A Day in Corrales and a Vegan Lunch

My husband picked a beautiful day to take us to Corrales, New Mexico where we took a tour of artists’ studios.

New Mexico is chock full of artists and while you’ve probably heard about the art colonies in places like Taos or Santa Fe, every New Mexican town—large or small—has a cache of wonderful local art. Corrales, or should I say “Corraleans” call their place a village. I suppose with only 7300 people that is true.

The tour included 75 artists which was more than we could manage to visit in one day. As we drove through the village, we saw Villa Acequia, an historic building circa 1862 on Corrales Road. There they had a sampling of all the artists’ work so you could decide which ones to visit. We didn’t want to be that organized. We just wandered around all day but we did stop into this Villa. It was shaping up to be a very warm day.

ENTRANCE TO VILLA ACEQUIA
EASIL
BATHROOM SLASH WINE CELLAR
wine in the bathroom

We’re flirting with summer over here in New Mexico. I was fascinated with these shadows on the front walkway of Villa Acequia. Inside was beautiful too. The owner recently restored this historic building and isn’t sure yet what he’s going to do with it. I thought it would be a beautiful place for a wedding or an event. Inside was all the art and a lot of information. I didn’t photograph art but I did photograph a lovely easel I found inside. This is not an unusual objet d’art, I know, but it was inviting me to come try my hand at painting! I also took several photos of this:   This is the restroom/wine cellar.  Ladies, did you bring your corkscrew when going into the facilities?

We really only got around to seeing about a dozen of the seventy-five artists. We found several that we truly admired including a family of photographers, a glass infusion artist, and wonderful potters.  My Hubbin’ bought me a beautiful pottery serving plate made by Sandy Lipka. You will see more about that when I feature it in a cooking post!

Of course, we got hungry. We went to one of the small, gourmet restaurants in the village (there are many) called The Indigo Crow Cafe. Indigo Crow Cafe is by no means a vegetarian or vegan restaurant but they do feature several suitable choices on their menu. More and more restaurants are doing that these days.

PORTOBELLO SANDWICH 1
FLOWERING CACTUS

My Hubbin’ opted for Sunday Brunch and I chose a portabello mushroom sandwich which was excellent! Unlike most I’ve had, they do not smother it with cheese and it was not in the least bit oily so the mushroom and vegetables actually stayed in the sandwich instead of sliding out of the multi-grain ciabatta..   This was perfectly refreshing and satisfying! It was a lovely day in Corrales!

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Autumn in New Mexico

The shift in the outdoor palate is not so subtle now.

In late August you can barely see the changes. But even then, I can usually notice how the green in the leaves of trees is no longer fresh, no longer so vibrant. The green is looking a bit worn, a bit old.

September has nearly passed and the inevitable is now evident. I love the subtleties as well as the obvious change of orange, red and yellow hues in the foliage.

No wonder artists love to come here! No wonder they paint in purples, golds, pinks, and every other color here in New Mexico!

SAGEY LOOKING

The sage colors are sagier, the blossoms dropping.

SUNFLOWER
CACTUS

Gorgeous even without the flowers.

Breakfast in Old Town

Sometimes getting away together is a tall order for me and my Hubbin!  In fact, we have not gone anywhere in some time. So what we often do instead is take a short half day or one day chunk of time and go somewhere close by.

Today was one of those half-days and we decided to go to Old Town. This is the old, original center of Albuquerque which was first settled in the early 1600’s and officially founded as Villa de Albuquerque in 1706—making it over 300 years old. We definitely deserve to call this part of the city “Old Town!”  It’s very quaint and full of shops and the area is designed in the Spanish tradition with a central plaza where the city hosts many fiestas throughout the year.

In a matter of minutes we can drive to the heart of Old Town and we are transported to an entirely different environment than home.

This Desert Bird of Paradise caught my eye on this very sunny morning in Old Town.
This Desert Bird of Paradise caught my eye on this very sunny morning in Old Town.
Another view of Desert Bird of Paradise against the backdrop of this beautiful old Spanish-style door.
Another view of Desert Bird of Paradise against the backdrop of this beautiful old Spanish-style door.

We found our way through the bright and colorful alleyways full of shops, galleries and eateries to a place I’d eaten at once before called, “BeBe Cafe.” I had gone there for lunch with out-of-town friends and really enjoyed a vegan panini sandwich with salad and some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. BeBe Cafe features European and French cuisine and everything is made from fresh, sometimes organic ingredients and prepared to order.

BeBe Cafe at 206 1/2 San Felipe NW, in Old Town was our destination this morning.
BeBe Cafe at 206 1/2 San Felipe NW, in Old Town was our destination this morning.

