the wheat tortilla was folded into the cuisine.

New Mexico’s tortillerias carry on those rich traditions, laboriously hand-rolling masa and wheat dough into delectable disks, ready to take on an endless array of fillings, from eggs and chicken to lengua (beef tongue) and chicharron (fried pork rind). It’s well worth the effort to seek out the homemade, additive-free versions, just like someone’s abuelita used to make, but be forewarned: you will become forever spoiled by tortillas in the Land of Enchantment.

Ready to embark on the authentic Tortilla Trail? We could stop at literally of hundreds of restaurants serving delicious New Mexican cuisine, but for this journey we will make it simple:  we only brake for homemade tortillas.

TAKE THE TOUR

Tortilleras _aztecas 350Las Cruces
Tacos al Carbon, inspired by the west central region of Mexico are the specialty at ¡Ándele! Restaurante and ¡Ándele! Dog House in historic Old Mesilla. Stop at ¡Ándele! Mercado, and stock up on edible Southwestern souvenirs, including their corn and flour tortillas. 1950 Calle Del Norte; 575-445-3846; www.andelerestaurante.com.

Ruidoso
As the name suggests, Porky’s not a diet kind of place, but you may want to pig out when you taste their authentic, homemade, and hearty New Mexican food. Their popular burritos come wrapped in their house-made flour tortillas. 2306-2 Sudderth Drive, Village Plaza; 575-257-0544.
Silver City
Silver City boasts a number of stellar restaurants, and Masa y Mas Tortilleria isn’t one of the fanciest, but it is considered by many to be one of the best. Cira Lozoya’s flour and corn tortillas (also available by the bag) set the stage for a variety of tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, and even a deep-fried chimichanga. 601 N. Bullard St., Suite C; (505) 670-8775.

Albuquerque
As unlikely as it may seem, Duran Central Pharmacy is Albuquerque’s best-kept secret for New Mexican cuisine. Walk through the pharmacy to the back, where the original soda fountain (est. 1942) has grown into a restaurant serving delicious New Mexican cuisine, featuring their hand-rolled tortillas and signature red and green chile. You can conveniently take your blood pressure on your way out. 1815 Central Ave.; 505-247-4141; www.durancentralpharmacy.com.
Students and locals flock to Frontier Restaurant near the University of New Mexico, for their breakfast burritos and other reasonably priced, down-home New Mexican food. The Frontier Burrito contains the works – beef, beans, and green chile inside; green chile stew and cheese on top, and most dishes feature their homemade tortillas. 2400 Central Ave. SE; 505-266-0550.

Santa Fe
The menu at Los Potrillos is daunting, but you can nibble on chips and their tasty trio of salsas while you ponder your choices. You’ll find an impressive list of soups, such as seafood, calde tlalpeño (chicken with chickpeas and vegetables), and albondigas; fish dishes, and specialties like Chile en Nogada, poblano chiles stuffed with ground beef, nuts, and raisins, smothered with a nutmeg-garlic cream sauce.  And yes, they also make their own corn and flour tortillas. 1947 Cerrillos Rd.; 505-992-0550.
Habla Espanol? Spanish is not essential, but comes in handy at Alicia’s Tortilleria, where locals flock to find the real thing at bargain prices – homemade corn and flour tortillas, a mind-boggling choice of fillings, changing daily specials, and a zingy, tomatillo salsa. They sell a 1-lb. bag of tortillas for about $2. If you feel ambitious, they also sell masa harina so you can roll out your own. 1314 Rufina Circle, Ste. A; 438-9545.

Espanola
When the young Atencio brothers set up a roadside stand to sell their mama’s tacos in 1958, they never envisioned it would become El Paragua, a nationally acclaimed destination for New Mexican cuisine. Señora Atencio would be proud that the flour and corn tortillas still are made fresh daily. Third-generation family members operate several offspring restaurants called El Parasol in Santa Fe, Espanola, Pojaque, and Los Alamos. 603 Santa Cruz Road; 505-753-3211; www.elparagua.com.

Raton
Anna’s Homemade Tortillas beat anything you’ll find at the supermarket, so don’t miss this stop when going through Raton. During the chile harvest, you can buy a bushel of green chiles for $16 – the perfect complement to Anna’s amazing tortillas. Locals also love their baked goods, like pumpkin rolls and biscochitos, and friendly service. 1226 S 2nd St.; (575) 445-3846.

Farmington
Headed to Colorado? Don’t leave New Mexico hungry! The tortillas are all made fresh at Doña Maria Tortilleria, and you can enjoy four of them topped with delicious fillings when you order their taco plate. Choose from al pastor, carne asada (marinated steak), pollo (chicken), carne molida (a Puerto Rico inspired ground beef mixture), barbacoa, and pork carnitas) for just $7.50. 1930 San Juan Blvd.; 505-564-8241.

Hand-Made in New Mexico, Inspired by the World Artisanal Goodies You Will Want to Taste and Take Home

“... Since New Mexico is a melting pot of people and cultures, many of our local food and spirits artisans draw inspiration (and, in some cases, actually source ingredients) from around the globe.”

