All posts by nmtrickster

It’s Green Chile Season in New Mexico!

It began about a week ago.

Outside of grocery stores all across New Mexico, yellow tape cordoned off propane tanks. Empty one-room buildings near the sides of the road began to teem with life. Trucks pulled off in fields of dirt, and men and women gathered red chile ristras to decorate their truck beds. Cardboard sandwich signs were placed in strategic locations offering sacks and bushels and the prices for fresh or roasted.

Fresh Green Chile
Fresh New Mexico Green Chile


It’s Chile Season in New Mexico.

From now until the end of the season, we won’t be checking in with our families and friends to ask how work is going. We won’t be at backyard barbecues discussing Billy’s first days of school, or how Aunt Sarah’s hip is doing. Instead, we’ll be asking each other for roasting sightings.

“Do you know when they’re roasting Hatch chile over on Wyoming and Montgomery?” or “Someone said they’ve started roasting at Smith’s… is that true?”

Chile Roaster at Triangle
Chile roaster set up outside Triangle Grocery in Cedar Crest, NM. You can smell the chile from Highway 14.

We’ll discuss the year’s weather conditions. “It was a dry summer, this chile batch might be extra hot, don’t you think?” We’ll take polls amongst each other to ensure we got the right amount. “Did you get a bushel [22 lb.] or a sack [35 lb.] this year?” And toward the end of the season, we’ll fret about others. “Did you get your chile put up yet?”

Bag of Hatch XHOT
An unassuming bag. Inside: Extra Hot Hatch Green Chile! Look out

This week, I’ll talk to my sister and my mother and ask if they want to share a sack. We’ll decide if we want to go with Big Jim (mild) or Sandia (hot). I’ll go to Sichler’s in Albuquerque at San Mateo & Lomas and pay extra to have my chile roasted. If the peaches are ripe and the workers are generous, they’ll slice up a peach for me to eat while I wait. As I inhale the smell wafting off the roasters, I’ll nod a hello to the other people waiting around for their chile.

We’ll be our own little tribe, knowing that anywhere around the state, in small towns and large, from Las Cruces to Aztec, at any moment, the same mouth-watering smell is being shared across the open spaces with other New Mexicans who know the secrets of this season.

Sichler Farms Chile Shop
Sichler Farms Chile Shop

This season always takes me back to my past. The smell of roasting chile reminds me of times gone by when my mother and grandmothers and aunts would sit on the porch, peeling chile with gloved hands as my cousins and I played in the yard. The matriarchs shared recipes and family gossip, wiping their brows with wet washcloths to make sure they didn’t get the chile’s burning juices on their skin or in their eyes. They laughed as they recalled  past batches, when they forgot to use the washcloths and, oh how the chile burned. They would call us kids over to grab more plastic bags or to take the filled bags to the freezer. My cousins and I would dare each other to eat the chile. Every child of the state made their bones on that first too-hot bite of freshly roasted green.

Roasted Hatch Green Chile
Roasted Hatch Green Chile

This time is about the future too. Because after the chile season comes the burning of Zozobra, where a 50-foot-tall paper and muslin puppet moans and groans as he goes up in flames, kicking off the Fiestas de Santa Fe. As “Old Man Gloom” burns, all our troubles of the year are burned away.

Soon after, the smells of roasting chile and our burning past troubles are replaced by those of funnel cakes and corn dogs and the sounds of the carnival rides and cheers from the nightly rodeo crowds at the New Mexico State Fair.

From there, the air grows chillier and the cottonwood leaves on the Rio Grande turn from green to a cacophony of auburn colors. Hundreds of balloons fill the morning sky and seem to compete with the sun in their majestic beauty during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Once the balloons have landed and been packed away, snow soon begins to dust our desert lands. Then softly glowing luminarias decorate plazas and homes across the state. And on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, families pull out their reserves of green chile from the freezer and come together to make their holiday meals. Pots of green chile stew boil on the stove and green chile chicken enchiladas bubble in the oven. Posole and tamales are served around the dinner table, and if the children finish their plates, they will be rewarded with biscochitos.

And it all starts with that first late summer sighting of green and red.

Chile Ristras in Hatch, New Mexico
Chile Ristras in Hatch, New Mexico

A friend of mine from New York once asked me why New Mexicans were so crazy about chile and the chile season. It’s not just about the chile, I answered. It is so much more than just the harvesting of the year’s batch across the state. Chile season is where the past, present, and future collide, and community and family are interchangeable.

