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New Mexico – now with more cheese!

June 29, 2010 · 59 comments

Contrary to evidence of my blog posting (and reading/commenting, sorry everyone!), I am indeed still alive. I have to say though, it was touch and go during my time in Santa Fe, New Mexico. You almost lost me to the ravages of excessive cheese consumption.

Everything is served with cheese. This is pretty good for the first day or two, until you feel like you are turning into cheese. You are dreaming about cheese. Your conversations with fellow visitors quickly turns to cheese. You start reading a menu with friends and you all groan and roll your eyes simultaneously as your eyes pass over the words “cheese” (or “beans”, “salsa”, “corn chips” or “chilli”). You then just start avoiding any such restaurants.

Oh dear, the Burrito Co Cafe is closed. No cheesy cheese time for us.

Before we hit our cheese avoidance mode, we stumbled upon a restaurant that seemed to be more on the side of Mexican than Tex Mex while looking for another restaurant following the very vague directions of some well meaning American tourists. The tourists looked like lovers of cheese so I think it was a happy mistake that we found ourselves at Santa Luna instead, and were soon dining on Mole Rojo, a dish described in the menu as coming from the Oaxaca state of Mexico and consisting of “house made mole, a delicious and world famous Mexican type of salsa made with a variety of dry peppers, peanuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and chocolate”. The mole rojo was served with chicken, refried beans and rice.

Mole Rojo - Oaxaca dish from Santa Luna Restaurant

The mole was delicious, with a real depth of flavour but also tinged with a hint of sadness as I knew I would not be able to recreate the magic at home due to the combination of a lack of Mexican cooking skills and eagle eyed (or is that beagle nosed?) Australian quarantine.

Once we got into cheese avoidance mode we managed to have some impressive meals around town. Our final dinner was at Coyote Cafe, which sounded like a place we would want to avoid but turned out belie its name with the quality of the food (despite the fact we were greeted by a woman whose body seemed to be waging war with the leopard print dress she had squeezed it into, and we also think she had a hickey on her neck).

Baby lettuce salad with saffron poached pears, gorgonzola, pecan toffee and cidar vinaigrette; Crab and tuna salad with greens, scallions, fennel, heirloom tomatoes and horseradish mignonette; Eric's Futomaki twist caesar salad with romaine, reggiano anchovy parmesan, warm polenta croutons; Wahu, himachi and tuna salad with sugar snap peas, radish and cucumber salad with sesame soy yuzu, Vietnamese chutney and wasabi

My crab and tuna salad more than made up for my decidedly mediocre sushi lunch that I had eaten in my quest for anti Tex Mex food. “Eric’s Futomaki twist” was an interesting way to present the caesar salad as well, and I guess a useful technique should you want to serve salad to non salad eaters.

Chile glazed pork tenderloin with sweet potato flan, roasted sweet & sour hazelnut cabbage and huckleberry sauce; butternut squash, crimini mushroom and sweet pea risotto; Atlantic salmon, fingerling potatoes, baby beets, asparagus and horseradish emulsion; white miso sea bass with lobster jus, buttered wasabi mashed potatoes, bok choy and black truffle.

I could have eaten this pork dish a hundred times. I need to start making hazelnut cabbage and I need to find me some huckleberries. You know, I didn’t actually realise there was such a thing as a huckleberry. I just associated it with that cheeky death-faking lad and thought nothing more of it. In my subsequent wikipedia huckleberry search however, I also came across the phrase “a huckleberry over my persimmon”, meaning “a bit beyond my abilities”. Nice.

Dealing with the following day did indeed prove to almost be a huckleberry over my persimmon, as I found myself trapped at Albuquerque airport due to United Airlines overbooking my flight and Chicago bound planes being grounded due to storms. I was then trapped in Chicago thanks to delays due to “operational reasons” and then once I finally arrived in Toronto in the late hours of the night, I discovered that United had managed to completely lose my luggage. Thank god my persimmon was boosted by Mardi and Mr Neil of eat, live travel, write – braving the eager latex covered hands of the G20-hepped-up Toronto airport security, picking me up, dusting me off and filling me up with good food and wine before packing me off to bed (generously shared by Cleo, she of the wet nose) to get my rest for the days to come in Toronto. But that, my pretties, is a tale for another day.