Does your mouth water just thinking about a visit to New Mexico? As you ponder the many dining choices, consider this: restaurants are only part of the state’s exciting and diverse culinary landscape. A rapidly growing number of local artisans are producing tasty products you can pack in your suitcase and enjoy at home – and, in most cases, order online when you run out.

Now here’s the part that might surprise you:  since New Mexico is a melting pot of people and cultures, many of our local food and spirits artisans draw inspiration (and, in some cases, actually source ingredients) from around the globe. Columbian coffee, South African tea, balsamic vinegar, Laos chile paste, Mexican paletas, single-malt whiskey, and Moroccan bitters are all passionately made here in the Land of Enchantment. We also have traditional New Mexico products, like green chile sauce, that derive their one-of-a-kind taste from the local soil – and some marry cultures to create truly magical flavors.

Ready to discover some distinctive and delicious New Mexico souvenirs? Here’s just a sampling:

It’s Definitely Chile Here

Albuquerque attorney Eddie Meintzer went to law school in his 40s – perhaps because he was so busy until then perfecting his barbeque sauce. The sauce came out so good, in fact, that his friends encouraged him to sell it commercially, and Eddie’s Savory Food Products was born. Now, grocery stores from Socorro to Santa Fe carry Eddie’s Savory BBQ Sauce, Green Chile BBQ Sauce, and Green Chile Sauce (available in only two flavors: hot and extra hot). “Our chiles are sourced from Rosales Farm in Lemitar, and they are very high quality – grown with no insecticides,” says Eddie, who, together with wife Diana, makes his sauces using a “proprietary process.” He says it’s the only green chile BBQ sauce on the market (although others have tried), and it goes well on just about anything, from your favorite meats to rice and beans.  Your ham and cheese sandwiches and cheeseburgers may never be the same again.  www.eddiessavoryfoodproducts.com; to order, call (505) 865-9702.

Laos and Albuquerque are far apart, but Kinna Perez of Kinna’s Kitchen has bridged the gap with her Laos Chile Paste (regular and vegan), a recipe that has been in her family for four generations. Her husband, Manuel, grasped the paste’s uniqueness and market potential after eating it on sticky rice at his in-laws’ house in Albuquerque almost daily. “I was addicted to it,” he says. Manuel finally decided to try making it himself, buying all the ingredients in a local international market. “My wife tasted it, and said it came out good,” says Manuel. Within a short time, the two were in business. What makes this paste so good?  Its fiery heat is balanced with just the right amount of organic cane juice and a subtle smokiness. Kinna’s Kitchen’s equally versatile Tamarind Chile Sauce and Mango Salsa (both vegan) can be used to flavor stir-fries, tamales, pesto sauces, ketchup, mayonnaise, and much more. Order them online or find them at local stores like Whole Foods, La Montanita Co-op, Keller’s Meat Market, and Talin Market. www.kinnas.net; (505) 228-7345.

“Indulge, Repent, Repeat.” That’s the order given for Albuquerque-based Lusty Monk Mustards, so named because medieval monks were forbidden to eat mustard (believed to be an aphrodisiac), lest they call prey to carnal desires. Owners Steve and Kris Monteith’s belief that condiments should never be boring led them to create “the pretzel’s best friend, the cook’s secret weapon, and the perfect companion for lovers of spice and heat.” They expanded from North Carolina to Albuquerque four years ago, and now produce their fresh-ground, hand-crafted, small-batch mustard at the South Valley Economic Development Center, a commercial kitchen shared by many small local producers. Lusty Monk mustards are as fiery as they are flavorful; their Lusty Monk Original Sin and Burn in Hell Chipotle both took top Scovie Awards at the Fiery Foods and Barbeque Show in 2013 and 2014. Their mustards are sold at La Montanita Co-op, Whole Foods, and other stores in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, or you can order them online. www.lustymonk.com; (505) 975-6498.

What happens when South African rooibos tea meets Hatch, NM red chile? Bill Zunkel pondered that two years ago when he created Tea Chileño, a unique beverage containing health properties indigenous to both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. When Bill went to work in South African in 1970, he discovered rooibos, or “bush tea,” grown in the Western Cape, which has been drunk by native Bushmen since early times. It has no caffeine; is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals; and has anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-viral properties. The chile kicks it up a notch – adding even more health benefits. Santa Fe visitors can find the tea in Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, The Chile Shop, the Santa Fe School of Cooking, and Hillside; it’s also available online at www.loschileros.com (look for Bush Fire Tea) and may soon be marketed across the U.S. and South Africa. www.teachileno.com; (505) 310-0920.

First, You Start with Local Fruit

Colin Keegan and his wife Suzette moved to Santa Fe in 1992, building their home on a mature apple orchard in Tesuque that produced more heirloom apples – and gallons of cider – than they could possibly use. When Colin, a fancier of good Scotch and brandy, closed his architectural business in 2009, an idea fermented: why not build a distillery? Santa Fe Spirits was the solution to both his career and what to do with all those apples. Four years later, the company produces a bar-stocking variety of artisanal spirits, each imparting the subtle flavors of the Southwest:  Apple Brandy, Silver Coyote Malt Whiskey, Expedition Vodka, Wheeler’s Gin, and Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey. If the spirits moves you, you can tour the distillery off Airport Road and sample them in drinks like the “Whiskeyrita” in their new tasting room in downtown Santa Fe. They also are sold in local liquor and grocery stores and online. www.santafespirits.com; (505) 467-8892.

