New Mexican dining simply enchanting

Decades have whizzed by since I last sauntered New Mexico. In the halcyon days of my youth, camping and hiking, I wasn’t thinking about what New Mexican cuisine had to offer. The mountains called to me, horny toads bounded at our feet and the air was crisp and clean. The only pictures I have from those trips are in my mind’s eye, as reliable as my new love of photography but harder to share. These days my sensibilities are more bourgeois, and I look forward to the comfort and elegant aesthetic of adobe haciendas and fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The bright energy of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains infuses inhabitants with both a spark and sangfroid that’s truly revitalizing. I was very fortunate to have hosts in Taos (Lucky and Becky Tomblin) with exquisite taste who introduced me to some wonderful, very diverse dining experiences. I arrived in Taos on Thursday, in time for Music on the Square which attracted both tourists and locals for free family fun. Already the light had captured my imagination. Perfect weather demands patio dining, which we found at Antonio’s, a charming garden restaurant filled with hollyhock flowers. It didn’t hurt that tame hummingbird moths flitted about, entirely comfortable with diners enjoying guacamole salad made fresh at the table and many more and less traditional Mexican inspired dishes. I ordered the Huitlacoche and mushroom enchiladas with a smooth, slightly spicy green mole sauce. They tasted a little like wilted kale or spinach enchiladas, a very pleasing and aesthetically sublime supper in the Taos twilight with nary a mosquito in sight. Fresh fruits and vegetables were as vibrant as the mountain air. Honestly, who can argue with a land in which apricot and pinon trees grow wild? Another stand out for happy hour and lunch was the KTAO solar radio station’s daily bar and food truck outdoor get together. While the lemonade and rice and mushroom cheeseburger with sweet potato fries satisfied my burger craving, the friendly service and multi-generational Gem├╝tlichkeit at the foot of Wheeler Peak was memorable. Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, every dish I was served included fresh sauteed vegetables. The Saturday Farmer’s Market was a testament to the quality of locally farmed produce. Accompanied by mariachis, we gathered peaches, apricots, plums and fresh greens to compliment the pasture raised chicken eggs we enjoyed for breakfast. Quirky, tasteful with a discerning clientele, restaurants in Taos jostled for attention and did not lack for an appreciative audience. The Love Apple, a repurposed yet not quite renovated organic restaurant (see link), provides the perfect window to the Taos food ethos. It was monsoon season, which brought the rain daily around 3:00 to keep things green. The apricots and plums were smaller than we’re used to seeing in Tejas, but sweeter in handy single bite servings. I left Taos with a firm resolve to return soon and took the High Road to Santa Fe, with only one day to see my friends and the city. I stopped at the Rancho de Chimayo Restaurant and had a delicious lunch of shrimp pesto enchiladas with a refreshing sangria blanca to put me in the mood for El Sanctuario de Chimayo. I’ll cover that more in a follow up posting, but suffice to say that the side trip to Chimayo was worthwhile. Arriving in Santa Fe, I enjoyed the warmth and hospitality of the Poster Boyz of Santa Fe, my great friends Ralph Lopez and Daniel Link, both Austin ex-patriots. Danny’s pozole was a homemade delight so I only ate breakfast at one Santa Fe restaurant, the Plaza Cafe before heading back to Albuquerque. One of my favorite dishes on the trip was a short stack of blue corn pinon nut pancakes. Eggs cooked just right, homemade turkey sausage with fresh herbs and fresh fruit aside, don’t leave New Mexico without trying them. I will be looking forward to my return saunter to both Santa Fe and Taos, certainly something wonderful to explore in every season.

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