Category Archives: Albuquerque

Corn Dogs and Meh at the New Mexico State Fair

So we went to the State Fair and for like three weeks leading up to the fair we were like CORN DOGS FUNNEL CAKES DEEP FRIED THINGS ON STICKS — MAKE IT HAPPEN, FAIR. And then we got to the fair and yes, there were many yummy smells coming from many food booths all over the place. Promising!

It was about 85 degrees, I think. Which might not sound too hot, but out on the asphalt and NO SHADE of the fairgrounds, it quickly became a blistering stuffed animal & carnie infested hellscape.

You know what sounds good in that environment? A/C and a nap. A cold beverage. Ice cream, snow cones.  You know what doesn’t sound good in that environment? Hot, deep-fried foods.

BUT WE WERE ON A MISSION. A mission to eat and love some fried fair foods (preferably on sticks).  So we stood in various lines and picked up a foot-long corn dog, some drinks, and a funnel cake.

Then we sat down in the shadeless noonday sun in the midst of the carnival crowds of sweating, dragging, weary people and we ate our hot, fried foods, dripping sweat into our mustard.

CORN DOG
Foot-long hand-dipped corn dog, NM State Fair

So the corn dog was $6 and the bottle of water was $3. We also got a cold bottle of Pepsi, also $3. (Which is more expensive than the drinks at Disneyland, which I hadn’t thought possible.)  The funnel cake my daughter picked out (with whipped cream and Hershey syrup) was NINE FREAKING DOLLARS.

Everything was fine. Good, even. But was it exciting or special? Not really.

Something else we had, which was a finalist or something in the “Unique Foods” competition, were the deep fried green chile cheese curds. Which really, sounds like the quintessential NM State Fair food, does it not? And they are served with ranch for dipping, naturally, like every other savory deep fried thing.

And they were fine. Good, even. The problem I had with them was the lack of green chile. There was a slight green chile flavor, but at the NM State Fair, where we are celebrating things New Mexico, if something says “green chile” I want BAM! GREEN CHILE!

So, yeah.

State Fair Cheese Curds
Deep Fried Green Chile Cheese Curds, NM State Fair

Maybe my expectations were too high. I had been watching Carnival Eats for weeks leading up this day, just to prepare myself. But I found the foods to be uninspired and just OK. Oh and way too expensive.

Overall, we had a fine time at the fair. We rode some rides and played some games, ate some foods, and felt somehow violated in ways we couldn’t pinpoint by a few carnies, so it was a typical fair experience.

But I’m just now getting over the sticker shock of the prices for everything ($5 apiece for rides/games was the norm).

My favorite part of the fair was not the food or midway at all — it was the buildings of prize-winning art, textiles, and giant vegetables. Mostly because they were interesting to look at, but also partly because they were air conditioned and didn’t cost another $15 each time we walked through a door.

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Making French Truffles at Joliesse Chocolates

Joliesse Chocolates
6855 4th St NW | Los Ranchos de Albuquerque

I’ll openly admit at least two of my most major addictions — chocolate and Groupon. This little adventure fed into both of those particular indulgences, and I assure you I would have satisfied each of those cravings again had they not been related.

I got to play chocolatier for day: just as much cheer as being a mouseketeer but without the ears and with messier hands. Joliesse Chocolates is a quaint little coffee and chocolate shop tucked away in an unassuming shopping center off of 4th street in northwest Albuquerque. It’s a charming little place that offers single source coffee drinks named after various Broadway musicals and — most importantly — chocolate wares and chocolate classes. Now don’t get me wrong, I would have happily had a mug of Wicked, their dark chocolate and chile espresso latte, but I was there for another reason. I was there to make chocolate truffles… lots of them.

In the class I learned the how and why of chocolate tempering, how to make a butter ganache, and finally got to get down and dirty by hand forming and decorating some of my own truffles.

