New Mexico may be the only state with an official question: “Red or green?”. This is in reference to chile sauce, the quintessential ingredient in New Mexican cuisine. In fact, green chile sauce in Albuquerque was recently voted the #1 Iconic American Food in a reader poll done by 10Best and USA Today. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as Albuquerque is home to a rich culinary scene, with myriad opportunities to experience green and red chiles. To help you plan a unique spicy itinerary centered around the Albuquerque chile, here are some suggestions.
1. Green Chile Baked Goods At Golden Crown Panaderia
The Golden Crown Panaderia is a truly unique bakery experience, and one that is reflective of New Mexican culture. In fact, it boasts being the only New Mexican bakery in the state, with their products reflective of New Mexico’s heritage and culture. Along with offering empanadas, tostadas, pizzas, sandwiches, milkshakes, and breads of all kinds they sell an array of chile-inspired fare. They’re most popular for their Original New Mexico Green Chile Bread, which is made with green chile, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, Parmesan cheese and spices and decorated with a coyote howling at the moon. If you order pizza opt for green chile crust for a deliciously spicy experience. Bonus: The bakery is one of only a few true bread sculpture venues in the world, with the ability to craft 6-foot life-like bread sculptures. They also do latte art, which makes it an artistic mom and pop eatery.
2. Sample Green Chile Pizza At Farina Pizzeria
New Mexican cuisine meets Italian at Farina, where you can order oven-roasted Italian olives, caprese salad, grilled chicken topped with fresh mozzarella and balsamic, and a variety of pizzas you can add a bit of kick to. Some of their pizza choices include mushroom, cured meat, white and margherita which you can add roasted New Mexico green chile on top of for an interesting fusion dish with some spice.
3. Green Chile Chocolate At The Candy Lady
This artisanal candy store in Old Town Albuquerque is an attraction in itself. Along with having an X-Rated Candy area (chocolate penises, anyone?), Breaking Bad-inspired candy methamphetamine (she used to make the meth used on the hit show Breaking Bad and only sells it those who have seen the show), fresh fruits dipped in chocolate, and artisanal truffles, The Candy Lady sells chile-infused treats. Enjoy free samples of her green chile fudge and red chile fudge as well as red chile truffles, red chile rock candy, and piñon brittle with chile.
4. Drink A Green Chile Beer
While most bars and restaurants in Albuquerque will give you the chance to sample green chile-infused meals, at ABQ Brew Pub you can have your chile in drink form. Along with IPAs, Belgian Ales, Imperial Stouts and Lagers they offer a “Pancho Verde Chili Cerveza,” which is made by infusing an entire chile into a beer for a roasted chile aroma and mild green chile flavor with a bit of kick.
5. See (And Eat!) Fresh Roasted Chiles At El Pinto
If you can only have one chile experience while in Albuquerque, go to El Pinto. Not only did their family coin the phrase “New Mexican cuisine,” they’re also renowned for their hand peeled chiles, which are grown without the use of herbicides and pesticides and are roasted and hand-peeled to preserve quality and integrity. During harvest season patrons can watch the chiles being roasted and sample some fresh. Moreover, their famous El Pinto Salsa is made using these high-quality chiles using a cold-hot-cold method that keeps their recipe and quality consistent. Dried chile ristras adorn the various rooms of the restaurant, while the menu infuses chiles into majority of their dishes. Some of the many chile-inspired choices to choose from include chile con Queso made with fresh chopped chiles; a chile relleno stuffed with cheese; chicken enchiladas topped with green chile; red chile empanadas; baby back ribs marinated in red chile; fried green chile strips marinated in red chile; and a green chile queso burger, to name a few.
6. Pick Your Own Green Chiles At Wagner’s Farmland Experience
Of the 10,000 acres of chile grown in New Mexico, Wagner’s Farmland Experience is responsible for 60,000 acres. This family-run farm grows numerous crops, with everything from peaches to pumpkins to green beans to melons. Their biggest crop, however, is chile. Along with having the opportunity to tour their enormous green chile field in Corrales and learn about the different varieties of green chile, you can also head to their U-Pick area in Los Lunas to pick green chiles for yourself. Moreover, you can see them roasting fresh-picked chiles at the local grower’s market. Wagner’s Farmland Experience also hosts an annual Viva New Mexico Chile Festival each September which features three days of corn mazes, u-pick gardens, hayrides out to the production fields, zoo animals, local artists, live music, and a salsa and chile cook-off competition where you can win a chile-shaped trophy.
7. A Green Chile Spa Experience
At the Tamaya Mist in the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, spa-goers can enjoy chile-inspired treatments and snacks. Opt for their “Ancient Drumming” treatment, which features a mud mask of Jemez Mountain mud and red chile to detoxify the body as your therapist gently drums your stress away. A body scrub is also part of the experience. Before and after your therapy head to the relaxation room to much on green chile granola and red chile chocolate.
8. Green Chile Cuisine And Cocktails At Garduno’s
Part of the Heritage Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town is home to Garduno’s of Mexico, one of the city’s best restaurants for craft margaritas and chile-infused food. For a drink opt for their “Green Chile Margarita” made with Avion Silver 100% de Agave Tequila, Cointreau, fresh chopped green chile, fresh lime juice and house-made sweet ‘n’ sour. From there, you’ll have an endless amount of spicy dishes to enjoy, some of which include a Hatch Green Chile Cheese Burger; pork simmered in red chile with cheddar cheese; chicken enchiladas topped with chile; a green chile Caesar salad; green chile stew; tamales with green chile cheese; and chile con queso made with green chile, to name a few. Tip: If you want green AND red chile, say you want your meal “Christmas style.”
Top photo: Chile peppers. Photo courtesy of Javier Kohen.
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor’s, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn’t really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.