You might love NY, but New Mexicans love chile.
From the welcome signs on our highways featuring huge red and green chile, to the dried ristras hanging from the vigas on our portals – even McDonald’s offers green chile on its burgers in the Land of Enchantment – it’s evident to every newcomer, including New Yorkers.
Red chile is known all over the world. From Asia to Africa, and all points in-between wherever the sun shines, the hot peppers are used to flavour curries, marinara sauces, bredes and a lot of other dishes besides. China’s Schezwan cuisine rivals India’s vindaloos for the heat factor, and a Madras style curry from Durban will bite your tongue if you are not careful!
Hot climes especially love their chiles – for breaking a sweat and cooling the body temperature, there’s nothing quite like it, just as every Englishman knows, a cup of hot tea will quench your thirst faster than a cold soda. They probably learned that in India, from the chai drinkers.
But to fully appreciate New Mexican green chile, you need to visit in the late summer or fall – like now – when acres upon acres of chile fields ripen, and the fragile pods are hand-picked before they turn red.
Each fall the green version are roasted, and the red version (which is that color because it sat on the vine longer), is dried so we can begin stockpiling enough of the addictive ingredients to spice our food–stews, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, burgers, eggs, turkey sandwiches, whatever–through the colder winter months.
Because in winter, this miracle food is equally as warming to both body and soul as it is useful in summer for cooling one down.
The hot chile trail blazes through our entire state, but when you find yourself in Taos, here are five tried and true, easy to find spots you’ll need to hit.
1) Michael’s Kitchen: Michael’s is right on the main drag (North Pueblo Road) and an easy breakfast stop on your way to anywhere from here. You can’t go wrong with the Huevos Rancheros, but local kids swear by the Healthfood – an unlikely named concoction of french fries smothered in chile (traditionally green but red or “xmas” are acceptable.)
The breakfast burrito is packed with eggs, bacon, cheese, and just enough diced green chile to make it hot, but not unbearable (call ahead and ask for the handheld version so you grab and eat in the car. If you get the regular version, the burrito will come in a to-go container with chile smothered on the outside, which can be hard to eat while you’re driving.)
2) Orlando’s: Also on the main drag through Taos, but a little farther north, Orlando’s is a long time local favourite for local, regional and Mexican cuisine. A perfect lunch spot where, if the weather is fine, you can sit outside on their patio.
Get the Sayulita fish tacos or the chicken red chile enchiladas. The taco’s name comes from Sayulita, Mexico, where owners Orlando and Yvette Ortega spend time every year. The fish is fried, and the tacos are flavoured (Taos style), with a green-chile mayo and topped with fresh pico de gallo. The enchiladas are another good choice for a newbie, because of the red chile sauce is rich and flavourful, but won’t leave your mouth on fire.
3) Adobe Bar: When Happy Hour beckons, head straight to the Adobe Bar at the historical Taos Inn for one of their famous Margaritas and a cup of award winning, green chile stew (with or without meat.) Accompanied by a flour tortilla and garnished with pico de gallo, it’s the perfect appetizer to tide you over until dinner time.
The Inn has just been sold, but I imagine the new owners will continue to respect and enhance its historical reputation, green chile stew included!
4) Eske’s Brew Pub: Very close by, hidden from sight, this tiny local small batch brewery, famous for its Green Chile Beer and some of the best live music in town, on the patio (or inside, weather depending), serves clean, healthy versions of local favourites including green chile. Their burritos are among the best in town and the establishment, despite being a brewery is kid friendly.
The quaint rooms inside the century old adobe house make for an authentic and very relaxed dining experience in Taos.
5) La Cueva Cafe: Just one block south, La Cueva at the Historic Baca Plaza, dating back to the 18th Century, is a safe bet for the gluten-free among you. No gluten is allowed to set its lethal feet on the premises. And I am told how valuable that rule is, from both gluten intolerant friends and family ,as well as the bona fide celiacs I happen to know.
The charming eaterie serves traditional Mexican dishes including ceviche and a sublime mole, but local and regional dishes with both red and green chile are included on the menu. They have a lovely patio and the service and food presentation is lovely also, but you can order your food to go as well.
Please visit all of the sites linked for more info and do visit Taos.org, linked below this post for even more places to feel the heat!
Red, green or Christmas.
Editor’s Note: This one’s for you, Jim! Welcome to Taos.
All images Stock Files