All posts by nmtrickster

Tasty Teas and Treats at Hadley’s Tea, Albuquerque

Hadley's Tea, Corrales, New Mexico. The best chair.
This is the magical chair. And I call dibs!

See this chair here? It has magical powers.
When you sit in it, it envelopes you in happiness and comfort and makes you forget about all the troubles of your day. This magical chair is located in a nook of Hadley’s Tea, located at 7600 Jefferson NE, #9 in Albuquerque. Hadley’s Tea is a place to relax, enjoy some nice lunch and browse through the large selection of teas and pastries.

Now before you go and think I’m cheating on St James again, let it be known that while Hadley’s Tea serves teas, they also serve coffee. They also don’t have a formal tea service. The place is more like your favorite coffee shop. And that my friends is how I justify my tea habit.

My friend is a tea expert. Seriously, she can talk to you for hours about the different types of loose leaf teas and their histories. She is a mad tea genius. She and I often meet up at Hadley’s to relax and enjoy a cup of tea. Not too long ago, we met up and I enjoyed a tasty turkey and cheese croissant sandwich with a side of spicy tomato soup. The tomato soup had a nice kick to it; I believe it was spiced with green chile.

Hadley's Tea in Albuquerque, NM
Cafe style lunch fare at Hadley’s Tea.

My friend enjoyed the gourmet chicken salad, which was also delicious. Hadley’s serves a variety of hot and cold teas, as well as coffee. On this occasion, I partook of a large Earl Grey tea. My decision was based partially on the fact that I enjoy Earl Grey and also because it drives my friend nuts that I drink Earl Grey as her tastes are more refined. I spent most of my lunch setting my tea next to hers and asking her if her tea was embarrassed to be seen with mine. That’s what I call lunch and a show.

In addition to lunch food and pastries, Hadley’s offers tea and tea accessories for purchase. Black, green, oolong and wellness teas are all available for sale, as well as decaf selections. It’s also a great place to purchase tea accessories, including tea pots, cozies, mugs and more.

Tea for sale at Hadley's Tea, Albuquerque
Part of the tea selection at Hadley’s Tea.

Hadley’s is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Perhaps I will see you there. But if I do, I have dibs on the magical chair.

 

 

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Meow Wolf: I Just Don’t Get It

See the second review in our Meow Wolf series here: Meow Wolf: Choose Your Own Adventure

I have a confession to make. Look away now if you don’t want to know my shame. Ready? Deep breath. Here I go. Oh man, this is so hard. Okay, here it is.

I went to Meow Wolf and I was….eh…about the whole experience.

Look, I’m as surprised as you are. Everything about the idea of Meow Wolf intrigued me. The immersive art experience in Santa Fe is all about the fantastical and creative multimedia installations.

Centered around the permanent installation, House of Eternal Return, Meow Wolf offers visitors the opportunity to explore a Victorian house owned by the Selig Family that due to some mystery has dissolved time and space. Everyone I talked to raved about Meow Wolf and told me how amazing and life changing the experience was. People who had visited had been multiple times like some it was some religious journey to Mecca. Based on all of that, I mean what’s not to love?

But alas, I didn’t. [ZymologistBob], our new blogger [Trinitite], and I made our own journey to Meow Wolf Mecca to experience the exhibit first hand. I should have known once we saw the giant spider metal installation standing guard outside the building that Meow Wolf might not really be the place for me. But I wasn’t going to let that deter me from the magic inside. We waited in line (there are always lines and crowds at Meow Wolf) and shared our excitement with other wanna be patrons. As we checked in, I asked the cashier if there were any tips to getting the full experience out of the exhibit.

“There’s no right way or wrong way to experience Meow Wolf,” she said, “but start with the mailbox.”

We went in and started at the mailbox. There were letters and postcards from the Selig family, I think. It didn’t make much sense. But you know, that’s okay. I didn’t need things to make sense. I just needed whimsy and magic. We entered the Victorian house and started exploring. There were secret entrances that led to different worlds. A fireplace that led to a prehistoric area. A refrigerator that led to somewhere. I can’t really remember. Don’t get me wrong, the attention to detail and the artistry is supreme. It was gorgeous. It was magical. It was creative.

Part of Meow Wolf installation art experience in Santa Fe.
One of the many parts of the exhibit/experience. It’s gorgeous, I know.
Big monster creature greets visitors at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe.
We met this guy inside. I think I’ll call him George.

But it was just too much. Too much color, too much light, too much of it not making sense. It was like a giant artistic flea market where every artist peddled their creativity, but as a whole it was overwhelming. The mystery reminded me of an escape room experience, but without any real clues that I could find. Add to that the crowds and I couldn’t really enjoy myself. And to be honest, the place smelled. Like a fast food restaurant play area on a hot day.

