Thursday, October 25, 2007


Can the NYT write with authority…and more important, credibility…on the subject of Tex-Mex food? That isn’t exactly a rhetorical question, given yesterday’s article titled “A Celebration of Tex-Mex, Without Apology.”

It is hard to pin down experts and restaurateurs as to what happened to Mexican food when it crossed the border. The best explanation is perhaps the most inelegant: it got cheesier, chili-er and meatier.

“Cal-Mex is long on burritos and sour cream,” Mr. Walsh said. “In New Mexico, it’s all about green chilies, and in Arizona they are proud to have invented chimichangas — deep-fried burritos. The embodiment of Tex-Mex is a cheese enchilada with gravy.”

While superior Tex-Mex food may be specific to Texas, it is hardly restricted to one region or city. In 10 years as a Texas resident, I learned that there is no such thing as a best Tex-Mex restaurant in any given city. Instead, there are favorites recommended by locals. This is because the restaurants are family run, and the true Tex-Mex aficionado is usually a good neighbor who supports more than one family.

Just a taste, Gentle Reader…just a taste. In the FWIW Dept., my answer to the question I posed is “yes.” Not a bad article, not bad at all. Your mileage most certainly may vary, but I found the article accurate and informative…beginning with the admission that Tex-Mex fundamentally doesn’t exist in NYC. True, dat. I know…I’ve looked.

And, yeah… we’re ALL about the chilies here in New Mexico… which is as it should be, given New Mexico is home to the world’s finest. But it really doesn’t matter if your favorite variation on the theme originates in Dallas, LA, or Albuquerque. It’s all good. That said: The First Mrs. Pennington makes the world’s best enchiladas, bar none. It’s a pity most of y’all haven’t tasted them.

Just sayin’.

(photo: NYT)


  1. Having what at best can be described as a "non-south of the border stomach", I can't eat anything that even might closely resemble Mexican food, of any variety. i've heard it's very good - The Hubby loves the stuff - I'll have to take everyone's word for it.

  2. Dang, that's too bad about your stomach, Kris. You are missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures. But it is what it is, no? And...There's always chocolate!

  3. NY City! No way!

    Having lived as a minority in highly populated Hispanic areas most of my life (both TX and NM), I consider myself part Mexican and a connoiseur of fine Mexican food. In other words, I am crazy about the stuff. And I make a mean enchilada (more Tex/Mex than Mex), great salsa, to-die-for pico de gallo, tasty papitos, and dang good fajitas. I do make chile rellenos, but they are a pain in the butt. My bizochitos will melt in your mouth. Tomorrow I am cooking up a batch of Mexican stew (caldo) that will clear your sinuses. I have not mastered the tamale or homemade tortillas, but why make them when others do them so well. There is a place in WF that serves great barbacoa (de cabeza). I love it all. Okay, I can live without menudo.

    I guess if I can cook it even a Yankee could do it - ya think?

  4. Ya know the official state question is "Red or Green?", didn't ya?

    And yes, the restaurants here are family run. Actually, La Hacienda and El Rancho are run by different branches of the same family! I've been more partial to El Rancho lately, since Juanitos prices have gone up in the past couple of years.

    However, if up in Clovis or Muleshoe, Leals isn't bad. Not bad at all. If I'm ever up there when I'm not the one driving, I'm going to try one of their margaritas.

    I was a little disappointed in Tex-Mex when we were in San Antonio. We ate at a place called Rita's on the riverwalk. I prefer our New Mexico Mexican to theirs.

  5. Lou: OK, you made my mouth water. And as it did, the thought came to mind..." It's true. The best ones are taken!" Not that cookin' is the be-all, end-all...but it's a LOT.

    And, re: "I guess if I can cook it even a Yankee could do it - ya think?"

    Actually,, I don't. I believe you need a certain familiarity with the culture and MOST certainly with the ingredients, as well as lots of experience with the final product itself...just so you can tell bad from good and the good from the simply mediocre. And for those folks who might claim anyone can follow a recipe -- I'll quote Mom, who said "Cooking is an art. Baking is a science." (Doubtless she ripped someone off for that quote; I don't know who, exactly.) bottom line is "not just anybody can do it."