Chile Facts

  • New Mexico produces more chile than any other state in the U.S.
  • The majority of chile harvested in the state is from the southern region, from Lordsburg to Artesia. The most famous is Hatch, which holds its own annual Hatch Valley Chile Festival around Labor Day each year.
  • It’s illegal to advertise chile as being grown in New Mexico if it’s not. A new state program has taken this idea even further to help consumers identify New Mexico grown chile and chile products. To find out if your chile and chile products are New Mexico certified, check out
  • All New Mexican chile grown today comes from cultivars created at New Mexico State University in the late 1800s. In 1913, Dr. Fabian Garcia introduced the New Mexican pod type.
  • There are several types of green chiles, other than New Mexican. The Anaheim or California is a mild version of the New Mexican green chile (tastes more like a bell pepper). The Poblano green chile comes from Pueblo, Mexico and is known for its dark green color and mild flavor. The Poblano is wider than the Anaheim and New Mexican green chile. The Chilaca and Pasilla chiles are similar to the Poblano in color, but are much skinnier. And there are the Serrano and Jalapeno chiles, which are smaller and generally spicier than these others. Of course, there are hundreds of other varieties of chile across the state and around the world. These are just a sampling.

Green Chile Recipes Coming Soon!


Horseman’s Haven Café

4354 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe

I’m pretty sure I might have found a restaurant that serves the best green chile in the state. Nay, not just the best green chile, but perhaps the best New Mexican food I’ve had. Okay, maybe that’s too bold of a statement. Besides, I haven’t eaten at every restaurant in the state that serves New Mexican food. There could be a lovely little place in Datil that really deserves the honor of “the best”.

However, I am going to say that Horseman’s Haven Café serves the best New Mexican food and green chile in Santa Fe. A group of us went to restaurant after our rafting trip, based off of a recommendation of a friend. She did warn us to not be thrown off about the location. It’s located next to a gas station and from the outside looks like it could be an iffy place. But as I’m not particularly prissy, I was game. Besides, I was famished and had already started to secretly eye my friends to see which one’s arm I could gnaw off. The inside of Horseman’s has a typical country diner feel, with an open kitchen, plenty of tables and chairs and booths big enough to seat the nine of us.

I think my friends realized their limbs might be in imminent danger as they kept placing the chips and salsa directly in front of me. The chips were thicker than most  chips I’ve eaten at restaurants. The salsa was full of flavor and fresh. It also was less chunky than most salsa. But while it had flavor, it wasn’t particularly hot.

Seriously, measure the thickness on these things.
Seriously, measure the thickness on these things.

For my meal, I ordered a 3D burrito which comes with papas, a choice of meat and chile. Most of my friends also ordered the 3D as well, with variations on the meat and chile. My cousin ordered a combination plate just so that she could have a side of posole, to which I mocked her openly. I have a deep, abiding bitterness towards hominy–it’s just gross. But I did acknowledge the fact that it was cool that posole was an option as a side item, not something that I find is standard at most restaurants.

Apparently, there are different levels of chile that you can order at Horseman’s. I’ve heard that Level I is hot chile and Level 2 is for people who don’t cry at the end of “The Notebook”—you know, tough hombres. I myself probably fall somewhere like a 1.75. I like my chile really, really hot. If I’m not sweating and crying, it’s just not enjoyable. But I’m not above bawling like a baby if chile is too hot (or at “The Notebook” because come on, he wrote her all those letters). I didn’t see level options on the menu and our waiter didn’t ask us. I’m guessing he looked at us and made a command decision.**

So I’m not sure which level of chile I had smothered all over my burrito, but  that’s okay. Because my burrito was delightful. In fact, I’m going to go out on a very corny limb and suggest that the 3D in the burrito stands for delightful, decadent and delicious! I say decadent because the burrito was huge. I didn’t even finish half the burrito and remember, I was this close to eating my friends before we walked into the café. The chicken tasted fresh, the papas were cubed and fried to perfection and then there was the green chile. I sweated. I cried. The chile was so hot it burned my lips and I fell in love more with each bite and each tear. Everyone else commented that they enjoyed their food as well. I will say the green chile was preferable to the red chile. Those at the table who got the red seemed a bit disappointed over the lack of heat, and I sensed their envious and bitter looks out of the corner of my eye. But that also could have been just looks of embarrassment as I was making odd moaning noises after each bite. I’m telling you, the green chile was good.

3D burrito with chicken and green chile.

And here’s how you really know Horseman’s Have Café is worth trying out. My cousin insisted I try her posole. I did and guess what? It was great! I might even try it as a side when I’m at Horseman’s next time. Maybe. If the hominy behaves itself.


**I went back to Horseman’s in August and asked to have a side of Level 2. I did warn the waitress that if I cried to not take it personally, that it was just likely me being too wussy for the chile. She said that Level 2 only comes as a side, it’s way too hot to have smothered on your food. I put some on my stuffed sopapilla (not as good as the 3-D burrito, but good) and took a bite. It was the hottest, most flavorful chile I have ever eaten. Like seriously, four hours later I could still taste the chile on my lips. Totally worth it. And I didn’t cry!

