Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
We love road trips, and considering our nearest CostCo and Home Depot are about three hours away, it’s a good thing that we like having the wheels rolling under us.
With new granddaughters in Colorado, we’ve been able to visit places between here and there that we would not have otherwise stopped. We’ve gotten to where we break our trips up into two days so that we aren’t a road-exhausted mess when we arrive at our destination, and that allows us the opportunity to relax and explore a little.
I’ve also learned that many of my neighbors here in the Trans-Pecos regularly visit New Mexico and Colorado with second homes and such in our nearby neighboring states. And, not a day goes by when I don’t see at least one New Mexico license plate here in far West Texas.
With the help of cyber-suggestions and from Yelp, we often search out food that is the “favorite of” or “most authentic” or “best in” for every stop we make. I can’t think of a single time we’ve been let down, and some places we’ve even made returned trips.
One such place we’ve found on our excursions is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mary & Tito’s Café is not right off a highway. Put “2711 4th St. NW, Albuquerque NM 87107” in your navigation system and get ready to follow directions to some of the tastiest New Mexican food you’ll ever put in your mouth.
His plate of Carne Adovada – the winner of a James Beard Award. Totally award-worthy.
My Green Chile Chicken enchiladas – there are blue corn tortillas hiding under that deliciousness.
The restaurant was founded by Mary and Tito Gonzales, and their daughter carries on the tradition. The founders have both passed away, Mary most recently in 2013. When they started their restaurant 53 years ago, it was because Tito was bored during retirement. Mary said that she’d help him as long as she could just visit with customers and “not have to make burritos.” Known for their red chile sauce, the chiles are bought from the same grower every year, and the cook grinds the chiles himself, adding only salt and garlic.
The restaurant has won many local awards, including Best of the City’s Best Hidden Gem of a Restaurant award and a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. In 2010, they won a James Beard Foundation award for their plate of “carne adovada” which my husband ordered. A James Beard Foundation award is given to a restaurant that is being singled out for having a timeless appeal, serving food that reflects the character of their community, and for “carving out a special place on the American culinary landscape.” Their awards are proudly displayed on the walls, alongside family photos.
It’s not a fancy place, but it’s comfortable and clean. Our food was served quickly and was about the most authentic New Mexican cuisine we’ve ever eaten. If you’re passing through Albuquerque and need to eat something delicious, go to Mary and Tito’s. They’re open daily from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., and stay open until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
(recipe from the Santa Fe School of Cooking)
1/3 c. peanut or vegetable oil
3-1/2 lbs. pork loin or butt, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
2 c. diced onion
2 T. minced garlic
4 c. chicken broth or water
2 t. ground coriander seed
2 t. dried Mexican oregano
2 t. chile Caribe (whole red chiles, crushed, seeds included)
3/4 c. Chimayo ground red chile, mild or medium
1 T. red chile honey
2 T. Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown pork in batches. Set the pork aside. Add the onion to skillet and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Deglaze the skillet with 1 c. of the chicken broth, loosening the browned bits with a spoon.
Place the coriander, oregano, chile caribe, red chile, honey, vinegar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor. Add the cooked onions, garlic and broth from the skillet and 2 more c. of chicken broth. Process until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Place the browned pork, the chile marinade and the remaining 1 c. chicken broth in an ovenproof pot or dish, stir to combine well, and cook for 1 hour or until the pork is tender.
Optional seasonings: ground canela, ground cumin seed, toasted ground chile seeds, toasted ground pumpkin seeds.
Note: This dish reheats wonderfully and is better the next day.
Note: The traditional method for making this dish is to mix the marinade ingredients together and pour this over the meat. Cover the mixture and refrigerate overnight. Pour the meat and the marinade into an ovenproof casserole or pot and bake, covered, for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until tender. The method described above, although not so traditional, brings out the flavors of the onion, garlic and pork because the ingredients are caramelized or browned first. Whichever method you choose, the dish is full of flavor and will be a favorite. You can serve the Carne Adovada over chile rellenos, rice, wrapped in a flour tortilla as a burrito, or with beans and posole.