• 12 Best Things to do in Albuquerque, New Mexico (with Map & Photos)

    Although often overlooked in favor of Santa Fe, the state’s largest city Albuquerque is well worth visiting for its many magnificent museums and attractive Old Town full of historic adobe buildings. Showcasing a delightful mix of Spanish and Native American influences, it has a rich history and heritage to delve into with countless art galleries and cultural tourist attractions to be found around town.

    Located near the center of New Mexico, the sprawling city occupies the Rio Grande Valley with the soaring Sandia Mountains to be spied in the distance. As it lies near to so much stunning scenery, there are many outdoorsy things to do in it Albuquerque with hiking and mountain biking being particularly popular.

    One of the best times to visit is in October when the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place, and the city’s clear blue skies are dotted with hundreds of hot air balloons.

    12. Turquoise Museum

    Turquoise Museumflickr/miguel

    Located just a stone’s throw away from downtown is the superb Turquoise Museum which can teach you all there is to know about the glittering gem. As well as delving into the history of mining and crafting turquoise, it has lots of interesting artwork, jewellery and shiny specimens to peruse – all made out of the colorful gemstone.

    While the museum was opened in 1993, the Lowry family have been involved with and passionate about the precious blue and green mineral for generations. On tours you’ll hear about their history of mining and studying turquoise, how the mineral is manufactured and myths and uses of the gem around the world. It also has a great gift shop where you can buy jewellery and souvenirs.

    11. Casa Rondena Winery

    Casa Rondena Wineryflickr/Britt Reints

    Nestled on the northern outskirts of Albuquerque is the Casa Rondena Winery which has exquisite award-winning wines for you to try in its tasting room. The attractive estate also acts as a hub for the arts in the area, as it hosts a number of cultural events and festivals over the course of the year.

    Founded in 1995 by John Calvin, the family-run winery exhibits some lovely architecture with a terrific Tricentennial bell tower to be found amidst its gorgeous grounds and fertile vineyards. In its tasting room you can sample some of its wonderful wines paired with tasty cheese boards, crackers and chocolates. In addition to the annual Festival de Musica Rodena, the pretty property regularly hosts weddings, concerts and special events.

    10. American International Rattlesnake Museum

    American International Rattlesnake Museum© dreamstime

    A very interesting and educational place to visit, the American International Rattlesnake Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the slippery snakes. As well as snake-related artworks, artifacts and exhibits it also boasts the world’s largest collection of different species of live rattlesnakes.

    Located in Old Town Albuquerque, the small animal conservation museum houses over thirty kinds of rattlesnake, all of which reside within the appropriate recreated natural habitat. Through displays and demonstrations, visitors can learn about each species and hopefully cure any fears or phobias they may have about the cold-blooded creatures. The museum is also home to a Gila monster – the largest lizard in America – and has a gift shop that sells all kinds of snake-themed souvenirs.

    9. Albuquerque Museum

    Albuquerque Museumflickr/City of Albuquerque

    Offering up a fascinating look into the history, culture and heritage of both the city and Southwest is the excellent Albuquerque Museum. Also located in Old Town, its ever-growing collection includes everything from art installations and interactive exhibitions to artifacts and archaeological findings with an outdoor sculpture garden also on offer.

    Since being founded in 1967, the museum has educated countless generations on the history and art of the region. Alongside early maps and conquistador armour you can also find artworks by Georgia O’Keeffe among others and historic wood carvings and weavings by Native American peoples. On top of this, it regularly hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events and operates tours around the historic home of Casa San Ysidro which gives guests a glimpse into Spanish colonial life.

    8. San Felipe de Neri Church

    San Felipe de Neri Church© dreamstime

    Just a minute’s walk from the museum is the stunning San Felipe de Neri Church which lines the north side of the Old Town Plaza. One of the oldest surviving structures in the city, it was built in 1793 during the Spanish colonial period and has remained in continuous use since then.

    Exhibiting a magnificent mix of architectural influences, the centuries-old church sports two twin bell towers that rise up above its thick, earth-colored adobe walls. Inside, its Gothic Revival-style interior decorations such as its wood-carved altar and pulpit, both of which are painted white, give it a more European appearance. The charming church also adjoins an old rectory, convent and school while its small museum displays some gorgeous religious art and artifacts.

    7. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science

    New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science© dreamstime

    Set on the eastern edge of Old Town is another of the city’s main sights – the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Through interactive exhibits and dramatic dinosaur-filled displays you’ll explore over twelve billion years of natural history starting with the birth of the universe.

    After learning about these early origins you can then witness the dawn of the dinosaurs, experience the ice age on Earth and see skeletons, fossils and paleontological findings up close. Since opening in 1986, the museum has been a firm favorite with both locals and tourists alike due to its well-presented galleries and hands-on activities. In addition, it is also home to a fantastic Planetarium and a 3D cinema which screens educational yet entertaining films.