Nearly 80 percent of all traditional, authentic balsamic vinegar comes from some 70 producers in Modena, Italy (a far cry from the inexpensive, fake imitations). Just a small percentage of artisanal New World producers make the real thing using traditional Italian methods. Steve and Jane Darland of rustic Monticello, NM, are part of an even more select group who grow their own organic grapes. Their Aceto Balsamico Traditionale of Monticello is dark, viscous, organic vinegar that has been lovingly hand-made, step-by-step – growing, pruning, picking, and blending the grapes; aging the vinegar in casks or barrels for a minimum of 12 years; bottling, and labeling. Their vinegar is considered by many to be the best outside of Italy. You’ll pay $150 for 4.5-oz. bottle, but when you taste it, you’ll understand why. Available online and at the Farm Shop at Los Poblanos in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. www.organicbalsamic.com; info@organicbalsamic.com.

Beans, Bitters, and Bees

David and Juan Certain grew up in Columbia, spending much of their time in the fields of their grandfather’s coffee plantation, Villa Myriam. Their grandfather imparted the love and care that goes into making great coffee, treating employees fairly, and taking care of the land that sustains them. “When we moved to Albuquerque in 1999,” says David, “we looked for a way to bring that coffee over here. We ended up importing it directly from the plantation, and roasting here.” Their Villa Myriam Specialty Coffee maintains those high standards: it is Rainforest Alliance-certified and is made without pesticides or chemicals. You can enjoy a cup as you watch David roasting thebeans at 2420 Midtown Place NE and meet Juan at The Brew, their new coffee shop at 311 Gold St. The beans also are sold in many local stores and online, and a monthly subscription service is planned so you never have to run out of that good Columbian caffeine. www.villamyriam.com; (800) 609-0250.

While tending bar in Santa Fe, newbie bartender Bill York became intrigued with using bitters to flavor his cocktails. “I started playing around and developing my own recipes, and discovered a formula that was different than anything out there,” he says. Super-concentrated, intensely flavored, The Bitter End bitters come in unconventional flavors, each with a kick: Chesapeake Bay, Curry, Jamaican Jerk, Memphis BBQ, Mexican Mole, Moroccan, and Thai. Bill uses ingredients such as fresh and dried spices, herbs, fruits, chiles, and other aromatic botanicals, and each batch is mixed, infused, and dispensed by hand. The Bitter End bitters are sold worldwide and online (where you can also find recipes); locally, you can find them at Susan’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Santa Fe. www.bitterendbitters.com; info@bitterendbitters.com.

Taos beekeeper Jason Goodhue feels called to his profession as “a steward of the bees and the land.” The owner of Taos Valley Honey is dedicated to the community, sustainability, and the maintenance of happy, healthy, genetically diverse bees to pollinate crops. His delicious honey reflects his understanding of his bees’ well-being: “I can tell by the smell of the hive how they are doing,” he says. “It’s different at different times of the year.” You can find the by-product of Jason’s contented bees at Cid’s Food Market, the Taos Pharmacy, and the Taos Farmers’ Market. www.taosvalleyhoney.com; taosvalleyhoney@inbox.com; (575) 770-5953.
For information on additional New Mexico-made products, visit www.deliciousnm.com, an organization that supports family food businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the state.

Chocolate Reigns in the Land of Enchantment Every Day is Sweeter on New Mexico’s Chocolate Trail

If you wait until Valentine’s Day to give your sweetheart or yourself the gift of chocolate, you are missing out on 364 days of experiencing one of life’s greatest pleasures.  That’s especially true in New Mexico, where a small group of artisanal chocolatiers creatively and passionately ply their trade.  Some celebrate chocolate’s Mesoamerican roots (archaeologists have traced chocolate use back 1,000 years at Chaco Canyon); others draw inspiration from the great European chocolate masters or local New Mexico produce, such as chile and piñon.  The common ground they all share is devotion to their craft and the daily satisfaction of putting a smile on their customers’ faces.
Ready for a taste?  Let’s start in the southernmost part of the state and work our way north on the most intensely flavorful trail you’ll find in the Land of Enchantment:

Old Mesilla

When Old Mesilla was founded, the townsfolk were concentrated around the Plaza for defense against Apache raiders who were a constant threat to the settlement.  Today you can stage your own raid of tasty souvenirs from The Chocolate Lady. Owner Linda Jackson creates premier chocolates in the tradition of European candy makers, using pure, fresh ingredients, including Criollo, a single-bean cacao sourced from Venezuela.  “Everything I do is by hand, from scratch, from the bottom up,” says Jackson, who honed her skills in her home kitchen before buying The Chocolate Lady 13 years ago.  Her heavenly truffles, flavored with Champagne, rum, Kahlua and other liqueurs, give a whole new meaning to Happy Hour.  Customers flock to her store for Jackson’s famous Valentine’s Day chocolate-dipped strawberries. 2379 Calle de Guadalupe, 575-526-2744.

