Chili, Chile, Chill…or Grill Caliente

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fried green chili peppers with dipping sauce
The fried green chiles were served with a chipotle ranch dressing.

I often say that I don’t want to move away from Louisiana because of the food.  Few states have a culinary heritage as rich and colorful as my home state.  New Mexico is one exception.  In my travels there, I have come to especially appreciate the chili sauce.  In fact, if you want to try it, El Pinto Restaurant in Albuquerque has some of the best chili sauce I have tried and you can order it and have it sent to your home!   The sauce is made on site and with a family recipe. Their web site also has some more information about the chile.

There seems to be some confusion about usage of the word and “chile” is often used interchangeably with the word, “chili.”  If you are traveling in New Mexico and are offered chili it is unlikely that your host is offering a stew with meat and beans.  Nine times out of ten when you hear that you will be served chili in New Mexico you will also hear the words, “red or green.”  If you can’t decide you should say, “Christmas,” which means that you will get both red and green chile sauce with your meal.  New Mexicans take pride in their chili and many have a family recipe…sort of like Louisianans take pride in their family gumbo recipes.

I found a site that has much more detail about New Mexico and chile.

When I was in New Mexico last December I had dinner at a warm and welcoming restaurant that I liked so much I ate there two nights in a row.  Ruidoso, New Mexico is a town in the mountains.  It is my habit when I travel to check my travel apps and consult the Internet for recommendations.  I checked in to my hotel and then proceeded to make a short list of candidates.  Then I went and asked the desk attendant.  I was so glad I did!  He told me that he eats often at Grill Caliente and so I decided to try it.

fried chilis with chipotle ranch

Grill Caliente is on 2800 Sudderth Drive in Ruidoso and was just a little over a block away from the Ruidoso Hotel.  I noticed that there are tables outside and imagine that outdoor seating must be popular in summer months.  However because it was cold outside when I walked in they offered me a table near the fireplace.

Karen Davis and her husband Phil were such gracious hosts that I almost felt like I was having dinner in their home.  I learned that they opened a different restaurant in Ruidoso and sold it years before.  They moved away but the mountains called them back and they returned to open Grill Caliente.

Grill Caliente offers a menu of southwestern themed food and the sacred chili is ever present on the menu.  Additionally their beer and wine menu offers a selection that should appeal to a variety of tastes and wines are offered by the glass and by the bottle.

As I mentioned I had dinner there two nights in a row and tried different menu items — all were well presented and delicious.  I think my two favorite items were the Veggie Poblano that I had the first night (grilled poblano pepper stuffed with grilled vegetables and topped with queso blanco and served with black beans.) and the Fried Green Chili Rings (green chili, poblano and jalapeno rings battered and fried, served with chipotle ranch dipping sauce) I had the second night.  However the tenderloin taco and mushroom taco I had the second night were delicious as well.  I can still taste the veggies in the stuffed poblano.  They were grilled just the way I like them — crunchy still, but a flame kissed flavor imparted by the grill enhanced the taste of the zucchini and squash inside the poblano.

I took the leftovers back to my hotel, thinking that I would be able to munch on them on my long drive back to Albuquerque.  Alas, the refrigerator in my room did not cool and I had to discard the box.  I may try to recreate the stuffed poblano at home, but something tells me that I will just have to return to Grill Caliente — if not for the fried chili peppers or the dessert that I was too full to try, for the warm and welcoming hosts who made me feel at home.

2 tacos -- one steak and one mushroom
2 tacos — one steak and one mushroom

Grill Caliente on Urbanspoon

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