Category Archives: Chile

A New Spin on New Mexican Ingredients

Hotel Andaluz chef cooks out of the culinary box.

As award-winning Cordon Bleu-trained chef Marc Quinones was cooking his way around some of the top restaurants and resorts in the Southwest, he prepared a lot of excellent versions regional favorites. But when the recently appointed executive chef of downtown Albuquerque’s historic Hotel Andaluz was asked to cook for a Denver media reception on behalf of New Mexico travel interests, his imagination took wing, and he offered contemporary dishes from various traditions but using New Mexican-grown and -raised ingredients.

Some of the dishes:

Pineapple, watermelon and grape salad with Marcona almond crumble and pimenton. oil.
“Peas & Carrots,” a whimsical name for toasted corn and white Balsamic/sambal chile dressing.
New York strip steak (two levels of doneness) with jalapeno butter. Thick slices of toasted sourdough were in a separate dish. Since it is New Mexico-raised cattle, perhaps it should be called New Mexico strip steak.
Hatch Green Chile Hummus on Broken Lavash with cilantro oil and red pepper gel.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with caramelized onion ragout and Cascabel chile Romesco sauce.
For sheer creativity, my ad hoc award goes to the Pinon Brittle, a clear sugary rectangles topped with oreango gremolata and lemongrass yogurt.

I think I was too busy eating and sipping cocktails made with Colkegan single malt whiskey or gin from Santa Fe Spirits, a craft distillery, to take pictures of two terrific dishes: the Berkshire pork belly with Anasazi bean ragout, yellow corn and harissa-sherry reduction  and the super-fab Mew Mexico ceviche — Bay scallops in tangerine, Maldon salt, pickled red onion and Chimayo chile vinaigrette.

Then there was the chocolate — the wonderful chocolate from Cacao Santa Fe,  which produces fantastic chocolate bars, beautiful and interesting bonbons, workshops led by master chocolatier Melanie Boudar and Factory tours with owner Derek Lanter.

Then there was Clear Light, the Cedar Company, which has been producing Cedar Essence and other aromatic potions since 1971, giving complimentary hand and forearm massages. The boss’s business card is a thin slice of cedar.

It was wonderful to have New Mexicans bring their eats and drinks  (and more) to Denver. High time to head south to eat in situ.

Viva, Viand!

Former fondue place now a “modern American” eatery.

Viand-logoThe co-joined restaurants at 15th and Arapahoe have been several things. Until recently, the corner space was a steakhouse, a place that looked uninviting due to lattice obscuring the windows, and the next space along 15th specialized in fondue. Now, the steak space that was Gallagher’s then Hickory Prime and then just Prime Steakhouse has become the “Cheers”-like, lattice-free Reunion Gastropub + Wine Bar, and the old La Fondue/Le Chateau space is the light and attractive Viand Modern American.  Where’s my scorecard?

Rodriguez and Menu over the head of one of Viand's media guests.
Rodriguez and Menu over the head of one of Viand’s media guests.

I went to Reunion for lunch on November 13 and had a long chat with manager Martin Hammer, a Front Range veteran restaurateur. By the time I returned for a media gathering at Viand on December 1, both Hammer and the young chef were gone. The current headliners are consulting chef Dana Rodriguez and executive chef Victor Mena. Both go back a long way, when they worked together at Tamayo, at Rioja and most recently at Work & Class, Rodriguez’s  brainchild/dream-come-true on the southern reaches of RiNo.

House-made burrata with a house-made pretzel, a curl of sweet red pepper and walnut pesto star on this board.
House-made burrata with a house-made pretzel, a curl of sweet red pepper and walnut pesto star on this board.
Poached pear with shaved Pecorino, grilled radicchio, hazelnut vinaigrette and pomegranate reduction.
Poached pear with shaved Pecorino, grilled radicchio, hazelnut vinaigrette and pomegranate reduction.
Asparagus, pork belly and poached egg with strips of shaved Pecorino.
Asparagus, pork belly and poached egg with strips of shaved Pecorino.
Beautifully seared scallops atop zucchini cakes with a nut-free Romesco-style tomato sauce and a few olives alongside.
Beautifully seared scallops atop zucchini cakes with a nut-free Romesco-style tomato sauce and a few olives alongside.
The menu calls this unusual and delicious dessert, "Avocado-Lime Pie." It's a combo of avocado and lime topped with crunchy pistachios and whipped cream -- served in a coffee cup.
The menu calls this unusual and delicious dessert, “Avocado-Lime Pie.” It’s a combo of avocado and lime topped with crunchy pistachios and whipped cream — served in a coffee cup.