For this outing, I dragged along my friend Shannon, who didn’t require any arm twisting. This always seems to be the case when chocolate is involved. Odd. We attended a Tuesday night class, though Sunday nights are also an option for truffle making. The classes are limited to 16 folks, but we were lucky enough to get plenty of attention, as we were in a class of only four. However, it is possible that the supervision was simply present as I really shouldn’t be trusted around that quantity of chocolate.

Class started with a bit of a chocolate history lesson and five different distinct and definitive samplings of chocolates, taking us each though a palleted journey, starting at white and moving darker and darker, then finishing off with the typical food service chocolate chips. One of these things was not like the other. All of the first samples were composed of only cocoa butter, cocoa (except for the white chocolate), sugar, and lecithin. The food service option, however, also had an artificial paraffin-like wax added expressly to replace the expensive cocoa butter present in “real” chocolate. Yummy, wax. Think of that the next time you bite the ears off a cheap chocolate bunny. They were trying to prove a point about quality, and I think they succeeded.

Next up in the grueling “why would anyone want to make their own truffles” courses was the mini session on tempering chocolate. For those of you not in the know, or cool enough to have already have taken this class, tempering is the process of heating and cooling chocolate so that it forms crystal bonds, making it good for dipping, coating, and generating that overall smooth composition that will melt perfectly at body temperature. This provides the wonderful silky smooth melt-in-your-mouth texture. (It also gives you the perfect melt-all-over-your-hands-and-smear-it-all-over-your-friend’s-phone consistency when you’re hand crafting chocolate balls, but more on that later.) The tempering itself consisted of taking already melted chocolate and thinly applying it over a room-temperature marble slab for cooling over and over again, then reintroducing said chocolate to the melted batch and repeating. The cooling of the marble slab created type V (remember Roman numerals?) crystals, which then seed the entire molten batch of chocolate into a tub of decadence.

Tempering the Chocolate
Tempering the Chocolate

After tempering chocolate, the next step was to combine 1 part unsalted butter to 1.7 parts of the chocolate by weight and mix until properly incorporated. Once combined, this becomes our ganache. Hence the alternate name of “butter truffles” for French truffles. We were told that this can also be done with cream, or a mix of cream and butter in order to obtain the desired thickness of the end product.

Spooning Chocolate
Preparing the Chocolate for Trufflizing.

It was at this time we had the option of adding various flavors to our truffles. A host of spices, herbs, and liqueurs were presented. I went with chile, ground pepper, anise, and a pinch of cardamom. My cocoa-compatriot, Shannon, went with what I believe was a mixture of ground anise, rosemary, and cinnamon.

I’m taking this opportunity as I write to try one of her truffles for the first time. (It was terrible, Shannon. Don’t bother trying them. Just give them all to me and I’ll get rid of them for you.) Mine, however, were delicious, and I’m not nice enough to share them with anybody.

After a quick trip to the fridge allowing the ganache to rest and become more workable, it was time to turn our concoction into the actual truffles. This basically meant taking a wad of gooey messy chocolate and trying one’s best to roll them into little balls of yumminess. Think chocolate meatballs.

It is possible that this process resulted in chocolate everywhere. This is probably the only time in my life that I’ve had more chocolate on me than in me. It was oddly satisfying, even if there was chocolate under my fingernails, on my elbow, and apparently a bit freshly adorning my confectionery copilot’s phone. I think it was an improvement. Everyone has had a caramel dipped apple, but I doubt there are too many chocolates rolled iPhones. A tasty collectors item had I ever seen one. The mess is part of the experience, I’ve been assured that it wouldn’t have been as much fun had there been gloves and aprons involved.

Chocolate Class - messy hands
In the world of truffle-making, you have to be willing to make a mess.

Once we had our little chocolate noms formed, we were given the opportunity to roll them about in various coatings including crushed nuts, sesame seeds, gram cracker, more chocolate, or the traditional cocoa power. Truffles came by their name as these little cocoa powder dusted lumpy balls of delight that greatly resembled the freshly dug up dirty mushrooms of the same name, or possibly because the French have run out of words, I’m not really sure. It has only been more recently that truffles were dusted in something other than cocoa powder. Celebrating modern times and given that the lesson of the night was making a royal mess, I did what any rational person would do and used a bit of everything to coat my truffles.

