I'm getting ready to move from Las Cruces, NM (where I spent the past three years doing my MFA) to the VA suburbs of DC, so my boyfriend can get a PhD. Although I'm mildly excited by the prospect of living somewhere where I can eat all kinds of good ethnic food and Panera on the regular, I'm also pretty sad about all that I'm leaving behind here in the west. I could go on and on and on and on, as I love the HELL out of New Mexico and the desert and the life I've had here, the people, the laid-back lifestyle, the jagged Organ mountains, the smell just before it rains, the gigantic sky...but just so I don't work myself into a frenzy, I've decided to focus on strictly food-related things. Here's a by-no-means-comprehensive list about some of the eats I'm going to miss in Las Cruces and in New Mexico itself.
Whataburger- The best fast food burger I've had the pleasure of eating. The best hangover food that you can eat in the car on the way home because you're so damn hungry. I know they have these outside of NM, but the closest one to where I'm going to be living is in Richmond, VA.
Caliche's-A local brand of frozen custard, so good on a hot desert day. They have a drive-through. They make incredible cherry milkshakes. And their logo is a cactus wearing a baseball hat holding some frozen treats. What's not to like?
The Mennonite Bread Children- At the LC Farmer's Market, there are these Mennonite teenagers that sell bread. They have braces and they always wear button-down shirts and little caps on their heads, and they are heartbreakingly nice and their bread is so effing good. I don't eat much of the bread anymore, since I became largely glutarded (look for more on that in another post), but they also sell chia seeds, so I still get to bask in their sunny religious glory when I buy chia seeds. I'll miss the entire Las Cruces Farmer's Market, really.
Green Chile- I'm not really sure what to say about green chile. It's just...New Mexico. We're the only state with a state question, and that question is chile-related: "red or green?" I used to prefer red, but now I like green. Hatch green chile, the smell of chile roasting in the air in the fall, green chile peanut brittle, eggs wth green chile, green chile bagels and scones, the chile fields stretched out on the outskirts of town, ristras, chile-related decor, chile everything, chile and chile and chile and chile. I know I can get green chile where I'm going, but it's not, in no way possible, going to be the same. It'll be in a can or it'll be sent to me from some Good Samaritan friend who I'm going to have to beg, and I'll keep it in the freezer. And it just won't be the same green chile, not as green chile is meant to be eaten.
Burritos from Santa Fe Grill- If you thought burritos made by a guy with a full-face tattoo at a gas station would be anything other than absolutely incredible, you'd be wrong. Santa Fe Grill, of which there are several locations inside of Pic Quiks all over town, has over 50 different varieties of burritos, as well as sandwiches, burgers and other Mexican food. And the food is good. And they cater!
Burritos, in general: Yes, I know they have burritos in northern Virginia. But the particular culture of the Southwest means that burritos are everywhere: sold by a guy out of the back of his truck when the bar is letting out, at the farmer's market, at all community events, at convenience stores. I love this and I will miss this when my best burrito option is one from the Chipotle assembly line.
Habanero's and Alfredo- Habanero's is my favorite restaurant in Las Cruces. It has the best Mexican food of anywhere I've eaten in town, which is saying a lot for a city that's only 40 miles from Mexico and has countless Mexican restaurants. Spinach and artichoke enchiladas, amazing potato tacos, incredible chicken mole, and the famous welcome soup. They give you free (spicy, delicious) soup while you wait for your order to come up. Everything is fresh and made to order. Alfredo is the chef and proprietor and remembers me without fail, always asking if I'm going to order the chicken mole.
Pecans: Tons of pecans are grown in southern New Mexico. I live in Mesilla, a historic town that's kind of half for tourists and half for lifelong Mesillero farmers, and there are pecan orchards within a 2 block walk of my apartment. The pecans grown here are tasty, of course, but pecan farming is also a large part of the local economy and local history.
Local Salsa: Obviously, a lot of salsa is produced locally in NM. Even Albertson's and Wal-Mart carry these local brands, like Sadie's, 505, and my personal favorite, El Pinto. I've loved trying all of the different brands and finally getting away from the Pace Picante and Tostito salsas I ate while growing up in Maryland. I'm sure I can buy good jarred salsa in the land of Whole Foods, where I'm headed, but there's just something about eating real Southwestern salsa in the Southwest.
It occurs to me that the majority of things on this list are related to Mexican food, which seems about right. The abundance of amazing Mexican food (which is really New Mexican food) everywhere in this region has been one of my favorite things about living here, and will be one I'll undoubtedly miss the most. Other than, you know, every single other thing about living here.
Honorable mentions: Thai Kitchen on Highway 70 and in Mesilla, SB's Late-Night Lunchbox, Andele's, Double Eagle (the fanciest restaurant in town that's also haunted). The coffee shops Spirit Winds and Milagro , where much of my MFA thesis was written. Out of the way places: Owl Bar and Cafe in San Antonio, NM , Adobe Deli outside of Deming, Blue Moon Bar outside of Hatch, the famous Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque.