Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We’re in Las Cruces

…for a few days and have plans to drive to Hatch—“The Chile Capital of the World”—for lunch at Sparky’s. Fortunately, I had done some advanced research, so we weren’t in the position of these reviewers posting on tripadvisor.com: “In Hatch for lunch and Sparky’s (tripadvisor no. 1 choice) was closed…,” “We stopped in Hatch to have competitor's food—they were closed that day…,” “Happened to be passing through town in the middle of the week when Sparky's was closed…,” and “Wanted to try Sparky’s but they were closed….”

So our fallback position was to eat at The Pepper Pot, a small restaurant that had been featured on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain and one that we visited in March of 2010.
The two things I remember about The Pepper Pot were the staff seemed to personally know about ninety percent of the diners and that the red salsa was outrageously good.

“Located in a converted residence, the Pepper Pot still resembles a family home, the give-away that it’s a business being prominent signage on a concrete plant stand. Homey exterior implements such as an old-fashioned push mower and a miniature John Deere tractor adorn the lawn.
"When you step into the restaurant and seat yourself in one of the dining room’s sixteen tables, you might notice that the ambiance is laden with Catholic symbols.
Even the flowers painted above the arched doorways resemble the roses on Juan Diego’s tilma…” (Ed. Note: A tilma is a mantle or cloak and Juan Diego’s is thought to depict Our Lady of Guadalupe.)
“… The Pepper Pot is owned and operated by sisters Melva Aguirre and Rosaria Varela who prepare all dishes from scratch. Their restaurant is open only for breakfast and lunch. Their chile is obtained locally from the Lytle family, generations of which have farmed in the Hatch Valley since the late 1800s. Jim Lytle, the patriarch of the family, developed the fabled Big Jim chile pepper which is featured prominently on Pepper Pot’s cuisine” (nmgastronme.com).

On the front porch sits a Corona decorated high top with four stools (although I don’t think that the café serves alcohol) and an assortment of household items.
To say that the interior décor is eclectic is understating things. Just inside the front doors is a massive display of crucifixes and as you look at them you see a very large American flag decorating almost all of one wall.
The front hall also contains a weathered bench,
and an equally weathered china cabinet containing miniatures (mostly of Disney characters) sits in one corner of the main dining room.
“What is conspicuously absent is any mention or memorabilia of arguably the restaurant’s most famous visitor. In August, 2008, the Travel Channel’s indefatigable host Anthony Bourdain dined at the Pepper Pot during a filming of his No Reservations show. His dining companions were Judd Nordyke (mayor of Hatch) and his lovely better half Marcia (coordinator of the Hatch Chile Festival), who schooled Bourdain on the fine points of red and green chile. Bourdain declared Pepper Pot’s enchiladas ‘the best red enchiladas of his life’” (nmgastronme.com).

Some things haven’t changed since our visit four years ago. The restaurant was almost empty, but those dining seem to be known by all of the staff. A party of three entered, and the one waitress on duty hugged each member of the party. And the three of them all placed their orders before taking their seats. And later a woman from the kitchen came out to another table and engaged in a lengthy conversation with two women on the proper cooking of chiles.
Another thing that hadn’t changed was the awesome salsa. While most of the components had been finely minced, there were still enough chunks to keep it from resembling spicy V-8. And it was hot! Chuck would dip his chip in and then let most of the salsa run off the chip. I went all in with big scoops.
This was so good that I bought a sixteen-ounce cup to take home.

On our previous visit, we ordered enchiladas and a chile relleno for me. We found the food good but not spectacular. Would anything change this time?

Chuck ordered the beef fajitas that came with rice, beans, and guacamole and only one flour tortilla for wrapping.
I found the beef on his plate disappointing. It seemed to be straight out beef strips sautéed with some onions and peppers. I am accustomed to the meat being marinated and then cooked on a very hot surface so that the marinade browns and almost caramelized—the Maillard reaction at work.

I ordered the day’s special—the pork carnitas tacos. Again, what I got wasn’t what I was expecting.
While I have had carnitas in which the meat is in cubes or is shredded as were these, I thought the purpose was to achieve a crust on the meat—almost like bark on pulled pork. This just seemed to be shredded pork, and pork that wasn’t really seasoned.

Fortunately, the plate came with a small cup of minced cilantro, onion, and lettuce, and I added a cup of chopped roasted Hatch green chiles. These, along with the guacamole from Chuck’s plate, helped immensely.

The beans were a combination of whole and mashed and had a smoky meaty undertone. The rice was better than average and seemed to have a distinct lime flavor. I know that there is a commercial Mexican seasoning—Tajin Clasico Seasoning—that contains lime and I wonder if this was used here.

We finished with an order of sopapillas that were good but—like those at Garcia’s—not as good as Cecelia’s Café’s.
Legend* has it that W.C. Fields has written on his tombstone “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” I can’t help but rewrite this as “All things considered, I’d rather be at Sparky’s” and can only award 3.0 Addies.
*“…this is not Fields’ ACTUAL epitaph, as many people believe, but a joke he made over two decades before he actually passed away. In a 1925 article in Vanity Fair, Fields made a joke about what he would like his epitaph to be, and that’s what he came up with, once again a joke about Philadelphia” (legendsrevealed.com).

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


eyad ammar said...

شركة تنظيف بالطائف شركة الهدي افضل شركة نقل عفش بالطائف كذلك هى افضل شركة رش مبيدات بالطائف
شركه الهدى
شركة رش بالطائف
خدمات الطائف
شركة تنظيف بالطائف
شركة تنظيف فلل بالطائف
نظافه عامه بالطائف
شركة تنظيف منازل بالطائف

eyad ammar said...

شركة تنظيف شقق بالطائف
نقل عفش بالطائف
بالطائف شفط بيارات
تسليك مجارى بالطائف
تنظيف خزنات بالطائف
رش مبيدات بالطائف
نقل عفش بخميس مشيط
شركة عزل اسطح بالطائف

eyad ammar said...

ان اردت نقل عفش منزلك بالدمام ابيات الشرقية من اهم شركات نقل العفش بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والقطيف والاحساء
شركة المتحدة
شركة نقل عفش بنجران
شركة نقل عفش بخميس مشيط
شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
شركة نقل عفش بمكة
شركة نقل عفش بينبع
شركة نقل عفش بابها

eyad ammar said...

شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
شركة نقل عفش بجدة
شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
شركة نقل عفش ببريدة
شركة نقل عفش بالقصيم
شركة نقل عفش بتبوك