#59 | Flamin’ Hot, Yuca Fries, and Entrances & Exits
A few weeks ago, while researching artichokes, we read that “Artichokes remained popular until the fall of the Roman empire.” This appeared on a USDA fact sheet, so we know it’s guaranteed to be true. Reading that sentence made us wonder if, at some point in the future, someone will be reading a sentence like, “Cheetos remained popular until the fall of the American empire.” And if so, will the storied snack food make a comeback a few hundred years later, when some other empire is on the rise, as the artichoke did?
Lest you think us specious, consider that the Cheeto was invented in Dallas, Texas, in 1948, roughly nine thousand years after the peoples of what is now south-central Mexico first cultivated corn—the Cheeto’s principal ingredient. And if you’ve ever taken a deep dive into the history of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, you know the military funded research into both, resulting in (among other things) the technology behind (and a postwar surplus of) the orange powder that notoriously sticks all over your fingers when you eat an entire bag of Cheetos.
Just what does this have to do with New Mexico? For one, Eva Longoria’s directorial debut, Flamin’ Hot, was filmed in Albuquerque. The film, due to hit theaters sometime next year, tells the possibly-kinda-true story of Richard Montañez, who started as a janitor at Frito-Lay and allegedly invented the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto to appeal to Latinos. Flamin’ hot everything ensued. In Chicago, you can order a three-foot, house-extruded cheeto at the art-forward Esmé. On Etsy, you can buy Cheeto earrings. We haven’t come across such abstract expressionism locally, but you can find banderillas de hot cheetos (hot Cheeto–encrusted corn dogs) at one of Albuquerque’s other favorite set pieces, La Michoacana de Paquime.
Are we endorsing the Cheeto? No. Do we consider the Cheeto the great evildoer of snackdom, worthy of maligning more than the frito or the dill-pickle-powder-dusted kettle chip? Not exactly. And what about you? If you came across Flamin’ Hot Cheeto chaff at a high-end restaurant, would you eat it?
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The first time we tried yuca, we wondered why, in a state where yucca is so widespread, the food had not become a New Mexican staple. The answer is simple, although, maybe because language is how we organize things, easy to forget: yuca is not yucca. The root vegetable known as yuca (pronounced you-ka) in the Caribbean and Central and South America—where the native plant has been cultivated for thousands of years—is the same tuber known as manioc and cassava in West Africa, where (among other preparations) it is pounded and made into fufu.
None of this was on our mind the evening we confronted a plate of fried yuca at Ajiaco Colombian Bistro in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill. Instead, our attention was drawn to the golden slices of tuber stacked like Jenga pieces and the striking green of the chimichurri at their side. “I think I like these better than french fries,” said one of our dining companions—a notable statement from a person of any age, and especially from a kid dining at an establishment going more for date night than family vibes. Luckily, he had no interest in the chimichurri, which we scooped up on each bite of the airiest yuca we’ve ever had, such that the green sauce was gone before we could put our tastebuds to the test of pinpointing each ingredient. Bright, tangy, herbal, and just the faintest touch of sweet.
Entrances & Exits
Mila’s Mesa, previously known for catering weddings and occasional pop-ups, held a grand opening of their new Nob Hill venue last Wednesday.
Albuquerque has a new food truck park. It doesn’t seem to be up to full capacity yet, but Viet Flavor ABQ and La Cocina de Ana have made appearances at the Pacific Rim Food Park, located at Louisiana and Santa Monica on the property of Grace Church.
Also in Albuquerque, 505 Spirits’ tasting room is now open at 105 Harvard Drive SE.
Vara Winery & Distillery has a new tasting room in Santa Fe. It’s not open open yet, but it will be as soon as they can round out their staff.
Saya’s Frybread & Indian Tacos appears to have closed. Obviously, this is bad news. All we can offer in consolation is another good source for Pueblo pies: the Corrales Farmers Market, which runs through November 6.
Taos roaster The Coffee Apothecary has opened its indoor seating area for the first time since the pandemic began with a new, colorful interior that smells amazing, too.
In the mood for extravagance? This Friday, Calhoun Flower Farms is hosting Arcadian Autumn, a farm-to-table dining experience with food by Mila’s Mesa and cocktails by Dry Point Distillers.
Or perhaps you’d prefer to indulge in a baking lesson? Classes on horno baking run through the end of October at The Feasting Place, and include a visit to Los Luceros Historic Site.
Calling all homebrewers: you have until November 10 to enter Southwest Grape & Grain’s Winter Beer Battle. Professional brewers are not eligible (because that wouldn’t be fair, and besides, they probably don’t need the grand prize, which is a Digimash Electric Brewing System). If you’re not a homebrewer yet but want to be, sign up for a class.
The National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Congress will bring farmworkers, farmers, and ranchers together to problem-solve and share best practices at Isleta Casino October 27–29. This year’s theme is “This is Our Land: Our Land Stewardship Legacy.”
In other solutions-driven learning opportunities, the Regenerate Conference—a collaboration between the Santa Fe–based Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International, and the American Grassfed Association—starts November 2 in Denver. If you’re in, adjacent to, or just curious about regenerative agriculture and you don’t want to travel, consider attending Webinar Week, which starts this Monday and covers topics from biochar to mental health.
Speaking of ranchers, the current show at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos centers on the legacy of the black cowboy.
“Do yourself a favor and have a martini flight to start things off,” advises Clarke Condé in the latest edition of The Bite: Stories. That’s after you’ve made your way through the secret entrance and allowed your eyes to adjust to the dim light inside Albuquerque’s newest speakeasy. Find “Teddy Roe’s Sweet Spot” here.