So there you have it, my confession. I’m not saying don’t go to Meow Wolf. Maybe you’ll experience a life changing experience there. But as for me, I’m going to look elsewhere.

Visit the Meow Wolf official site for hours, directions, and ticket pricing. Please let us know if you attend and have a life-altering experience!

Hiking Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks

Located about 50 miles north of Albuquerque, this place is one of my favorite locations in the entire state. I’ve done the hike several times and the level of amazement and wonder at the beauty to be found there has not yet waned. The Slot Canyon Trail at the Kasha-Katuwe* Tent Rocks National Monument is an opportunity to marvel at what the passage of time can do to a landscape.

*Kasha-Katuwe means “white rocks” in Keresan, a pueblo language. The national monument is located near the Cochiti Pueblo.

The name “Tent Rocks” comes from the cone-shaped rock  formations (also called hoodoos) created from a volcanic explosion over 6-7 million years ago. The monument includes several areas for hiking and sightseeing, including the Veteran’s Memorial Scenic Overlook, Shelter Cave, the Cave Loop, and the Slot Canyon Trail.

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The view from the bottom!

The trail is a three-mile loop that is easily done in about two and a half to three hours. It is a beginner-level hike, which is great for someone like me who isn’t a hiker but enjoys the great outdoors. Both the Cave Loop and Slot Canyon Trail begin at the same place, just off the parking lot. The Cave Loop trail circles the base of the tent rocks and is a mile loop, dotted with juniper trees and posted information about the geology and history of the area. At the half mile point of the loop, the Slot Canyon Trail breaks off to the right.

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Hmm, wonder why they call it Slot Canyon?

As the trail winds through the canyon, a large tree with gnarled roots big enough to hide behind acts as your portal to a sacred place. Once past the tree, the canyon walls rise up and the trail gets narrow. The modern world and all its trouble and worries disappear within this place as you wind past boulders and rocks and view trees and bushes that literally grow and survive off the sides of the canyon. The weight of time and the past pull you from your worries and cares as you begin to understand the temporariness of your place in the universe.

The first part of the Slot Canyon Trail is a gradual easy increase in elevation. Around the mid-point, the trail gets steep. You have to scramble over boulders and rocks as the path continues to rise. Railroad ties placed within the side of the mesa assist in the ascent, but it is still a steep journey. For someone afraid of heights (like me) there is always a big fear of just how temporary my place in the universe might actually become, but at Tent Rocks I always push past that, which is a sign of how wonderful this place is.

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One of the many hoodoos to be found on the trail.

When you reach the top you’ll experience some truly beautiful views, as it seems you see the entire northern part of the state from here. After taking some time to rest and experience the beauty of the area, you’ll go back down the way you came, but you’ll be changed. And if you’re not changed, you’re not doing it right.

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The view of the loop from the top of the mesa. Little Trickster shown for scale. 🙂

Tips for Your Visit

  • There is a $5 fee to get into the area. Check out their site to ensure they are open the day you visit.
  • Try to get there as early as possible (the monument opens at 7 a.m. in the spring and summer and 8 a.m. in the fall and winter). The Slot Canyon Trail is narrow in certain spots, and at the midpoint of the loop it you have to climb over some rocks and boulders as the elevation increases. If you go earlier, you don’t have to wait for other hikers, and you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of being overheard by anyone as you wail about the heights and curse openly at Little Trickster for talking you into this trip (but maybe that’s just me).
  • Bring your own drinking water, as there isn’t any running water at monument. Also, if hiking in the spring or summer, be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen, as there is pretty much no shade.
  • Be sure to bring proper footwear. While the hike is easy, it’s not flip-flop easy.
  • Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
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Yeah, we thought it too. I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy.

Visit the official site for Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks.

The Brew | Coffee & Tea

 The Brew is a cool, comfortable, coffeehouse in downtown Albuquerque that serves amazing locally roasted single source coffee and tea with an artistic flair by some very friendly staff. Located at 311 Gold Ave. SW, the tiny shop features Villa Myriam coffee. This Arabica bean coffee is grown in the hills of Piendamo, Columbia and then hand-roasted in Albuquerque. It is sold and served at numerous locations in Albuquerque, including Whole Foods and The Range. Even better, the Brew partners with Joliesse Chocolates (check out our review here) to serve handmade local syrups, including a red chile syrup.