Albuquerque

You don’t have to visit the factory outlet store of Chocolate Cartel in order to taste their truffles, bars, chocolate-covered treats, hot chocolate, or flourless chocolate cake – they ship around the U.S. and sell at many local stores.  Formerly called Xocoatl Chocolate, the company was launched in Taos in 2001 by Certified Master Chocolatier and Chef de Cuisine Scott J. Van Rixel, and remains devoted to handcrafting superb chocolates using the finest, fairly traded chocolate and natural ingredients.  Van Rixel’s knack for flavor profiles and science of foods has led to creations like blueberry Port and raspberry & rose truffles, and a drinking chocolate that marries rich, dark cocoa; spices; almonds; and vanilla.  15 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE Ste. A, 505-797-1193, www.chocolatecartel.com.

Grace Lapsys of Joliesse Chocolates grew up eating chocolate in the Philippines, but it took a trip to Europe to revamp her career. “I was delighted to see that each little town in the countryside had their own baker, cheese maker, butcher, wine maker….and chocolatier,” she says.  “That way of life opened my eyes to joie de vivre, the true art and joy of living.”  And also to international training in the fine art of crafting chocolate.  Today she combines her skills, knowledge of tropical flavors, and New Mexico ingredients to create unique and exquisite chocolates.  You don’t have to be a movie buff to love her sinful, actress-themed truffles, like the Sophia Loren (dark chocolate hazelnut and almond gianduja), the Elizabeth Taylor (white chocolate lavender Port), and the Salma Hayek (dark chocolate serrano chile ganache with piñon croquant).  6855 4th Street NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, 1-855-GETJOLI (855-438-5654), www.lajoliesse.com.

Santa Fe

Kokopelli was a god in ancient Native American cultures, where drinking chocolate figured heavily in fertility and health-fortifying rituals.  “He was also a traveler, trader, and bringer of music, happiness, and enjoyment to all,” notes CoCopelli owner Lauren Gurney.  Like Kokopelli, “we strive to make the world a sweeter place, one cupcake and truffle at a time.”  Gurney learned the basics working for a chocolatier while in high school, but took off to become a pilot.  She had been fighting New Mexico forest fires from the air when chocolate brought her back to earth in 2011.  After a workshop with a major chocolate company, she felt the time was right to open CoCopelli.  Now she produces cupcakes and custom cakes as well as decadent, hand-dipped confections like double-stuffed Oreos, orange peel dipped in premium dark chocolate, and an array of unusual truffles.  3482 Zafarano Drive, 505-438-2626, www.cocosantafe.com.

Dark chocolate has been shown to have many health benefits, so you need never feel guilty about a visit to ChocolateSmith, where barks, bon bons, caramels, and other creations are crafted from, or bathed in, this healthy treat.   One of their specialties is paté, which is made from a rich, firm dark chocolate ganache infused with organic ingredients, carved into whimsical shapes, and dipped in Dutch cheese wax, which preserves the chocolate and makes it shippable during warmer weather.  Owners Jeff and Kari Keenan moved to Santa Fe from San Diego, but they quickly adopted New Mexico’s ubiquitous chile, blending both red and green in a variety of their chocolate treats.  Their barks (like the Lemon Poppy Seed with Cranberry) are worth every bite.  851 Cerrillos Road, 505-473-2111, www.chocolatesmith.com.

Kakawa -chocolates -380When you order a hot chocolate at Kakawa Chocolate House, you will get a delicious history lesson in your cup.  Their Mesoamerican, Historic European, and contemporary elixirs represent chocolate’s historical path around the world, from pre-Columbian cultures to modern day. The Mayan Full Spice Elixir, for example, combines the deep, complex flavors of unsweetened chocolate, agave nectar, herbs, flowers, nuts, spices, Chihuacle Negro chile and Mexican vanilla.  Fast-forward several centuries to the 1692 French Lavender Elixir from the Court of Versailles, with 73.5% chocolate, raw unprocessed cane sugar, cloves, Ceylon cinnamon, Provence lavender, Mexican vanilla, ambergris and musk.  Kakawa is not just about drinking chocolate, however – they make a variety of high-quality chocolates, truffles, caramels, and mendiants (a traditional French confection composed of a dark chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits) fresh each day.  1050 E. Paseo de Peralta, 505-982-0388, www.kakawachocolates.com.

Chuck Higgins embarked on his candy-making career with “The King’s Nuts,” peanut rolls sold from a truck parked at state fairs from Minnesota to Miami.  After years on the circuit, he decided to park his truck and settle in a more permanent location in Santa Fe.  Today C.G. Higgins is home to two cafes, one off Paseo de Peralta and one just off the Plaza, where visitors can relax in cozy red armchairs, sip a European-style hot chocolate, and nibble on a hand-formed, hand-dipped truffle or Chuck’s famous peanut roll.   The free Wi-Fi is further enticement to happily escape for a morning or afternoon.  847 Ninita St. and 30 Lincoln Ave., 505-820-1315, www.cghiggins.com.