    Jenny sez: Ya know the official state question is "Red or Green?", didn't ya?


    I really like Juanito's. Price hikes are relative, especially when it comes to Mexican food! A friend and I had dinner there Tuesday evening, s'matter of fact.

    Leal's is OK, but only just. And I think the Muleshoe store is better than Clovis (but I've only eaten at the Mabry Drive store in Clovis). You might think this lil anecdote borders on the snobbish, but...

    We were having dinner at Leal's (Mabry) in Clovis. I got a wild hair and decided I wanted wine with dinner, so I ordered a glass of house red. It came (I'm NOT making this up!) in a frosty glass, and the wine was beyond chilled; it was COLD. I sent it back, and threw in a lecture on serving wine at no extra charge. I don't care how lowly the wine is, you DON'T do that to a red, any red. Unless it's one of those reds with bubbles in it and comes in a bottle with a screw-on cap. But then again, I don't drink that krep, either.

    I guess I am a certain respects.

  6. Nope, not a snob. Just someone who knows something about wine. Which I so do not. I drink the stuff with bubbles and a screw top on the bottle. LOL!

    Actually, I never aquired a taste for wine. I try a glass every year or so with my mother (because she likes it and buys a bottle when she visits) hoping it will be good this time, and I just can't stand the stuff.

    I'm such a redneck. Pass the Boone's, Strawberry Hill please.

  7. Jenny sez: Nope, not a snob. Just someone who knows something about wine.

    And someone who gratuitously insults his inference. Please accept my apologies, Jenny. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on anyone's any area. Those screw-top wine thingies just don't work for me. Your mileage most certainly differs in this area!

    All that said...when it comes to Boone's Farm and me: Ewww! ;-)

  8. Buck ... you didn't do Boones Farm in the 70s? It's a might sweet to me now but it sure hit the inexpensive buzz factor nicely back then in my soda-drinking days.

    Are you going to start getting 'foody' like Mushy and FHB? They just kill me with their near-edible posts when I am so far away from any sort of restaurant, let alone great ones. My home-made efforts along the Mexi line have been edible but not to-die-for. sigh

  9. Buck, you in no way insulted me!! I'm laughing about it! I apologize for making it sound like you did! I readily admit I know nothing about wine, or beer or anything else for that matter.

    The difference with me and my mother's side of the family, I am Eddie and they are Clark Griswold. However, when it comes to some of my husband's uncles, we are the upper class and they are Eddie. I will admit to being redneck, but not white trash. LOL!

    So please, do NOT feel that you offended me! You did not in any way!

  10. Lin said: you didn't do Boones Farm in the 70s?

    I tried it, but never went beyond the trying. This, too, may sound strange, but I began drinking wine at a very early ten or 11. My Dad was stationed in Paris for three years, and he and my Mom adopted a lot of French customs, one of which was serving the kids wine with dinner. It was watered-down wine (about half and half) and we were never allowed more than one glass...and only at dinner. But that was enough to set my tastes.

    The only sweet wine I've ever drank in quantity was Akadama (the red, not the white), aka "The Red Death," and I gave THAT krep up when I left Japan (the first time).

    Jenny sez: So please, do NOT feel that you offended me! You did not in any way!

    Thanks, Jenny!

  11. What makes the NYT think they have any understanding about us wild 'n' wooly westerners? I thought about reading that effeminate article to some of my friends but I was afraid of gettin' stomped.
    I find there is a great deal of difference between Tex-Mex, New Mexico-Mex and Arizona-Mex. If you're picky enough you can get the best of all three worlds.

  12. Catmoves sez: I thought about reading that effeminate article to some of my friends...

    Interesting characterization, Catmoves. What's effeminate about the article, in your opinion? Or do you just feel that way about the NYT, in general? Enquiring minds want to know. Well, this one, anyway.

    I think the differences in the various styles of Mexican is subtle, but it does exist. I'm not partial to any one school, but I AM partial to NM chilies...


Just be polite... that's all I ask.