The menu offers espresso, brewed coffee (drip, café au lait and red eye) and specialty drinks, including a Red Chile Mocha and a Crazy Monkey, which is banana, caramel and mocha. In addition to coffee, the Brew also offers an assortment of hot and cold brewed teas and tea lattes. Two particularly tasty concoctions are the Roobios latte, made of South African Roobios and pure cane sugar, and the Dirty Chai latte, made with chai and espresso. The friendly staff serves the lattes with such beauty that it’s almost hard to drink the lattes, but you push through it.

The Brew Roobios Latte Albuquerque
Gorgeous Roobios Latte at The Brew

The coffeehouse itself includes bright colored walls, funky art pieces and comfortable seating. Guests can use free Wi-Fi while working at a number of tables, or can relax and spend talking with friends and family in one of the comfortable, bright armchairs or couches.

The Brew Albuquerque seating area
The Brew – cozy seating area

The Brew is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Owl Café, Albuquerque

The Owl Café

I like to think I’m a laid back, authentic person. For the most part, I’m not judgmental (unless you’re a Kardashian, and then bring it) and I don’t particularly care about status. But there is one thing that I’m a snob about. And that is my chile. And by chile, I mean chile, not chili. I know this is a New Mexico thing, and if you look at dictionaries or websites, they say that you can use chile and chili interchangeably. But not in New Mexico, I say (rather snobbishly). You can always tell a native by whether or not they know the difference between the two. Green or red chile is stuff from heaven (made from our state-grown chile peppers, either red or green depending on when you pick em). Chili is that brown Hormel-like substance served in other states.

So imagine how trepidatious I felt when I found myself at the Owl Café in Albuquerque looking at their menu and seeing the Owl Burger “with green chili.” As a child, I had been to the Owl Café in San Antonio, NM many times to enjoy the Owl Burger. In fact, I believe it serves one of the best green chile (I just can’t call it chili) cheeseburgers in the state.

The original Owl Café was established in the 1930s in San Antonio, NM, and in 1986, the Albuquerque location was opened. The Albuquerque Owl Café has a 1950s diner theme in honor of nearby Route 66. There’s a jukebox in the restaurant, a pie case filled with desserts, and plenty of barstools and tables to enjoy a step back in time.

The Owl Café, Eubank Blvd Albuquerque. It's an OWL, people!
The Owl Café, Eubank Blvd Albuquerque. It’s an OWL, people!

So had I been wrong about the burger? Had somehow the expansion to Albuquerque changed what the burger had become? Had the Owl Café forgotten its roots and started to make burgers that weren’t as good? Or worse, were smothered in some weird green Hormel-like chili with an I?

During lunch with some friends, I decided to momentarily put my snobbishness aside and order the green chile (won’t do it) cheeseburger. The cheeseburger runs about $5, and you can order regular fries, sweet potato fries or onion rings for an additional $2.

Instead of the staple chips and salsa as an appetizer, the Owl Café offers small bowls of beans and green chile. The green chile had a bite to it, and the beans were nicely flavored, so I began to become hopeful about the Owl burger.

Beans & Green Chile is the new Chips & Salsa at the Owl Café. If you know what that means, you might be from New Mexico.
Beans & Green Chile is the new Chips & Salsa at the Owl Café. If you know what that means, you might be from New Mexico.

And then the burger came out. The patty was hand-made and large. It was topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and lots of green chile. A nice sized portion of sweet potatoes covered the rest of the plate. This looked promising. Then I took a bite. The burger was juicy, the condiments fresh, and the green chile was hot.

Owl Café Green Chile Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato Fries.
Owl Café Green Chile Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato Fries.

It was delicious and just as good as I remembered from my childhood.

I wolfed the burger down in no time flat. Then I was overcome by a wave of shame. Here I was judging the Owl Café for their use of an I instead of an E, and they delivered a wonderful burger. Luckily, the sweet potato fries helped me push through that shame.

What’s the lesson in all of this? I don’t know, really. I mean, I still don’t like people to use the word chili when talking about green or red or when they’re offering to throw it on my cheeseburger. But the Owl Café still serves a fantastic, mouthwatering, Owl Burger with green chile. So I guess the lesson is…well, just go try the cheeseburger.

The Albuquerque location of the Owl Café is at 800 Eubank Blvd. You can’t miss it. The building is shaped like an owl. Their hours are 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 7 a.m. –  11 p.m. on the weekends.

Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery

Please don’t tell St. James that I’ve cheated on them. I love my tearoom. But look, I just can’t afford it every day. So when the opportunity came up to try another place that was a more reasonable option for every day tea cavorting, I took it. I went to Figments Tea Shoppe and Gallery and enjoyed tea and desserts.

I’m not going to lie. It was good. And I’m going to go back.

