In April of 2003 my Dad and I took a trip to New Mexico. By the time we had reached Albuquerque, we were absolutely starving. Being in the spirit of arriving in a new and unfamiliar place, we decided to venture down to the old part of town to find some authentic Southwestern food, said to be the best of all Latin cuisine, and by far the spiciest. Dad and I are the type of people who would bet each other to consume whole jalapeno or habanera peppers without seeking the refuge of a glass of water. So we were up for anything.
We found an interesting restaurant flanking the old square; its walls were made of mostly adobe and it was painted a light pink hue, like many of the buildings in town. We entered and were greeted by friendly waiters, who quickly had us seated.
We had only a brief moment to scan the dining room. It was under low light, and on the tables were blood hued glass candleholders, like those seen in a church. There were murals and paintings on the walls depicting Southwestern life, obviously influenced heavily by the Spanish.
I figured I couldn’t go wrong with quesadillas since I am a huge fan of them, and I assumed my lunch would represent Mexican food as we know it on this side of the border. I expected mild spiciness, however what I did receive was something more scorching hot than I could have imagined.
The dish was in fact not your typical Mexican plate, in which ingredients appear to be haphazardly thrown together in a careless fashion. The chefs had made art in how they situated the quesadilla halves, and the rice that came along with it. The smell was spicy and inviting, and as my stomach began to rumble even louder, I couldn’t wait to dig in.
First bite, I entered into a realm of bursting flavor. Every bit of the dish – the meat, the tortilla, the cheese, the onions – was perfectly seasoned and required no further “aid” from salt or pepper or hot sauce. And then, as I chewed, an intense fire began to grow in my mouth. I quickly reached for the glass of water waiting patiently before me.
With every bite, my sinuses began to open and my eyes watered and my tongue burned. I went through eight glasses of water at least! However, what might actually surprise you is that I absolutely enjoyed the food, and it was without a doubt some of the best cuisine I have ever tasted! So kudos to the Southwest for having eye-popping, hell-raising, ultimately delicious food! You can bet that we had a fantastic time in the Enchanted State!
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