We went in and ordered breakfast.  I had a spinach and tomato crepe with watermelon and strawberries on the side. Hubbin’ had a bacon and egg crepe.  The crepes were exquisitely thin and light!  We shared an incredible freshly made French Danish with the lightest creme filling you can imagine and wonderul berries and papaya on top. The flavors were tres mervellieux and there was not enough sugar in it to distract. We only paid just over $20.00 for both breakfasts and our beverages.

My best breakfast companion ever! And a big cup of coffee.
My best (and very cute)  breakfast companion ever! And a big cup of coffee.

You’d think I’d take pictures of this beautiful food that I said was so wonderful. But no, I didin’t because at the time I was more interested in my breakfast date with Hubbin’ and in devouring the wonderful food.  But I did take another picture of the cafe including our new friend, Efthimios Maniatis, who made us our breakfast this morning.

Efthimios is a local architect and teaches at the University of New Mexico. And he's a good cook!
Efthimios is a local architect who also teaches at the University of New Mexico.  He and his work is featured this month in Dwell magazine.  You should see the lovely outdoor patio area he designed for the restaurant!

We finally wandered out of BeBe Cafe feeling very pleased and satisfied with our breakfast and headed for the Albuquerque Museum nearby.  It was a lovely morning!

Where I Live

New Mexico resonates with me. I happily dance along its many harmonics as if it is an old familiar place filled with people I’ve known for a very long time.

I’ve lived in New Mexico for three years.

1940NewMexico

I was reading a friend’s blog—she is very funny—about being accused of being a hipster. One comment there inspired my comment which got a couple of replies all of which has nothing to do with anything except I was considering another reply/comment of my own having to do with being understandably confused since I live along the famous-and-we-aren’t-going-to-let-you-forget-it-EVER Route 66.

I was only trying to be clever and had no actual point to make about it so I didn’t post that comment. But I started thinking about Route 66 and living in an area where hundreds of small businesses play on that theme. Neon signs. Malt shops. Classic cars. You name it, if it’s “’50’s” many Albuquerquian business folks love to decorate with it, neon-ize it, or hang it up next to a poster of Elvis. I’m sure Route 66 is dotted all across the country with this kind of thing.

Neon Business Sign

Neon Business Sign

Don’t get me wrong. I happen to like ’50’s nostalgia especially when it comes to kitchens. I might love having a beautifully restored, bright “neon red” Wedgewood with four burners. a griddle, two ovens and storage drawers! (This, my friends, is the mycookinglife connection in this post.)

Oooooh Baby! This is a red Wedgewood.

Oooooh Baby! This is a red Wedgewood.

Here in New Mexico we have quite a dichotomy going. On the one hand we have a fascinating rich and varied culture of Native American tribes, cities twice as old as the country itself, and a tradition brought here by Spanish and Mexican peoples who traveled the Camino Royale—Royal Road—bringing arts, culture, gold, education and livingness. The spirituality in this state, present in so many different forms, is so rich you can scoop it up with your hands and cleanse yourself with it.

In contrast this state is ground zero for all things nuclear. Los Alamos. Atom bombs. White Sands Missle Range. Carved out mountains holding nuclear armament. This is the very invention that can wipe all of us and all our culture, art and spirituality right out.

What do you do with a situation like that? There are many answers apparently. Spirituality, art, culture and living traditions abound over here. They loom very large and make a powerful stand to not only survive, but thrive! I camp out here. I help this survive and expand.

Very soon we can, if “we” can afford it, get outta town—way, way outta town—and get a fresh perspective on things. We’ve got the Spaceport Authority of New Mexico to thank for that. Spaceport America is located in the Jornada del Muerto desert basin in Southern New Mexico. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is not alone at the spaceport. There’s SpaceX, UP Aerospace (Is United Parcel planning uber-fast package delivery I wondered? No, that would be “UPS”) and Armadillo Aerospace. Commercial space travel is the coming thing. That is pretty creative!

Even the Spaceport has a little neon touch. The first flight is scheduled for Christmas Day. I wonder if it's booked?

Even this conceptual image of the Spaceport has a little neon touch. The first flight is scheduled for Christmas Day. I wonder if it’s booked?

We can try to live a normal, standard American life and ignore the rest. But thank goodness the city of Albuquerque is one of the few places I’ve seen where the unique characteristics of the region haven’t been totally overwhelmed into oblivion by a blanket of fast food and retail chains that homogenize an area to look like any other area of the country. There are still a lot of independent businesses here and a lot of local traditions present and visible.

And, we can be Route 66 people and put neon signs up.

