Saturday, August 23, 2008

Now Them's Good Eatin'

Being a road worrier requires nourishment along the way. Fortunately, this country is very lucky to have lots of good restaurants to select. While on my last road trip to NM, a couple of places became new favorites.

In Guymon, OK, Naifeh's is a steakhouse run by a Lebanese family. Turns out one member of the family has Wichita connections! Nothing like food to make ties across state boundaries. In Las Vegas, NM, there is the "Spic and Span." Good Mexican food with a little kick to the chile. Forget healthy. We're talking'big portions and eclairs the size of dinner plates. Reinforces my firm belief that gluttony is the best of the seven deadly sins--followed closely by sloth.

For something completely unique, in Santa Fe, there is a chocolate place called "Kakawa" that specializes in historic and even prehistoric chocolate recipes. It is a surprise to many that chocolate began, not as a food, but as a drink. The earliest reciples include a beverage called "Aztec Warrior," a bitter drink (pure chocolate has a very bitter flavor and is not sweet at all) laced with hot chile. I settled for the "atole" with cornmeal as an ingredient, a resulting concoction that tasted a little like malted milk. Check out for more info.

In Ashland, Kansas, there is the Hardesty House, an old hotel that also offers steaks. The smothered steak is a good option here. Another great attraction to this location, by the way, is the building itself. It is one of the few of the old hotels that still has massive clerestory windows in the interior walls, a holdover from the days when buildings did not have lights in every room or air conditioning and clerestories were common features for lighting and ventilation. The Kansas to New Mexico run has other options, too, such as El Charro in Dodge City, the Eklund Hotel in Clayton, and the Brown Hotel and Cafe in Springer.

There are some distinct features that keep cropping up. Mexican food is one. Sadly, my goal of eating at a Mexican restaurant that openly proclaims serving "inauthentic" Mexican food remains unfulfulled. "Authentic" Mexican food is your only option, if you believe the signs and the menus. Beef is another feature. If you like steak, you can see and smell your future supper walking around as you drive by. Out here, chicken IS the vegetarian option. Dessert is important and the fruit pie has an important role in preventing scurvy since fruits and vegetables may be rather rare commodities on the dinner plate.

A lot of foodways on the western high plans still have traces of the 1950s in their preparation: a heavy reliance on pre-prepared things. The idea that there are other lettuces than iceberg and other dressings besides ranch and thousand island has yet to reach this part of the country. Still, if you want a blast from the past, you can't beat the high plains for heritage eating.


Anonymous said...

Found this from a link on Flyover People. Interesting! Had to look up 'clerestories' though. Greetings from England.

Nick said...

You should come to Iowa! Great blog, look forward to reading more.