    6. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

    Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta© dreamstime

    Every October, thousands of people from around the globe flock to the city to watch and take part in the absolutely incredible Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Over the course of its nine days, more than five hundred hot air balloons rise up slowly into the clear blue sky, making it the largest festival of its kind in the world.

    What began in 1972 with just a few balloons has since turned into Albuquerque’s most famed and photographed event. Seeing the sky full of balloons of different colours, shapes and designs is an amazing experience with the Mass Ascension being its main event. You can also go up in a hot air balloon yourself and bask in beautiful views of the city below and the other balloons around you.

    5. Petroglyph National Monument

    Petroglyph National Monument© dreamstime

    Just to the west of town you can find the phenomenal Petroglyph National Monument which lies on the other side of the Rio Grande. While it boasts lava-scarred landscapes and volcanic cones for you to explore, the sprawling site is mostly known for its captivating collection of carved images which number more than 24,000 in total.

    Remarkably well-preserved for the most part, these fantastic figures, symbols and signs were etched into the volcanic rock by both Ancestral Pueblo peoples and early Spanish settlers. The earliest of them date to around 3,000 years ago with large groupings to be found around Boca Negra Canyon and Piedras Marcadas. In addition, the monument’s many trails take you past some splendid scenery and commanding viewpoints.

    4. ABQ BioPark

    ABQ BioPark© dreamstime

    As it is home to not only an aquarium and botanical gardens but a zoo too, it is no wonder that ABQ BioPark is one of the city’s top attractions. Impressively enough, the largely outdoor environmental museum also encompasses the recreation area of Tingley Beach which has pretty paths, ponds and picnic areas to enjoy.

    After having explored its beautiful botanic garden, which is dotted with desert plants and flowers, you can then head to its excellent aquarium. This again mostly focuses on local species that can be found in the Rio Grande and saltwater marshes of the Gulf of Mexico. The undoubted highlight is the park’s zoo which houses everything from elephants and gorillas to lions and polar bears.

    3. Sandia Peak Tramway

    Sandia Peak Tramway© dreamstime

    Rising up dramatically above both Albuquerque and the Rio Grande Valley are the soaring Sandia Mountains which lie on the northeastern edge of the city. To reach the top of the 3,163-metre-high mounts, visitors can take an unforgettable ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway which is remarkably the longest aerial tram in the Americas.

    From the desert floor, it only takes fifteen minutes to rise to the summit of Sandia Crest with divine views over the Land of Enchantment on offer from both the cable car and mountain peak. At the top, you’ll find souvenir shops, a sky bar and restaurant as well as countless hiking trails. In addition to enjoying some simply spectacular sunsets, superb skiing can be had in the winter months.

    2. Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

    Indian Pueblo Cultural Center© dreamstime

    An absolute must-visit when in town, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center preserves and promotes the Pueblo peoples’ rich history, culture, art and traditions. Owned and operated by the nineteen Pueblos of New Mexico, its innumerable exhibitions and events offer up an interesting insight into their past and present.

    Founded in 1976, the cultural center now occupies a state-of-the-art site that lies just a short drive to the north of Old Town. Here you’ll find an art gallery, gift shop and museum which houses exquisite artworks, artifacts and informative exhibits on their history and culture. Besides this, the centre also hosts lots of cultural events, lectures and workshops over the course of the year with its traditional dances and performances being particularly popular.

    1. Old Town

    Old Town© dreamstime

    The most popular place to visit in the city is Old Town Albuquerque which is the original site the Spanish settled in the 1700s. Spanning around ten blocks in total, it boasts several attractive adobe buildings and has lots of interesting historic landmarks and museums to check out.

    Set around its central plaza are countless art galleries and shops selling Southwestern souvenirs and Native American artworks as well as the centuries-old San Felipe de Neri Church. Its cobblestone streets are also home to some great restaurants and bars while talented street performers lend the area a lively atmosphere. In addition, you can also find many of Albuquerque’s main tourist attractions and museums in or around the Old Town.

  • Behind the Scenes: Making Olmeca Altos Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico

    [Photographs: Michael Dietsch]

    Note from the Author: On a recent press trip hosted by Olmeca Altos Tequila, I toured the Destileria Colonial de Jalisco to see firsthand how tequila is made.

    The Los Altos highlands of Jalisco are known for their iron-rich red soil and high altitude: we’re talking about 7,000 feet above sea level. (Take that, Mile High City!) This is where Olmeca Altos tequila is produced, in Arandas, about two hours east of Guadalajara. The distillery, Destileria Colonial de Jalisco, is fairly modern, having opened in 1997 to handle production of Patron, which, thanks to a business dispute, was only briefly produced at this plant.