What happens when folk art meets artisanal chocolate?  A tiny shop nestled inside Sena Plaza called Todos Santos, which houses an eclectic collection of milagros (religious folk charms), one-of-a-kind Pez dispensers, papier-mâché, gold-dusted Buddhas, silver amulets, and other artistic creations – all of which also happen to be edible.  Owner Hayward Simoneaux began collecting antique chocolate molds more than 15 years ago, leading to a passion for chocolate-making using unconventional forms and wrappings.  If you are looking for a unique gift or delightful shopping experience, this is the place to go.  125 E. Palace Ave., #31, 505-982-3855.

Senior -Murphys -chocolate -bars 380No stroll around the Santa Fe Plaza is complete without making a pilgrimage to Señor Murphy Candymaker, a local institution for more than four decades.  It continues to hold its own amidst the new generation of artisanal chocolatiers, thanks to a commitment to high-quality local ingredients made in small batches by skilled craftsmen.   You’ll find an interesting assortment of brittles and bars, like the Lavender and Turkish Lemon Bar – creamy white chocolate and roasted almonds, sprinkled with candied Turkish lemon and finished with lavender buds and a hint of real truffle powder.  Their holiday items include heart-boxed assortments for Valentine’s Day, and, for those who like it hot, they offer a Caliente! collectionthat features New Mexican chile.  100 East San Francisco Street, 505-982-0641, www.senormurphy.com.  Additional locations in Old Town Albuquerque, the Albuquerque International Sunport, and Cerrillos Rd. in Santa Fe.

Recipe for Culinary Adventure:

“...bring home a true souvenir that will far outlast your vacation: take a culinary class. ”

A Cook’s Trail of Classes that Capture the Diverse and Exciting Flavors of New Mexico

When you visit the Land of Enchantment this year, bring home a true souvenir that will far outlast your vacation:  take a culinary class.  You won’t have to worry about how to fit it into your suitcase, and you will gain new culinary skills, memories, and friends that you will always treasure.

Make tapas in Taos.  Design your own chocolate bar in Albuquerque.  Curdle cheese in a real creamery.   Bake Native bread in a Pueblo horno.  Recreate the recipes of Georgia O’Keeffe.  All across the state, chefs are eager to share their joy of cooking with you.  Whether you have a week or just an hour or two, the options are endless.  Here’s just a sampling of the fun you can have cooking your way through New Mexico:

Taos:  Cooking with an Actor and through Artists’ Eyes
Teaching cooking is Chris Maher’s second act, following a successful acting career that included feature films and television shows.  Compelled to return to his Egyptian culinary roots, Chris applied that same passion to food – working in New York’s famous Tavern on the Green, catering, opening his own restaurants, and cooking for The Dalai Lama and President Bill Clinton.   His acting career and other life experiences add spice to his classes at Cooking Studio Taos.  With his mastery of various ethnic cuisines, his classes are like taking a trip around the world.  www.cookingschooltaos.com, 575-776-2665, cookingstudiotaos@mac.com.

Cooking -Studio -Taos -fun [10]You might not expect to learn cooking at the Taos Art School, but owner Ursula Beck likes to combine two or more art forms in her eclectic curriculum of classes and trips.  “The Artist in the Kitchen” (Sept. 14-20, 2014), celebrates three artists who expressed their passion for art and food in very different ways:  Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, and R.C. Gorman.  “We’ll cook their foods and look at the connections between their food and their art,” says Ursula.  This summer’s immersive “Farm to Table” class (July 13-19, 2014) takes 12 students into the home kitchen of Elena Arguello, whose family has farmed in northern New Mexico for several generations.  Students learn how to prepare summer’s bounty of produce from small local farms in traditional and non-traditional ways.  www.taosartschool.org, 575-758-0350, tas@taosartschool.org.

Embudo to Santa Fe:  Preparing Local Cuisines in Outdoor Wood-Fired Ovens
Norma Naranjo’s mother and grandmother taught her the art of baking bread and pies in their horno (beehive-shaped adobe oven) at the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, and over the years she was frequently asked to prepare her traditional dishes for special events.  When she retired, she decided to start The Feasting Place, catering and teaching others how to prepare the dishes typically prepared for a Pueblo feast.  Norma’s half-day classes welcome small groups into her cozy Pueblo home in Espanola, where she highlights local ingredients  and shares cultural traditions.  You’ll learn to make a variety of traditional dishes; sit-down feasts for up to 40 people are also available.  www.thefeastingplace.com, 505-753-6767, thefeastingplace@gmail.com.

There is no better way to spend a Saturday morning than in a lovely vineyard, preparing and eating a delicious meal while tasting award-winning wines.  At Estrella Del Norte, New Mexico’s only vineyard winery, cooking classes are taught by both the Santa Fe School of Cooking and Santa Fe Culinary Academy, whose chefs each bring their individual cooking styles and personalities.  All classes feature Southwestern foods prepared with the patio’s wood-fired oven and grill, and include a discussion of the local wine industry, dating from the 1600s (New Mexico is the country’s oldest grape-growing state) to today. www.estrelladelnortevineyard.com, 505-455-2826, ednvwine@gmail.com.

