Expecting to be enchanted today

May 1, 2011

Here I am in scenic (if somewhat brown) New Mexico, waiting to be enchanted. Today I’m off to Santa Fe and Glorieta Pass; tonight and tomorrow the work starts.

What I have NOT been enchanted by so far is the food. Maybe I just haven’t gotten lucky yet. And granted, I didn’t make my dinner at Zinc Wine Bar and Bistro that I’d booked for last night. But to date — meh.

Spent yesterday, after arriving noonish, in Old Town Albuquerque, which is, well, old, and quite quaint, dating back to the 1700s or so. Happened upon a wedding in the plaza, which was being photographed by all the tourists, me included.

Ain’t that sweet?

And then I wandered about, bought some jewelry, and had a late lunch at Placitos, which I’d been told was good.

The New Mexico Tortilla with chicken was just so-so. Shredded chicken and refried beans spread over a round, flat piece of frybread , topped with lots of lettuce, tomato and queso fresco. A scoop of pinto beans on the side. A cup of red chile on the side, too.
Frybread is the traditional Navajo bread; I’m not sure if it’s a yeast bread or not, but it’s patted thin, though not as thin as a tortilla, and fried. Imagine a biscuit that’s about 1/4 inch thick, and you’ve got it. A little crisp right at the crust, but basically soft. Best part of the taco, I thought.
The red chile is good. Not that hot, but a nice complex chile flavor. The chicken was somewhat bland, and the lettuce and tomatos were lettuce and tomatos. The beans were good; reminded me of what my grandmother used to cook, thick and soupy and savory.
And they brought me a sopapilla.
It’s been forever since I had a sopapilla, a good 20 years, I guess. And I don’t remember it being nearly as good as these were. They were magnificent. I was, in fact, enchanted, for a few minutes.
Sopapillas are a yeast bread, rolled thin, cut in squares or triangles, and then fried in hot oil. When fried, they puff up like a popover when you bake it. You can make them big, and then cut off one end and stuff them with a savory filling like beans or beef, or you can make them a little smaller, bite off a corner, and drizzle honey inside.
That was my choice. Oh, dear God. It was so hot it almost burned my fingers AND my mouth. But it was good enough I ordered another order of them, and told them I’d decided I’d rather have that than the taco.
So they took the taco off my bill, which I thought was quite exemplary of them; it wasn’t that there was anything wrong with it, and not something I’d asked for, and was in fact surprised to see. So I left a better-than-average tip.
Came to the hotel and then decided late I wanted dinner, but was too tired to go downstairs and have it, so I ordered room service. Baby back ribs, fries, slaw, raspberry sorbet. With a double Ketel One martini.
That was the most abominable meal I have ever had, and I will complain about it today. The ribs tasted like they had been cooked three days ago, held in the fridge, and then warmed in the microwave and barbecue sauce dumped over them. The fries were mealy. The raspberry sorbet was OK, but the berries with it were tasteless, except for the raspberries, which had an “off” taste.
And the martini? Friends, I got ripped on that martini. I know my drinking tolerances. Two martinis — or a double — should give me a nice, warm glow, just perfect to send me off to sleep. Nada. I doubt there was vodka in there at all. Yes, I will be complaining.
I’m going to give the hotel cooking a chance this morning with breakfast, and then I’m off to sightsee and adventure. I’ll have photos for you and y’mama ‘n ’em this evening!

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