New Mexican Cuisine isn’t Tex-Mex
It isn’t Mexican. And it isn’t Tex-Mex. It is New Mexican. That’s what New Mexican friends shared with me on my first trip the American Southwest. And they are passionate about their food as well as proud of their state’s cuisine.
My time in Albuquerque was short. I flew in to speak at the New Mexico Public Relations Society of America Chapter. I arrived on a Wednesday night and left a Friday morning. On my American Airlines flight from Dallas to Albuquerque, my seat mate was an AA flight attendant who was from Albuquerque. Like my New Mexican friends, she was passionate about her state’s food. She listed the foods I need to eat and where.
I told my friends, Benson and Jennifer, that I wanted go where the locals eat. And I joked that it better not be Chili’s. Benson met me at the airport wearing a cowboy hat and boots and we jumped into his pick-up truck heading out to my first official New Mexican meal. My food adventure began!
Full disclosure here but I’ve never been a fan of “southwestern” or “Mex-Tex” because, it was either burn-your-taste-buds-off spicy or really greasy heavy. (I’ll be honest I really don’t like to eat Mexican food in the US; it doesn’t compare to the meals I had in Mexico.) That said I was excited to visit New Mexico and experience authentic cuisine.
Where and What I ate…
Los Cuates was a local place in Benson’s neighborhood. I let Benson chose my meal. And he had a tough time choosing the menu. He said it was all good, but selected tamales. I had tamales for the first time. It was really good. So moist, tender, and flavorful. I had it with red chiles.
The next night, Benson, his wife Mary, and Jennifer took me to the best local and kept secret in Albuquerque, an oasis in the dessert, Casa de Benavidez. A very cosy restaurant with outside seating. I couldn’t make up my mind so I selected to make my own platter. I chose Carne Adovada and Chile Relleno served with beans and papitas (fried potatoes). I went with both red and green chiles.
Let’s talk about chiles here. They play a huge part in New Mexican cuisine. There are two types: red and green. Both can be hot and both can be mild. It depends on the chile, where it is grown, and the weather. Confusing I know. And if you are a local you order your meals “Christmas” with is with both red and green chiles. Red chili sauce is smooth while the green chile sauce is chunky. There is much passion about chiles in New Mexico.
I can’t forget to talk about Sopiapilla. This fried pasty and type of quick bread was served with the main course served with honey. While it isn’t a dessert, it could be. It was for me. You eat it just after finishing your meal. I think it is to calm your taste buds from the chiles. It is so simple and amazing. Seriously, do not order Sopiapilla outside of New Mexico, you will be very disappointed. I was when I ordered it at a Mexican restaurant when I returned home.
After eating a wonderful meal at Casa de Benavidez, we went view hopping which did involve drinks. Yes, view hopping. The vistas in Albuquerque are breathtaking with Albuquerque being located in a valley between mountain ranges. We went to the top of the Sandia Resort & Casino to view the mountains at dusk (no those aren’t UFOs) then we ended the night at the rooftop bar, Apothecary Lounge, to take in the city skyline.
Of course, I’m a huge fan of Route 66 and of roadside architecture, so I had to get a shot of Route 66. There is still a lot of wonderful architecture left in Albuquerque from the heyday of Route 66.
Before I flew home, Benson took me to an Albuquerque institution, The Frontier Resturant, across from the University of New Mexico campus. Again, I let Benson select my meal. I got the small order of Huevos Lite (or better know as Huevos Rancheros) with is one egg, beans & sauce on corn tortillas and their Frontier Sweet Roll which is a very large cinnamon roll dipped in butter. And yes I ate it all. I’m surprised I fit on the plane. I will say though I didn’t eat the rest of the day.
I’m now hooked on New Mexican food. And spoilt. So glad for my friends Benson and Jennifer for sharing their passion for their state’s food and exposing me to New Mexican cuisine.
I’ll be back…
If you interested, I stayed at the Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town. A nicely appointed hotel within walking distance to many attractions such as the Old Town and museums.
Quality over quantity. That’s a foreign concept to many of the restaurants where I reside in eastern North Carolina. The mantra of cheap and plentiful rules when it comes to dining. Where most meals are disappointing. At least for me. I crave fresh and interesting combinations. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy my fried foods. Just once in a while.
Choosing a restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night can be cumbersome. And frankly we often just end up cooking at home those nights because there is minimal choice unless you want chain restaurants or “home-cooking.” And we usually make the thirty minute drive to Greenville for any ethnic food such as Indian or Thai.
This is where Milton & Miles
enters the picture. It is located in the Imperial Centre in Rocky Mount. The Imperial Centre is a cultural hub for Nash county housing museums and performing arts venues as well as this small cafe. In another life, it was a tabacco processing plant and the bones are still there giving it a modern industrial feel.
I didn’t know Milton & Miles existed until I recently when I had a business meeting there in the morning. So glad my friend Ken suggested we meet there. I’m glad I found it. It serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday and dinner on Thursdays and Fridays. I came back with my guys for a Friday night dinner.