    The distillery makes a few tequilas just for the Mexican market, as well as three brands for export: Olmeca, Olmeca Tezon, and Olmeca Altos. The original Olmeca is a mixto tequila, a blend of agave and sugar. (Need a refresher on tequila production and styles? Check out our primer!) Tezon is a 100%-agave, pure-tahona tequila, which means not only that it contains no sugar but also that it’s made entirely from agave crushed by a large stone wheel, as opposed to a roller mill. (I’ll explain the differences between tahona milling and roller milling in more detail later. Incidentally, Tezon is not currently available in the United States, but it might return here in the near future.)

    Piñas

    Tequila is made from agave hearts, called piñas.

    Both the entry-level Olmeca mixto and the top-shelf Tezon are popular in Europe, but the two tequilas occupy very distinct and disparate positions on liquor store shelves. Pernod Ricard, owner of the brand, wanted to develop a new tequila to occupy a middle ground in the market between the mixto and the fanciest bottling.

    Jesús Speaks of Composting

    Jesús Hernandez walking us through the tequila-making process.

    Jesús Hernandez, master distiller at the Destileria Colonial de Jalisco, met with bartenders from England who wanted a tequila that was both mixable and sippable, with an agave-forward profile that also carried lively fresh citrus notes. But they really wanted something a little more affordable than many of the 100%-agave brands that were available.

    So Hernandez got to tinkering in his distillery and came up with Altos, which is made from a blend of two distillates: one is the same tequila that goes into high-end Tezon, the pure-tahona juice. The other is crushed using a roller mill, which makes for a more efficient process and provides the citrusy notes those bartenders were looking for. Altos is available in two expressions: Olmeca Altos Plata (an unaged blanco tequila) runs about $20 in the US, and Olmeca Altos Reposado sells for about $25. They’re just now ramping up US distribution, so if you can’t find it just yet, keep looking.

    Copper Stills

    Want a peek behind the scenes where Olmeca Altos is made? Head on over to the slideshow »

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  • The Best Things I Ate in Mexico City and Puebla

    Tlacoyitos, a Mexico-City specialty. [Photographs: Daniel Gritzer]

    I’ve been immersed in Mexican cooking for years. As a cook working in New York City restaurants, many of my colleagues were from Mexico, and they cooked Mexican food for the staff regularly. Then, since moving to Jackson Heights, Queens, in January—one of the country’s most diverse neighborhoods with a big Mexican community—I’ve become obsessed with Pueblan specialties like cemita sandwiches. Not to mention the standard amount of Mexican-food-eating we all do in this country.

    But for all my exposure to Mexican foods, I’d never actually been to Mexico, a travel omission that was feeling more and more glaring as the years went by. When a good friend decided to have a wedding in Tulum several weeks ago, my girlfriend Kate and I made sure to tack on our own trip to Mexico City in the days preceding it.

    Here are some of the best street foods, snacks, and restaurant dishes we ate there, as well as a few highlights from an impromptu visit to Puebla.

    Fresh Tortillas

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    I’d argue that one of the main things that separates really good Mexican food from all the rest is the quality of the masa, the corn-flour dough that’s used to make tortillas, tamales, and countless other corn products. At the very least, I think that’s one of the biggest problems with Mexican food in New York City: There’s not nearly enough good, freshly made masa here, and our Mexican food suffers for it. (It’s not an accident that one of my favorite Mexican foods in New York is a sandwich that’s served on bread, not tortillas.)

    I actually have a really weird Proustian memory of fresh-made masa from my childhood (weird, in that you’d sooner expect a guy who grew up in Oaxaca to have a deep-rooted masa memory, not a half-Jewish guy from Brooklyn who’d never been to Mexico before).

    When I was little, I’d visit my bubbe in Silver Spring, Maryland, and we’d frequently go to the Children’s Museum in D.C. The place was really cool: I remember staring in wonder at a wall of license plates from every single state, and dressing up in a real firefighter’s coat to slide down a mini version of a firehouse pole. But one of the most memorable parts of that museum was a small, dark room in an area of the museum dedicated to Native Americans. It had an especially hallowed feel, and on some visits, a woman would be sitting on the floor of the room, pressing freshly made masa into tortillas, and then cooking them on an electric griddle. She’d hand them to the children as snacks.

    To this day, that smell triggers intense memories for me. I don’t know for sure, but I think she was using fresh nixtamalized masa, that is, made from scratch and not from masa harina, because the memory comes back strongest on the rare occasions that I get to eat the real thing.

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    Walking around Mexico City, where plenty of independent mills still make fresh masa daily and sell the tortillas for a song, the aroma pours out onto the street. My mind returned again and again to that recess in the Washington D.C. Children’s Museum.

    What I’d give for these kinds of tortilla-makers in New York.