 

Chocolate Class Truffles
Chocolate Happiness at Joliesse Chocolates, Albuquerque

Finally we packed our freshly minted truffles into paper wrapping cups and pristinely placed them in a translucent Chinese takeaway box finished with a golden seal. They looked so elegant, it is hard to believe the amount of chaos it took to birth them. But it wasn’t just a mess that was created, there were also chocolate, laughs, stories, and smiles.

The finished product!
Handmade truffles packed nice and neat @ Joliesse Chocolates

Would I go back? Absolutely. For starters I ended up with a batch of delicious truffles made exactly to my specifications. Even though the shop is way out of my way, they have other chocolate classes, a cozy lounge, and even a bacon & vanilla espresso. I’ve already recommend the class to a smattering of friends in hopes that they too will become a chocolatier for a day.

http://www.lajoliesse.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JoliesseChocolates

http://www.groupon.com/deals/joliesse-chocolates

Lizard Tail Brewing – ABQ

9800 Montgomery Blvd NE | Albuquerque

The third time is a charm, or at least that’s the hope for Lizard Tail, one of Albuquerque’s newest brewery arrivals. I recently stumbled into the former residence of both Bad Ass and Farside Brewing to be check out the new home of Lizard Tail. Though they weren’t scheduled to officially open until Friday, August 22, I took a chance with their soft opening earlier in the week and gave their wares a proper sampling.

Lizard Tail Brewing, Albuquerque
New Home of Lizard Tail Brewing, Albuquerque

It is about time that the Heights got a brewer; it has been needing one for a while. It is just a bit odd that all three that I’m aware of have taken up the exact same residence in a little strip mall at the corner of Montgomery & Eubank (which also happens to host the offices of everyone’s favorite crooked lawyer friend Saul, from “Breaking Bad.”) With a bit of luck, and some proper patronage, hopefully they’ll be around for a while.

Lizard Tail Brewing - Strip Mall Location
Lizard Tail Brewing – Unassuming Strip Mall Location

The first thing I noticed once I walked in the door was — gone are the days of looking into the nano-brew kitchen when the place was Bad Ass and Farside. A wall has been erected, and a lizard has been painted. A whole lizard, not just the tail. Further inspection proved that they pretty much gutted the old place, adding and fine-tuning where appropriate.

Lizard Tail Brewing - Logo Indoors
Lizard Tail Brewing – Logo Indoors

The master brewers / prioritizers Dan and Ken seem to be heading into the direction of malt forward beers. A trend that is at times counter to the New Mexican love of hops and bitters. But this is something I’m not the least bit sad about. I like my beers with a good malty introduction, so it is just fine by me if they want to keep their two barrel system pumping out sweet low-hop beers. Expect beers to max out around 70 IBUs with most things circling around 30 to 40 IBUs.

As per typical, I ordered a flight of beers… two, actually. Each flight has 4 beers, and there were 7 on tap, with an 8th one showing up mid-way through flight number two.

Lizard Tail Brewing - Beers Board
Lizard Tail Brewing – Beers Board

It would be at this point where most beer bloggers would show you a picture of the flights of crisp clean, mouthwatering beers. But I’m not here to pander to an audience, nor am I your typical beer blogger. Also, I forgot to take a picture.

So instead, let’s go through a beer journey in our imagination. Close your eyes and you can visualize the beer as I describe it. Oh wait, don’t do that. I don’t want to judge you, but I’m pretty sure you can’t read with your eyes shut. So let’s just assume that the reverse is true, and 1000 words equals a picture.

The following were a part of the beer roster when I visited.