Figments Tea Shoppe is located at 8510 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Suite A7 and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The place sells loose leaf tea by the ounce  and tea products, as well as unique gifts. The Tea Shoppe also features a fragrance blending bar. Customers can get a personalized lotion, soap or massage oil made from a variety of fragrances.

Oh, but I’m sure you want to get to the details of my dalliance. Fine, I’ll share. Figments offers daily tea time specials. No reservations are required. For $8 I enjoyed a scone, dessert and tea. For my first time, I chose The Great Pumpkin selection (there are two selections every two weeks). I mean come on, it was too tempting, tea and a Charlie Brown reference??? This particular pairing included Linus’ Great Pumpkin Bread, Charlie’s Yogurt, Granola and Honey and Snoopy’s Caramel Delight. For each selection, Figments suggests a tea pairing. Teas come in a three or six pot serving or one specialty tea. I chose the Roobios peppermint bark latte for my tea of choice. I mean I was already cheating, might as well go decadent.

The Great Pumpkin selection at Figments
The Great Pumpkin selection at Figments
The Mad Hatter Selection at Figments
The Mad Hatter Selection at Figments
Peppermint Bark Latte at Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery
Peppermint Bark Latte at Figments Tea Shoppe & Gallery

The portions were the perfect size for an afternoon bite, not too filling or even too sweet. The latte was huge and wonderful. Even more enjoyable was the ambience. Figments has a seating room towards the back of the store that is decorated like the Mad Hatter tea party from Alice in Wonderland. A decorative tree grows from a wall and blossoms glass flowers and glass tea cups. Hats hang from another tea branch, and the glass table and wicker chairs are decorated with bright flowers. It’s a great place to relax.

A little Koi Pond
A little Koi Pond

The staff is friendly and helpful. The owner explained that beginning soon, Figments will also feature a small bar with flavored vinaigrettes and olive oils. While Figments changes its tea menu every two weeks, after December this will change as well. The two selections will be available for a month, allowing more time for customers to enjoy their favorite sweet treats and tea. And yes, I’ll be back. But shhhh, it’ll be our secret okay?

St. James Tearoom: A Sweet Respite from a Hectic World

Life can be crazy these days.

Between work and a somewhat hectic social life, I’m bombarded by all kinds of extraneous noise. I mean how many snarky tweets, Facebook postings of cute animals and Google alerts on Channing Tatum can a girl wade through before just needing to run away for a while? Luckily, I have a special place I can go to escape the fast pace and noise of today’s world. A place that offers me some time to relax and unwind. Oh yeah, and drink some lovely teas and eat some amazing, wonderful food.

The St. James Tearoom, a quiet place for afternoon tea service in northwest Albuquerque.
The St. James Tearoom, a quiet place for afternoon tea service in northwest Albuquerque.

This magical place is the St. James Tearoom, located on the corner of Edith and Osuna in Albuquerque. What is a tearoom, you ask? You actually may not be asking, as you might be more refined than I am. Because the first time I heard of the St. James Tearoom, I assumed it was a place where caffeine junkies hung out, hopping themselves up on the latest teas and discussing—well, I honestly don’t know. But in actuality, a tearoom is a place where you get to experience a traditional afternoon tea service, a two hour respite from the world where you relax while enjoying a variety of loose leaf teas and a full meal.

The first time I ever went to the St. James Tearoom, I was leery. I’m not dainty, refined or even the least bit graceful. So the idea of sitting still for two hours in a room where I was expected to be quiet and drink tea from a dainty china cup while sitting on dainty furniture rather terrified me. I actually brought extra money with me knowing that the chances of me breaking a cup or piece of furniture was going to be quite high. While I might not be graceful, I am always prepared.

I’m glad to report that in the five years that I’ve gone to the St. James Tearoom, I have never broken anything.

The dainty teacup, ready for service.
The dainty teacup, ready for service.

For those of you who have never been to a tearoom and have stuck through the previous paragraph, I will reward your patience by describing the wonders and logistics of the St. James Tearoom. As each tea setting is broken into two-hour intervals, you must make reservations ahead of time. Reservations can be made by calling, or via their online reservation service. Seating times are available at 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and at those times plus 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

As this is a formal tea, I recommend dressing up. Not in a full-length ball gown or anything, but at least in either your Sunday best, or minus the scruffy jeans and shorts. Although the staff at the St. James Tearoom is so gracious and mannered they won’t judge you. (I totally would, but they won’t). To add more fun to your adventure, you may also want to wear a decorative hat to tea (think Kentucky Derby-type hat). If you do not own such a hat, you can find a selection of loaner hats in the Tearoom’s gift shop.

