Chile adventures in New Mexico

Posted by: on Jan 8, 2013 | 2 Comments

I spent the past week in southern New Mexico enjoying time with family and green chilies. My husband had work outside Las Cruces near White Sands and my family lives just 2 hours northwest of there in Silver City. We spent the first part of the week and New Years in Silver City. The later part of the week we stayed in a hotel in Las Cruces. Unfortunately, it snowed in Silver City and Las Cruces while we were there. In fact, it was sunny the day we arrived in Silver City. But the very next day, it began to snow. Then, it was sunny the day we arrived in Las Cruces. And, guess what, the very next day it snowed. The snow was pretty. But it was cold (much colder than VA), delayed my husband’s work because the pass to the White Sands Missile Range was closed, and kept us from visiting White Sands National Monument.

Nevertheless, it meant lots of tasty New Mexican food. In fact, other than a little window shopping in the Mesilla and the Farmers’ and Craft Market, most of our activities involved eating. First of all, people in the southwest are not wussies when it comes to spicy food. Every Mexican restaurant served legitimate spicy salsa, none of this sad excuse for salsa that has to have hot sauce added to it. It was plenty hot on its own. Some of the salsa even kicked our butts a little. The best restaurants we went to were Pepper’s, part of the Double Eagle in Old Mesilla; High Desert Brewing Co.; and Garduños, the restaurant in the hotel. We also went to La Posta, a well known Mexican restaurant in the Old Mesilla. The food at La Posta was really pretty mediocre Mexican fare. True the salsa was spicy and the green chile sauce on my enchiladas was tasty. But overall the food was typical Mexican restaurant food, i.e. lots of beans and cheese. Their margaritas redeemed them a little though. I had the Organic Market Margarita. It was made with organic tequila and dill. I’ve never had a margarita with dill before and would never have considered putting it in one. But it was delicious. I don’t like my drinks to be super sweet. This one had a hint of sweetness, lime, and dill. It was a pleasant combination. I highly recommend trying one if you get a chance. But maybe just go for the before or after dinner drinks, then saunter on over to Pepper’s for much better Mexican fare.

Organic Market Margarita with fresh dill from La Posta

Pepper’s is attached to the Double Eagle in the Old Mesilla. Pepper’s is the more casual dining option. It’s located in the covered courtyard. There is a nice fountain and palm trees covered in white lights. The Double Eagle is much more fancy, complete with chandeliers. The dining rooms open off the courtyard and while dining at Pepper’s you can look through to the Double Eagle dining rooms. Both restaurants are known for their steaks. However, they offer a good selection for vegetarians too. I ordered enchiladas with onions and spinach. The menu said either onions and mushrooms or spinach and bacon. But the staff happily made ones with onions and spinach for me. I had my choice of red, green, or Christmas chile sauce. I decided on green. They came with my choice of refritos or frijoles negros. I went with the later. And we ordered a side of guacamole, which I slathered on top. It was actually a lot of food for $12. They were to die for. I somehow managed to eat two of the three. I also ordered the Award Winner Margarita. It was a traditional margarita. But it stood out because of the fresh squeezed lime and orange juice.

Spinach and onion enchiladas with green chili from Pepper’s

One day for lunch, due to the cold weather, we decided to wander no further than the restaurant in the hotel lobby, Garduños. Since we had nowhere to be until dinner, we ordered lunch margaritas. I ordered the Cucumber Fresca Margarita. It was fantastic. Cucumber drinks are refreshing and light, this margarita was no exception. It was made with real cucumber muddled up with lime and agave. It was lightly sweet. The salsa here kicked our butts a little. We ordered a small side of guacamole to eat with it before our meal. My husband and I split the vegetarian fajitas, which came with rice, beans, lettuce, and guacamole. It was plenty for the two of us. The fajita filling was full of peppers, squash, onions, and mushrooms. I’ve been to Mexican restaurants where the filling is overwhelmed by mushrooms. These were nicely balanced among the vegetables. Layered with beans, guacamole, and salsa, they were very good. The refritos were better than the typical mushy sloppy mess you get at most Mexican places. You could actually pick out individual beans amongst the mashed.

Cucumber margarita and vegetarian fajitas

Finally, we went to High Desert Brewing Co. We tried their Wheat, Pilsner, Octoberfest, and Red Ale. They were all good beers. The first night we went, we ordered a small nacho plate. The Nacho plates range from extra small to large. Think pizza sizes and then pile that plate with nacho deliciousness. The small was enough to feed my husband and I for dinner. The nachos come piled with black beans, cheeses, salsa, lots of jalapeños, tomatoes and sour cream. You can add green chilies or ground beef (if you like that kind of thing). We had the green chilies come on the side, which was a good call because they packed a punch (of course we devoured them anyway). And of course, we ordered a little guacamole. These may have been the best nachos I’ve ever had. They were definitely the best nachos of the trip. They had the right amount of toppings. They were spicy but not overwhelmingly so. The second night we went to hear some live music, a real good old cowboy kind of guy. He played his guitar with a shot glass. This second time around we were a little wiser and ordered an extra small nacho, leaving room to split their veggie burger. The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, and sprouts. We added guacamole, salsa, and some of the leftover green chillies from our nachos. In fact, High Desert had a significant number of vegetarian friendly menu items, which always brings an establishment up a few notches in my estimation.

Epic High Desert Nachos and the wreckage

On New Years Eve, our bar plans fell through because of the weather. So, we ran to the grocery store for a six pack. We thought we’d try a local beer. My husband was angling for an IPA, which I’m generally not a fan of…too much hops. But the choice was easy when we happened across a local New Mexico beer called Alien Amber Ale. Obviously, we had to try it. It was a decent light ale. It definitely was not as good as the High Desert beers. But it was drinkable. And I mean, it’s an alien beer. 😉 We were also tempted by the Hatch Green Chile Wine. But did not try it. That’s one of those things you just can’t justify purchasing a whole bottle of unless it’s a gag gift or you have a whole party to taste it.

I am now ready for a post-holiday cleanse.

2 Comments

  1. Beth
    January 8, 2013

    Okay, so first off, I am absolutely green with envy at you getting to hang out in one of my absolutely favorite places in the world. I have spent hours at Old Mesilla and know all the places you mentioned quite well. I love, love, love the architecture and old world feel of all the places in town, but especially Peppers. I do love the chili rellenos at La Posta, tho. Good for you for enjoying such great fare.

    Did you make it to White Sands after all?

    Reply
    • Hali
      January 11, 2013

      Beth, I hope you and yours had a happy New Year. I really enjoyed my stay in NM and the food. Maybe the chile rellenos are the specialty at La Posta. We unfortunately did not order them. But we enjoyed the novelty of the restaurant, especially the exotic birds in the lobby. And no we did not make it to White Sands. The snow sort of put a damper on that. One day.

      Reply

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