  • Berliner Weisse 4.5 ABV 8 IBU (coming soon)
  • German Blond Ale 5.5 ABV 20 IBU
    This light hay colored beer was more bitter than I expected. It seemed to my non-expert palate that it was quite a bit more than the reported 20 IBUs. Slightly astringent, but otherwise clear and crisp. This would be a good beer for warm day and session sipping.
  • Honey Pale Ale 6.3 ABV 35 IBU
    Darker and more golden than its German Blond cousin, the Pale Ale was about where you would expect it to be on the bitter range. It had some earthy undertones as well, though I’m not sure if any hints of honey really snuck their way in. It also seemed a bit thin, in my opinion.
  • Belgian Abbey 6.6 ABV 25 IBU
    A lovely example of a Belgian style Abbey. It was a bit hazy, as well it should have been, and golden brown in color. This beer had an aged woody flavor that complemented the almost grapefruit-like undertones. Absolutely worth drinking again… and again.
  • IPA 6.8 ABV 70 IBU
    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I have few merits judging IPAs. I’ll drink one from time to time, but I don’t know what I’m doing. This is one of those that I may drink from time to time, but the bitter was a bit strong for me.
  • Amber 5.7 ABV 40 IBU
    Mmmmm. As in Mmmmmalty. Mellow, malty, and smooth. That about sums it up. I’ll have another one of these magical darker Ambers, please.
  • Oatmeal Brown 4.2 ABV 25 IBU
    I like Oatmeal, I like browns, I even like sour beers. This, however, was not right. Though notes of coffee and chocolate were present, I fear that this batch was just off. The flavor led me to believe there was a Brettanomyces infection going on. For a beer in which it is intended, it could be a wonderful thing. This one was not. I could not even finish the sample glass. I hope to come back again and see it improved.
  • Indian Black Ale 6.6 ABV 70 IBU
    Black IPAs seem to be a thing now. I’m ok with this. This malty dark bittered black ale was actually rather lovely. It was nice and creamy with a well-balanced hop signature.
  • Rye Stout 5.5 ABV 35IBU
    Saving the best for last. This dark almost nutty beer was my pint after flight choice. To my knowledge I’ve not had a Rye Stout before. As a lover of all beers dark, this was a prime example of something new that made Lizard Tail well worth the trip.

Outside of beer, Lizard Tail also offers up some appetizers and sandwiches. I only had the beer, so I’m afraid I can’t comment, but it seemed to be pretty typical fare for such an establishment.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t overly impressed with Lizard Tail’s beer. That’s not to say that most of the beers weren’t good. Most were rather lovely, there just wasn’t anything that stood out in any major way, except for maybe the Rye Stout, but that may have simply been the novelty. Given Albuquerque’s brewery diversity, that’s something that really needs to happen.

I will say that Lizard Tail seems to have some great potential, a good location, and friendly staff. I will definitely be back, if for nothing else, for a pint of their Rye Stout and to give their seasonal beers a shot.

http://lizardtailbrewing.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lizard-Tail-Brewing/1374531232789266

NM Food with Tiny Twists @ Tia Betty Blue’s, ABQ

Tia Betty Blue’s is a small New Mexican café in what some call Albuquerque’s “International District” but I call “over by base,” meaning it’s kind of by Kirtland Air Force Base. It’s on the east side of San Mateo, between Gibson and Kathryn.

It’s an order-at-the-counter kind of joint, making for quicker service and a faster lunch all around. I highly suggest you read their “About” page to learn more about their culinary philosophy! >ABOUT<

COMFORT FOOD

Sometimes you just need some comfort food. Maybe for you that’s a burrito the size of an actual small burro, smothered in cheese and green chile. Maybe it’s a Frito pie or a waffle. Sometimes you just need a friendly young waiter or waitress to smile at you and bring you things, in a quaint little eatery smaller than your typical Starbucks.

Tia Betty Blue’s has all this and more. Specializing in breakfast and lunch (open until 2:00 p.m.), they serve a wide variety of typical NM breakfast/lunch entrees, like waffles, breakfast sandwiches, taco plates, and enchiladas. But what they do that sets them apart is take these café staples and give them a little twist.

