The salad-eater in me was nervous about a week in New Mexico, but as soon as my friend Gillian Young and I fastened our seat-belts in our rented pick-up truck, I found myself craving a “wet” burrito (or two). We started in Albuquerque and spent the night at the Los Poblanos hotel in what may have been the most comfortable bed I have ever had the pleasure of sleeping in. What began as an experimental farm in the 1930s continues to function complete with alpaca, vast veggie gardens, a rose garden and the best breakfast in the state. Almost every ingredient on our plates the next morning came from the property itself.
From Albuquerque we headed to Santa Fe, just in time for the Saturday farmers market. Now, I consider myself an expert on farmers markets all over the world at this point in my career, and I can say with confidence that this market is unique. Stationed alongside decommissioned train tracks, vendors are unusually specialized, some selling only wreaths of recently dried chile peppers, freshly bundled New Mexican sage smudge sticks or barrels of smokey roasted green chiles, the culinary mascot of the state. I bought homemade vinegar tonics, green chile buffalo sausage on a stick and more produce than a person on the road should ever have on their person at one time. That night we retired to Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese spa and retreat with tiny little cabins and big fireplaces. We got to wear enormous canvas robes in public and we were likely the first people to ever make use of the miniature hibachi grill we found on the patio of our room. I made this assumption I made when we had to resort to a fireplace shovel and tongs to flip burgers and prod mushrooms (grill tools did not come with the room).
From Santa Fe we drove to Taos, my favorite city on our tour. We visited artist Larry Bell, a seminal member of the California Light and Space movement of the 1960s. Larry and I had met before at my Salad Garden at the Getty Museum, but on this occasion I got an in-depth look at his working process (which involves a room-sized vacuum and lots of talk of negative ions), his collection of over 200 guitars, and lots of QT with his pooch Pinky (check out his salad for more). In the meantime, we fell madly in love with our hotel, the historic Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Everyone in town has an opinion on Miss Dodge, an infamous art world Grande Dame, who is credited for bringing the big names artists out to Taos for the first time: D.H. Lawrence, O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley and Ansel Adams included. She bought a rambling adobe home, where she later lived with Tony, the man from the Pueblo who she would go on to call her third husband. This was quite the scandalous move for an heiress at that time. The home was purchased by Dennis Hopper in the 1970s after he completed his epic filmic ode to New Mexico, Easy Rider. Many infamous drug-fueled parties later, the intimate bed and breakfast was just our style (less party-party, more crackling fire and contemplation). Our room was a solarium with 360 degrees views of the surrounding mountains. There are books of Taos artists portraits, torrid tales of Mabel herself, and hand painted “rugs” running along the tiny wooden staircases. I love this place.
Feeling a bit weighed down by the local fare and green chile on EVERYTHING, we picked up a salad at the food Coop. I don’t usually go for the pre-packaged option, but then we discovered the Providers Crunchy Burmese Ginger Salad. I would go on to eat one a day for the rest of the trip, and purchase two to eat on my travel day home. Composed of chunks of thinly shaved cabbage, raw ginger, jalapeño, and a bag of salad confetti: Toasted coconut, fried garlic, crunchy lentils and toasted peanuts, we had to know from where this plastic container of genius came? We traced it back to its source, and went to eat a salad at the Providers commissary. They have set-up a little cafe, and Gillian and I were certainly their most enthusiastic customers (if their only customers?). If you are traveling in New Mexico and you like to eat fresh veggies, be sure to keep one eye open for all of the mom and pop food coops in town. They all seem to sell this Burmese salad, and for $7 a piece you will be stuffing extras in your carry-on luggage too.
And of course, no trip to New Mexico would be complete without a tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in the town of Abuqui. This is where she spent the later years of her life, growing her own food, cooking, collecting rocks and painting en plein aire. Her sense of home design was as on-point as her paintings, though she was nearly fascist in her minimalist approach. Sadly, the tour is incredibly controlled (and I don’t like to be told what to do), with no photography allowed, but I managed to snap one furtive shot of the adobe wall surrounding the property, one of Georgia’s beloved fruit trees casting big, bold desert shadows.
*Thank you Chopt Creative Salad Company for sending me on this trip.