    Insects

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    I’m just gonna cut to the chase and show you the thing that will gross the most people out: Insects. A lot has been written about the potential for insects to become an important high-protein human food-source, and in much of the world hardly an eyelash would bat at the idea. But here in the States, eating insects is still a troubling idea for a very big portion of the population.

    I’ve always wanted to taste more insects, and while the opportunity has come up from time to time, this trip to Mexico City was my first big chance to go hog wild on bugs. And the thing is, if you haven’t eaten bugs yet, let me tell you: Bugs taste good.

    First, we have the fried worms you see in the photo above. They’re actually not really worms, but caterpillars. More specifically, they’re caterpillars that feed on maguey plants (the agave used to make tequila and mescal); in Mexico they’re called gusanos de maguey or chinicuiles.

    But what do they taste like? To me, they’re like the lovechild of French fries and fried clam strips. That makes them an incredibly delicious food in my book.

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    I’ve eaten ants before, mostly in gag gifts like those silly lollypops with bugs encased in the candy. But I’d never had ant eggs before. They’re called escamoles, and they have a wonderful creamy, almost caviar-like texture (but with less of a liquid-y pop) and a mild, earthy flavor. The ones above were cooked with garlic and maybe a little butter, and we ate them folded into tortillas.

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    My pal Ernesto here is about to take a nice big bite of escamoles, and just look how happy he is! See? There’s no reason to fear ant eggs! (In case you can’t tell by his expression, we were pretty sloshed on mescal at this point.)

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    Apologies for the low light in the photo above: Kate and I were in a mescal bar lit exclusively by candles. Still, I wanted to get a shot of our spread: mescal, orange slices, pumpkin seeds, some baby corn, and a nice big bowl of chapulines—grasshoppers cooked with lime juice and salt, among other things. They’re tart and crunchy and as addictive as pretzels. No, scratch that, they’re definitely more addictive than pretzels. In dark rooms, though, I’d recommend not thinking too much about how they could be mistaken for a bowl of roaches. Roaches are a line I will not cross.

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    One last insect call-out was this dish from the stellar restaurant called Pujol (more on that below). This is a signature dish at the restaurant: fresh baby corn, still connected to their tender husks, smoked in a dried gourd and coated in a creamy sauce made from coffee and red ants. I can’t say I was able to discern the exact flavor of the red ants, but altogether it really is a remarkably delicious dish with an equally striking presentation.

    Milanesa Cemita in Puebla

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    Cemitas were one of the foods I was most excited to eat during our trip. And I’d assumed that Mexico City—a bustling metropolis located just a few hours away from Puebla—would be an easy place to find some truly great ones. But it became pretty clear after a few days that while there are spots in the DF that sell cemitas, the only way I was going to try the real deal would be to go to Puebla. So Kate and I hopped on a bus to Puebla early one morning. In case there were any doubts, yes, I will travel for hours just to eat a sandwich.

    Even in Puebla, though, we had trouble finding a good cemita at first. I was almost in disbelief: Was it be possible that New York actually has tastier cemitas than Puebla, Mexico? Thankfully, the answer ended up being no, though there are some interesting differences between the cemitas I get in Queens and the ones I ate in Mexico. (One day, in a larger cemita piece that I’m planning on writing, I’ll share the story of one of the worst cemitas I ever had, right there in Puebla, the heart of cemita country.)

    As we walked the streets in search of something to restore my faith in the cemita as it’s made in Mexico, we finally came across Cemitas del Carmen (above). It called to me like a mirage in the desert.

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    Inside, I found a man I can only describe as the Dom Demarco of cemitas. He lovingly put my milanesa (breaded cutlet) cemita together, pan-frying the cutlet to order, masterfully shredding the Oaxacan cheese into angel-hair-thin strands, thoughtfully placing the leaves of papalo, and layering each successive ingredient with such care. It was a joy just to watch.

    The result was the beauty above, an example of perfect construction and proportion.

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    He asked us to sign the wall. We were the first English speakers to do so, and I couldn’t help putting a little Serious Eats tag in there, just so it was clear which gringos had wandered in first.

    Travelers to Puebla, be sure to seek this place out (and sign your names next to ours)!

    Tacos Arabes in Puebla

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    Puebla is also home to one of the more interesting taco variations: tacos arabes. A relative of al pastor tacos, tacos arabes also feature marinated pork cooked on a spit, but instead of being served in a corn tortilla, they’re served in pita-like flatbreads called pan arabe.

    It’s like a gyro and an al pastor taco smashed into one. Why haven’t more people started selling these? (Especially places that serve crap tortillas…)

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    Barbacoa Tacos at Arroyo, Al Pastor Tacos at El Vilsito, and Suadero, Longaniza, and Cabeca Tacos at El Borrego Viudo

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    Barbacoa taco at Arroyo

    There’s no way to go to Mexico and not eat an obscene number of tacos. First up, the barbacoa tacos at Arroyo, which, according to Wikipedia, is the largest Mexican restaurant in the world. It certainly did seem huge, so I’d believe it.

