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Asking About Albuquerque Anomalies...

My sister and bro-in-law will be visiting Albuquerque for the balloon fiesta this year. When they asked me what (if anything) I wanted them to bring back, I drew a blank.

Fresh masa?
An olla?
Pickled onions?

I'd like for it to be a regional specialty, preferably something that I can't just get on the internet. Also needs to be relatively inexpensive and easily transportable via plane. My husband and I are pretty adventurous about food and like trying new things. We are also somewhat familiar with both New Mexican and Northern Mexican regional cuisines, so we are open to trying just about anything if it sounds promising and should be able to execute these types of dishes with a reasonable degree of success. Does anybody have a recommendation on what we should have them pick up for us?

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  1. Not 100% practical but not impossible either: the thing that leaps to mind for me is Hatch green chile. Green chile is obviously NM's signature food, and I've come to agree that real Hatch chile actually is a cut above the rest.

    Early October is the tail end of harvest season (there are still giant chile roasters in every supermarket parking lot), so you might ask your relatives to bring back a couple of pounds of fresh chiles to roast yourself, a sealed bag of roasted chiles, or even a bag of frozen chile from this year's harvest.

    5 Replies
    1. re: finlero

      I will also be in town in late october (though after the balloon fiesta). How would the logistics on bringing roasted chiles back work? if i was ok with them thawing during the journey (and i was to use them when i got back) would frozen chile be ok on an overnight flight?

      self-roasting seems unduly difficult (smally nyc apartment, no outdoor space) but id love to bring some back. any helpful tips on successful transport would be much appreciated.

      1. re: tex.s.toast

        I think it would work just fine.

        When my wife and I lived in Boston and we would visit her family in NM for the holidays, we would literally take an empty suitcase out with us, fill it before our return trip with well-frozen bags of green chile, and fly it to the coast to put in our chest freezer. The chile would still be pretty well frozen when we got home.

        Obviously 40 lbs insulated and packed together in the winter would thaw more slowly than, say, 10 lbs in your carry-on in October. But if you were going to use it right as you got home you'd be more than fine. Just make sure it's well wrapped so TSA doesn't think you took a leaking pepper spray on your flight.

        1. re: tex.s.toast

          I would check in rather than carry on. It's much colder in the luggage hold anyway. Chiles have so much liquid in them and, even frozen, that might be an issue in the eyes of some security people. Better to embed them in your clothes in your checked in luggage. You'd have to put them in an soft-sided insulated cooler with ice packs, and wrap that up well in case they leak. Just don't wrap anything in foil.

          1. re: ninrn

            agreed on the temp in the cargo hold - now that i know this is a possibility i will bring some packaging supplies and plan to check my bad (thanks for the first bag free, JetBlue).

            Is there a place i should seek out for the best or would most any grocery have what im looking for?

            1. re: tex.s.toast

              This year, I've become a fan of Wagner Farms in Corrales, just north of Albuquerque. We buy fruit and chiles from them every week at the Downtown Grower's Market and they have a very pure taste. I think the market season will be over by late October, but you might want to call the farm and see if they can roast and freeze some chiles for you, -- or at least set aside some for you to have roasted and frozen when you come. The owner is very nice and understanding of the deep and abiding need some people have for NM green chile: http://www.wagnerfarmscorrales.com/ . They also roast Hatch chiles on site at any of the Fruit Basket markets in Albuquerque. The quality there can vary, but is usually good.

      2. Chocolate bars and truffles with chile in them. From Van Rixel Bros (aka Chocolate Cartel) - available at several grocery stores as well as their awesome little shop on Juan Tabo south of I-40.

        Stay away from those colorfully printed chunky looking bars with chile and stuff in them - they are full of fake chocolate ingredients. Some are made by (local company) Amour, yet this is the ingredients list:
        Chocolate coating (sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, cocoa powder, buttermilk, dairy oil, partially hydrogenated palm oil, lecithin), red & green chili powder.

        I'll take Van Rixel any day.
        http://www.chocolatecartel.com

        2 Replies
        1. re: tenacity

          Great call on chocolate with chile. Cocopotamus does chile chocolate truffles and stuff too.

          Van Rixel has a bit more of a serious vibe, Cocopotamus is a little more fun; I think both have their place.

          1. re: finlero

            Wanted to give a big thank you for this tip - we made it to Van Rixel/Chocolate Cartel on saturday and had a great chat with the guy there (I got the impression he was in charge and not a retail employee). Brought back a bunch of things which have all been very well received.

        2. If I weren't in NM and had a friend visiting, I'd ask her/him to bring back all or some of these things:

          - a pound or two of organic dried posole

          - a 3-pack of Cervantes Red Chile from the Albuquerque CostCo (not the very best bottled red, but the best one I've found that doesn't need refrigeration before opening)

          - a jar of Heidi's Red Chile Raspberry Jam

          - a few bars of the Chocolate Cartel's Sea Salt and Toffee chocolate bars (not made of particularly New Mexican ingredients, but insanely good).

          All these things are available at either Albuquerque branch of La Montanita Food Co-op.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ninrn

            PS: Green chile caramel truffles from Choco Canyon. One of the all-time great sweet applications of Hatch green chiles. They have them at La Montanita, Bookworks and Michael Thomas Coffee.