Joy. Antony and Claudia C. are back in their mountaintop Colorado home after a few years residence in Singapore. Sorely missed by HG/BSK, it was happy news to learn Antony and Claudia would be visiting New Mexico for two days. Some info concerning A. and C.: Antony is a distinguished mutual fund manager specializing in Asian and Pacific economies. Claudia is a print and radio journalist (a super interviewer) and the author of three important books on Asian economics and finance. Though both are American citizens, they remain, in accent, appearance and manner, very British. Antony is of noble lineage and looks it. He would fit in very nicely lording it over Knowlton Abbey. Claudia is a classic Anglo-Irish eccentric from a theatrical family. Auburn haired, colorful, open hearted and uninhibited. Her delicious flamboyance makes any room burst into life. Farewell any traces of boredom, the C’s have arrived. Antony is a dedicated collector of important automobiles. On their last visit to HG/BSK’s New Mexico home they arrived in Antony’s supercharged Aston-Martin convertible. Antony, who has the skills of a Grand Prix driver, put a heavy foot on the accelerator and took HG on a thrilling drive through the scenic Northern New Mexico mesas and valleys. How to describe it? It felt like sitting in a chariot powered by raging lions. This time Antony’s vehicle was a 2007 Bentley lined in rich, voluptuous leather and burnished woods. The ride? Like sitting in a leather chair at Boodle’s (Antony’s London club) with the world floating beneath you. All that was missing was a glass of vintage port and a Cuban Maduro leaf cigar.
HG/BSK tasted Padron peppers for the first time in Madrid a few years ago. After hours on the majestic city’s museum row (the Prado and other wondrous venues) HG/BSK settled down for a late lunch at a busy, plain spoken Galician bistro. Grilled Chorizo. Shrimps in garlic sauce. Very tender Polpo Gallegos (octopus cooked in the Galician style). A big pitcher of Sangria. Good bread. And, a platter of Spanish Padron peppers fried in oil and garlic until they blistered. They were a taste revelation and HG wolfed down a dozen before a hot specimen set HG’s lips aflame. And, so HG discovered the Spanish saying (which applies to any number of experiences and persons), “Some Padrons are hot. Some are not.” You can’t tell by appearance. You only learn the truth by tasting. Last year, BSK ordered these peppers at Bones, the very good Asian fusion bistro in Denver. BSK had enjoyed the dish there many times. On this occasion, however, BSK swallowed a pepper so hot that BSK almost lost consciousness and was left with a severe and ringing headache. A stroke was feared. Since then HG/BSK have become pepper cautious. Most of the time BSK buys Shishito peppers at the Santa Fe or Pojoaque Farmers Markets. These peppers are an East Asian variety transplanted to the United States. They are very similar to Padrons, slightly smaller, never hot (and in HG’s opinion, slightly less tasty). Last night, BSK took a chance and fried a big batch of Pojoaque Padrons to accompany Adobo dusted fried pork chops. Heaven. Nary a hot coal, just peppery garlic enhanced flavor.
The Pojoauque Pueblo is HG/BSK’s Native American neighbor and its retail complex (strategically located at the juncture of Highway 285/84 and Highway 502) has been HG/BSK’s source for household necessities and outstanding New Mexican food. The Pojoauque Farmers Market (much expanded through a $44,616 grant from a Department of Agriculture program which encourages marketing by local farmers) operates every Wednesday and is BSK’s source for superb little potatoes, juicy tomatoes, chiles and herbs. A stand simply identified as “Orlando’s” offers freshly made burritos and tamales. The Pojoauque Super Market carries an extraordinary range of salsas, locally processed spices, hot sauces and everything necessary for preparing authentic New Mexican dishes. The prepared food section (good menudo and green chile stew) does a brisk luncheon trade and local women prepare fresh pico de gallo and ceviche on a daily basis. At the entrance to the supermarket, Native Americans offer traditional fry bread (as well as jewelry). Besides a bank, hardware store, government offices and a drug store, the retail complex contains Sopaipilla Factory. a restaurant much favored by HG for its suave menudo and its generous chicken enchiladas prepared Christmas style with both red and green chile sauces. The friendly staff offers all-you-can-eat sopaipillas (New Mexican popovers) with honey and butter. Yes, the Pojoauque complex has been a locavore paradise. Until now. Enter McDonald’s. Yes, Mickey Dee has made an unwelcome appearance in a large building with much parking at the entrance to the retail area. Construction had been going on for some months and most people believed the building was an addition to the nearby group of Pojoauque government buildings. Unhappy surprise. McDonald’s opened last week and, sadly, has been very busy. HG finds McDonald’s factory food nasty, inedible and unhealthy. HG hopes it will not negatively impact Sopapilla Factory and the very good nearby El Parasol, a bastion of down home, hearty Northern New Mexican cooking.