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    The barbacoa, here made from sheep, comes as a massive slab of meat that you pull apart in shreds and chunks and stuff into tender tortillas, topping it with whichever of the housemade salsas you desire. I’ve seen several trusted sources that claim that Arroyo is one of the best places to get barbacoa, and while I believe that, the Arroyo experience is about more than just the meat: The dining rooms are packed with families out celebrating birthdays and other milestones, the ceiling rafters flutter with colorful paper flags, and mariachi bands play Colombian hits like Jorge Caledon’s Que Bonita Es Esta Vida*.

    I couldn’t help but sing along when the band whipped that one out. It’s infectious!

    Update: A reader informs me that Jorge Caledon’s track is actually a cover of the original Mexican version by a group called Tres De Copas. I think I’ve found the recording here. Oh, and look, now I’ve found a mariachi version as well.

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    This guy’s face spells FUN.

    For more Mexico-City taco intel, I reached out to my good friend Jordana Rothman, who’s currently writing a taco-focused cookbook with Chef Alex Stupak. They’d taken an insane whirlwind taco tour of Mexico City a few weeks before, so Jordana had eaten at literally dozens of taquerias and sent me her handpicked favorites. Score!

    Jordana’s top pick had been El Vilsito, and I have to agree. Not only are the al pastor tacos great, but the whole scene is worth taking in. Apparently it’s an auto-body shop by day, and then at night they roll up the walls to unveil the taqueria. There’s an electric energy there, and it isn’t because there are shelves of spark-plugs nearby.

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    The taqueros themselves are worth watching. I’ve never seen such deft carving and taco assembly: Holding the tortilla at hip height, these masters of marinated pork slide their knives along the skewered meat, and paper-thin slices tumble into the tortilla below. Then they swipe at the pineapple perched at the top of the skewer, flicking the slices of fruit through the air and catching them in the taco-holding hand. It’s not even showmanship, it’s just pure skill and efficiency.

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    Ernesto makes one more cameo with his al pastor taco. We’d actually already had a full sit-down dinner, and this was the first of several after-dinner tacos we ate the night. It’s what I’d call a Bang-Bang-Bang.

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    After El Vilsito, we headed to El Borrego Viudo, a Mexico City institution that specializes in cabeza (from the meat of beef heads, above) and suadero (a beef cut from near the belly, below) tacos. The longaniza (sausage) tacos there were also pretty great. Bang-Bang-Bang.

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    Breakfasts at Red Tree House

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    On the very strong recommendation of a friend, Kate and I stayed at a hotel called the Red Tree House in Condesa, a great neighborhood for walking and eating.

    I don’t usually put much thought into the places I stay when traveling, as long as they’re clean. For me, a hotel is mostly just a place to store my stuff and sleep, and otherwise I don’t want to be there. The Red Tree House really challenged my thinking. The staff there is exceptional: personable, helpful in a way that goes above and beyond, and frankly, you just kinda want to be pals with them all (we actually did become pals with them—Ernesto, whom you saw above eating the ant eggs and al pastor taco, works there and Kate and I ended up going out with him and his girlfriend quite a bit).

    Anyway, when we first arrived at the hotel, they told us they served breakfast in the morning. That’s the kind of thing I normally tune out. I’m in Mexico City, dammit, and there’s a whole city’s worth of food to eat outside these hotel doors: I’m not wasting one square inch of stomach space on a hotel’s continental spread.

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    Turns out I’m an idiot. I looked forward to breakfast at the Red Tree House more and more every day: fresh tortillas with refried beans and melted cheese, or with flavorful stewed tomatoes, or with salsa verde (and more melted cheese), plus churros, fresh papaya, on and on. It’s worth whatever digestive real estate you can spare. (And no, they’re not rewarding me in any way to write this.)

    Quesadilla at the Lagunilla Market

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    Kate, Ernesto, his girlfriend Sally, and I spent a Sunday wandering the Lagunilla flea market, a sprawling tangle of tents stretching several streets and filled with all kinds of interesting tchotchkes. Ernesto and I got blotto pretty quickly, first on massive paper cups of michelada with sticky chile-infused, cherry-red syrup dripping down the sides, then with a bottle of mescal Ernesto had stashed away in a bag. Only later did we find out that the police had been at the market nabbing people for drinking in public, so I guess I narrowly dodged a trip to a Mexican lockup.

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    This one stand at the market caught my attention with its wide comal (griddle) and buckets of fresh masa, some from blue corn, some from yellow. There were all sorts of things to order, but I went for a Mexican-style quesadilla, which features an ovoid tortilla filled with heaps of melted cheese.