Price check: Small plates, $8-$12 (plus $18 for large risotto); #14-$21 (plus $28 for New York strip). has not yet discovered Viand, which is at 1040 Fifteenth Street, Denver, just a block from the Denver Performing Arts Center. I’m hoping they will soon offer a pre-theater menu.

Chili Heat & Cool Brews at Snowmass

Mammoth Fest features chili cook-off.

mammoth-logoMore than a dozen top chili cooks from Colorado and beyond turn up the heat during an International Chili Society (ICS) sanctioned regional cook-off on the Snowmass Village Mall during Snowmass Mammoth Fest.  Free tastings of red chili, chili verde (green chili) and salsa, along with live music, are offered to the public on Friday, June 12 from 5 to 9 p.m.  Tame the heat with premium microbrews available for purchase.

The next day if your palate has recovered, taste free chili and salsa tastings from 12 noon, along with, a 25-Microbrew Grand Tasting grand tasting on Saturday at Town Park. Cooking starts early in the day. Once the tastings begin, come sample chili and salsa, mingle with the cooks and vote for the People’s Choice Award for the best red chili. Following International Chili Society rules, a panel of expert judges will select the three top winners in each category. All 1st place winners will advance to the ICS World Championships.


  • Edward Huffman (red chili, chili verde, salsa), Iron Horse Chili, Peyton, CO
  • Hank Wedemeyer (red chili, chili verde), Medicine Man, Littleton, CO
  • Judy Wedemeyer (red chili, chili verde), Flam-N-Go, Littleton, CO
  • Kathy Weiss (chili verde, salsa), Rocky Mountain Harmony Chili, Centennial, CO
  • Mary Parker (red chili, salsa), Dragonfly Chili, Peyton, CO (1st place winner from 2014 ICS World Championship)
  • Matthew Levy (red chili, chili verde, salsa), Hunt Valley, MD
  • Mick Weiss (red chili), Rocky Mountain Harmony Chili, Centennial, CO
  • Mike Rook (red chili, chili verde), Rook’s Road, Highlands Ranch, CO
  • Priscilla Licon (red chili, chili verde, salsa), Scilla’s Chili, Pueblo, CO
  • Sean Richardson (red chili, chili verde, salsa), Maverick’s Grill, Granby, CO
  • Stephanie Richardson (red chili, chili verde, salsa), Maverick’s Grill, Granby, CO
  • Stevan Rodriguez (red chili, chili verde, salsa), Glenwood Springs, CO
  • Steve Vedora (red chili), Coogee Mountain, Denver, CO
  • Jeff LeBeck (red chili, chili verde, salsa), Voodoo Moon, Westminster, CO
  • Greg Virant (red chili), Going Up Chili, Omaha, NE
  • Lynn Kost Virant (salsa), Going Down Chili, Omaha, NE

The main part of Mammoth Fest is actually  a big entertainment event with name performers. Click here or call 877-987-6487 for ticket information, prices and purchasing.

Anthony Bourdain to Release New Cookbook

Anthony Bourdain -- in a suit.
Anthony Bourdain — in a suit.

Chef, restaurateur, author and world- traveling television personality putting all that together.

I really enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s memoirs, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and A Cook’s Tour, and have followed him around the globe on his television shows (Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, The Layover and now Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown) that focus on culture, food, booze and his bad-boy image. He has written bestsellers and won an Emmy or two. Now comes an announcement of a new book, due out in 2016, that seems to wrap much of his life and many of his interests between the covers.

Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, is excited to announce that we have acquired APPETITES, the first cookbook in ten years from celebrity chef and culinary adventurer Anthony Bourdain. The book is currently scheduled to be released in fall 2016. Daniel Halpern, President and Publisher of Ecco, negotiated the deal with Kim Witherspoon of Inkwell Management. Bourdain is co-authoring APPETITES with Laurie Woolever.

Anthony Bourdain is man of many appetites. And for many years, first as a chef, later as a world traveling chronicler of food and culture, he has made a profession of understanding the appetites of others. These days, however, if he’s cooking, it’s for family and friends. APPETITES boils down 40 plus years of professional cooking and world traveling to a tight repertoire of personal favorites–dishes that everyone should (at least in Mr. Bourdain’s opinion) know how to cook. Once the supposed “bad boy” of cooking, Mr. Bourdain has, in recent years, become the father of a little girl–a role he has come to embrace with enthusiasm.

After years of traveling over 200 days a year, he has come to enjoy entertaining at home. Years of prep lists and the hyper-organization necessary for a restaurant kitchen however, have caused him, in his words, to have “morphed into a psychotic, anally retentive, bad-tempered Ina Garten. ” The result is a home cooking, home entertaining cookbook like no other. Personal favorites from home and from his travels, translated into an effective battle plan that will help you terrify your guests with your breathtaking efficiency. It is only fitting that the cover of this family friendly classic is by Ralph Steadman. Which should give you an idea of what’s inside. Lavishly and provocatively photographed by Bobby Fisher, APPETITES looks to take the cookbook to the edge of the cliff–and over.

A bonus pull out poster depicts and deconstructs the tectonic and structural aspects of the perfect hamburger with text by Nathan Myhrvold. An instant collectible, it is intended to hang on every kitchen wall, a rebuke and reminder to those who would attempt anything less than excellence in burgerdom.”

Green Chile Cheeseburger: Denver or Santa Fe?

The capitals of Colorado and New Mexico lay claim the best of this Southwestern fave.

SantaFe-logoAsk a Coloradan which city makes the best green chile cheeseburger, and the instant answer is Denver, The Mile High City. Ask a New Mexican, and the reply is Santa Fe, The City Different. There are plenty of reasons to visit beautiful, artistic San Fe, and its Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail is one of them.

Here’s what Santa Fe claims: Santa Fe, NM is a burger lover’s paradise, and ‘The City Different’ spends 365 days celebrating the Green Chile Cheeseburger. Santa Fe’s indigenous cuisine dates back to the area’s Native American roots and their staples of beans, corn and squash. With the introduction of foods brought by the Spanish like onions, tomatoes and of course, chile, the table was set for what became the distinctive New Mexican fare with its enduring emphasis on the use of chile in and on almost everything.  The green chile cheeseburger has been a staple on menus around the state of New Mexico since at least the middle of the 1900s.

Continue reading Green Chile Cheeseburger: Denver or Santa Fe?

Simple Mexican Fare on Santa Fe

First Friday Art Walk on Santa Fe (Drive, not New Mexico) works up an appetite

Our award-winning photographer friend Blaine Harrington has some of his marvelous images at John Fielder’s Denver Photo Art Gallery. It’s the first time this widely published photographer has had works in a galley, and what better time to see them than than during the year’s first First Friday Art Walk on Santa Fe?

First Friday Art Walk, Art District on Santa Fe (Visit Denver photo)

We cruised around, unsuccessfully, for a parking space on the street but finally relented and pulled into a $5 private lot. As we were circling, we had passed El Taco De Mexico. My husband, who loves food from just north of, right at and south of the border, said he had heard it was one of Denver’s best, most authentic and reasonably priced Mexican restaurants. We knew we had to try it after the art-viewing was over.

El Taco De Mexico's bright backlit sign, a promise of Mexican authenticity.

We lingered in the photo gallery, of course, but then checked out a bunch of the others two dozen on both sides of Santa Fe Drive between West Seventh and West Tenth Avenues. Crowds filled the galleries and spilled onto the narrow sidewalks.  Ungalleried artists showed their work on the sidewalk. There was music and even fire jugglers in front of a convenience store. The atmosphere was festive, energetic and urban. Why, I asked myself, has it been so long since I’ve been any of Denver’s four monthly Art Walks — and why did it take me so long to gallery-hop on Santa Fe?  I had no answers. The Chicano Humanities & Arts Council fed the spirit, the soul and the stomach (the latter with a taco bar against one wall), but we passed it up in favor of El Taco just down the street.