Fancy hats for the borrowing at St. James Tearoom, just for funzies.
Fancy hats for the borrowing at St. James Tearoom, just for funzies.

Once you arrive at St. James Tearoom, you can wander through their gift shop or peruse their wide variety of loose leaf teas and tea accessories. A bell will sound to alert you that it’s time to be seated for your tea.

The gift shop sells a variety of loose teas with fun & unique names and flavors.
The St. James Tearoom gift shop sells a variety of loose teas with fun & unique names and flavors, such as this one: Van Gogh, Smiling.

Depending on the size of your party, you will either be seated in one of the cozy nooks or the library area. Each of these areas are decorated to represent a different estate of a famous person from the Victorian era. For example, there is a room decorated to look like the home of Florence Nightingale (my favorite nook) and another to represent the farmhouse of Beatrix Potter. Each area is blocked off by a curtain to allow you privacy, and to let you enjoy some peace and quiet. So turn off your cell phone and use your inside voice. That said, my inside voice is quite loud and I’ve never been shushed, so you’ll be fine.

Library seating at the St. James Tearoom.
Library seating at the St. James Tearoom.
Interesting décor fits the Victorian theme.
Interesting décor fits the Victorian theme.

After being seated, a server (dressed in darling Victorian garb) will introduce you to the month’s menu. Each month, the St. James Tearoom features a theme. For instance, this October’s theme is “Phantom of the Opera” and next months’ theme is “A Narnian Teatime.” I only mention November’s theme because I love C.S. Lewis and am geeky-excited about the theme. Essentially, the foods will be named or inspired for the theme, such as Mr. Tummins Fig and Goat Cheese Sandwich (see how I got Narnia in there twice?).

Your server will begin by serving you one of three teas for your setting. Usually, your tea adventure begins with a traditional black tea, followed by a spiced black tea, or a green tea, finished by a flowered or fruit tea. Each tea is served in a pot and you are provided cream and sugar. Your server will tell you which tea goes best with cream and sugar. Once you’re done with a particular tea, you set the lid of your tea pot up to indicate you’re ready for your next tea.

A hot cup o tea at the St. James Tearoom. Excellent.
A hot cup o tea at the St. James Tearoom. Excellent.
All the creams and sugars you could need for your teas.
All the creams and sugars you could need for your teas.

During Christmas, the St. James Tearoom features my absolute favorite tea—sparkling sugar plum. The tea actually sparkles!!

The Sparkling Sugar Plum tea has little glittering bits of something that sparkle in your cup!
The Sparkling Sugar Plum tea has little glittering bits of something that sparkle in your cup!

Ah, now let’s talk about your afternoon tea food. After you’ve been given your first tea, your server will deliver heaven on a three-tiered tray.

Your lunch, on a 3-tiered tray!
Your lunch, on a 3-tiered tray!

Now, don’t be alarmed by how small everything looks. The first time I saw the amount of food provided, I leaned over to my niece and told her we would go for a cheeseburger afterwards. Trust me, you will leave full and satisfied. The bottom tray of the tier will feature savories, such as (from this month’s menu), carrot soufflé, salmon en croute and more. The second tier will have the St. James traditional scones and lemon curd and the month’s featured scones with cream. The top tier will have desserts, fabulous, wonderful, sugar coma (worth it) inducing desserts. I cannot say enough about the food. This is melt in your mouth, savor every bite, sell your mother or your soul for another bite, wonderful food.*

Another bell will ring letting you know that your tea time is officially over. Feel free to cry that your respite from the real world has come to an end. Your server will offer you a hot towel to let you wipe away your tears. Okay, the towel is really to wipe your hands, but you know, they’re not going to judge you. Even I won’t judge you as there has been many a time that I’ve cried and wailed. You know, in my inside voice.

I will say that this wonderful, magic experience does not come cheap. Seating prices for adults is $33 and for children 4-10 is $24. During the Christmas season, prices are $36 for adults and $26 for children. But I’ll pay anything for those sugar plum sparkles. But while the tea experience is pricey, it is completely worth it. The St. James Tearoom also caters to individual dietary needs. They offer decaffeinated tea, as well as a gluten free and vegetarian menu.

*I realize this post sounds rather blasphemous. I in no way really mean that the food is literally like heaven, as in actuality it’s not served by Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling. And in no way should you really sell your soul for food. Hold out for a car at least.

