New Mexico

Over the holidays my husband and I were fortunate to spend some much needed time with his mother. We do not get to see her very often, as she lives in a small town near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, called Pinedale. We have been there twice before to visit her and were blown away with the beauty of Wyoming.  Visiting her is always an adventure!

Now that my “mother-in-love” is retired, she and her husband are spending the warmer months in Wyoming, and have become “snow-birds” flocking to their home in Las Cruces, New Mexico, avoiding the feet of snow, and opting for what are typically warmer winter months. We were very surprised that we came all the way to New Mexico to see the first snow of the year. The weather was unusually frigid, even snowing a few inches during our visit.

We spent most of the time being led around like tourists, taking in all the Southwestern sites and tastes. The first restaurant we dined at ended up being my most absolute favorite of the trip, La Posta de La Mesilla in Old Mesilla.  The picturesque adobe building that the restaurant is located in dates back to an estimated 1840s, originally housing a freight and passenger line; the restaurant later occupying the space in 1939. It was easy to determine why this place is ranked as one of the top 10 Mexican restaurants in the United States.

To eat, I had the combination plate #1, which consisted of a tamale, their famous red enchiladas, a rolled taco (a taquito), all served aside rice and beans. There also was a red chile con carne, which was as tender as a pot roast, but with all the loved Mexican spices and flavors. It was one of the most delightful meals I have had in a long time. To drink, I had the “La Patrona” margarita. Not sure if the name was for the Patrón tequila in the margarita, or if it was because this margarita is a BOSS! By far, the best margarita I have ever had. I could have sat there and drank myself silly. No nasty margarita sour mix put in this drink. Pure lime, tequila, and the faintest hint of simple syrup. I want one just thinking about it right now.

For New Year’s day, we stayed around “la casa” and enjoyed Southern holiday traditions, such as no washing clothes or sweeping of any kind. We dined on the traditional New Year’s day foods, ho-cakes, black-eyed peas for luck, collard greens for money, and we threw in pork chops for good measure.  My mother-in-law and I enjoyed a nice walk around their surrounding neighborhood. The views of the surrounding Organ Mountain are breath-taking. I was surprised to discover that New Mexico is a large producer of pecans. The orchards surrounding their neighborhood were large and bare this time of year.

On the last day of our adventure out west, we drove down to Puerto Palomas, Mexico. This was just a short hour drive south of Las Cruces. We chose to go into Mexico via this route versus through Juarez via El Paso, due to proximity, smaller border patrol lines, and safety. Unbelievably, it was snowing as we made the drive from Las Cruces into Mexico. It was a strange feeling having come all the way from Alabama to see snow in the desert.

Puerto Palomas boasts as the location where Pancho Villa launched his attack on New Mexico in 1916; a small border town, adjacent to Columbus, New Mexico. As we approached the border walls, we parked in a make-shift parking lot adjacent to a Dollar General on the American side of the border wall. Nothing says “Welcome to America” like a Dollar General Store. We put on our coats and scarves, and made the quick five-minute walk across the border, passing armed Mexican troops along the way.

The border perimeter is lined with pharmacies, liquor shops, and other novelty shops. One of the favorites frequented by my in-laws, and just a block from the border is the “Pink Store.” My mother-in-law thought we would enjoy shopping here because they serve you margaritas as you shop, which just made us shop more. This was a perfect stop to collect some Mexican folk art and other souvenirs. My husband was able to purchase some Cuban rum we cannot find in the United States, and my in-laws were able to refill their prescriptions for far less than they could in the United States. The store has a restaurant adjacent, and once we all had finished our shopping we enjoyed an authentic Mexican lunch, before crossing back into the United States.

It is always a sad day when we have to part. We had a delightful breakfast before leaving Las Cruces at Mesilla Valley Kitchen. The portions were large, and everything was cooked to order. It was the perfect base for what would be a long travel day home. As we approached El Paso, I asked if we could stop at the Lincoln Park underpass murals. It was just off the freeway and an easy stop coming into El Paso to the airport. Dozens of murals cover the underpass here. We spent a little time leisurely walking around taking photos. I love seeking out murals and other local art when visiting new cities. El Paso has over 100 murals. You could probably spend a week here and not see them all. I think that says volumes about the culture, and appreciation of arts in this community. Also, the art is a magnification of the people from the area producing it. My love for murals is very close to my love for seeking out local food. I love to find and immerse myself in the local environment in which I’m traveling. It makes the experience that much more enriching. I encourage you to do the same when you are traveling. Try something new, experience life.

 

La Patrona margarita from La Posta de Mesilla. The best margarita I’ve ever had!

Combination Plate #1 at La Posta de Mesilla. Tamale, enchiladas, carne rojo, ensalada Méxicana, frijoles, and arroz.

Albertson’s Grocery Store in Las Cruces. Not something you see in Alabama grocery stores, fresh tortillas being made, by the thousands.

