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New Mexico Cuisine

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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

THE TORTILLA TRAIL

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.

THE TORTILLA TRAILNew 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

THE TORTILLA TRAIL

Las 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.

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.

CHOCOLATE REIGNS IN THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT

Every Day is Sweeter on New Mexico’s Chocolate Trail

Senor MurphyIf 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

Choco KidWhen 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 ChocolatesWhen 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 ChocolateNo 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 aCaliente! 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.