The last time I posted anything on this blog, I was a brash young 28 year old student, living in Atlanta without a care in the world. Now? Where to begin…?
First off, I’m 29. Seems like a pretty small distinction, but I woke up this morning without any alarms or any pressing place to be at 8am. 8am?! What the hell is the point?! If I had been in this situation when I was 28, I would still be asleep with another few hours to go at this moment. (Note regarding the last sentence: I was thinking about specifying what time it is now as I’m typing this up, but really, no matter what time you end up reading this, that statement applies).
What else is new? I’m living in California now. Sacramento to be more specific. Probably not as exciting of a restaurant town as Atlanta, but being surrounded by farmland means I’ve got access to some of the best products one could hope to cook with. I’ve got a really nice new kitchen too:
There’s actual counter space! Cabinets and drawers! These are things that I could only dream of in my old Atlanta kitchen. Sadly, It’s been difficult finding the time to cook anything legitimate. Indeed, the very first thing I turned my stove on to make was this:
Pre-packaged naeng myun during the 108 degree heat spell Sacramento had. Does it make it a little less pathetic that I boiled the eggs and cooked the beef before I boiled the pre-packaged noodles? I would certainly like to think so, but it doesn’t really.
So how exactly did I end up on the other side of the country? Yes, I’m well aware of the existence of air travel, but I’m a single dude with a car to my name which we all know means…solo road trip!
I think it would be most useful to tell you about the food I ate on this trip in reverse order with one exception…Las Vegas. There are things I still need to contemplate about Vegas before I post about it.
There also isn’t much to say about Arizona, except that there’s some beautiful desert to drive through, the petrified forest was impressive, and fry bread is delicious:
Let’s talk about New Mexico. I actually spent a couple of days in Albuquerque, having powered through most of the other time zones on my road trip, and this was a strategic choice as New Mexico was definitely scheduled to be the most interesting food state on my tour. I ate some fantastic barbecue in Memphis and a big-ass steak in Texas, but Mexican food will win out any day of the week, and New Mexico has a style all its own. Of course, New Mexican cuisine (and by that I mean both Mexican food and non-Mexican food in New Mexico) centers around the Hatch chile, which will find its way into just about any food item. Similar to an Anaheim, but earthier, a little bit more bitter, and definitely with more heat. They’re immensely popular on cheeseburgers, and of course a ton of different restaurants offer their fancy takes on the green chile cheeseburger, but for my first meal in Breaking Bad land, I was more inclined to check out the most accessible and popular version at Blake’s Lotaburger, a regional fast food chain that locals will defend as fiercely as Californians will defend In-n-Out (which I should add really doesn’t need defending, as anyone who believes In-n-Out isn’t good obviously will not respond to logic or reason).
The burger itself was pretty decent. Cooked fresh after ordering, but roasted green chiles cost a little extra though they are generous with the amount. The meat itself suffers from gray burger syndrome, which I think happens when a flat-top isn’t hot enough and a burger steams instead of sears.
Next up…the red or green debate. Chile seems to be interchangeably used to refer to both the pepper and the sauce made from it. Green uses fresh roasted chiles. Red is made from the dried pods, which are hanging up just about everywhere for tourists like myself to take pictures of.
The green vs. red (or for the indecisive: Christmas) question is one where Dr. Goodman’s advice (epidemiology instructor for the non-RSPH kids) works beautifully…”it depends” is an applicable answer in most situations. For example, at the James Beard foundation award-winning Mary and Tito’s cafe, the carne adobada is the signature item, which is pork stewed in red sauce. I decided to sample it stuffed into a sopapilla along with cheese and smothered with more red sauce:
I honestly don’t understand how they manage to keep the sopapilla crispy, but it’s fantastic. Red is mild, with a mole-like cocoa-y dried chile flavor. Green is bright and spicy…a little more straightforward. Green is great to wake up with…like say in a breakfast burrito from Frontier:
Yeah I realize that it looks like there’s just more red on the plate, but that’s actually salsa which is not the same thing. I have a suspicion that the salsa at Frontier is made with plenty of Hatch chiles, given the heat level. Where else could I get my chile fix? I literally googled “best sopapillas in Albuquerque” and came up with Padilla’s Mexican kitchen. A small spot in an anonymous strip mall, but packed with people who seemed to be regulars.
A chile relleno, blue corn enchilada, rice, beans, chips, and salsa (also there was a Tecate in there). While my sister has a fierce love of blue corn pancakes, in tortilla/enchilada form, smothered with green, there’s not a lot to distinguish it from normal yellow corn. The chile relleno? I will go for a relleno anytime anywhere, and of course this was made with a Hatch. Certainly not as friendly to stuff as the larger poblano, but clearly a superior choice. In fact…I seem to recall that a young and handsome home cook/med student in Atlanta had that very idea when he shrugged off the trendy devotion to locally sourced ingredients and got his hands on Hatch chiles all the way out in the South.
I did enjoy the things I ate in New Mexico, and as I was leaving town had a chance to check out the Downtown grower’s market. Up until that point, I don’t recall having seen any attractive women in Albuquerque, but it seems like they were all in hiding until the market. It does, however, beg the question as to whether the hotness of women at farmer’s markets (including the women behind the table) is purely contextual. Would these women be just as attractive if they weren’t picking up a few handfuls of garlic scapes and placing them into their hand-woven reusable shopping bags? If they’re at the farmer’s market, does it imply that they’re going to have batshit delusions about other things like vaccination and the benefits of drinking ionized water? In any case…I decided to buy a jar of red and green from an elderly couple after sampling their products, and it led to both:
And this green chile cheeseburger:
More than 2 months after the conclusion of my road trip, and I’ve finally posted something about it. What am I doing here in Sacramento? I finally graduated from medical school after the 5-year plan, and have come out to start residency. It turns out being a doctor is a time-consuming and pretty tough gig. My first month of internship was spent on inpatient wards. GI rounds? That actually referred to rounding on GI patients and is not just code for sneaking off and eating. Be very very glad that I am not changing the content of this blog to reflect the more realistic GI rounding. Still, I’ll do my best to keep this blog up for the loyal fan base (a.k.a. my mom…who in her retirement will need something to read on the iPad). In the meantime, I think I’ve earned a nap.