My steady (and hopefully permanent man) and I headed to Albuquerque to
meet the 'rents for Turkey Day. On the flight out, I had to instruct him on the epicurean eccentricities of the
American Southwest. He was practically drooling by the end of the conversation, imagining all the new
porkless and seafoodless eats he could try.
It's probably best that I didn't tell him that these rules I had developed for Southwestern food came about from a blind date.
It happened a few months back when an unsuspecting victim asked me where I'd like to go four our first meet-up. A friend had described him as "a really, really intelligent Cuban guy," so I figured he was smart
enough to enjoy the prickly pear margarita at Canyon.
Intelligent Cuban had never visited the Southwestern states, so I thought it would be fun to educate him about the true
flavors of the region. My parents moved out to Albuquerque a few years
ago and have made it their mission to have me try every well-known
restaurant in the city.
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started with a few of those famous margaritas and began our meal by
discussing the finer points of Canyon's blue corn fried oyster
appetizer. The little crispy critters arrived with toasted sweet corn,
chili vinaigrette, and cilantro cream. I labeled the dish "pretty
authentic" for the incorporation of not only two types of corn but
also chili and cilantro, and we quickly polished off the
steak that was on special that day, while I munched on the tasty tequila and
jalapeño smoked salmon tostada with goat cheese, capers, peppers, and
scotch bonnet tartar sauce. We split the toasted pecan pie for dessert
and, while reducing it to mere bits, somehow decided we were best suited as just friends.
But while there was no love connection, I did develop this set of three rules for determining true Southwestern fare:
2. Don't expect dinner rolls or breadsticks
If you get any form of carb before a meal, it'll
be a bowl of fresh tortilla chips, a foil-wrapped packet of steaming
flour tortillas, or a basket of puffy sopapillas. In fact, some places will even make up sopapillas shapes for you (or at least, they did for me), like the Florida lobster-shaped one pictured here. I was tempted to make it my pet but instead twisted off a few of its legs, drenched them with honey, and made it my dessert.
Gummy bears come in hues of turquoise, peach, and chartreuse. Frito pies can even be found on the menu of high-end restaurants. Expect guacamole on
salmon and blackberry and jalapeño in the glaze. In the milk shakes, you'll find pumpkin, coconut, blood orange, and basil.
on a burger. But
then my mom tried to kill
my boyfriend. As Mr. Persnickety made the grave mistake of answering a
cell call at the table, she stealthily told the waiter to give him
"Christmas" on his burrito. "Christmas" means that the dish should
arrive with red and green chilies. He bravely ate four
bites -- while sucking down three large glasses of ice water -- before throwing in the towel. His face got so red from the heat that I
thought he might simply explode.
was a little ticked at my mom for pulling that prank, but all was
forgiven the next day: He got revenge by nearly burning her house down.
Seems my little darling was so busy laying on the charm that he forgot
to take his cheddar-chili bagel out of the toaster. My parents will never let him set foot in the kitchen again, and I'm never letting him near mine now either. Guess he'll just
have to take me to Canyon the next time I develop a chili craving.
writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try and eat her first
(with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and
older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal
aliens and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what
happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just