I’m sad that I didn’t make it to the Left Coast Crime Mystery Conference in Santa Fe, which is going on even as I type. Santa Fe is one of my favorite places on God’s green earth, so beautiful. I have many happy memories of the place from years ago, when I was a newlywed living in Lubbock Texas, some 300 miles east of Santa Fe. My husband and I drove over there almost every time we had a three day weekend to enjoy the ambiance - and the food! Things have changed a lot in Santa Fe since the early 1970s. The place is a heck of a lot bigger and more urban than it was then, but there’s still plenty of ambiance, and the food is still to die for.
New Mexican cuisine is a thing unto itself. It’s similar to Mexican food, and Tex-Mex, but NOT the same. The big difference, I think, is in the seasoning. New Mexico chiles are famous, and native dishes are mouth-searingly spicy. They also use a lot of blue cornmeal, and more beef than some other Southwestern cuisines. Not so much cheese, either.
For many years, there was a spectacular French bakery just down the street from St. Francis Cathedral. That was the first place I ever ate a Napoleon. Sadly, I hear it’s gone. I haven’t been to Santa Fe in four or five years so I don’t know whether the Woolworth’s is still on the square. I hope so. I hope, too, that they still have their lunch counter. The Woolworth’s Drug Store on the square in Santa Fe is the birthplace of the Frito chili pie. Nowadays, the Frito chili pie is a casserole-like dish of chili and grated cheese topped with corn chips, but the original - created, I believe, in the 1930s and served at least until recently - went like this:
Tear the top off of an individual package of Fritos brand corn chips. Ladle in a big old glop of incendiary New Mexican chili and top with a handful of grated cheese. Walk around the square while shoveling chili pie right out of the package into your mouth with a spoon.