WAFFLES

There is something about a fluffy, crispy, chewy waffle that makes my heart go pitter-patter. And Tia Betty Blue’s has elevated the already quite elevated garden variety waffle by making them out of blue corn and serving them two ways — sweet or hot.

SWEET WAFFLE: You get a blue corn waffle topped with seasonal fresh fruit (like blackberries and blueberries), a little syrup, and your choice of whipped cream flavor: standard, cinnamon, chocolate, or lavender. The blue corn waffle is exactly the crispychewy texture you expect in a good waffle, but the blue corn batter gives it an air of sophistication and beauty, and makes it feel somehow socially acceptable to order a waffle for lunch. I opted for the cinnamon whipped cream, which was perfectly light, not too sweet, and slightly cinnamon-y. [Note: you can order this gluten-free, or with yogurt in stead of whipped cream, or with 100% maple syrup or agave syrup instead of the house syrup. Lots of ways to have it your way.] [‘Nother Note: I didn’t take a photo because I ate the WHOLE THING before I even thought about taking a photo… sorry.]

HOT WAFFLE: What’s that you say?  A spicy waffle? Is it a waffle cooked with chile in the batter? No (but there’s an idea!). The Hot waffle is basically huevos rancheros, but with a waffle instead of a tortilla on the bottom. It is the blue corn waffle, topped with an egg, red or green chile or both, cheese, and your choice of meat if so desired. The sides are papas and beans. 

Huevos Wafflos?
You’re Hot. No, YOU’RE hot, hottie. This waffle is hotter, though.

GIANT FRITO CHILE PIE

I’m not sure where the “Frito Pie” was born, but I have met people from seemingly all over the country who have never heard of it. Which makes me sad for them. Frito Pie was — and still is — a cold weather staple in my family, akin to chicken soup or green chile stew. It’s just something you make every now and then when you want an easy, warm, and delicious (but not nutritious) meal.

For those not in the know, a Frito Pie (or Frito Chili Pie) usually consists of a base layer of Fritos, then the chili (typically of the chili-n-beans type), then shredded cheddar cheese and diced onion. Iceberg lettuce and diced tomato are optional. And maybe some more fritos on top.

But at Tia Betty Blue’s, they take this simple bowl of chili and turn it into chile. That’s chile with an E.

They start with Fritos, naturally. But then they do something so crazy but so simple, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it on a menu before. They add New Mexico chile (red, green, or both) — instead of the standard chili with an I. Then: cheese, onion, iceberg, tomato, per tradition.

Loved It! The day I was there, the red was very hot, and the green mild but with fantastic roasted flavor. The fritos gave it the perfect salty crunch, and the garnishing iceberg helped to cool things off.

Frito Pie featuring Tia Betty Blue's red and green chile. YES.
Frito Pie featuring Tia Betty Blue’s red and green chile. YES.

OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING THAT I HAVE NOT ACTUALLY TRIED YET

Tia Betty Blue’s is very proud of their coffee. I love coffee, so I’m not sure why I haven’t tried this yet. They also have a big cooler full of unique sodas (think: juniper berry soda, key lime cream soda, cucumber soda, etc.). I love sodas, so I’m not sure why I haven’t tried these yet.

SUMMARY

Tia Betty Blue’s does New Mexican food in a way that is both traditional and unique. They try new things, but not just for show. The new things they are trying make perfect logical sense, both to the brain and to the taste buds. The atmosphere is casual and friendly. The prices are reasonable.

Oh, and there’s wifi.


 

O’Niell’s Pub – Albuquerque – Pub Food, Upgraded

NOTE: We were there to eat, not drink, so this review focuses on the food & service at mid-day on a Friday.

WHERE IT’S AT:

O’Niell’s is located in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood, on the southwest corner of Central and Washington. They have a nice-sized parking lot behind their building, so parking was easy. Granted, we were there at 2:00 pm on a Friday. Maybe it fills up at typical “bar times.”