    Tlacoyitos at El Parnita

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    Tlacoyos, which also go by the diminutive tlacoyitos (perhaps only when they’re made in a smaller size?), are a specialty of Mexico City that I had never heard of before.

    The ones pictured here are from a restaurant called El Parnita. It’s a trendy place that makes a lot of good seafood (among other things) and, as we discovered, there can be a bit of a wait to get a table. Everything we had was delicious, but these tlacoyitos stood out in my mind: they’re almond-shaped cakes of masa stuffed with refried beans and topped with melted cheese and avocado, so simple and so good.

    Pretty Much Everything at Pujol

    Pujol’s “aguachile”, an artistic riff on a classic type of Mexican ceviche.

    As I mentioned above and also in my article on aguachile (a style of Mexican ceviche), chef Jose Enrique’s Pujol was one of the most exciting meals I’ve had in a long time. One of the sad side effects of working in the food industry and eating a lot of really excellent food all the time (I know, poor me!) is that it can become harder and harder to feel truly ecstatic about high-end restaurant experiences. At a certain point, it’s rare to encounter great food that you feel you’ve never seen before.

    Pujol was not one of those experiences. Everything felt new to me—unfamiliar ingredients, different flavors, totally refreshing. It’s one of the best things about travel, really. Pujol is tasting-menu only, and it’s hard to choose a favorite dish, so I’ll give you a quick tour of several.

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    This wild mussel was amazingly sweet, backed up by a fresh ocean brine and topped with a broth infused with guajillo chiles and cucumber.

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    Fish taco with longaniza sausage, black beans, and hoja santa (a type of herb).

    Pujol offers three different tacos on the menu, and guests generally each choose one of the three to try. Kate and I opted for all of them.

    They’re the most beautiful tacos I’ve ever seen.

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    Suckling lamb taco with avocado-leaf adobo and guacamole.

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    Smoked mushroom taco in a roasted corn tortilla with tomato seeds and watercress.

    Tuna Tostada at Contramar

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    Our last stop in Mexico City, Contramar, is another excellent spot for seafood, like fish tacos done in the style of al pastor (surprisingly good) and octopus aguachile. But I think the highlight for me was this tuna tostada that the restaurant brought to the table as an amuse-type freebie. Topped with fried leeks and avocado, it managed to be both light and fresh, yet also rich and deeply flavored.

    If you’re only in Mexico City for a day, which places should you go? Sorry, no way to choose. You’re just going to have to make a Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang-Bang day of it.

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  • 17 Best Things to do in Santa Fe, New Mexico (with Photos)

    One of the oldest cities in the United States, New Mexico’s state capital Santa Fe has a rich history and heritage for you to delve into. Home to a mesmerizing mix of cultures, its age-old streets are a treat to explore with attractive Native American adobe buildings and charming Spanish colonial churches alongside magnificent Mexican missions.

    Besides being renowned for its cultural diversity and interesting historic tourist attractions, the city is also famed for its extraordinary arts scene. While plenty of galleries dot its streets, Santa Fe is also an important center for the performing arts and hosts lots of great cultural events and festivals. Other things to do in Santa Fe include visiting marvelous museums and exploring it’s scenic setting at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

    17. El Rancho de las Golondrinas

    El Rancho de las Golondrinas© dreamstime

    Set just twenty minutes’ drive to the south of the city center is El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a huge, historic ranch that is now a living history museum. Home to lots of beautiful old buildings, orchards and vineyards, the sprawling site offers up an invaluable look at the history, heritage, culture and traditions of eighteenth and nineteenth century New Mexico.

    Once a rest stop on the Royal Road that ran from New Mexico to Santa Fe, the fortified residence that is the ‘Ranch of the Swallows’ now instead welcomes tourists and school groups to its scenic site. A very educational and interactive place, it has lots of delightful displays and demonstrations that highlight how farmers, blacksmiths and millers used to live and work during Spanish colonial times.

    16. Santa Fe Farmers Market

    Santa Fe Farmers Market© dreamstime

    Since being founded way back in 1968 by a small group of farmers, the Santa Fe Farmers Market has grown to include over 150 local growers and vendors. A lovely lively yet laidback place to visit, it is located just a stone’s throw away from the city center in the Santa Fe Railyard.

    Besides perusing its endless stands and stalls that are laden with fresh produce and colorful foods, visitors can also shop for souvenirs, sample some local treats and stop off for a coffee or a snack. While its Saturday morning market is the most popular and has live music and bands playing, there are also smaller markets to stop by on both Tuesdays and Sundays.

    15. Ski Santa Fe

    Ski Santa Feflickr/cl

    Nestled away just to the northeast of the city are the sensational, snow-coated slopes of Ski Santa Fe which is one of the most accessible and attractive resorts in the area. In total, it has 88 terrific trails and a tantalizing terrain park for you to try out with lots of spellbinding scenery and views to be enjoyed from up high.