You can get your kicks at Route 66 Casino & Hotel

You can get your kicks at Route 66 Casino & Hotel

Welcome to Albuquerque!

Neon doesn’t have to be ’50’s nostagia. It can be aesthetic, modern, even futuristic. Welcome to Albuquerque!

New Mexico is called the "Land of Enchantment." Can you see why? The best kind of neon is natural neon!

New Mexico is called the “Land of Enchantment.” Can you see why? The best kind of neon is natural neon!

Places to Visit in New Mexico – Down by the Bosque

Herbfest by the Bosque

One of the things I love best about New Mexico is going down to the bosque. I feel very New Mexican and fit right in the more I say the word, “bosque!” The bosque is the enviroment on the banks and in the immediate vicinity of a river. Bosque is pronounced like this. The word itself, in Spanish, means “woods” or “forest.”

The Rio Grande runs through our state on its way to the Gulf and there is plenty of bosque area to explore. We recently visited the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park where they were featuring an Herbfest!

We saw examples of many herbs native to New Mexico plus numerous flowering cacti.

We saw examples of many herbs native to New Mexico plus numerous flowering cacti.

There were vendors, potted herbs for sale, and musical performances. There were trails both along the Rio Grande and through other parts of the bosque which were mostly well-marked but we found it very easy to get off the trail onto some other path and no doubt you could walk around on those paths for hours on end. And that was okay with us for a little while!

See the branches to the right with the sage green leaves? Those are Russion Olive trees and they have the most enchanting aroma! Around here you can smell them for at least a month. We love that smell!

See the branches with the sage green leaves? Those are Russion Olive trees and they have the most enchanting aroma! Around here you can smell them for at least a month. We love that smell!

Russion Olive trees close up. See the little yellow blossoms on that branch to the right?

Russion Olive trees close up. See the little yellow blossoms?

I saw a sign near a vendor’s table that said “Solar Ovens” so of course I had to check that out right away.

The solar oven was made of hinged pieces of reflective metal and can heat up to about 310 degrees. The inventors said they can make bread, pizza, roasts and all kinds of things. Here they are cooking potatoes. Unfortunately I can't find their business card with their contact information on it, but there are lots of solar ovens on the Internet and even instructions on how to make one.

The solar oven was made of hinged pieces of reflective metal and can heat up to about 310 degrees. The inventors said they can make bread, pizza, roasts and all kinds of things. Here they are cooking potatoes. Unfortunately I can’t find their business card with their contact information on it, but there are lots of solar ovens on the Internet and you can find instructions on how to make one, too.

Speaking of solor, these big columns of water inside the Nature Center Educational Building create passive heat for this building in winter time when the sun shines on them.

Speaking of solar, these big columns of water inside the Nature Center Educational Building create passive heat for this building in winter time when the sun shines on them.

When I saw there was going to be an Herbfest at the Nature Center, I was hoping that my favorite herbal salve people would be there, Sweetwater Herbals, from Jemez Pueblo. Jemez Pueblo is about an hour north of Albuquerque in the middle of the Santa Fe National Forest and has legendary hot springs baths. I’ll be sure to show you when I go there.

Sweetwater was at the Herbfest and they had “Relax” salve that I was looking for. Great for tense muscles and even helps relieves muscle cramping. It also has a wonderful aroma!   I appreciate that it is local to my area.

This is a selection of Sweetwater Herbals salves and body oils. Next weekend they will be at the Celtic Festival and the weekend after that at a Wine Festival-- both at Balloon Fiesta Park.

This is a selection of Sweetwater Herbals salves and body oils. Next weekend they will be at the Celtic Festival and the weekend after that at a Wine Festival– both at Balloon Fiesta Park. If you visit their booth, you can get a free neck massage!

I think a place starts feeling like home when you are out and about and actually run into people you know. We’ve only been in New Mexico about 3 1/2 years and we are getting to know folks. Ran into artist and friend Michele Hardy at the Nature Center!

Michele makes a lot of beaded jewelry and her work is unique---not the same thing you see everywhere around here. But you know me, I was drawn to the little pots and especially the little beaded ear of corn in the bowl!

Michele makes a lot of beaded jewelry and her work is unique—not the same thing you see everywhere around here. But you know me, I was drawn to the little pots and especially the little beaded ear of corn in the bowl! Michele also works with gourds and she will accept custom orders and she teaches lessons. She gives her email address as her contact: hardyboys3@q.com.

The Rio Grande Nature Center is also the home of Wildlife Rescue Inc. where orphaned or injured wildlife is reared or restored to health and then returned to the wild. The volunteer staff take care of about 2,000 wild birds and mammals every year.

