I was reading the NY Times food section a week or so ago. An article caught my eye about the author’s search for a kind of authentic Mexican street food called chiliques he tasted south of the border while on vacation. His quest took him through the five boroughs of New York City looking for that exact taste in bodegas, taco stands, and latin restaurants.
Long story short, he finally found a perfect match and wrote, with loving emotion, of how it felt, finally, to have that taste and fond vacation memories whenever the mood strikes.
I should be so lucky as him. Although I did whip up a pretty good fake version of his Mexican breakfast favorite of my own tonight for dinner, what I truly want in this food centric Pacific Northwest town called Portland is true New Mexican food. Chiles from Hatch made into rich green and red sauces smothering fresh corn tortillas layered with moist chicken or even some generic American cheddar and sideled up to a nice pile of pinto beans and traditional Spanish rice. And, for a truly New Mexican touch, the whole thing needs to be topped with a runny fried egg.
There is one restaurant that comes close to making it just like Daniel’s momma,in this town, just like some of the places the author of the NY Times article found in the NYC, but none that really measure up to what I grew to love and even become addicted to in my adopted southwest home.
For the last two summers I have tried to grow my own chiles, but the climate does not provide enough of that dry heat that brings out the true fire of the chiles grown in Hatch. I have green chile powders and red chile powders, all from New Mexico, that help in creating a decent fake, but nothing around here matches the true thing. A thing that if you have the bug, is nearly unbearable to live without.
I work with a guy who lived fairly close to me in Albuquerque’s famous south valley. The valley was not really famous for much except some of the best home cooked chile based foods and sauces in the entire state. My buddy and I wax poetic on a daily basis about how wonderful it would be to run to Frontier, or Los Cuates, or El Patio, or even Sadie’s in the otherworldly north valley for enchilada plates and sopapillas (fluffy dough fresh out of the deep fryer and drenched in honey) for lunch instead of pizza or something asian.
Alas, the one place putting out good but not great New Mexican cuisine is only open at night and so far south of where we work as to be impossible to get to even if it was open in the day time. The guy in New York had five boroughs to search for perfection. I only have one town of 500,000 and I know I only have one place to sort of get what I want. My basic complaint about our New Mexican restaurant is the lack of heat in the chile. Gringos just can’t handle it so they make it to appeal to the masses….. Sucks for me and my friend Daniel. Eating there is like eating a second class burger or steak, or anything else. It will fill the belly and sort of quells the true hunger inside.
So, unlike the guy in the NYC, I will, to quench our thirst for anything New Mexican, pull the last chiles out of the freezer on Sunday and whip up a batch of Green Chile Chicken Stew, with the addition of hotter than hades green chile powder, and use my last, straight from Albuquerque, Sopapilla mix to whip up something we can eat on Monday that might just satisfy our hunger for our kind of food. it’s hard to be so far from home and so far from the best cold cure in the world.
I love living in this city different and I love eating all the wonderful things you can find in every neighborhood. I just want to be able to get enchiladas as easy as I can get a plate of duck fries or a bowl of steaming, fat mussels without making a mess in my own kitchen.