Santa Fe:  Where a Cooking School is Always in Session
For more than 20 years, the Santa Fe School of Cooking has educated people from all over the world about the flavors of the Southwest.  Hands-on classes explore the finer points of individual dishes and sauces or tackle complete meals.  In February, March, and April, the school teams up with the O’Keeffe Museum to explore recipes from the book, The Painter’s Kitchen, Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe by Margaret Wood; the author will share her personal stories and insights into the life of the well-known artist.  The school also offers three-day culinary boot camps, restaurant walking tours, and much more. www.santafeschoolofcooking.com, 505-983-4511, cookin@santafeschoolofcooking.com.

JV-TEACH1[4]Since 1998, Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe in the DeVargas Shopping Center has hosted classes by Chef John Vollertsen, known to his all as “Johnny Vee.”  His experience spans restaurants from New York City to Sydney, Australia, and his classes display his broad knowledge and enthusiasm.  Classes explore seasonal dishes, ethnic cuisines, high-altitude baking, and more.  John also teaches regular classes at Kitchen Kraft in Las Cruces.  With John in the kitchen, a party atmosphere and plenty to eat are guaranteed.  www.lascosascooking.com, www.chefjohnnyvee.com, 505-988-3394, chefjohnnyvee@aol.com.

Whether you aspire to become a professional chef or just want to learn a new culinary skill, the newly opened Santa Fe Culinary Academy has you covered.  Heading up its staff is Santa Fean Rocky Durham, a classically French-trained chef who has cooked professionally on five continents.  You can choose from a roster of three-hour classes on everything from butchery to pastry making, or you can enroll in a four-day intensive and really impress your friends at home. www.santafeculinaryacademy, 505-983-7445, scoop@santafeculinaryacademy.com.

Corrales:  A Historical Perspective on Southwest Fare
Founded by a leading international authority on the cuisine of the American Southwest and regional Mexican cooking, the Jane Butel Cooking School was named one of the world’s four best by Bon Appetit magazine.  You will learn why chiles have been revered for thousands of years by the ancients and how blue corn evolved as the essential grain that kept the Anasazis alive.  Jane’s weekend and week-long workshops in the historic village of Corrales are hands-on and include a get-acquainted reception, Southwestern continental breakfasts, and a full dinner, accompanied by Jane’s “perfect margaritas.”  www.janebutelcooking.com, 505-243-2622, info@janebutelcooking.com.

Albuquerque:  Live Your Chocolate Fantasy and Visit a Working Farm
In Grace Lapsys’ native Philippines, eating tsokolate, or chocolate,was a way of life.  Reigniting her passion for chocolate as an adult, she enrolled in chocolatier schools in British Columbia and France and traveled to Europe’s top chocolate destinations for inspiration before opening Joliesse Chocolates in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.  At Grace’s small classes and workshops, you’ll learn chocolate’s history, art, and science as you make your own truffles and bars.  Take home your goodies (if they last that long).  www.lajoliesse.com, 505-369-1561, grace@lajoliesse.com

Guests can stay and dine at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, set among 25 acres of lavender fields, enormous cottonwood trees, and lush formal gardens.  From October through March, on the first Sunday of each month, you can also hone your culinary skills in the farm’s 1930s kitchen.  Executive Chef Jonathan Perno’s hands-on classes focus on seasonal foods and are followed by a sit-down dinner. www.lospoblanos.com, 505-344-9297, info@lospoblanos.com.

Estancia:  Become a Cheese Whiz
At The Old Windmill Dairy, when you say “cheese,” you can also make it.  The Estancia farm is home to Ed and Michael Lobaugh’s Nubian goats and a creamery, where you can learn the fine art of cheese-making and taste their award-winning chèvres, cheddars, goudas, and blue cheeses.  Their half-day beginning class will teach you how to inoculate the milk; curdle, hoop, and drain the cheese; and stretch mozzarella.  In the six-hour advanced class, you’ll create your own semi-hard cheese which will be shipped to you three months later, after it ripens – bearing your own personal label.  Warning: wear old clothes for this class, as sometimes goats like to nibble on jackets.  www.theoldwindmilldairy.com, 505-384-0033, info@towdairy.com.


Learn from the Pros During New Mexico Restaurant Week

If you’re planning a ski vacation in the Land of Enchantment during New Mexico Restaurant Week (February 23 – March 1, 2014), make sure you catch a few of the one- to two-hour classes taught by local chefs and bartenders in their restaurants.   This once-a-year opportunity gives epicureans a chance to interact with the pros and learn some new culinary techniques before enjoying the value-priced dinners offered that week.  Past classes have run the gamut from how to make gnocchi and empanadas to “The ABCs of Sake” and “Cocktail Crafting from the Masters.” www.nmrestaurantweek.com (click on “Events” in each city), 505-847-3333, info@nmrestaurantweek.com.

New Mexico’s Iconic Chile Guest Stars in Global Cuisine Adept at finding creative uses for the local crop, NM chefs prove that this spice is the variety of life

“...Chile is your passport to a world of exciting flavors, without ever leaving the state of New Mexico.”

