Having spent nearly two decades away from my beloved Land of Enchantment, what I cherished most were letters from home (in the years before e-mail) and my monthly copy of New Mexico Magazine. Every issue transcended time and distance and transported me back home. Every vivid photograph was like a series of brushstrokes from God, awash in ethereal, other-worldly colors on a breath-taking topographical canvas. Every word stirred a longing to return home and swelled my chest with pride. Every issue was dogeared from my reading it over and over again.
Fifteen years later, New Mexico Magazine still moves me. I marvel at the fact that the venerable elder statesmen among America’s official state magazines still showcases the Land of Enchantment in a fresh, dynamic and respectful manner. Launched in 1923, just nine years after New Mexico attained statehood, the magazine is an ambassador in print. To expatriated New Mexicans, it is a refuge and a reminder of what they are missing every day they are away from the Land of Enchantment.
New Mexico Magazine‘s pages have been graced by almost all of the state’s best-known authors and journalists–literary icons such as Tony Hillerman, Rudolfo Anaya and John Nichols and journalists like Pulitzer Prize award winning correspondent Ernie Pyle . The tradition of superb writing continues today with writers whose words inspire and invite imagination–writers such as Lesley King whose monthly “King of the Road” column allows readers to immerse themselves in her enthralling adventures throughout the friendly byways of New Mexico.
When Associate Editor Ashley Biggers invited me to collaborate on an issue celebrating the cuisine of New Mexico, I leaped at the opportunity. Ashley and the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Tricia Ware have infused an infectious energy and passion to my favorite magazine. It bode well that they would treat my favorite topic, the foods and restaurants of New Mexico, with the same energy and passion. They did!
The June, 2010 edition of New Mexico Magazine introduces readers to “New Mexico’s Best Eats,” eight of the very best dishes served in restaurants throughout the Land of Enchantment: Huevos Rancheros, Green Chile Cheeseburgers, Green Chile Stew, Comfort Food, Deli Sandwich, Tacos, Local Seasonal Ingredients and Desserts. Two versions of each dish–a downhome version and an uptown version–are showcased in lyrical prose by Lesley King; Rocky Durham, culinary director of the Santa Fe School of Cooking; and this humble blogger.
Those stellar dishes come from some of New Mexico’s most popular restaurants while others are best prepared in tiny gems far from the well-beaten, well-eaten path. New Mexico’s best eats come from burgeoning cities–Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces–as well as agrarian communities: Angel Fire, Pie Town, Silver City, Penasco, El Prado, San Antonio and Espanola.
Without further ado, 2010’s Best Eats picks are:
Best Burger: Down-home: Buckhorn Burger, Buckhorn Tavern, San Antonio; and Uptown: The Daily Grind, Rio Chama restaurant, Santa Fe
Best Huevos Rancheros: Down-home: Huevos Rancheros, El Camino Dining Room, Albuquerque; and Uptown: the Taoseño, Gutiz, El Prado
Best Deli Sandwich: Down-home: Hot Pastrami on Rye, Back Street Bistro, Santa Fe; and Uptown: Southwest Spin, Lula’s, Taos
Best Comfort Food: Down-home: Sopaipilla Compuesta, Nellie’s Café, Las Cruces; and Uptown: Zia’s Famous Organic Meatloaf, Zia Diner, Santa Fe
Best Taco: Down-home: Pollo con Guacamole Taco, El Parasol, Española; and Uptown: Filet Mignon Tacos, The Roasted Clove, Angel Fire, $12.95 for four-to-six
Best Green Chile Stew: Down-home: Bowl of Green Chile with Tortilla, Duran’s Central Pharmacy, Albuquerque; and Uptown: Green Chile Bison Stew, Sugar Nymphs Bistro, Peñasco
Best Dessert: Down-home: Chocolate Cream Pie, Pie-O-Neer Café, Pie Town; and Uptown: Chocolate Red Chile Soup, La Casa Sena, Santa Fe
Best Local, Seasonal Ingredients: Down-home: Farmers Salad, The Grove, Albuquerque; and Uptown: Candied Pork Belly Blue Corn Taco, Café at the Kumquat, Silver City
The magazine also reveals the winner of New Mexico Magazine‘s inaugural Salsa Contest. Lesley, Rocky and I, all native New Mexicans who recognize that in our state pain is a flavor, tasted and re-tasted almost three-dozen nominees from throughout the Land of Enchantment, considering the overall flavor, piquancy and viscosity of each one. The winner now holds a place in my refrigerator and it probably will yours as well.
Just in time for the onset of summer’s blazing onslaught, frequent magazine contributor Wendy Sue Gist explains how to churn out delectable, homemade ice cream with local ingredients. Recipes for French Vanilla Ice Cream, Chile Chocolate Ice Cream and Lavender Ice Cream will have you drooling, but don’t do it on the magazine. You’ll want to save this one.