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Enjoying the wine experience at Gruet's tasting room so much, https://www.chowhound.com/post/gruet-... I was a little late to meet my friend at her office. But soon we were off to make a secular pilgrimage to Sanctuario El Chimayó https://www.holychimayo.us/. While that was our destination, the stunning "High Road" vistas alone make this drive worthwhile.
Besides the scenery and Sanctuario, the other destination point in this small town is Rancho de Chimayo, a New Mexico classic. Chimayó is where the state's finest red chile pepper, the Chimayó red is grown, and the restaurant at Rancho de Chimayo reputedly makes the state's best version.
The afternoon was just warm and sunny enough in late-May to enjoy an early dinner outside. This turned into the perfect evening to sit on the terrace protected from the wind. With few other customers mid-week, the atmosphere was quiet and sedate. We were surprised to see a tour bus group on the other side of the restaurant when we left. Did not hear them at all.
I started with a cup of green chile stew that was medium-hot, tinted with red tomatoes and very meaty tasting. This offered a few chunks of tender pork and potatoes, served with a thick flour tortilla.
My friend's carne adovada was delicious too and I liked the herb-y side of puzzle on the side.
The accompanying sopaipillas teed up a discussion about how these seemed almost biscuity and quick bread-like compared to earlier food explorations.
While I lack the experience to rate compared to the rest of the state, I can say that the red chile sauce on my sopapilla stuffed with shredded beef, beans and rice blew me away. Complex and bursting with intensity, the red chile filled the mouth with sunny flavors at moderate heat, and not a hint of bitter. Rancho de Chimayo takes credit for popularizing stuffed sopaipillas. With some excellent guacamole on the plate, this made for a lot of food. I packed up half my plate to take home.
My previous visits to the state were too short for me to get beyond chile and carne adovada. So shredded beef was a revelation. I can only hope that the next one will be as resonant and intensely beefy as this.
The magenta-hued prickly pear lemonade frozen slushies were too sweet for my taste. But easily remedied by adding some ice to dilute it.
Rancho de Chimayo is a very special place. I think our experience was enhanced because we visited the Sanctuario beforehand to understand the culture and history of the area. I was very happy with my food despite some spotty service and I'd return gladly. Yet, the best part was the scenic road to and from, especially our return in the golden light at 7:30pm when the red rock formations and verdant green from the heavy winter rains had a special glow.
RANCHO DE CHIMAYÓ RESTAURANTE
300 Juan Medina Rd.
Chimayó, New Mexico 87522
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