a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Flirting with chile

The waitress says I look like a chile relleno kind of guy when I ask for her suggestions on the menu at a Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque, N.M. But I am leaning toward the carnitas asadas, or grilled pork tenderloins swimming in red chile and green chile. “I always know how to read my customers,” insists Dina, my Latino American waitress at La Hacienda Restaurant in an ancient adobe building in the city’s Old Town district. Many of these mud-colored, Pueblo-Spanish-style buildings here date to 1706, when Albuquerque was settled along the banks of the Rio Grande as a colonial farming village and military outpost. At its center is San Felipe Neri Roman Catholic Church, which has been in continuous use for nearly 300 years. The smell of peppers cooking circle the air around the church and every other corner of the several blocks that make up this tourist destination. As it turns out, my three breaded and deep-fried chile rellenos don't bring tears to my eyes. Their seeds, which could burn holes through a weak tongue, had been scraped off to put out the fire, Nina explained. I like them. “Did I read you right?” she says with a wink.

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