Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Mexico: Highly Recommended!

We’re back from Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and I've started the big dig of trying to get through all the things I put off doing to get ready to leave, compounded by all the things that accumulated while I was gone. But no complaints...vacation is a "good thing," as Martha would say.

Here’s a quick top 10 from a fabulous trip (in no particular order):

--Enchiladas at The Shed. These were so delicious that I broke one of the major rules I live my life by and we ate here TWICE on one trip.

--Margaritas at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen. After exhaustive research, Maria’s won the Great Margarita Hunt…no surprise, since the restaurant features more than 100 different tequilas.

--Los Alamos, “the town that never was.” During the work on the Manhattan Project, babies who were born in Los Alamos were issued a birth certificate that stated their birthplace as “Box 1663, Santa Fe.” Very interesting history and a provocative, fairly balanced science museum. And the views driving to and from were outstanding (at least for me…Steve was busy trying to keep the car from going off the edge of the cliff).

--Cilantro rice at Café Pasqual’s. A simple dish, prepared perfectly…our whole lunch was excellent, but this was the recipe that seemed achievable. Oops—should also mention Steve’s mole, which was fabulous. And the blackberry pie. Darn it…we should have gone there a second time!

--Cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. The chef responsible for frying up the chile rellenos and rolling out the flour tortillas was poetry in motion. He made chile rellenos look do-able. I have the recipe (and bought a cookbook), so we’ll see….

--Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Despite some issues with rain—and the natural horror Steve and I feel at the prospect of being crammed into a fairgrounds with 100,000 other people—we had a great time admiring hot air balloons fired up and glowing at night. The next morning, as we packed to head to the airport, hundreds of balloons rose up across the sky outside our hotel room window—one of them coming so close that we waved to the men in the gondola from our window!

--The “How the West Is One” exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum in Santa Fe, which traced the remarkable evolution of the New Mexico/Santa Fe art scene, with its myriad of influences. A tight, well-curated, and educational exhibit. The only disappointment was that the exhibit book only came in a 25-pound hardcover at the too-hefty-for-me price of $55.

--Galleries on Canyon Road. Steve went to a brewery tour while I toured dozens of beautiful art galleries and became dizzy with the creative energy I encountered. More on this later, but it was an exhilarating experience. (Steve enjoyed the tasting at the Santa Fe Brewing Company—and since he liked that he didn’t have to walk around all afternoon looking at art and I liked that I didn’t have to spend a beautiful day inside sipping beer that all tastes the same to me, it was a spectacular win-win for us!)

--Antique Native American artifacts. When I have an extra $125,000, I will be buying a Nez Pierce dress from the 1820s. Or maybe a Navajo blanket from the 1880s. It’s really hard to decide. In the meantime, THANK YOU, galleries like Sherwood’s, for having such beautiful work on display and for sharing your knowledge and passion with regular folks like us.

--And I have to conclude with food: it was ALL good. The most mediocre enchilada in New Mexico would be a winner compared to what passes for an enchilada here in the DC area. I can’t wait for all my chile sauce/chile powder/cookbooks to arrive via UPS. (That darn 50-pound limit for suitcases that airlines have so cruelly imposed….)

It’s a shame that I can’t mention the rattlesnake museum, the Palace of the Governors, the night we ate chips and three salsas for dinner, the petroglyphs, the Mexican mocha at the Plaza Café, our historic walking tour of Santa Fe, the sweet woman we met at the religious artifacts store who gave us husband/wife religious medals, the views from the Sandia Peak tramway (but NOT the 1 ½ hour wait to board going up AND down), the Gondola Club …….

But in the end, there’s no place like home. Ha, ha. I’d go back in a millisecond!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.