Tag Archives: green chile

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.

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Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie

Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. An old-fashioned apple pie, with the New Mexican addition of freshly roasted Hatch Green Chile and some cheddar cheese.


THE MATH :
Apple Pie + Cheddar = Delicious.
Cheddar + Green Chile = Magical.
THEREFORE:
Apple Pie + Green Chile + Cheddar = Magically Delicious. 


By “old-fashioned” I mean I gleaned the starter apple pie recipe from the pages of a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook circa 1968.

BHG Cookbook
Well-worn Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
BHG Apple Pie Recipe
Better Homes & Gardens, Perfect Apple Pie Recipe. There’s food & stuff on the page. 🙂

Because I live in the modern age and I’m kinda lazy, I always use Pillsbury Pie Crusts (the kind that come rolled, 2 to a box). They are good and easy and I don’t think I could do it any better.

TO MAKE THIS PIE:

Create the apple pie filling in accordance with the BH&G recipe listed above.

Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie Apples
Apple Pie Filling – Traditional

Grate some Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, and chop up some Hatch Green Chile (which ideally has been roasted out on the grill like an hour earlier, but frozen or canned will do just fine).

Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie GC and Cheese
Chopped roasted Hatch Green Chile, and grated Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

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To add the cheese and green chile, first unroll the bottom pie crust and form it to the bottom of the pie dish. Then sprinkle some grated cheddar on it.

Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie Cheese Crust
Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie Cheese Crust

Next, stir about 2/3 cup of grated cheese and 1 cup of chopped green chile into the apple pie mixture. (Save back a little cheese to sprinkle on top later.) Pour filling mix into pie crust.

Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie ready to bake
Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie ready to bake

Add a few pats of butter on top for extra yumminess. Unroll second pie crust on top, seal the edges together, and pinch a fancy design in if you are so inclined and able. My mom did mine. Don’t judge me. Cut some vents into the top. I did mine in a Zia symbol, just for funzies.

Bake at 400 deg for 50 minutes or until done. About halfway through, cover the edges with foil to prevent burning. When golden brown and bubbly, remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top.

Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie
Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie – Zia Vents for New Mexicans

Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then serve it up!

Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie Slice
Green Chile Cheese Apple Pie Slice

 

THIS PIE IS WONDERFUL. And I guess because it has green chile and cheese in it, we didn’t feel at all guilty about having it for lunch.

I’d suggest some mild vanilla ice cream to serve alongside.

Enjoy!

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 GetNMChile.com.
  • 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!

 

The Beatles Lied: A review of Casa Blanca’s Fried Green Chile Strips which are, in fact, all you need.

Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant
Ruidoso, NM

501 Mechem Drive, Ruidoso, NM | (575) 257-2495

[No website, but here’s a link to their Facebook page.]

We rolled into Ruidoso at what I thought was an optimal time, pulling into the parking lot at Casa Blanca at around 1:30 pm. A little after the lunch rush, but not too close to dinner time. As most New Mexicans know (and as I learned), roughly half the population of Texas descends on Ruidoso this time of year. We had about a 15 minute wait for a table, which, considering the crowd in town and in the waiting area, I thought this was very reasonable. (Author’s note: Okay, not really. I wanted to dig into those green chile strips so bad, I thought 15 minutes sounded like an eternity!)

The hostess and the wait staff were very friendly, considering everyone was hustling and bustling. We were seated at a nice table near a window, with plenty of room for our party of five. Three baskets of warm, crispy tortilla chips arrived immediately after we were seated, along with three bowls of very good salsa.

[Zia’s note: These are the best chips & salsa I’ve had in an eternity.]

Casa Blanca Chips & Salsa
Casa Blanca Chips & Salsa, Ruidoso NM. Worth the trip.

After placing our drink orders, we asked for two baskets of their world (probably) famous fried green chile strips.

Fried Awesomeness Dipped in Ranch
Casa Blanca’s Fried Green Chile Strips are WHY RUIDOSO EXISTS. I’m pretty sure that’s accurate.

How do I describe these things?

How would Picasso paint a lovely woman in a hat and fur coat?

How would Neruda describe love?

Well, since I can’t really channel either of those famous Pablos, I will do my best to describe them from a foodie’s perspective. They arrive at your table nice and hot, almost too hot to eat immediately. The batter is light and crisp, sort of flaky. The peppers themselves are cooked to perfection; they’re not soggy or greasy, but firm. If it’s possible (or legal?) to describe a chile pepper as cooked “al dente,” then that’s what I’d go with. So, once these have cooled down a bit (about 10 seconds after they arrive to your table…a slightly burnt tongue is a reasonable price to pay), just pick one up and dredge it through some ranch dressing. The ranch will cool it off a bit. Bite, chew, and enjoy. Repeat ad infinitum or until the basket runs dry.

The Entrees

Confession: the chips and salsa and the chile strips were plenty filling and could easily have been our meal…but that’s not how we roll.

Jalapeno BLT: Reading the menu, this sandwich sounded SO good. Smoked jalapeno bacon on sourdough with lettuce, tomato and a habanero mayonnaise.

Jalpeno BLT Casa Blanca
Jalapeno BLT at Casa Blanca in Ruidoso. Spicy/salty/bacony.

However, if I’d read the menu a little closer, I would have noticed that there is also cheddar cheese on this sandwich. I love cheddar cheese, and I love a good BLT, but I’ve never been a fan of cheese ON my BLT. Had I noticed, I simply would have asked the waitress to hold the cheese, so that one is on me. The sandwich itself was VERY salty, mostly due to the jalapeno bacon. The bacon was spicy, and taking a bite of the sandwich would definitely warm up the inside of your mouth, but the salt content was just too high. The combination of salt and heat makes you go through a lot of iced tea, so keep your glass full! (The wait staff was very good at keeping everyone’s glasses full.)

Going around the table, everyone was pleased with their entrees, but I think all of us had gotten so full of chips and salsa and fried green chiles that we had (temporarily) lost our enthusiasm for eating. Zia ordered the Taco Plate, which she reported to be “your typical taco plate.” Similar reports from the rest of the team.

Taco plate, Casa Blanca
Casa Blanca, Ruidoso, Taco Plate. “Your typical plate o’ tacos!”

NOTE: Casa Blanca offers a dessert sopapilla, which is ginormous and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. We were too stuffed to go there, but I’d highly recommend ordering like this: Chips & Salsa, Fried Green Chile Strips, Sopapillas. It WILL be plenty of food. You WILL leave happy.

Overall, I like Casa Blanca. I’ve been there twice now and would definitely return . . . as long as they keep frying up those green chiles.


 

Related Material:

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.

burrito
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!