New Mexico Road Trip – Day Two
6.23.11 § 6 Comments
I intended to post this a bit sooner, but I guess it’s pretty natural that during our road trip I got caught up in the road-tripping. Anyway, here is day two…better late than never! Right? (If you missed day one, it’s right here!)
First, before we can go any further, I need to talk to you about something really important: green chili. If you’re from New Mexico, feel free to skip ahead, you don’t need to read this. However, if you aren’t from New Mexico, read on, because I’m about to change your life. Green chili is magic that comes from Southern New Mexico, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason that our little old state has earned the slogan “Land of Enchantment.” I won’t go into the long history of green chili (for some more info, click around this site), I’ll just say this: when I come home to New Mexico, it’s basically a requirement that at least 85% of my meals contain some form of Hatch green chili.
In Santa Fe, which is where we landed on day two of our road trip, that isn’t a problem. We started the day off at Counter Culture Cafe, an awesome little place that’s relatively new to the city. They have all sorts of breakfast items, sandwiches and salads for lunch, and great-sounding dinner entrees. If you are in Santa Fe looking for New Mexican food, I wouldn’t send you here, but if you’re just looking for a menu with great food and enough variety to make anyone happy, I’d say this is the perfect spot.
My mom, who I dare say gets her fill of green chili because she still lives here, went for the lox plate instead of a New Mexican option, and it was very good, though, in my opinion, nothing to write home (or to the blogosphere) about. After debating between huevos rancheros and the smothered breakfast burrito (smothered in chili that is), I settled on the huevos. I ordered it “Christmas,” which means that it’s drowned in both red and green chili. I was not disappointed. For those of you who haven’t had huevos rancheros before, let me explain what you’re seeing. (It’s exceptionally difficult to take pictures of New Mexican food because everything is covered in chili!) Anyway, the basic idea is fried eggs served on top of corn or flour tortillas that are resting on a bed of beans. Usually, it’s refried beans, but in this case, they were black beans. Then, the eggs are covered with either red or green chili (or both) and any number of other accompaniments like sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, salsa, etc. It’s delicious.
We spent a leisurely hour on the restaurant’s patio nomming on our breakfast and, obviously, discussing where we were going to get lunch. We also talked about how we might have to return to Counter Culture for lunch at some point, because their sandwiches and salads all looked tempting.
A few hours later, after writing a blog post and taking a nap, it was time to eat some lunch. We headed to Bobcat Bite. While I had never heard of this place before, it came highly recommended by more than one person, and since the phrase “best green chili cheeseburger in the world” had been thrown around, we thought we had better check it out. (I was serious about my commitment to eating green chili.)
It was a tiny little place a few miles out of town, and despite it being nearly 2 pm, the parking lot was full of cars when we arrived. I was shocked at how small the restaurant was on the inside, and without even ceiling fans to keep it cool, I was kind of worried I’d be too warm to enjoy the food.
However, as soon as our burgers arrived, I forgot all about being uncomfortably hot and dug into a perfectly cooked, medium rare burger covered in green chili and cheese. As I mentioned before, it’s terribly difficult to capture the glory of food when one thing is covering up everything else, so I pushed some of the cheese to the side to get a picture where you can see the chili.
The burgers were huge, and while we were both afraid we wouldn’t be able to finish them, I’m proud to say that we did. It would have been more difficult to leave some on the plate than to force ourselves to eat until we felt sick – it was just that good. And of course, as I was googling later that afternoon, I found out that this burger was named as one of the 3 finalists for best burger anywhere in the US by Bon Appetit. Go, New Mexico!
After a lunch like that, mom and I were hurting, and there was a definite need to walk it off. In an effort to do something cultural, instead of just bouncing from one food experience to the next, we decided to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures (not allowed!), but it was really nice. The museum is pretty small, and I like that because it’s definitely do-able in just an hour or a little more. The exhibit we saw was about the interplay between photography and painting, and it was fascinating to see how many artists use one medium to help them with their work in the other. Anyway, if you’re in Santa Fe, I definitely recommend putting this museum on your itinerary. (I did wish that there was more of O’Keeffe’s work on display, but it was still pretty great. My favorite work that we saw is below. The watercolors are WAY brighter in person.)
When we felt that it had been an acceptable amount of time since our last meal, we still weren’t that hungry, so we decided to head to a tapas joint for dinner. Mom had a place in mind, but we had been told by a local that there was a different place that was a bit cheaper and, in his opinion, better. So, always opting to trust the locals, we headed to El Meson.
Unfortunately, the menu was a bit disappointing. Usually, even when I’m not hungry, I order way more than I can eat, but nothing on the menu was really calling my name. We settled on grilled bread with tomato, garlic, and serrano ham; goat cheese-stuffed artichoke hearts that were friend and served with romesco sauce; and a special of roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with shrimp and crab and served with a roasted corn coulis. While the food was fine, I wasn’t impressed enough to suggest this restaurant to anyone. The best thing we ate was a salad with four different kinds of goat cheese, pine nuts, pears, and balsamic. Needless to say, if a salad is the best thing you have, it’s kind of disappointing.
Despite the lackluster food, the ambiance was nice. There was live music, which, I believe, happens nearly every night at this place, and the band was really fun to watch. However, unless you’re into the music scene, you can probably skip this one. Mom’s summary was, “The whole time, I just kept wishing we had gone to the other tapas place.” (Sad face implied.) I guess you need to make sure which local it is whose recommendation you’re trusting.
While the ending was less than fabulous, the day was a success overall. I’d say the burger was actually a highlight of the trip. If you’re within driving distance, you should probably go check it out. Like right now.