Chicano Arts Council snack bar would have tempted us, were it not for El Taco De Mexico.

El Taco De Mexico is whistle-clean, unadorned, totally unpretentious and seemingly operated by an all-female crew. There are a few booths, a counter facing the kitchen with menu boards above,  a big patio that must be wonderful when it’s not a winter night and a steady stream of customers for take-out orders. The food is simple, straightforward and inexpensive.

Menu board above the counter stretches nearly wall-to-wall.

In the end, we ordered just two.

Open taco made with chopped beef, chopped tomato, chopped onion and a splash of salsa is simplicity itself.
Chicken chilaquiles made of tortilla chips in the restaurant's fabulous green chili with a line of rice, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato and chopped onion forming a barrier between it and the refritos topped with a bit of shredded cheese.

Price check: Nothing, including the combination plates, is more than $10.  

El Taco de Mexico on Urbanspoon

A Bright Boulder Place for Tacos and More

Pica’s Mexican Taqueria got great review and has gringo appeal

I pay attention when a restaurant writer with the last name of Alvarez writes about “a new king of ‘fast-fresh Mexican,’ and lucky for us, its newest location is right here in Boulder. Tucked way out into the hinterlands of Arapahoe, the brand new Pica’s Mexican Taqueria tops them all with effortless authenticity and bold, playful flavors that can go toe-to-toe with any fancier sit-down Mexican joint in the city and win. Best of all, you’ll have a hard time exhausting a ten-spot on dinner — unless you go gonzo on margaritas.” And that’s how Ted Alvarez, the Daily Camera’s dining critic, started his review.

I have no idea whether Alvarez’s forefathers came to what is now the U.S. Southwest long before the American Revolution, whether they crossed the Rio Grande more recently, or whether they were from Cuba, Puerto Rico or some other Spanish land. His surname gave credibility his review, but when I looked into Pica’s history, it turns out that the “authenticity” came from Wyoming (locations in Jackson and Wilson) and migrated south. Trent Davol, the Boulder location’s owner, worked in Wyoming and brought the concept to East Boulder. It’s cheerful and clean and very pleasant with am ambiance that is more “American fast casual” than “taqueria,” no matter what the sign on the door claims.

Ted Alvarez was not alone in praising Pica’s for its tasty fresh food and moderate prices.The restaurant is bright and cheerful, but after we ordered and paid at the counter, we headed out for the spacious patio. Families are welcomed with such thoughtful extras as a container of sidewalk chalk that kids (and their parents) can use to draw hopscotch or create art on the concrete. The large umbrellaed tables are a nice distance from each other, so that conversations are separated by space. Only the incessant noise from an air conditioner kept it from being idyllic.

The food, when it was delivered, turned out to be good but not as drop-dead great as I’d been led to expec by the reviewt. The excessively salty guacamole came in a fake plastic molcajete with a basket of crisp tortilla chips for dipping.

Pica’s pair of open-face, soft tacos can be selected with carne asada tacos, chicken el carbon, carnitas, Baja-style with either fish or shrimp, marinated shrimp, al pastor or grilled mahi.  Each one comes with an appropriate salsa plus Mexican rice and beans.  
Puya chicken salad consists of nicely grilled chicken, sliced avocado, a generous amount of salsa fresca and puya chile vinaigrette. Puya chiles, I learned, are moderately hot, enough to kick the salad up a notch. A folded flour tortilla perched on the rim of the plate.
Price check: Burritos, $6.25-$8.95; Tacos, $6.25-$8.95; enchiladas, $8.25-$8.75; quesadillas, $5.95-$7,50; salads, $4.95-$8.50; soups, #.75 for a cup or one to $6.95 for a bowl of the other.

Pica's Mexican Taqueria on Urbanspoon