    Suitable for beginners, intermediates and experts alike, its snowy slopes have a total vertical drop of some 500 or so meters and are serviced by seven ski lifts. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, guests can also enjoy some great shopping and dining on the mountain with some epic hiking trails and mountain bike paths to be found nearby.

    14. Museum of Indian Arts & Culture

    Museum of Indian Arts & Cultureflickr/vm

    A very interesting and impressive place to visit, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture offers up a fascinating look at the origins, history and traditions of the Southwest’s Native American people. Set just to the south of the center on Museum Hill, its captivating collection includes an astounding array of incredible artworks, artifacts and archaeological findings.

    Founded all the way back in 1909, the magnificent museum protects, preserves and promotes the various peoples and pueblos’ history, culture and heritage. As well as perusing all its phenomenal pottery, photographs and permanent exhibitions, visitors can also attend delightful dance, music and storytelling events.

    13. San Miguel Chapel

    San Miguel Chapel© dreamstime

    While it appears to be quite a simple structure at first sight, the San Miguel Chapel is remarkably thought to be the oldest surviving church in the whole of the United States. Although the current chapel dates back to 1710, an earlier version stood in the same spot for almost a century before being burned and destroyed during a revolt.

    Originally built by Franciscan friars and Tlaxcalan Indians, the charming chapel now exhibits lots of attractive adobe architecture and is adorned with a small and simple bell tower. In contrast to its earth-colored outside, its interior is painted white with unique artworks and an impressive altar on its walls. Well worth visiting for its historic and religious importance, San Miguel Chapel lies in the historic heart of Santa Fe.

    12. Palace of the Governors

    Palace of the Governors© dreamstime

    Lining one side of Santa Fe’s pretty and pleasant plaza is the Palace of the Governors which was impressively built way back in 1610. As the oldest public building in the country, it served as the state’s seat of government for centuries. Today, it is protected as part of the marvelous New Mexico History Museum.

    As it is full of fabulous furnishings and period pieces, the palace is a treat to explore with its ancient artifacts offering up an interesting look at the history of the building, city and state. Exhibiting some excellent adobe architecture, the simple, single-story structure is now a National Historic Landmark.

    11. Santa Fe Indian Market

    Santa Fe Indian Market© dreamstime

    Every year in August thousands upon thousands of artists, vendors, tourists and collectors pack into the city for the superb Santa Fe Indian Market. Featuring over a 1,200 of the best Native American artists from more than 220 tribes and pueblos, the colorful and chaotic cultural celebration is the largest such show and market of its kind in the world.

    Set up in the city’s central plaza and surrounding streets are a myriad of stands and stalls that sell everything from beautiful beadwork and basketry to glimmering jewellery, textiles and sculptures. In addition to this, you can also visit open studios and galleries and watch Native music, film and cultural events with the most exquisite artworks receiving prizes in juried competitions.

    10. New Mexico History Museum

    New Mexico History Museum© dreamstime

    Home to an astounding array of interesting artifacts and exhibits, the New Mexico History Museum can be found just behind the Palace of the Governors in the center of the city. Well worth visiting if you have the chance, it offers up a fascinating look into the people, cultures and communities of both the state and the Southwest.

    Only opened in 2009, the magnificent museum has three floors of photos, prints and archaeological findings for you to peruse. These look into everything from indigenous life in the state, to Spanish colonization and important events from the twentieth century. In addition to this, you can also buy some great souvenirs from the fantastic facility’s daily Native American arts market.

    9. New Mexico State Capitol

    New Mexico State Capitol© dreamstime

    Just a short stroll from Santa Fe Plaza is the New Mexico State Capitol which is the state’s seat of government. A unique and unusual building, it is informally known as the ‘Roundhouse’, as its arresting architecture is designed to look like the circular emblem of the Zia Pueblo which is also the state’s symbol.

    Built in 1966, it exhibits a delightful mix of Territorial Revival and Neoclassical architectural styles with its remarkable Rotunda and its stained-glass ceiling undoubtedly being the highlight. As well as seeing the House and Senate chambers from above, visitors can also check out all the excellent art that is dotted about which represents the history and culture of the peoples of New Mexico.

    8. Museum of International Folk Art

    Museum of International Folk Artflickr/mksfca

    An incredible place to visit, the Museum of International Folk Art boasts a captivating collection of some 135,000 objects that come from more than a hundred countries. The biggest and best folk art museum in the world, its exhilarating artifacts and exhibitions lie just a short drive to the south of the city center.

    Since opening in 1953, its colossal collection has continued to grow with terrific toys and textiles now on show alongside colorful carvings, ceramics and costumes from all around the globe. As well as showcasing lots of splendid local Hispanic art, the marvelous museum also has some lovely scenes and displays that depict daily life in different societies.