Rafting New Mexico

I’ll be honest. I’m not an outdoors person. The last time I went camping I brought a queen-sized air mattress on a frame with me. I also ran electricity to my tent so that I could keep my cellphone charged to order pizza in case my hot dog fell into the campfire. I’m also not particularly adventurous. My idea of a wild time is binge watching episodes of “Breaking Bad.” But I’m trying to change. There are so many outdoor activities that the Land of Enchantment has to offer. And frankly, since “Breaking Bad” is over, I’ve got some time on my hands. So when my friends suggested a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, I agreed to join their outdoor adventure.

Besides, this particular rafting trip seemed fairly safe. Run by Cottam’s Rio Grande Rafting Company, the Racecourse is their most popular option. Compared to Cottam’s other trips, including the Taos Box, which requires a helmet as you travel 16 miles through Class III and IV rapids down the Rio Grande Gorge, the Racecourse seemed like a breeze. It’s a two-to-three-hour guided trip that lets participants experience Class I to III rapids, helmet free. Since our trip was in late July towards the end of the rafting season, I figured the waters would be much calmer than those in the early spring runoff.

Our group met at the designated location site, the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor’s Center in Pilar, NM. We climbed into Cottam’s vans and were driven about 45 seconds down to the rafting launch site. Lathered in sunscreen, fully hydrated, and wearing my provided flotation device, I was feeling pretty good. Then our guides started going over the safety procedures. Like how to ensure you don’t fall out of the raft. Like describing what to do if the raft tipped over. Or if your paddle smacked you in the face and you lost all of your teeth. Okay, maybe I imagined that last one, I’m not 100% sure. As photographers took group pictures, I briefly considered the idea of just buying an 8X11 and telling everyone that I had gone rafting, when in reality I would just wait in the van for my friends. But screw it, I had already paid for the trip and I owed it to myself to try something new. So I went ahead and climbed aboard.

Can you see me up in the blue raft?

Our guide was funny and personable. He pointed out geological sites along the way (really old black rocks versus even older gray rocks is about as much as I comprehended) and shared some history of the area. The scenery was gorgeous and I felt myself relax as we floated down the Rio Grande. My only goal was not to fall out of the raft. It’s not that I’m afraid of water. No, my real fear was not being able to get back into the raft. I had watched a great number of people try to climb back into rafts over the years. And even the most graceful people somehow end up flailing around in the bottom of the raft face first in the crotch of the person that pulled them out.

As we came upon our first rapids, our guide gave us directions on how many times to paddle and in what direction. We worked as a team as we went through the white water. It was exhilarating and fantastic! The rest of the trip included periods of calm water followed by varying levels of rapids. In several locations, our guide encouraged us to get out and swim. While I did not take up this offer, my friends reported that the water was cool and refreshing. The rapids were challenging and wonderful all at once. I was amazed at how quickly the time went by on the river and was disappointed that the trip was over as we floated up to our final destination. Luckily, the chips and cookies Cottam’s provided eased my pain.

You can’t tell, but I’m laughing as we go through some rapids.

So overall, my adventure was immensely satisfying and entertaining. I would highly recommend rafting in New Mexico and Cottam’s Rio Grande Rafting Company. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much, that I plan on tackling the Taos Box next year. Just be forewarned. If you find me face first in your crotch as I’m flailing around the bottom of the raft it’s nothing personal. I’m just looking for my next big water adventure.

Blake’s Lotaburger – Breakfast Burrito

Blake’s Lotaburger is a staple of New Mexico fast food cuisine, with 76 locations currently operating statewide. Around since 1952, Lotaburger specializes in fresh hamburgers, particularly green chile hamburgers. And lucky for me and for you, many of the locations serve breakfast burritos. Their basic breakfast burritos are made with two eggs, hash browns and either red or green chile. From there, you can choose from a selection of additional options, including beans, sausage, bacon, and more. Even better, Lotaburger allows you the option of smothering your burrito with red or green chile sauce. Which to me, anything smothered with green chile is just happiness.



Great ratio of goodness!

On this occasion, I selected a sausage breakfast burrito with green chile and smothered with green chile sauce. It was topped with cheddar cheese and garnished with lettuce and tomatoes. The burrito had the perfect ratio of ingredients, just the right combination of sausage, egg, hash browns and green chile. Even better, the green chile had quite a kick to it. Often (and especially at fast food places) the chile is super mild, which, to a native like me, is just sad.

In my mind, there were only two small factors that kept this from being the perfect breakfast burrito. The cheddar cheese that topped the burrito looked as if it had been microwaved and was a bit too chewy. Additionally, the tomatoes that garnished the burrito were full slices, not cubed. And while I enjoy a good tomato, I prefer full slices in a sandwich. Having them on a breakfast burrito left me a wee bit flummoxed. These two factors aside, Lotaburger offers fantastic breakfast burritos for Blue Collar foodies on the go!