I’ve been reading the book Collapse about societies that completely failed or disappeared, one of them being the Anasazi people of the American Southwest. Thankfully the whole range of tribes living in what is now New Mexico didn’t give up the ghost. Their decendents still live on in the pueblos around Albuquerque, Taos, and Santa Fe.
When I was in the area a few months ago, like Sheila I made sure to carve out some time for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. It was cold when I was there though, so the dance performance was held inside. To see what it’s like when it’s outside in the courtyard area of this interesting center, see Sheila’s Pueblo Center video.
You can easily spend a few hours there between the performance and the great museum highlighting artwork from all the pueblos, but you can really make a day of it by dining at the tasty Pueblo Harvest Cafe. This is no lame museum cafe with one espresso machine and a sandwich menu. It’s a full-fledged restaurant that people plan to visit even if they’re not coming to the museum.
I wanted to try some authentic Native American dishes, but as Navajo chef Burt Wilson explained, there’s no such thing as pure “Native American” food anymore since for hundreds of years it’s been influenced by Mexican cooking and new ingredients brought in by the white man starting a couple hundred years ago. They do use a lot of traditional ingredients, however, and cook things you would traditionally find in a pueblo fiesta setting. They bake bread each day in two hornos—big domed outdoor ovens.
We ordered two signature dishes. Pictured at the top are the Nambe Rellenos: two poblano chiles stuffed with chicken, cheddar cheese, rolled in blue corn meal and served over fresh red chile with Pueblo beans and squash. Yum! The other dish was a very typical one called Tewa Taco: ground beef and beans served on frybread with red or green chile. It’s a hearty meal that I barely managed to finish since it took up the whole plate.
The Pueblo Harvest Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch on Sunday and Monday, all meals on the other days.
My trip had one other contrast with Sheila’s. The fine folks at Albuquerque Tourism were helping me out because I was researching an article and they put me up in the locally owned, good “sense-of-place” hotel Nativo Lodge. You definitely know you’re in pueblo country when you stay there and since the rates are reasonable and they’re always running special package deals, you won’t be asking, “I’m paying how much to be unimpressed?”