When New Mexico’s official state question (“Red or green?”) is asked in local restaurants, it is usually in connection with our unique style of Southwestern fare.  Here, it’s “Christmas” (a combination of red and green) every day of the year – and enchiladas , burritos, and tacos provide a perfect canvas for savoring the subtleties between red and green, fiery and mild, and Hatch versus Chimayo chiles.

But no visit to the Land of Enchantment is complete without sampling the rich variety of other cuisines embraced by our creative chefs.  Fortunately, your tastebuds can take a virtual trip around the globe and still get their chile fix.  Craving sushi in Santa Fe?  Irish pub fare in Farmington?  Pasta in Truth or Consequences?  You may be surprised to discover that our local chile shows up in places – and dishes -- you would least suspect.

Chile is your passport to a world of exciting flavors, without ever leaving the state of New Mexico.  Let’s explore a few of the options:

Albuquerque

Unless you’re Persian, you may have trouble pronouncing some of the dishes at Pars Cuisine (parscuisine.com), like Chelo Kabab Koobideh or Ghimeh Bademjoon, but don’t let that stop you – this  restaurant, with its Samovar and Hookah bar, is an authentic cultural immersion.  Accompany your kabob, shank, or stew with a side of green chile and discover the tasty intersection of Middle East and Southwest.

With its own sizable  farm and a seasonally driven menu influenced by both haute cuisine and foods indigenous to the Rio Grande River Valley, La Merienda at Los Poblanos is definitely not your typical New Mexican restaurant.  It showcases a variety of local growers and producers, like Shepherd’s Lamb from Northern New Mexico, their farm’s own lavender honey, and 16-year-old Balsamic vinegar from Old Monticello Farms.  Naturally, local chile appears in daily specials and regular dishes, such as the the green chile mustard that accompanies the Pollo Confit Rillette, and the honey red chile glaze on their larded and brined Los Poblanos Pork Loin with coriander roasted root vegetables.

Carlsbad

Inside Carlsbad’s historic old City Hall, The Stock Exchange (thestockexchangenm.com) Chef Kevin Zinc gives a local twist to an American steakhouse favorite:  Reserve Tenderloin Tips topped with sautéed mushrooms, roasted green chile, and aged cheddar.  Side dishes include green chile cheese grits, two whole grilled green chiles, and a palate-cleansing wedge of watermelon with pink sea salt.

Farmington

If you wander into Clancy’s Pub – an Irish Cantina (clancys.net) looking for an Irish stew and a pint, you may be a wee bit surprised to discover the New Mexico green chile in your bowl alongside the pork and potatoes.  (This Irish cantina also has a sushi bar, but that’s another story.)  It’s all part of the eclectic culinary experience at Clancy’s, where you’ll find more than a wee bit o’ the green (chile, that is) in all kinds of delicious dishes.

Gallup

At Fratelli’s Pizza Bistro & Ice Creamery’s (fratellisbistro.com), Italian cuisine and frozen delights provide a welcome stop for Interstate 40 travelers.  Their New Mexico Roadrunner pizza with pepperoni, sausage, and green chile is the perfect entree to the Land of Enchantment.  For a trip back to the glory days of the “Mother Road,” as locals called the old Route 66, check out the historical charm of the Badlands Grill (badlandsgrill.com).  Start with the Green Chile Wontons filled with ground beef and green chile, served with a green chile marmalade; and then surrender to the Bandito, a 16-oz., bad-boy New York strip steak topped with green chile, mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

Hatch

Hatch is where the bulk of the state’s chiles are grown, so you would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that doesn’t feature them.  But for a change of pace from New Mexico-style cuisine, follow the smoke to Sparky’s (sparkysburgers.com) – and if that fails you, just look for the 10-ft.  A&W Root Beer Mama on the roof.  This is serious, wood-fired barbeque featuring brisket, pulled pork, ribs and sausage, accompanied by a side of green chile creamed sweet corn.  Sparky’s West Texas-style green chile cheeseburger and green chile chicken sandwich are also great ways to enjoy the local crop.

Las Cruces

A name like Aqua Reef (aquareefrestaurants.com) sounds incongruous in southern New Mexico, but you can satisfy your Asian/sushi and green chile cravings with their New Mexico Pecan Green Chile Roll – a pecan-breaded, stuffed green chile topped with sriracha sauce.  Also try their Aqua Reef Roll, featuring Saku tuna, green chile, cucumber, and scallion with dynamite sauce.

At the Si Italian Bistro (sibistro.com), definitely say “yes” to Dave's Favorite Pizza, a wood-fired pie with homemade sauce, pepperoni, salami, Cremini mushrooms, black olives, oven roasted tomatoes, and – last but not least – hot green chile.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe encompasses an entire globe of dining options, and New Mexico chile has sprouted up in almost all of them.  The flavors explode at Babaluu’s Cocina Cubana (babaluuscocina.com), a Cuban gem along Highway 14, the Old Turquoise Trail heading toward Madrid, where pig roasts are a regular event.  Havana native Chef Amaury uses Hatch green chile to spice up his Caribbean Crawfish Creole Green Chile Boil and Sautéed Littleneck Clams, and uses Chimayo red chile to kick his mango sauce up a notch, and even subtly flavor his ice cream, which he serves in edible bowls of spun sugar.

