albuquerque at home in
Can the traditional and the modern live happily side by side?
A thriving culinary climate proves it can. BY DEBORAH GROSSMAN
lbuquerque brings to mind hot-air balloon festivals and
nostalgic drives down Route 66. Before these pastimes appeared,
traders and farmers settled in the area for agricultural pursuits. Later, workers
arrived to build railroads and conduct research at Sandia National Laboratories
and the University of New Mexico. Meanwhile, Santa Fe developed into a tourist and
upscale-dining mecca. But now the Albuquerque area boasts a range of visitor activities and
a bustling food and beverage scene.
PHOTO CREDIT: Clockwise from top left: 1) Deborah Grossman 2) Hatch Chile Company 3) Deborah Grossman 4) Sergio Salvador 5) MarbleStreetStudio.com
At Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm located a few miles from downtown
Albuquerque, executive chef Jonathan Perno takes a broad view of the area’s culinary
offerings. “We have coined the term ‘Rio Grande Valley Cuisine,’ which best represents
our style of food. It’s not ‘Southwestern’ or ‘New Mexican’ food, although we feature
many native ingredients like green and red chiles, native beans and corn,” says Perno.
Even McDonald’s menus the area’s culinary history with green chile burgers. Traditional
dishes such as blue corn pancakes, bolitos and roasted green chile stew highlight the Native
American, Mexican and Spanish influences on Albuquerque cuisine. Yet modern touches, from
foie gras confit au torchon to pistachio-crusted vegetarian steak, appear on the area’s menus.
The Spanish-influenced food at Lucia in the downtown Hotel Andaluz highlights paella
Valenciana as a featured starter. But one of the most popular lunch sandwiches is the grilled
Burque turkey sandwich. “We native folks call the city ‘Burque,’” says Hotel Andaluz
executive chef Mike Von Blomberg. “We layer the turkey with local basil/goat cheese spread,
spinach and green chile aioli.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 1) Casa
de Ruiz Church Street Cafe’s guacamole
with sangria. 2) Hatch chiles. 3) Casa
Rondeña Winery. 4) A pretzel burger
at Hotel Andaluz. 5) Route 66 runs
through the heart of Albuquerque.
green or red?
Any discussion of the heritage of New Mexican cuisine boils down to green chile, the state’s
unique contribution to spicy food. Not widely distributed outside New Mexico, the aroma
of roasting Hatch chiles at harvest time draws tourists and locals alike to the Downtown
Growers Market and local stores to purchase the peppers. The epicenter for the harvest of
the mild-to-hot green Sandia chile, aka the Hatch chile, is the Southern New Mexico town of
Hatch and the surrounding valley.