Monday, December 27, 2010

A Hard-to-Find “Find”!

The address was on Hudson Street in Silver City, NM. The address ended in an odd number. The odd number addresses were on the north side of the street. Up and down Hudson we drove. Up and down. Up and down. Finally, we did what few would do. We called and asked for directions. “We’re across from the Sonic Drive-In and share the parking lot with a church.”

Now I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “church” I think of a building with steeples, maybe some stained glass, maybe a bell tower. I’m not looking for a single story building that, in a past life, may have been a hardware or furniture store. But after a few more false steps, we found what we were looking for around the side of the Harvest Christian Fellowship—but on the south (not the north, as expected) side of the street.

We found Gregorio’s Kountry Kitchen and thank heaven we had persisted. As a commenter on said: “Yes! This is the taste I come to New Mexico for!”

Kountry Kitchen is the epitome of the no frills, low cost restaurant that you so often find in small Southwest towns. The wait staff seemed to know everyone who walked through the doors, and all of the diners seemed to know each other. Much table hopping was in evidence.

The décor was basic—to say the least. The long rectangular room had been separated into two dining areas by an ached divider and each was painted a different color. The front room was painted—may I say—an unappetizing shade of green.

Fortunately, we were seated in the back area which was painted a soft gray with red accents. The walls in our room were decorated with some Aztec warrior-inspired “oils,” some straw and pepper swags, and other Mexican ornaments.

We started with a bowl of warmed salsa and a basket of tortilla chips. The chips were thin and crisp and among the better “complimentary” chips we have eaten. And the salsa can only be described as explosive. It was a semi-pureed mix of tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and onions and was light on the cilantro. While I was shkoffing (a term used by Nadia G of the Cooking Channel’s “Bitchin’ Kitchen” show) down large scoops of the salsa, Chuck would gently dip his chip and then shake off the excess.

Somewhere, the pain merged with pleasure, and we ultimately bought two sixteen-ounce cups (with tortilla chips) to take home with us.

The menu was the familiar list of combo plates with tacos, enchiladas, carnitas, chile relleno, and burritos along with about eight “American” sandwiches. My choice was the chile relleno and beef enchilada combo with rice and beans while Chuck ordered the beef enchilada and beef taco combo.

The rice at Kountry Kitchen was outstanding. It was light and fluffy and separated into individual grains. And it was lightly seasoned with something that imparted a light yellow color. I have a product at home called Bijol (purchased in a Mexican food market) that contains cumin and annatto, and I suspect that something similar was used here. I forgot to ask for “double the rice and hold the beans” and am happy that I did. The beans were semi-pureed and were full of flavor.

My chile relleno covered with green chile was a medium-hot pepper stuffed with cheese and was battered with a coating that was not overly thick or eggy. And the green chile, while not as hot as the salsa, still packed considerable punch. The ground beef in the enchilada was well seasoned (I suspect some red chile powder had been added) and the beef was rolled inside a soft corn tortilla. I ordered the enchilada with red chile and this ranks up there with the red served at Garcia’s Kitchen (Albuquerque) and Pepper’s Café (Hatch, NM). While it was at the high end of the Heat-O-Meter, it was smooth and didn’t have a harsh aftertaste.

Chuck’s enchilada was the same as mine except that he requested the green chile. For the taco, he scooped up a spoonful of the wonderful salsa.

Finding a restaurant like this is what makes traveling so much fun. Our meal, including the two cups of take-home salsa, came to less than $25.00 before tip and we left feeling that we had eaten well.

Kountry Kitchen earns the ultimate 5.0 Addies.

After lunch we took a short drive to Piños Altos, a town that began in 1860 when three frustrated 49ers stopped to take a drink in Bear Creek and discovered gold.

We began our stroll around town at what is now the Piños Altos Museum. The log cabin was Grant County's first private school house, built around 1866. The main road through town was paved, but the side streets were dirt.

I passed by this rocking chair as I entered the gift shop section of the museum. Unfortunately, there were no items which could not be purchased at any other gift shop we had visited. But then again I wasn't sure what I was looking for.

We thought the Buckhorn Saloon might have some possibilities. The area surrounding Pinos Altos had some of the largest ranches in the country nearby. We fully expected to see some cowboys riding into town for a drink at the saloon. But it was closed.

However, one of the shops that was open was the probable site of the store operated by Roy Bean and his brother in the 1860s. This was before Roy moved to West Texas and gained fame as Judge Roy Bean "The Law West of the Pecos."

This store also served as the post office and, I would guess, the news center of the community. We didn't stop in, because I had something else on my mind

Some of the dirt roads leading away from Highway 15 looked narrow; others looked narrower. We selected the widest, Norton Street, and drove to Golden Street to find the Hearst Church. The adobe Methodist Episcopal Church was built with Hearst money in 1898 and now houses the Grant County Art Guild. It was closed.

All I could think about as we drove back to our campsite in Deming was "they stopped for a drink and discovered gold." Imagine.

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