This is a Swainson's Hawk. He is wild but didn't seem to mind people and cameras. The volunteer told me they do not name the animals because they maintain the intention of their remaining completely wild.

This is a Swainson’s Hawk. He is wild but didn’t seem to mind people and cameras. The volunteer told me they do not name the animals because they maintain the intention that their charges remain completely wild.

Hey little cutie! Look over here! How in the world do you turn your head around like that?

Hey little cutie! Look over here! How in the world do you turn your head around like that?

Hello there, Little Owl! He only has one good eye.

Hello there, Little Owl! He only has one good eye.

It was a lovely New Mexican day!

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Oil, Georgia O’Keeffe and Inspiration

No matter where I go, my cooking life is easily inspired.

My husband and I took a little 24-hour vacation this weekend and went to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  If you haven’t been there, it is nestled about an hour north of Albuquerque and has an altitude of about 7,000 feet which makes it a cool relief on a hot weekend.  Being true blue to you, my blogging friends, I always have my eye out for something good to write about and I certainly found some things!

I can always count on Santa Fe to surprise me!  Last time I was there on a warm, spring weekend, this happened:

But this time, we were surprised by one of the Santa Fe shops we found instead of by the weather.  We discovered a shop called “Oleaceae” which sells olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt from around the world.  Not much of an inventory you say?  Think again!  This store had dozens and dozens of plain and flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

The oils were incredible extra virgin olive oils and the flavored ones were infused with wonderful things that sent my imagination out-of-this-world with culinary ideas.  What would you make with Blood Orange Olive Oil?  Olceaceae suggests using it as a substitute for shortening in brownies and cakes or to pair it with Cranberry Pear, Dark Cocoa, Pomegranate or Fig Balsamic Vinegar.  Or how about making your hummus with Harrisa Olive Oil that is infused with cumin, coriander and garlic?

All the oils were available for tasting and the staff at Olceaceae can suggest the most outrageous pairings of oil and vinegar for you to try.  I found an oil there that was not an olive oil and it is one I have only heard of but never found available anywhere:  roasted pumpkin seed oil!  This was a very intense, rich unrefined seed oil made by roasting pumpkin seeds and then crushing them to extract the oil.  This is the one I purchased!

I understand that pumpkin seed oil is used in Austria on just about everything and I will be experimenting with my precious find and sharing what I come up with.

All the balsamic vinegars were aged for at least eighteen years and all imported from  Modena, Italy.  There were two main types:  dark and white balsamic vinegar.  And these came in a myriad of flavors!  My favorite dark balsamics were Lush Black Cherry–which you could actually drizzle on ice cream or mix with sparkling water with a slice of lime; the Cafe Expresso Balsamic, and the Blackberry Ginger.  Even the plain dark balsamic vinegar was divine and it was so sweet and delicious, you wouldn’t even need oil in your salad dressing.  And it could definitely be an ingredient for either savory or sweet dishes.

The white balsamics–which I’d never tried before–were wonderful too!  Mmmmm . . . what could you do with Island Coconut Balsamic or Fragrant Oregano Balsamic?  Tasting these was better than any wine tasting!  I know I have a whole new world of variations ahead of me using these beautiful condiments.

The Oleaceae Oils

The Oleaceae Vinegars

This company does mail order through their website, which is Oleaceaeoliveoil.com.

Having tasted more than a dozen oils and vinegars, we wandered out to the Santa Fe Plaza and decided to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  I hadn’t known much about Georgia O’Keeffe before, except that she spent quite a lot of time in New Mexico painting the mountains, mesas, flowers and desert landscape.  The museum was very worthwhile and included a great selection of her work as well as fascinating insight on her philosophy of life.

She said, “I simply paint what I see.”  And she said, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”

Of course we went into the gift shop and having been thoroughly impressed with the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe and the fact that she lived at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico for years communing with nature and painting it, I was drawn to two particular photos of her.

In her kitchen, of course, where I imagine she was also quite creative.

Making Stew at Ghost Ranch

Pouring Tea

When the day was about over and we sat in the historic Santa Fe Plaza as the shops began to close, we met the apparently extremely popular “mayor” of the Santa Fe Plaza.  He was very friendly and very hip at the same time.

Motion, Mayor of Santa Fe Plaza

Back home, I’ve already opened my toasted pumpkin seed oil and savored the aroma again and again.  I’m dreaming of roasted vegetables with pumpkin seed oil, a lovely quinoa whole grain summer salad and a pumpkin seed with lemon zest dressing for tomato salad.  You will be the first to know!