My traveling companion and I recently returned from a week in Santa Fe and Taos, NM with the Road Scholar organization (a great nonprofit which organizes travel with an educational component, mostly for older adults although all ages over 21 are welcome.) While we were there we had the opportunity to try several restaurants reviewed on Roadfood, and since I've enjoyed so much reading other people's trip reports, I thought I'd give one a try. This is my first attempt at posting photos, so let's see if it works!
We arrived at the Albuquerque Sunport on Sunday, July 11 and took the shuttle to our hotel in Santa Fe, which was on the Cerrillos Road commercial strip, not in the fancier (and more expensive!) downtown area. Neither my companion or I had ever been to the southwest before, and we were very excited to experience the differences in landscape from our flat, eastcoast home in Delaware.
The first thing we noticed was lots of the color brown....very few trees except where planted and watered deliberately. Lots of scrubby bushes and sagebrush. But what was most noticeable was the sky. It seemed bigger, and closer, and more dramatic than back east.
We had arrived at about 2 PM mountain time, which was 4 PM as far as our eastern appetites were telling us, and we needed lunch! The hotel staff recommended a small Mexican restaurant a few doors up the street, with the comment. "The little hole-in-the-wall ones are the best." A short walk later we were at Adelitas. This tiny, family-run restaurant had great food, and the festive atmosphere was added to by the finale of the World Cup on the TVs in either corner of the room. Most of the kitchen staff were in the dining room, loudly cheering for Spain (they won later, after we left.)
Here is my companion's cheese enchilada plate (you can tell this is a Mexican, as opposed to a NEW Mexican, restaurant, by the mashed refried beans - New Mexican cuisine keeps them whole.) We were asked the classic New Mexico question "Red or green chile?" though. This plate has red chile, and my carne advoda (pork stewed until falling-apart tender in red chile) burrito had "Christmas" - half red and half green. Unfortunately I forgot about taking pictures and scarfed it up before remembering. It was just fiery enough that I needed my iced tea near at hand, but quite delicious and exactly what I needed at the moment.
After several different versions of cheese enchiladas on the trip, my companion pronounced Adelitas the best.
On Tuesday, we took a trip up to the Sangre de Christo mountains to the village of Chimayo', which has a famous small church known as the "Lourdes of New Mexico". Supposedly the dirt there has healing properties. While we did not try it out, the church itself was beautiful, with lovely garden planting and the mountains looming in the background.
On the grounds was a small, well-worn store which sold religious artifacts (and, apparently, popsicles.) It reminded me of so many pictures of small grocery stores in the Deep South, complete with ancient gas pump (on the left.) But what made it uniquely New Mexican was the decoration with "ristras" (strings of dried red chiles), which you can see on the upper right of the building, next to the name of the store.
We had dinner that night at the hacienda Rancho de Chimayo' restaurant, arranged as part of our tour. The hacienda was in a park-like setting, and decorated with the obligatory ristras.
We began with frozen margaritas, and chips and salsa. The salsa was quite hot, and outlasted my margarita, which was the most pleasurable means of quelling the fire that I've yet tried. I had the combination plate, a pork tamale, cheese enchilada, and beef taco, with pinto beans and rice. Once again, I forgot all about taking pictures, but my companion did snap a picture of her enchilada plate, with sopapilla (to the left, with a small bite out of it.)
Most of the food was just average, though the setting was lovely. But oh, those sopapillas. Soft, and warm from the fry kettle (but not the least bit greasy), and hollow inside, you bite or tear off one corner and drizzle honey inside. They were my single favorite newfood item that I tried on this trip. Bigger and better ones to come!
One of the most enjoyable parts of the trip was seeing the landscape of the Western movies and TV shows of my childhood (ok, I'm dating myself) come to life. I almost could not believe some of the things I saw were real outside the silver screen. Here is a mesa, which, as our guide explained, is a flat-topped mountain that is wider than it is tall (as opposed to a butte, which is taller than it is wide. Can you tell I'm a schoolmarm?)
Much of our time was taken up by the activities of the tour, but from time to time we did sneak away on our own. I had picked out several restaurants from the Roadfood reviews that I wanted to try. The first was the Plaza cafe, where we went for lunch on a rare free afternoon. The first thing I ordered was more of those sopapillas.
These were even better than the ones at Rancho de Chimayo'! They must be popular here, because every table had its squeeze bottle of honey. I also had the New Mexican chopped salad, with lettuce, corn, green chiles, apples, and strips of fried corn tortilla, but alas! not the promised pine nuts. It was huge and, stuffed with sopapillas, I could not finish it. My companion had (you guessed it) the cheese enchiladas, which she pronounced "frozen Old El Paso." Oh well, at least the sopapillas were great, and the decor was worth the trip. Here's the clock:
And a pretty comprehensive list of useful phone numbers, including one for President Obama.
We got a chance to visit Museum Hill, but as time was short we only got to see one of them, the magnificent Museum of International Folk Art. It was a very hot day (high 90s) but comfortable nonetheless because of the lack of humidity. I did enjoy sitting outside for a time and feeling the clarity of the air and intensity of the sunlight.
One of the other museums which, alas, we did not have time for, was the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the entrance of which
featured this great statue of an Apache warrior:
The landscaping featured this fine specimen of a cactus:
Here's the monument to the end of the Santa Fe trail, which went from St. Louis to Santa Fe and supplied the whole southwest with goods from the eastern parts:
More to come!
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