Pie Town Festival – Pie Town, NM

Pie Town is a tiny little community located about 20 miles west of Datil, New Mexico. The town was named after a baker in the 1920s that made pies. Pies so good, the town was named after it. So you can bet when I heard this town was holding its annual Pie Festival, I was going to attend. Always held the second Saturday in September, the event is a fundraiser held by the Pie Town Community Council, a volunteer organization that provides a variety of services for the town. The event features crafts for sale, an open air flea market, pie eating and baking contests, horned toad races, the crowning of the Pie Queen, a dance, and most importantly… pie for sale.

Check here for EatingNewMexico’s 6 Tips for a Successful Pie Fest

Early Saturday morning I, along with my seven-year-old nephew and a friend, made the trek to Pie Town. The plan was to ensure that we made it to the event in time to sign my nephew up for the pie eating contest, and to meet up with this blog’s very own zymbologistbob, who had been wanting to go to the festival for 14 some years, and a couple of his pie-friendly friends. The two-and-half-hour drive from Albuquerque to Pie Town was gorgeous. After a stop at the Very Large Array outside of Magdalena, New Mexico, we arrived.

The festival is held in Jackson Park, along Highway 60 and across the street from the Pie-O-Neer bakery. There was plenty of parking available along the road, and the place was packed. Apparently, for such a small town, this festival is quite popular. Because, pie. Throughout the day, we met people from Oregon, Arizona, and California.

Our first stop was to sign my nephew up for the pie eating contest (and myself, but that’s another post). There were about 20 to 30 stands set up around the park with people selling different items. Some were crafters and others were selling tools and used DVDs and such. There were also several food vendors, selling burritos, Navajo fry bread and other treats. But there were only three pie stands among the town. I was a bit surprised, as I expected for a pie festival, there would be more pie stands. That said, the town is incredibly small, and perhaps for the citizens-to-pie ratio, three stands was more than enough. And truth be told, there was more than enough pie available from those vendors.

After touring the stands, we made our way to the Pie-O-Neer bakery. After all, we were here for pie. The place was packed and the line was almost to the door. We each ordered something different (after some indecisiveness with my nephew who couldn’t decide if eating pie would make him too full for the pie eating contest). I had a slice of pecan pie, while my nephew enjoyed blueberry pie. My friend got a slice of the famous green chile apple pie.

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The pecan pie was lovely, it was light, and wasn’t too sugary. The crust was nice and buttery. My nephew said he greatly enjoyed his blueberry pie and was very impressed by the stars on the pie crust. But the green chile apple pie was by far my favorite (I took a bite of my friend’s). It had a hot bite to it, but it the chile flavor wasn’t overwhelming. In case you missed out on the festival this year you can always make your own green chile cheese apple pie with this recipe – previously posted here on EatingNewMexico.

Topped off with pie after our long drive, we went back to the festival grounds. While my nephew played on the swing sets and slides, we waited for the crowning of the Pie Town Pie Queen. I was curious if there were campaigns run ahead of time for the crown, or it if was based off of the best baked pie. Unfortunately, those questions were never answered, as I missed the big crowning. All of the events were announced by a woman with a bullhorn, and by the time I realized it, the crowning was over. Zymbologistbob was upset he didn’t take the title, but I reassured him there is always next year.

While we waited for the pie eating contest, zymbologistbob and his friends enjoyed pie from the Pie Town Café stand. Zymbologistbob had a slice of tart cherry, and his friends each had a blackberry and blueberry. It was the Pie Town Pie Festival after all, so after a bit more wandering they found themselves at the pie stand for the Pie Town Cafe and each shared a mini pecan and strawberry rhubarb pie. It was decided that the strawberry rhubarb was some of the best z-bob ever had.

Pie Town - Sharing the Pie
Pie Town – Sharing the Pie

Next up was the PIE EATING CONTEST, which gets its own page here: Pie Town Pie Eating Contest

After the contest (and subsequent clean up as there was whipped cream and pie remnants everywhere) it was time to enjoy the horned toad races.

As I have never experienced such a race, I had questions. Could you bet on the toads before the race? Were there little lizard stalls so you could see which one looked like a winner? Was there illegal drugging of horned toads going on to ensure a victory? Were there grasshopper jockeys? Luckily, these questions were quickly answered. No, no, no, and sadly no.

Everyone gathered on the basketball courts around a chalk circle. Each of the horned toads were marked on their stomachs with number and the owners were marked with the same number on their hands. The owners were asked to sit outside the circle to encourage their horned toads to victory. The toads were all placed into a bucket and then dumped out in the middle of the circle. The first toad to cross the chalk line was the victor.

Pie Town Horned Toad Race -- bucket o toads.
Pie Town Horned Toad Race — bucket o toads.
Pie Town - Make Friends With Your Toad
Make friends with your toad so you can cheer him/her on to victory!
Pie Town - Horny Toad Races
Pie Town Horned Toad Race — what pies and horned toads have to do with one another, I don’t know. But, horny toads!

