Right Idea, So-So Execution

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Imagine my joyful surprise when I heard about a new restaurant that opened recently in San Francisco.

Called the Green Chile Kitchen, it proclaims to “…serve New Mexican inspired food focusing on the distinctive flavors and traditions of this unique region.”

Wait. What?

“We use Bueno chile in all our dishes, which has been owned and operated by the Baca family since 1951.”

Hold on. I know (and have eaten of the) Bueno chile.

Can it be? Is it so?

Is there actually true New Mexican cooking near enough to me to make it matter?

So you know what happened next. I made The Good Man take me there (he’s better at navigating San Francisco and the part of town where this is located is really unfamiliar to me).

The verdict?

Well. It’s ok, I guess. So-so on the “I’m from there and know better” scale.

I chose the usual first dish I try at a restaurant to see if it passes muster: a plate of green chile chicken enchiladas.

Here’s how the plate looked.





Not bad, right? Pretty enough.

First thing I noticed was they used green chile pieces but not any sauce on the enchiladas. Hmm. I’m used to a plate dowsed in sauce and melted cheese. But the cook does say this is more Santa Fe style, so ok. I went along with it.

The enchiladas are made how I like, sort of stacked style, but even though I ordered the hot chile, I have to say the whole plate lacked that zing I like (and crave).

They could use a lot more cumino along with a heavy dose of both garlic and onions.

And this is just me, but I like refrieds more than whole beans with enchiladas. Also, I’m pretty sure they didn’t cook the beans with fatback which is a sin against nature my home state, if you ask me.

So I’d give this whole meal about a B, maybe a B+. Far better than anything else I can get around here. No where near as good as Nopalitos.
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Oh, and you can see in the top corner of the photo, I tried the Green Chile Cafe’s horchata. I consider myself an aficionado. This version was pretty bland, I thought. They seriously need to cut loose with the cinnamon shaker. If we go back I wouldn’t order it again. Four bucks it too much to pay for GOOD horchata, much less disappointment in a glass.



Misty Water Colored Memories. Of the Way We Were. Orale.

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In the wake of my most recent (and fabulous) visit to my home state of New Mexico, I find I’m getting my old crone on.

New Mexico has both grown and grown up over the last twenty years. I suppose change is inevitable.

But sometimes I still lament the way it used to be.

So here’s a top of my mind list of how New Mexico used to be. This just happens to be what I’m thinking about on my first day back in California on a stormy Bay Area day.


Grumpy McGrumperson’s List of “That was my New Mexico”

  1. It rained in summer. It snowed in winter. The Rio Grande bulged with water in July. Farmers irrigated their land. Sure, it was still a desert, but water didn’t cost $300 a cubic meter. Cotton plants grew tall. Pecans grew large. It worked. Now New Mexico is in the midst of a terrifying descent into serious drought and a mismanaged water conservancy.
  2. If you went to the Balloon Fiesta, there was never, not for one moment, a thought that you’d just sit there and watch. You were expected to pitch in, even if you were a small child. “Safety” and “insurance” didn’t ever come into mind. We just helped, because getting those hot air balloons off the ground was what we did in Albuquerque.
  3. Breakfast burritos at the Balloon Fiesta were cheap, incredibly delicious, and you bought them out of a battered ice chest and didn’t think twice about it. Same with tamales at Christmas.
  4. Pinto beans were made with pork. No one ever wondered about or protested this fact. Ever.
  5. If you ate a Biscochito, you didn’t question if it was made from lard. OF COURSE it was made with lard. And no one thought that was weird, bad or worried that it would make them fat. Anything but lard was unfathomable.
  6. Luminarias used a real candle. None of this electric hogwash.
  7. If it said Hatch green chile, you knew it was actually from Hatch. It seemed strange to even question.
  8. When you looked into a bucket of ice at a bar, and pulled out a bottle, it was beer. Just beer. None of these foofy malt-based sugared up drinks. Just beer. And decent beer. What’s with the light, light, oh so lite you can breathe it like air. Just drink a damn beer! Or don’t. (this comes straight from the events of this weekend. I grabbed what I thought was a beer. It wasn’t. *sigh*)
  9. While on a two lane highway, when someone passed the other direction, you gave ’em a wave. Be it whole hand, the pointer finger, two finger Boy Scout style or whatever acknowledgement you like, you did it. And the other driver waved and smiled back. (in some places this still happens, but I got an awful lot of unreturned waves this weekend.)
  10. We didn’t call a tortilla a wrap. It was a tortilla. They weren’t made of spinich or tomato, and if mom made ’em from scratch they were thick and oh so very good.