Feeling nostalgic for the Left Bank?  Mais oui! Stroll over to Bouche Bistro (bouchebistro.com), where French-born and -trained Chef Charles Dale will have you convinced the Eiffel Tower is twinkling outside your window.  Red chile adds a nice local touch to his Black Mussels in White Wine.   At the aptly named Ristra (ristrarestaurant.com), native French Chef Xavier Grenet showcases New Mexico green chile in his Poblano Relleno, accompanied by wild rice, spaghetti squash, sundried tomatoes, and a piquillo pepper coulis.

When it’s time for the Three S’s (Sushi, Sashimi, and Sake), head to Shohko Café (shohkocafe.com), where the fresh fish rivals any of its coastal counterparts.  But be sure one of your dishes includes their signature green chile tempura, invented in the mountains of La Madera and inspired by New Mexico’s chile relleno.  It also shines in several other original Shohko creations, including the Santa Fe Roll, which teams green chile with shrimp tempura and avocado.

Osteria d’Assisi’s (osteriadassisi.com) cuisine is inspired by Italy’s Lombardy region on the north side of Lake Como, but their Lombardy native Executive Chef Cristian Pontiggia never hesitates to feature local green and red chile in a variety of dishes, from his Buffalo Lasagne to pizza toppings at Osteria’s sister restaurant, Pizzeria da Lino (pizzeriadalino.com).  Red chile takes a final bow in Chef Pontiggia’s unique dessert, Tartufo al Cioccolato con Peperoncino Rosso e Pancella in Salsa Cappucino, which translates to a delectable chocolate truffle crusted with red chile bacon in cappuccino sauce.

And, speaking of sweet endings, chocolate lovers must order Chef Andrew Cooper’s Dark Chocolate Souffle with Green Chile Cream, one of the most-popular desserts at Terra at the Four Seasons Encantado Resort (fourseasons.com/santafe/dining/restaurants/terra).  This decadent treat is designed for two, but nobody will tattle on you if you savor it all by yourself.

Pie Town

Who first figured out that green chile belonged in that quintessential American dessert, apple pie?  We aren’t sure, but we agree it is a match made in heaven.  You can find the combination all around the state during the September chile harvest, but you might want to make the pilgrimage to Pie Town, where they take pie making seriously.  It might seem like there’s a rivalry between the Good Pie Café (goodpie.com), whose New Mexican Apple Pie incorporates two ounces of spicy green chile, and the Pie-O-Neer’s (pie-o-neer.com) apple, green chile, and piñon pie, but they peacefully co-exist by being open on different days of the week.

Silver City

Once an old mining town, Silver City is now home to a thriving, diverse restaurant community, including The Curious Kumquat (curiouskumquat.com), where Chef Rob Connoley recently earned a spot in Saveur magazine’s “Top 100” for what it termed the “most far-flung modernist cuisine.”   A devotee of molecular gastronomy, the chef incorporates hydrocolloids (a fancy name for gums, such as gelatins and pectins) and other techniques into globally influenced dishes, like Thai red curry duck and Korean-spiced elk shank.  Chef Connoley’s cuisine is equally inspired by locally sourced ingredients, such as crayfish harvested from the nearby Gila River and, of course, Hatch green chile.  His Green Chile Corn Chowder males a great starter or light lunch.

Taos

Chef Lesley Fay of Graham’s Grille (grahamstaos.com) describes her Green Chile Cioppino as “Taos, New Mexico meets North Beach, San Francisco.” The fragrant fish stew originated in the Italian American neighborhood of the City by the Bay.   Chef Fay’s unique New Mexican take combines shrimp, mussels, Italian sausage, and New Mexico green chile in a smoky tomato, white wine, and garlic sauce.

When thirst strikes, you’re in good hands – Taos and its environs are home to a handful of microbreweries.   But you won’t want to miss the award-winning Taos Green Chili Beer at Eske’s Brew Pub & Eatery, located in the historic district of Taos, one-half block southeast of Taos Plaza.  Their brewers use local green chile during fermentation make an aromatic, dry, delicious beer that was recently featured online in a recent ABC News article highlighting the country’s best brews:  “Latest Craft Brews Inspired by Far More than Hops.”  If you can’t make it to Eske’s, you can also find this specialty brew elsewhere around the state, including the Albuquerque airport.

Truth or Consequences

After a nice, long soak in the T or C hot springs, it’s time for dinner in Italy!  Actually, it’s not much of a stretch when you’re dining at Bella Luca Café Italiano (cafebellaluca.com), home of hearty Italian cuisine.  Since Hatch’s famous chile is grown just 40 miles away, don’t miss their Calabasitas Fettuccini, featuring local organic summer squash, fire-roasted corn, Hatch green chile, and crispy pancetta in a white wine cream sauce.  Add some grilled chicken, tiger shrimp, or wild salmon if you need a little protein to recover from your strenuous day of bone-soaking.

About the Author

Michele Ostrove is a Santa Fe-based writer and president of the PR/marketing firm Wings Media Network, which organizes New Mexico Restaurant Week, Holiday Pie Mania, and other events.  She specializes in food, wine, travel and tourism, and founded Wine Adventure magazine, the first wine magazine for women.