There looked to be an early victor, Taco, who ran to the edge of the circle, but then seemed to get confused and just ran around the edge. He was upset by a wee little horned toad. The word “race” might give the impression that this is a fast-paced event, but it took the better part of 15 minutes for a horned toad to finally cross the not-too-distant finish line.

After all that excitement, there wasn’t much left to do. The Pie Festival had other activities into the evening, including a dance where the winning pies from the baking contest would be announced. But as I was responsible for a seven-year-old that I had hopped up on sugar, it seemed best to wind up our day at the Pie Festival. We went back to the Pie-o-Neer to purchase pies for the road, but the majority of them were sold out. So we went to the Pie Town Café and purchased several red chile and apple cinnamon mini pies for gifts. I’m told they were delicious (although I was also told they tasted more like Hot Tamale candy than red chile). We then hit the road back to Albuquerque, after a pleasant day filled with pie, horned toads, more pie, and fun.

6 Tips for a Successful Pie Fest

Tips for a Successful Family Outing to the Pie Festival

  1. The Pie Town Pie Festival has a website with a list of activities and times. While the sign up for the pie eating contests begin at 9 a.m., there’s no reason to get there right on time to sign up. You can sign up right up until contest time assuming there is enough pie to go around.
  2. The best time to get to the Pie Festival is between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. The main activities begin at noon, and it doesn’t take more than an hour to tour all of the vendor booths and to get your first slice of pie.
  3. Speaking of pie, it’s better to buy your full pies for the road sooner, rather than later. We debated whether or not to buy pies right away. We decided to wait and many of the popular pies were sold out by the time we were ready to head home.
  4. There are a few activities for the kids to do beyond the junior pie eating contest, but you’ll need to keep an eye on them the entire time. The festival is held at a park, so there’s a swing set, a slide and a jungle gym. The slide is one of the biggest I’ve seen, and judging by the amount of kids I saw face-planted at the bottom, it’s a very fast slide. There was nothing unusual about the swing set, but there was a large number of people who walked way too close to swinging kids and almost ended up with black eyes. Pie can lull you into a dangerous state of not paying attention, apparently. There’s also a giant pie of dirt where organizers hide little toys for the kids to find. However, they left behind an adult sized metal shovel for the kids to dig with. Put together a bunch of kids and an adult sized shovel — trouble and concussions are bound to happen.
  5. If you have access to horned toads, don’t forget to bring your speediest and most well-trained for the afternoon horned toad races.
  6. Pie Town is a very small town. There isn’t a gas station, so be sure to fill up in neighboring towns, like Datil or Magdalena.

I hope these tips can help you have a very successful and stress-free Pie Town Pie Festival 2015.

Pie Town – Pie Eating Contest

Ever since my seven-year-old nephew, Little Trickster, learned he would be returning to the Pie Festival in Pie Town, New Mexico, he talked about nothing but winning the children’s pie eating contest. Turns out, last year he lost due to a hand raising technicality. A similar travesty was the fate of Sir Leopold Chestnut, SECOND PLACE winner of the 1903 Summer Olympics prune and custard pie eating contest. Both were sadly unaware that after they finished their pie, they were to raise their hand to be declared the winner. At least this year Little Trickster could learn from his folly. Chestnut, shunned by his peers, never competed again.

Little Trickster had been studying up on how to win this year’s contest. On the two-and-a-half-hour journey from Albuquerque to Pie Town, between singing verses of popular Disney songs, he spoke non-stop about the rules of the contest as well as the best techniques to take the crown. Each contestant was given an appropriately sized fruit pie by age division. All but the youngest contestants had to keep their hands behind their backs during the challenge and could not use them to eat said pie.

The best technique, said Little Trickster, was to move the pie closest to the edge of the table. After the stuffing was inhaled, it was best to use your teeth to flip over the pie tin and drop the pie on the table. It was much easier to eat the rest of the pie this way. He called it the alligator technique. A bit of a misnomer as we all know alligators prefer tarts to pies, unlike their fatter cousin the crocodile.

“You need to listen to me,” said Little Trickster, “so both you and I can be winners in our contests.”

Wait, what?

I knew my nephew was entering the pie eating contest, but I had no plans of entering the adult pie eating contest. I envisioned my first time at the festival perusing pie stands and craft tables. I had not planned on entering a pie eating contest. But Little Trickster, being adorable, was insistent. And I, being both a sucker and partaker in pies, was talked into entering the contest.

Upon our arrival to the Pie Festival, I went to the pavilion and paid the $1 fee to sign Little Trickster up for his age group and then paid $5 to sign myself up for the adult division. We were each given ribbons that showed the judges that we were participants.

