Saturday, August 11, 2012

We Have Reached…

the Promised Land. Well, almost. We still have to spend a night in Tucumcari, NM where the afternoon temps will be around 105°. But the end is in sight.

We finally arrived in Santa Fe on Saturday and, should we have known, on that day could have attended the New Mexico Gay Rodeo Association’s annual Zia Regional Rodeo. This atmosphere of inclusiveness is just one of the things we love about Santa Fe. Another is the food.

We had planned to have lunch at Las Tres Campanas (The Three Bells) where, on our visit two years ago, we had some of the finest sopapillas ever. But we learned from the RV park owners that this restaurant was no longer in business. Since I really wanted New Mexican food, a quick internet check was required and found a place—not too far from the park—with a website that proclaimed: “WHERE THE LOCALS EAT—NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED” (by Conde Nast
, Money, Zagats, Travel & Leisure, and Sunset Magazine). And one reviewer raved about the restaurant's “puffy” sopapillas. So off we headed to Tortilla Flats.

“Tortilla Flats reopened after renovations that felt like forever to addicts of its chicken enchiladas and huevos rancheros. The building suits this business well, adding a little more style to the still friendly mom-and-pop New Mexican restaurant. The new digs also include patio dining and an attractive bar.

"Tortilla Flats offers some great options for vegetarians, like the vegetarian quesadilla or burrito stuffed full of steamed veggies and cheese. If you love guacamole, try the quesadilla compuesta with a side of red or green” (

I suspect that the pre-renovation Tortilla Flats would have exhibited more character than the present incarnation. After the Mexican restaurants in Norton, VA, and Russellville, AR, with their painted booths, carved chairs, and painted table tops, Tortilla Flats' décor seems somewhat hygienic. Other than a few rugs

and copper toned wall sconces,

the primary focus was the outstanding earth-tone stone fireplace offset by copper ceiling light fixtures.

At lunch, the menu at Tortilla Flats is quite short. But you can order breakfast until 5:00 p.m. and a couple of items looked particularly interesting. One was the Brave Mexicano with two scrambled eggs cooked with jalapenos, chopped yellow hots, and green onions and served with hash browns or beans and a flour or corn tortilla. The other was the Tortilla Flats Breakfast Special with hash browns topped with two eggs, ham, sausage or bacon with a blend of white cheddar and jack cheese on a folded tortilla and smothered with red or green chile.

I considered the Chile Rellenos Plate that included two large whole green chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in batter and deep fried, and served with posole and your choice of pinto or black beans and either a corn or flour tortilla or two sopapillas. But I wanted to try something different and finally ordered the Tamale Plate with two red chile pork tamales smothered with red or green chile and melted cheese. Like with the Chile Rellenos, this came with posole, pinto or black beans, and a tortilla or two sopapillas.

While I prefer green to red chile, I decided to order “Christmas” meaning both. (Only the red shows in the photo below.) The red
reconfirmed why I like the green best. The red had an almost harsh taste that overwhelmed the mild corn flavor of the masa. The green, on the other hand, packed plenty of heat along with a bright fresh fruity (peppers are considered to be fruits) flavor. The harshness of the red was less noticeable in the tamale’s shredded pork filling.

I chose the black beans over the pinto and these were beautifully cooked—tender, but whole. But I would have liked some seasoning. They were rather bland. And I found what they called posole to be strange. I know posole as a Mexican soup that contains rehydrated dried corn. Tortilla Flats version was just the corn with a little cooking broth.

Chuck ordered the Stuffed Sopapilla. He chose the version stuffed with chorizo and refried beans and smothered in green chile. Can I
tell you how spicy this was? Wow! This was some of the hottest chorizo I have encountered. So hot, in fact, that he was using the green chile to cool the dish down.

With both of our plates, the cheese was not used to excess. There was enough for a bit of dairy goodness, but not so much that the meal became overly heavy.

With my meal, I ordered the two sopapillas instead of the tortillas and we shared these for dessert. There are various forms of sopapillas. Some menu items called sopapillas are flour tortillas that are fried and then dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Sometimes a
drizzle of honey is applied. But nothing beats the New Mexico version. An ultra thin shell surrounds a pocket of air. They are light and when eaten with honey become one of the best desserts ever.

We have had better New Mexican food, but our chile craving was satisfied and Tortilla Flats earns 3.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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