For Milton & Miles, they serve small plates or bites. To me, the dishes were perfect in portion allowing diners to get a handful of dishes to share. All of us felt comfortably full at the end of the meal. The quality of ingredients was high. Presentation was pleasing to the eye. The prices were reasonable ($4-$9 per dish.)
So what did we have?
Biscuits with Strawberry Jam & Maple View Butter. It was a lovely way to start the meal.
Turkey with Cucumber & Cranberries. Light and refreshing.
Beef Braised in Red Wine with Roasted Veg. The classic beef dish done right.
Pulled Pork with Sweet Korean Pickles. Wonderful combination of an eastern North Carolina staple of pulled pork with Korean condiments.
Liege Waffle with Vanilla Cream, Honey Almonds, & Maple Syrup. The Liege Waffle is a house speciality and is devine.
Two Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Espresso Glaze. A classic with a twist.
I like the fact that the owner Brian is there interacting with patrons and sharing his passion for the coffee, wine, and/or food. He shared with me that his meats are locally sourced from Blazing Cattle Company
, a well-respected butchery in Tarboro known for their quality meats.
What a refreshing place! I have to say it was one of the most relaxed meals I’ve had living in eastern North Carolina. While we were there, there was a group of professional women enjoying wine and different small plates while sitting on comfortable chairs and a couch. It is a place to have leisurely meal while enjoying the company of whoever you are with. That’s golden to me. Dining should be an experience. One to be enjoyed not rushed.
We’re going back. We want to support small, local restaurants which are focusing on quality over quantity. This restaurant would not be out of place in any larger city.
And I suggest you pay Milton & Miles a visit. Support local.
Milton & Miles
270 Gay Street
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Ezme. Eggpant Salad. Hummus. Baba Hounush. Adana Kebab. Kofta Kebab.
I crave the above. And I can’t get enough of it. Really. I’m at my happiest sipping tea out of a glass and nibbling on a mezze platter.
I’ve been lucky to have friends from all over the world including friends from Turkey who exposed me to their home cuisine. I was so pleased when my friend, Nathan, invited me to a Turkish restaurant in Cary, North Carolina.
Bosphorus, is a small restaurant with ten inside tables and about the same of year-round outdoor seating. It is always busy and I don’t think they take reservations unless it is for a large party. It is not uncommon for three or four different languages being spoken at neighboring tables. Many of the patrons are Turkish and for me that’s always a good sign. Especially when it is families having a meal together. The staff are wonderful, friendly, and helpful.
I’ve been there for lunches and dinners both on the weekday and weekend, and I’ve yet to have a bad experience. The food is always outstanding. The dishes are freshly prepared. What I appreciate about Bosphorus is the dishes are flavorful and delicate. The spices are well balanced. I find a lot of Mediterranean restaurants overwhelm the dishes with mainly garlic. Bosphorus doesn’t. It all blends and balances perfectly. Let’s put it this way, after eating a Bosphorus, I do not have to avoid kissing people out of fear of garlic breath.
Everything I’ve had at Bosphorus is delicious. Here are some of my favorite dishes. Dishes that I really do crave:
Bread (Pide). It is freshly made on site. If you like bread then this is to die for. Even if you don’t like bread, you still will like this bread. Trust me, it is worth very carb in it. It comes to you hot out of the oven with a wonderful dipping sauce. We go through 2-3 baskets each visit, but it is sooooo good.
Mezze Platter. This could be a meal onto itself, but it is made to share. The platter is hummus, baba gounush, ezme, tabouli, eggplant salad, cucumber dip, and stuffed grape leaves. I usually find stuffed grape leaves bitter; however, not at Bosphorus.
Adana Kebab Platter. It is ground lamb and beef mixed with spices and grilled served with salad and Bulgur pilaf. Flavorful and tender. This is a favorite of mine.
Mixed Grill Kebab. This is the dish for folks who either can’t make up their mind or are newbies to Turkish food. It comes with pieces of grilled lamb, chicken, Kofta, and Adana served with salad and Bulgur pilaf.
Baklava. While I love desserts, I’ve never been a fan of Baklava until I had Boshorus’. While I was there the first time with Nathan for lunch, the staff were transporting trays of freshly made Baklava to a van. And I mean trays of it. So we decided we had to try it. The Baklava just melts in your mouth. It is sweet, but not sickly sweet. It is a nice balance to the flavorful spices of the main courses and a great way to end the meal.
And I can’t forget the tea served as though they do in Turkey. Or as I like to say
the proper way being a tea drinker who rarely drinks tea outside of the house. They, of course, serve Turkish coffee.
For us, Bosphorus is worth the one-and-a-half hour drive one-way to have a meal.
329-A North Harrison Avenue
Cary, NC 27513
Real crêpes in the US? And outside of a large metro area such as New York City at that?
Normally I would say no way; however, today I can yes it is possible.
Crêpe World opened recently in Rocky Mount, NC. We went there today to see what it was all about. Vibe was cool and yet relaxed. They serve both sweet and savory crêpes at a reasonable price.
I went traditional with Nutella and banana.
Jeroen, my husband, went savory with the “Carolina” which was chicken, cheese, and salad.
Everything looked authentic to me in how they prepared the crêpes.
So a little bit of Europe has come to my neck of the woods. And I’m pretty happy with that.
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