In hindsight, it would have been a great deal to concede the contest and walk away with a $25 pie for $5.

At 1 p.m., the pie eating contestants gathered around the row of tables in the middle of the Pie Festival open area. The audience surrounded the pies and contestants (outside the “Splash Zone”) to cheer on their friends. Much attention was paid to the Splash Zone in fear of pie in the sky debris.

First up were the kiddos age 0 – 5. I’m not quite sure how a 0-year-old would eat a pie, but hey, there you go. The little kids were given mini-pies and the contest was on. A winner was declared, and two runner-ups. Each were given ribbons. The parents next to me were rather upset and kept talking about cheating from the winner (their kid got second). Seemed a bit silly to me as it was all for fun — it’s not like it was the pie eating Superbowl. [Editor’s note: fun or not, pie eating contest rules regarding hands on the table is a disqualification-level action. It is a safety matter, fingers are libel to be chewed off in the heat of the competition.]

Next up was Little Trickster’s division, ages 7 – 12. There were 19 participants. Their pies were larger than the mini pies, but still not a full-size pie. Little Trickster was down to business. Right off, he asked the judge if he was supposed to raise his hand when he was done. Once he got the affirmative, and the other kids were all lined up, the contest started. Little Trickster face-planted into his pie and tore that pie up! He used his teeth to flip the pie over using the Alligator Technique. There was whipped cream everywhere — on his nose, on his forehead, even in his hair. He mowed through that pie as fast as he could. (In related news, whipped cream is apparently an excellent conditioner.)

Pie Town - Pie Eating Contest Little T
Little Trickster going for gold

Unfortunately, those older kids were way faster. Out of the 19 participants, Little Trickster got 4th place. I was very proud of his placing and he seemed to be in good spirits, which can’t be that surprising as it’s hard to be sad after eating pie.

Then it was my turn. Little Trickster came up to me and helped me tie my plastic apron. “Since, I didn’t win, you’re going to have to win this,” he said.

Wait, what?

I was just doing this for fun (and pie) but mostly just to placate the now berry-stained kid. Suddenly there was all this added pressure on me to win? Really, my only goal was to not end up like that kid in “Stand By Me.” (No, not the dead one, the one in the pie eating contest, though I didn’t particularly want to end up like the dead one either. I have to remember to chew.)

“Don’t worry,” said Little Trickster. “I’ll coach you. I already asked the judge if I could stay with you and cheer you on.” There were 24 participants in the adult division, and the trash talking starting early. A man from Portland told the rest of us we were going down. A woman from Arizona giggled and said this was her first time. A woman from California let us know she had won three years ago. Ooh, a seasoned veteran.

We lined up around the tables and placed our hands behind our backs. Little Trickster ran around to eye the competition and shout out instructions. He told me to kneel to be closer to the pie.

“REMEMBER THE ALLIGATOR!” he shouted.

The judges placed the pies in front of us. Unfortunately, these weren’t mini pies, or even medium. These were daunting, huge, full-sized strawberry rhubarb pies. Pies that were covered in whipped cream (much like most of the previous contestants).

And not with a shot, but a splat, the contest was on. I shoved my face into that pie and started chewing. And chewing and chewing. And I stopped and realized I was only through the whipped cream. I went back to chewing. I finally hit the filling. It was delicious. I could hear my friends cheering me on. I could hear Little Trickster yelling out instructions. “Do the alligator! Stick your whole face in that pie!” I got through half the pie and drug the tin over to the edge of the table with my teeth. I flipped it and dumped the pie on the table.

Trickster demonstrates the Alligator Technique.
Trickster demonstrates the Alligator Technique.
Pie Town - Pie Eating Contest Trickster in Action
It still looks pretty tasty.

I started working on the crust (which was just as tasty as the pie). I stopped to look up to see where everyone else was at. One girl had given up, and looked rather green. Most of the other contestants had way less pie to get through than I did.

“Put your face back in there!” Little Trickster shouted. I took another bite and looked up again. Little Trickster threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t win. And I couldn’t help it. I spit out my pie laughing. Poor Portland guy. He was across from me and wasn’t too happy. I tried to chew again but the cheers and coaching was just too much. I just kept giggling. Finally a winner was declared, and then the second and third place winners. My adventure was over. Out of the 24 contestants, I came in 23. Thank goodness for the one green-looking girl.

Pie Town - Trickster After the Fact
I gave it my best shot. 🙂

Little Trickster came over to comfort me. “It’s okay,” he said, “we’ll do better next year.”

Wait, what?