Normally, if I walk into a place called a “pub” with the purpose of having a meal, I set my expectations about the food pretty low. I’ve come to expect “typical or standard barroom fare,” to mean “a lot of salt and a lot of fat,” things primarily designed to get you to order more beer or cocktails.

So, this was my expectation when ZIA and I walked into O’Niell’s last Friday to attend a going-away luncheon for a co-worker.

My first impression of O’Niell’s was how clean, open, and well-lit it was. We were immediately greeted and directed to where our party was seated, outside on the patio. O’Niell’s is, true to its name, a “pub” first and foremost. The bar is impressive, almost completely taking up one side of the restaurant. The seating is open table, with no partitions between tables. Although it wasn’t very crowded when I came in, I could see this place getting very noisy with a large crowd.

We didn’t have to wait long for our waitress to arrive and take our drink orders. I wish I could remember our waitress’s name, because she was awesome — fast and friendly.

THE FOOD:

And now for the best part…the food! I ordered the “Irish Cuban,” a Cuban sandwich with the addition of corned beef to give it that “Irish” twist. Let me be clear, they don’t substitute the pulled-pork for corned beef; they ADD the corned beef, along with slaw, pickles and mustard, and the results are mouth-watering. I would come back here just to have another one of these sandwiches! O’Niell’s offers a great variety of side-dishes, and I chose the fries. The fries were good, but nothing exceptional. This was the one thing that was definitely just “barroom fare.”

O'Niell's Irish Cuban Sandwich -- it was awesome!
O’Niell’s Irish Cuban Sandwich — it was awesome!

Zia ordered the St. Patty Melt, a seasoned ground beef burger with sautéed onions and Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread. This sandwich was also good, and that’s coming from me, a guy who hates rye bread! There’s something about caraway seeds that are like Kryptonite to me. But this rye bread was very light, not overpowering. She also ordered the coleslaw as a side dish. It was the same mayo-based slaw that was on my Irish Cuban. It was very good, coarse cut and delicious.

ZIA SAYS: The St. Patty Melt was good, but nothing unique or memorable. It was like any other patty melt pretty much anywhere. The cole slaw was very good.

O'Niell's St. Patty Melt, it was OK
O’Niell’s St. Patty Melt, it was OK

For dessert, we shared a slice of Irish Cream cheesecake. For me, as I’m sure it is with most people, it’s almost impossible to not love cheesecake. This was no exception. It had a graham cracker crust and was served with three ample dollops of whipped cream. The Irish Cream flavor was too subtle, but overall it was good end to the meal.

Irish Cream Cheesecake
O’Niell’s Irish Cream Cheesecake — it was good but not Irish enough.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:

My only suggestion would be to install some misters out on the patio for hot days. Otherwise, this was a great dining experience and I would recommend O’Niell’s to my friends.


For more info, visit: oniells.com/

Cervantes Restaurant – Albuquerque – Great Red & Relleno

Cervantes  |  Albuquerque | 5801 Gibson Blvd SE 

A chile relleno is a hard thing to master. You have to get the ratio of cheese to chile to breading just right, or you end up with a mess. Too much breading and it’s heavy. Too much cheese and you lose the chile. Too much sauce on top and you get a soggy mess.

For me growing up, chile rellenos were always crispy, served right out of the grease with just a hint of red or green on top. My dad would stand over the stove, one hand holding a slotted spoon poised over the pot of popping grease, the other hand held out for balance, it seemed, all fingers thickly coated in batter and flour. As soon as a relleno turned a medium brown, it was scooped up and served. Letting it sit on a stack of paper towels for a moment was allowed, but only long enough to let a little oil drip off. Not long enough for it to cool down or soften in its own juices.

Most times I go to a new (new to me) Mexican or New Mexican restaurant, I get a combo plate of some kind. I usually look for the combo plate that includes a taco, enchilada, and relleno. It is the crispy, rightly-ratioed version of the relleno of my childhood that I’m looking for.