    7. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

    Georgia O'Keeffe Museum© dreamstime

    Situated right in the city center is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum which is dedicated to the life and legacy of the world-renowned artist. In total, its gorgeous galleries house over a thousand of her fabulous paintings, drawings and sculptures with countless other artworks by contemporaries also being on display.

    As well as perusing the largest O’Keeffe collection in the world, visitors can watch a film on her life and artistic achievements and see some of her personal items and memorabilia. Located in what was once an adobe Baptist church, the museum certainly warrants a visit for its wonderful watercolor works and pretty pastel pieces that depict the life and landscapes of New Mexico.

    6. Loretto Chapel

    Loretto Chapel© dreamstime

    While it is most famed for its ‘miraculous’ spiral staircase, the lovely little Loretto Chapel has lots of other fine features for visitors to enjoy. Built way back in 1878, it exhibits lots of attractive architecture with beautiful buttresses, superb spires and stunning stained glass windows also on show.

    Inside the glorious Gothic Revival church, however, is its standout sight – the striking spiral staircase around which so many myths and legends swirl. Appearing as if it is unsupported, the unique and unusual staircase stands out delightfully against the white walls of the charming chapel. Now both a museum and wedding venue, Loretto Chapel can be found in the historic heart of Santa Fe.

    5. Meow Wolf

    Meow Wolf© dreamstime

    An extraordinary interactive and immersive art installation, the mesmerizing Meow Wolf certainly promises to be unlike anything you’ve seen or experienced before. Located in what was once an old bowling alley, its surreal scenes and settings are lots of fun to explore and appear decidedly otherworldly and unique.

    As you search for clues and crack codes relating to the disappearance of a Californian family, you wander mysterious hallways, find hidden doorways and pass through portals to other worlds and dimensions. Along the way, you come across lots of breathtaking artworks with magical music ringing in the air. Opened in 2016, the House of Eternal Return, as it is known, lies just fifteen minutes’ drive to the southwest of the city center.

    4. Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

    Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi© dreamstime

    One of the city’s most important and impressive historic sights is the lovely Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi which lies right in the center of town. Built between 1869 and 1886 in a ravishing Romanesque Revival style, its fantastic facade is flanked by two towers and sports a wonderful rose window above a pretty portico.

    Despite being quite austere inside, its nave is lined by colossal Corinthian columns with charming little chapels to be found to either side. One of its standout sights is a small statue of the Virgin Mary which is known as La Conquistadora and is the oldest such sculpture of its kind in the country.

    3. Santa Fe Plaza

    Santa Fe Plaza© dreamstime

    The historic heart of the city, Santa Fe Plaza has been at the center of life in town for more than four hundred years. Lying right in the center of the city, the scenic square is surrounded by lots of age-old adobe buildings and historic houses with magnificent monuments and museums dotted about.

    A lovely, lively yet laidback place, the ‘Plaza’ as it is simply known to locals has lots of excellent art galleries and boutiques with many vendors selling Native American art and crafts. As it regularly hosts markets and music events, parades and festivals, there is always something to see or do. With many souvenir shops on offer, restaurants to try and museums to explore, it is impossible to visit Santa Fe without passing through the plaza at least once or twice.

    2. Santa Fe Opera House

    Santa Fe Opera House© dreamstime

    Nestled away just to the north of the city is the state-of-the-art Santa Fe Opera House which puts on world-class opera performances each and every summer. As it is partially open-air, the phenomenal venue also offers up spellbinding views out over the Jemez Mountains which act as a breath-taking backdrop to its sweeping stage.

    Established as recently as 1998, the opera house exhibits some incredible architecture with its sail-like ceiling reflecting sounds from the stage to the audience. Every season it hosts a myriad of spectacular shows and spectacles with up-and-coming opera singers performing alongside firmly established stars. One of the best and most memorable places to catch a performance in the Southwest, the Santa Fe Opera House is definitely worth checking out if you have the chance.

    1. Canyon Road

    Canyon Road© dreamstime

    A popular and picturesque place to visit and explore, Canyon Road is remarkably home to over a hundred art galleries, studios and workshops. Set just to the southeast of Santa Fe’s center, the artistic area really is an art lover’s dream with everything from contemporary crafts and quirky clothing to glittering jewels, sparkling silverware and stunning sculptures on show.

    Exhibiting stunning and evocative Native American arts, crafts and artifacts, its galleries are a treat to peruse with many being located in attractive buildings. While some of the artists are renowned internationally, others are famed locally for their fantastic folk art which highlights the history and heritage of the region. With lots of great restaurants and cafes also to be found along the route, Canyon Road is not to be missed for its appealing arts, architecture and ambience.