Saturday, July 31, 2021

Montezuma NWR - New York

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is 15.6 square miles of mostly swamp located five miles east of Seneca Falls at the northern end of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is one of the best examples of swamp woodlands in New England. It is along the Atlantic Flyway and provides crucial habitat for migratory waterfowl.  
Montezuma NWR map from the official website. 
We were staying in Horseheads, 17 miles south of Watkins Glen, which is at the south end of Seneca Lake. I got up early on a Wednesday morning in late July and left about 4:15 a.m. for a 64 mile drive north to Montezuma, a drive which took me along the eastern ridge above Seneca Lake and through Fayette and Seneca Falls. I arrived a little before sunrise and drove the 3.5 mile Wildlife Drive. I also drove to and stopped briefly at the South Spring Pool Trail and Esker Brook Trails and climbed a large tower to look out over Tschache Pool. The mosquitos were as heavy as I've ever seen before and I did not have any Deet with me. The couple of times I got out of the car I was covered with them, so avoided any prolonged time outside of the car. Toward the end, time was getting short as I needed to be back to Horseheads by 9:00 a.m. But I realized I wanted to get a photo of a swamp rose, a beautiful flower I'd never seen before. So I went back and drove the Auto Tour road again, but that time much faster. I noticed that the lighting was much better for photography and there were more birds the second-go-round, but I did not have time to stop, other than briefly for the swamp roses. 

A walkway near Shorebird Flats just off Hwy 90. 

An eagle statute near the Shorebird Flats walkway. 

A blind I visited early and got eaten alive by mosquitos. 

A beautiful area near North Spring Pool. 

A view east from Hwy 89. The area covered in mist. 

Near Shorebird Flats. 

Canada goose

Female mallards. 

Great blue heron. 

Swamp rose mallow

Female red-winged blackbirds.

Lincoln sparrow

It is a gorgeous refuge and I would love to visit when I had more time.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sparky's - Hatch, NM

Hatch chiles have become famous in the last ten years. In our local grocery stores we will get sections of the produce department devoted to "Hatch Chile" and several years ago we drove to Loma Linda to a store to buy Hatch chiles that were tumbled in a barrel over a fire and had to wait in line to get them. 

The Hatch chile is a New Mexico chile grown in the Hatch Valley, in and around Hatch, New Mexico. The ancestor of the New Mexico chile was grown by Pueblo and Hispano communities. Then a horticulturalist at what is now New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces, about 40 miles southeast, developed the modern New Mexico chile in 1894. It grows green and ripens to red and the New Mexico state questions is "Red or Green?" It is now sold worldwide, including places like Europe, Australia and Japan. Hatch is now often referred to as the "Chile Capital of the World." 

I'd noticed in our trip planning that Hatch was just off I-25, past Las Cruces on our way to Albuquerque. So we decided to do an impromptu visit, crossing over the Rio Grande River and into a town with lots of signs with references to Hatch chile. 

Sparky's stood out like a neon sign, literally. It was gaudy, blaring, in your face kitsch. So over-the-top that it was fun to look and laugh and try a small sample of the famous local vegetable. 

We ordered a chocolate malt with chile in it and a yellow queso with chile and fries. Remarkably, the chile did not ruin the malt and there was plenty in it. It did add a little heat. The queso with chile was just the first of quite a few quesos with chile we would have on the trip. I ordered it every time I saw it on a menu, and that was a lot. It was "finger-licken' good." 

Hatch is a fun stop and Sparky's, whether or not the best food, is the obnoxious showboat that garners the attention. We'll stop again if we ever go by this way again. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Giant Skillet - Las Vegas, NM

While traveling through New Mexico by car we listened to an audio book by Stephen Fried, called "Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West - One Meal at a Time." It was a great book for this trip because much of it related to New Mexico. I was particularly looking forward to Las Vegas, New Mexico, which had two old Fred Harvey hotels: the Hotel Castenada (which let us in the main lobby for a look around even though it was booked by a crew from Amazon filming a movie), near the train station, and the Montezuma Hotel, in Montezuma, a few miles north of Las Vegas and now part of the United World College and not open to visitors without an advance appointment. We also drove by New Mexico Highlands University, a school I'd heard of but knew nothing about. It has an enrollment of about 3,750 students and focuses on students of Latino and Native American backgrounds. 
Giant Skillet

But most of all I was looking forward to eating at Giant Skillet. I'd searched it out ahead of time and loved their menu. I was a little surprised to walk in and find that it was full of young people and music was blaring. But I quickly adjusted my expectations and the atmosphere was fine. We ordered at a counter and then food was brought to our table. 

We got Brussel sprouts that were sauteed with butter, salt and pepper. The taste was fantastic, but I prefer them a little more cooked. 
The elote fries, which included hand cut fries and roasted corn coated in queso and sour cream, feta cheese, spicy mayo and red child powder were wonderful. One of my favorite dishes of our trip. The fries were moist, they were well covered by toppings and were spicy. 
Finally, we got the three sister burrito which included corn, beans and squash, the three sisters, along with green chile, rice, cheese, lettuce, sour cream and pico de gallo. Apparently Native Americans referred to corn, beans and rice as the "three sisters" as they grow and thrive together. Corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. Beans provide nitrogen to the soil that the other two sisters use, and squash spreads along the ground blocking the sun and prevents weeds from growing. The burrito was a bit crunchy, but I enjoyed alot. 

I would love to eat at Giant Skillet again. It was very vegetarian friendly, the food was creative and it was very good. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Cafe Abiquiu - Abiquiu, NM

Northern New Mexico is Georgia O'Keeffe country. She had two homes there: a summer home 12 miles from Abiquiu at the edge of what was then and is now known as Ghost Ranch, which provided beautiful landscapes she used in her paintings, and a larger home in Abiquiu. In Santa Fe, 48 miles from Abiquiu, there is a museum dedicated solely to O'Keeffe's work. 

The day after visiting the Museum in Santa Fe, we drove out to Ghost Ranch and were wowed by the beautiful scenery. I can see why O'Keefe would stay there and use it as inspiration. 

Then we drove to Cafe Abiquiu, which is part of a hotel and the Georgia O'Keefe home and studio (which were closed due to Covid while we were there) and drove and walked the grounds admiring the art work (from area artists) that is on the grounds and which is for sale. 

Finally, we had a very nice lunch. The inside of the hotel/cafe has art for sale from other artists, as well jewelry and pottery. The cafe menu is creative and different which I always appreciate. 

Beautiful doors on the cafe patio. 

A painted horse (for sale) on the cafe patio. 

Elote dip (three cheese Oaxacan street corn) with chips. It was delicious. 

Thick cut fries with red chile and cheese. I wish I'd gotten the garlic and cotija cheese instead, but this was okay. 

Tamale cake Napoleon (polenta cakes, mashed avocado, pico de gallo and chipotle cream). The menu noted it was inspired by O'Keeffe. The polenta was slightly sweet and moist, I really liked it. 

Judy got crispy blue corn trout tacos with grilled trout, chipotle cream, shredded romaine, cheese and pico de gallo. This was also inspired by O'Keeffe. 

A very rich and delicious chocolate tart. 
Having immersed ourselves in Georgia O'Keeffe, it was very fun and significant to eat near her home and at the cafe inspired by her. I would definitely eat here again if given the opportunity.