There’s more, I think, but that’s enough of what’s bothering me today.

I suppose time marches on whether I march in step or not. New Mexico can’t stay the same forever and neither can I.

Must be the dark clouds I have, both mentally and meteorologically, that’s got me all stirred up.

Wish I could find a way to send you some of this wet weather, my Fair New Mexico.




This Woman is a Saint

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“Las Cruces resident Karla Barela, 38, places red chile pork on the corn husks containing masa to make tamales Saturday at El Indio Tortilla Shop. Barela started making tamales at 4 a.m. and continued to make them at 12:30 p.m. (Photos by Richard Davis / For the Las Cruces Sun-News)”

At the end of the article, Karla sums it all up:

“Without tamales…it wouldn’t be Christmas.”

Amen

Customer Service Has Not Died

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Despite all appearances to the contrary, customer service has not died.

Nope, there is still a small patch of wonderful service to be found in Southern New Mexico.

You’ll recall a week ago, I wrote of my joy and my subsequent despair regarding buying actual New Mexico grown chiles here in Northern California.

In that blog post last week, I mentioned that I wrote a rather terse letter to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, complete with photographs, about my sorrow.

In fact, I’ll let you in on the text of my actual letter, sent to Mr. David Lucero at the NMDA:

_____

Dear Mr. Lucero – I found your email address from the www.nmda.nmsu.edu
webpage, though I’m unsure if you are the right person to contact.

I am a native New Mexican now living in Northern California and while on
a Southwest Airlines flight, I was happy to see an ad in their inflight
magazine for Hatch Green Chile coming to a long list of supermarkets in
my area.

My husband and I plan to buy a lot as we enjoy our green chile
throughout the year by finding kind friends back home to bring us the
good stuff.

While at Whole Foods recently in (town name redacted), California, I saw a sign for “Hatch peppers” and I was very happy (Whole Foods was on the list of stores that would carry the product).

As I picked a few from the pile, I looked closer at the sign and I
noticed it said “grown in California.” (see photo attached)

Now, I’m confused. Is this the “real thing” as advertised by the NMDA
and just mislabeled? Or has someone appropriated the Hatch name for
not-Hatch peppers?

I chose not to buy any that day as I’m unsure.

Hence why I’m coming to you for advice and guidance.

Are Hatch chiles going to be available in the Northern California Bay
Area? Also, is someone perpetrating a terrible fraud by selling
California grown peppers under the branded Hatch name?

On behalf of my family, we thank you and appreciate any guidance you
would provide.

All my best,

Karen Fayeth

_____

Honestly…I expected no reply.

Imagine my surprise when not only did I receive a VERY nice email from Mr. Lucero thanking me for providing this information, he also told me that he’s taken up the issue with his national Whole Foods buyer (who was cc’d on the email) and also with his shipper, Seco Spice (also cc’d on the email).

Then, and here’s where my mind gets blown, Mr. Lucero indicated that a Mr. Ogaz from Seco Spice would be happy to send me along a box of roasted and peeled chile if I’d be willing to pay shipping.

Holy jumping jehoshaphat!

So I’m currently getting shipping costs from the very kind Mr. Ogaz.

That’s amazing.

I want to publicly thank both Mr. Lucero and Mr. Ogaz for helping a poor New Mexico expat find her way home via the ol’ dinner plate.

By the by, I checked with my friends down in the greater Las Cruces and Anthony metropolitan areas and they know the Ogaz family and Seco Spice and can vouch that they are top notch people and growers.

So here’s a HUGE public thank you and a plug for the good people over at Seco Spice and the NMDA.

: sniffle : It makes me very proud to be a New Mexican.