R&R New Mexico Style

Red and green chile, walks in the sunshine, family time with daughter, son-in-law and co-in-laws, great food, Isotopes baseball, and the dry, sweet, clean air – these are the things I look forward to on each trip to Albuquerque. We scored on almost everything this trip except the weather and the baseball game. Of course, I was looking forward to sunny, warm, dry weather. I seldom even think about the weather when I'm headed to New Mexico, because it's always so dependably wonderful. But this time, I arrived just in time for close to a week of rainy, overcast, chilly weather – and it's not even monsoon season yet.

Rainy mountain view outside Santa Fe.
We had game tickets for Sunday night and it was a rain-out. Disappointing, but we did go see “Godzilla” instead, with New Mexico's beloved Bryan Cranston in one of the major roles. Good movie, great effects. But back to baseball. One of the hot news stories in Albuquerque was the dugout brawl between Isotopes players, catcher Miguel Olivo and infielder Alex Guerrero, culminating in Olivo allegedly biting off part of Guerrero's ear. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican and other media, Olivo has been suspended.

Daughter and I traditionally take one day to go thrifting and antiquing. Many of the small stores were closed on Memorial Day but we found two locations of the popular new Pink Rhino open and well stocked with fun clothes, quite a bit of it vintage. Two great areas of the city for second-hand and antique shops are in the North Valley on North Fourth (old alignment of Route 66) and in the northeast quadrant of ABQ on Menaul.

And then the food! Glorious, hot, delicious New Mexican food. Must. Have. Green. Chile. We ate at favorite places old and new, including everyone's favorite the Frontier on Central/Route 66, Hannah and Nate's in Corrales, and Izanami up in Santa Fe. The first evening there we intended to dine with friends at the marvelous Church Street Cafe in Old Town. I love this place and its history. It's said to be the oldest residence still standing in Albuquerque, belonging to the Ruiz family for centuries. The restaurant's website says that the building has been reconfigured many times and is shown on the late 1800s Sanborn maps. Church Street Cafe is one of my favorites for New Mexican food, ambiance, and good service, but this time we couldn't get a table and went to El Bruno's instead, which was good, on the older alignment of 66.

Church Street Cafe in Old Town Albuquerque.
Hannah and Nate's Market Cafe in Corrales is a huge favorite of ours, with fresh ingredients, lots of menu choices, plenty of chile, and a great dog-friendly patio. Collectively, our choices there included the steak sandwich, cheese enchiladas, and mesquite turkey with avocado. If I lived in New Mexico, I suppose it might be in Corrales. This sweet and picturesque village along the Rio Grande Bosque is home to many artists, horse lovers, and escapees from the city.

For an amazing dining experience when you're in a Zen kind of mood, you must try Izanami when in Santa Fe. It's the new restaurant addition to the fabulous 10,000 Waves Spa and Resort, a Japanese-New Mexican style cocoon of creature comforts in the mountains outside of Santa Fe. (Imagine sitting in a tub, on a deck, with the sweet smell of pine boughs from above you and above that twinkling stars in the night sky – what an experience.) We didn't do tubs this time. But daughter and son-in-law Erica and Ethan and I met up with Ethan's parents and my sometimes travel companions, Alan and B.J. Firestone, for a very pleasant afternoon at Izanami. We tried many Japanese foods and beverages while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere for plenty of visiting. Izanami is considered a true izakaya (a Japanese gastro-pub). We sampled gyoza, kakiage, and many other wonderful dishes served in the increasingly popular “small plate” style (kind of like Spanish tapas). My world-traveling Firestone family is attempting to teach me to eat gracefully with chopsticks – they're all proficient but they have their work cut out for them with me.

Izanami, the izakaya at 10,000 Waves, Santa Fe.
The Frontier on Central is where daughter and I have brunch before she drops me off for the noon train, when I'm traveling on Amtrak. We've done this for 20 years now and it's our goodbye ritual.

The Frontier on Central Avenue.
 And then it's on the train and I'm headed north, watching the sunlight and shadow play on red earth and pink adobe. The sun's back out.

Front of the train taken from back of the train, northern New Mexico.