Most restaurants get it wrong*. The typical problem is an overabundance of batter, more pancake-like than anything else, and/or an overabundance of sauce on top — a “smothered” relleno is a soggy relleno. Or they use a Poblano pepper. And that’s just weird.

But Cervantes…. Cervantes gets it right. I ate at Cervantes in early July 2014, and in true Me style, ordered a combo plate with relleno.

NOTE: Thank you, Cervantes, for putting the taco on its own little plate. Many restaurants put the taco alongside everything else (between the enchilada and beans, for example), which means the bottom of the taco sits in the bean juice and red/green sauce until you pick it up, at which time it promptly falls apart because the integrity of the shell has been compromised.

Cervantes - Combo Plate 2

Above: Combo Plate #2: Taco (on its own plate!), Enchilada, Relleno, Carne Adovada + RBI (rice, beans, iceberg)

Anyway, the first thing I did was take a bite of the relleno. It was a little too smothered for my personal preference, but the relleno underneath was actually crispy! It had some texture to it. The chile had great flavor, there was just the right amount of cheese, and the batter wasn’t overpowering. AHHHH! (Insert mental image of the heavens opening up and angels singing here.)

I was thrilled to have found what I consider to be a properly cooked (and delicious) chile relleno at Cervantes.

SURPRISE ON THE PLATE:

The combo plates come with the typical sides of beans and rice, but also with a little dollop of carne adovada. The carne adovada (shredded pork in red) was absolutely the best thing on the plate, and that’s saying something. I was disappointed that there was only a little scoop – maybe 1/3 cup. Next time I will order more adovada.

WHAT ELSE WE ORDERED:

Carnitas plate: Cubed pork in a roasty green chile sauce. Served with RIB and hot, homemade flour tortillas. It was really good! Peppery, porky, green chile-y, but not spicy. (If you want spicy, you have to get something with red.) The flour tortillas were fantastic!

Cervantes - Carnitas

Above: Carnitas plate: Cubed pork in green chile sauce, RBI, homemade tortillas

The meals also come with sopapillas, which makes me beyond happy. The sopapillas are a little bit dense, but still delicious, and they are served with local honey.

KEEP IN MIND:

The red chile is hotter than the green, and the day I went it was pretty spicy. Not “OMG Bring Me Milk Now” kind of hot, but it was spicy enough for me to take notice! Just the perfect amount of heat. I ordered my meal Christmas style, and the green chile was super flavorful, but not at all spicy.

ABOUT CERVANTES:

Cervantes has been around a long time – according to the sign outside, since 1973. The building exterior and the neighborhood are not impressive. Which is pretty typical of really awesome NM restaurants. The slightly shady neighborhood and run-down looking building and abandoned Pizza Hut building next door let you know you’re in for a treat.

The google internetz machine calls this the “International District.” Having lived and worked in Albuquerque for a long time, I would call this the “Base District” (or probably just “Over by base”) because it’s right outside Kirtland Air Force Base. Specifically, outside the Gibson/Louisiana gate, at the corner of Gibson and San Pedro. This makes it an easy lunch for anyone working at Kirtland, but also puts it within easy reach of UNM, Nob Hill, and even the airport.

The interior is kind of dark and cozy and typical of a legit New Mexican restaurant. Not trying too hard, but trying enough. The walls are hung with lovely local art – paintings of adobe in the snow, and the like. I visited Cervantes in early July, and the interior was decked out in July 4th décor. And not just the obligatory flag here and there – they go all out. And from what I’ve heard, they do this for all major holidays. I’d like to go back around Christmas.

SUMMARY:

Cervantes is really really good. It is legit, authentic, traditional New Mexican food, with excellent red chile and a chile relleno — (almost) just like you’d get at my dad’s house.

*Yes, after decades of searching for a relleno cooked the “right” way, and 95% of the time finding rellenos cooked the “wrong” way, it has occurred to me that maybe my family and I make and prefer our rellenos the “wrong” way. But I’m sticking with this, regardless.


 

Visit the Cervantes website here > CERVANTES