The Organ Mountains in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

La Posta de Mesilla. My favorite place to eat near Las Cruces.

The Lodge Resort in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, covered in snow.

Beautiful snowy view. In a distance you can see the desert below the mountains.

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Las Tortugas neighborhood near Las Cruces, NM.

Unknown home. Just loved the colors and architecture. Adobe-style, flat- top homes were abundant in this area.

Armed Mexican officer that you pass when entering Mexico.

My mother-in-love after a few margaritas at the Pink Store in Puerto Palomas, Mexico.

How we felt about White Sands National Park being closed due to the government shutdown.

Murals beneath the “spaghetti bowl” underpass in El Paso, Texas.

Bow & Arrow

We had the exciting experience last night of getting to be some of the first few diners at Auburn’s newest culinary addition, Bow & Arrow.

Upon pulling into the parking lot you could smell the aromatic wonders of the smokers cooking a variety of meats. The design of the restaurant is warm and inviting. The ambiance is that of a hunting lodge, with a woman’s softness added. There are big buck trophy’s adorning the walls, all from local hunters.

When you walk in the front of the restaurant you are greeted by the visual sights of a tortilla machine cranking out freshly made tortillas, and then a feast of meats as far as the eyes can see. The restaurant is counter service in style, and family-style sharing of food is encouraged.

At the beginning of the order line, you will begin by selecting your meats.  There is a butcher that will cut them to order for you. To choose from there were brisket, turkey, pork shoulder,  chicken, ribs, jalapeno cheddar link sausage, and the Bow and Arrow original link, which was my personal favorite. You can order as many things as you want. We were in a group of six people and we chose to order several things and share our trays family style as suggested. We tried an array of the meats, and for the sides, we had the potato salad, mac & cheese, tater tot casserole, creamed corn, camp beans, butter beans, and potlicker greens. I think the only thing we missed was the corn cabbage slaw. Everything was very delicious and flavorful. There was an entire bar of sauces, relishes, and other dressings for the meats that I missed out on. I know several of our friends were raving on the white sauce. There was not anything that we did not enjoy. Standout favorites being the tater tot casserole, and the creamed corn.

We had fun sharing dinner with our group of friends, and the evening temps were mild enough that they were able to open the garage-style doors that line one side of the dining room that led out to a picturesque lit picnic table style seating area.

Listening to David Bancroft share his enthusiasm about the cultivation of this restaurant, and all the care and attention to detail that was paid to every single element, you cannot help share in his excitement. It was a wonderful evening shared with “friends and family” and we cannot be happier for our friends, David & Christin Bancroft and Caleb Fischer on this new venture. I truly felt the presence of Lord throughout the evening, I know they will all be blessed  and will be able to bless many others through your delicious food!

Beautiful iron work done by John Howell.

Hand-crafted bow and arrows. 

The buffet line. All the servers were so friendly and excited to serve.

Big Buck Hunter games will bring out your serious side. 😉

I think he covered all bases with this plate. 

 (L-R) Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse, John Mark Davis of International Wines, and David Bancroft of Acre & Bow and Arrow.

Adorable outdoor seating area that can be opened up to the dining area.

Chicken Piccata

Here is my simple recipe for chicken piccata:

  • 1-2 boneless chicken breast (I like to cut mine in half and make thinner slices of chicken, so sometimes one breast is enough to feed two people)
  • Salt and peppers
  • 2-3 Fresh squeezed lemons
  • 1 small jar of capers
  • Stick of butter
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • Egg
  • Parmesan (if desired)

Butterfly the chicken breast reducing the thickness of the breast. I also use a meat mallet to pound the breast out even thinner. I like the crispiness that the thinner breast yield, and I find the chicken is easier to eat when thinner.

After cutting up the chicken, and getting it to the desired thickness I want, I season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. In a non-stick pan add half a stick of butter and several tablespoons of oil. You want a good enough amount to fry your chicken in. In another bowl mix together flour, salt, and pepper (and you can add Parmesan).

Once your oil/butter mix is hot enough to start frying, dredge the cuts of chicken in the flour and begin frying the chicken until golden brown on both sides. Set cooked pieces of chicken on a plate with a paper towel to remove any excess grease while cooking the remaining chicken. Once all chicken is completely cooked there should be little grease left in pan. I clean this out and start out with a fresh pan for making my sauce. Some people will leave the remaining grease, cleaning out any brown bits, a use this as a base for making the sauce.

With a clean pan, add another half stick of butter, the juice of about 2-3 fresh lemons, and the small jar of capers. Allow this to blend together and simmer for a few minutes. Add your cooked chicken to this sauce and let simmer for a few more minutes. I usually use a small spoon to help pour the sauce over the chicken as it simmers to help spread the flavor.

That’s it. Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, or my favorite, wild rice. We also typically add a green vegetable such as broccoli or asparagus as a side.

This dish is excellent reheated the next day as well. Absolutely one of our favorites!