As we all know, New Mexico has been a state for a full century as of this year. But that's not the only hundred year birthday we should be celebrating. In a coincidence that's altogether too perfect for our green chile obsessed region, 2012 also marks the 100th anniversary of the Scoville scale.
The Scoville scale, as anyone with a taste for the caliente should realize, is the more-or-less standardized method for determining how hot a chile pepper is. The scale ranges from 0 for a heatless bell pepper, to 16 million for pure capsaicin, the chemical compound that makes chile spicy. A good, hot New Mexico chile typically ranks somewhere between 3500 and 8000, while its degenerate offspring the Anaheim pepper is closer to 1,000. Law enforcement grade pepper spray registers at around 1.5 million.
Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacist, developed the scale in 1912 in order to ensure that the peppers used in a turn-of-the-century muscle salve called Heet were consistently spicy enough to take advantage of capsaicin’s topical pain relieving qualities (is there anything chile can’t do?). Appropriately enough, not only did Scoville develop the first standardized heat scale, he was also one of the first scientific chile tasters to note that the best way to cool down a fiery tongue is to reach for a glass of milk.
If you’re on any kind of schedule, you should probably avoid Ben Michael’s restaurant on even a half-busy evening. The slow-moving spectacle that often passes for service will be frustrating if there’s some other place you need to be. But if you aren’t in a hurry, that same chaos could pass as entertainment. And if you show up during a quiet lunch hour and you’re the only one there, expect to be treated like royalty.
On a steep Nob Hill side street behind Imbibe is a tiny hole-in-the-wall kitchen, clad mostly in stainless steel. It’s called The Last Call, or TLC, and its proximity to Albuquerque’s nightlife weighs heavily on the short, funky menu. Read all about TLC’s signature dish in this week’s Food section.
On a steep Nob Hill side street behind Imbibe is a tiny hole-in-the-wall kitchen, clad mostly in stainless steel. It’s called The Last Call, or TLC, and its proximity to Albuquerque’s nightlife weighs heavily on the short, funky menu. There are pickup lines attached to the taco dishes, each of which contain three tacos, or “threesomes.” The slider plate promises a “couple.”
The appeal of Tía Betty Blue’s might seem skin-deep at first. The paint is fresh. The food comes fast enough to service a drive-thru window. A collection of bottled soda pops is so vast, it could be a gimmick. And the image of a raven-haired hottie—Tía Betty Blue, presumably—stares you down from the sign, the walls, the menu. But despite its candy-coated veneer, Tía B’s means business. The food is simple but thoughtful, and it’s different. And as long as food is the priority, who cares how cute the servers are?
The rise of the churrasco craze has given people a narrow, if somewhat authentic, view of Brazilian food. There are, indeed, a lot of churrascarias in Brazil—though in my five trips there I’ve yet to see a red-and-green block that you position according to how hungry you are. You can eat all the grilled chicken hearts you want, but until you’ve had rice and beans made by a Brazilian, you haven’t truly sampled the cuisine.
Two summers ago, I rendezvoused with The Mexican at Crazy Melva's Pepper Pot in Hatch. I was there for green chile for the freezer from Chile Express and Biad. Gustavo Arellano was there for the Chile Festival, in search of stories for his book. We broke tortillas over chile, I green he red. Here is an edited video of that historic lunch.
U.S. to ease its combat mission in Afghanistan.
Burqueños prison gang exhibits civic pride.
Foreigners stick their foreign fingers in our chile market.
Reies Lopez Tijerina, a Chicano activist, mounted an armed raid to make a citizen's arrest of New Mexico's district attorney in the '60s. He's speaking at the Statehouse today.
Tour the Old Main, home of the lethal 1980 prison riot.
To protect his riches, this wealthy man adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend as his daughter.
Anonymous hacks emails and accuses Ron Paul of being linked to a neo-Nazi group.
Washington the state passes a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
Komen yanked its funding from Planned Parenthood, so supporters around the country donated enough in a single day to make up the difference.
Baratunde Thurston on how to be Black.
Remember when we sold guns to cartels so we could track them? And then it didn't work out so well?
This cheerleader can dead lift 250.
Meet supergiant—not the band, the amphipod.
Marchers in Egypt protest military mishandling of a soccer riot that killed 74.
The most common regrets of folks at the end of their lives.
Rest in peace:
Sonic Youth collaborator and artist Mike Kelley
"Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius
Poet Wislawa Szymborska
Boxing trainer Angelo Dundee
The man who played Mr. Pitt on "Seinfeld," Ian Abercrombie
Las Cruces High School mariachis, chile eating contests and a chile queen coronation—put them together, and you've got a whole lot of small-town Southern New Mexico charm. The Hatch Chile Festival turns 38 on Saturday and Sunday at the Hatch Municipal Airport (due south on I-25, then one mile west of Hatch on Hwy. 26). Admission is $10 per carload, and don't forget to bring a cooler for all that roasted green stuff.
Yesterday's tornado in Albuquerque was actually a landspout.
Virginia Tech says there's a gunman on campus. In 2007, a shooter killed 33 people at the school.
The mayor of Sunland Park near Las Cruces says he was drunk when he signed those nine contracts.
Construction near University and Coal is going to get worse.
The ACLU wants to make sure we're not being tracked by the police through our cell phones.
NRA files lawsuit to stop a rule that requires gun shops to report the purchase of more than one semi-automatic. The rule would be lifted in border states, such as New Mexico.
First chile harvest is in from Hatch.
The world's first text messages from 1890.
Fox News hosts don't criticize Sarah Palin because she's their coworker.
Adult men who like My Little Pony are called bronies.
The golden oldies of a gen-Xer.
Maybe our universe is in a bubble of space and time, and other universes are, too.
Writer finds out how easy it is to buy a gun from a stranger in Portland.
The ultimate food taboo.
But NPR is rad, and so is this piece. It taught me many things, including that people down south use Spam in their rellenos. Also, that there’s a law in effect that protects New Mexico’s favorite fruit. The New Mexico Chile Advertising Act was signed in the spring. It prevents jerks who are not in the state from labeling their dumb “chili” as being grown in New Mexico. Jerks.
According to the New Mexico Chile Association, our industry is not doing so hot. No pun intended. China is trying to horn in on some of the chile market, the association says.
The New York Times did an article on the chile law back in February, too. We’re so famous. And not just for meth.
Once, I was posted up in a booth behind a tourist couple, and the lady said in an alarmed voice to the man: “This food is so hot you can’t even taste the food!”
Lady, the hot is the food—of life!
I like my chile so hot it elevates my consciousness, sharpens me up.
I like my chile so hot it dilates my pores and sinuses.
I like my chile so hot it withers my shitty day.
I like my chile so hot it cremates boredom.
I like my chile so hot it burns the demons out of me.
I like my chile so hot it cauterizes my heart.
Today, I went to Cecilia’s Café. There were new warning signs posted around the restaurant. I thought, perhaps, they were there to caution new customers about the usual level of heat—which is in the red.
Instead, it seems the chile is now EVEN HOTTER. I had to take most of my meal to go after attempting it for some time with the acoompaniment of several glasses of water. I dropped ice cubes onto my tongue and just let them melt.
I have eaten my leftovers in four parts throughout the day, about a half-cup at a time. I’ve been on a kind of weird continual inhale all day—lots of little breaths in in in ... out ... in in in ...
This is high praise. My day has been awesome. Get the red.
Also, where’s your favorite hot spot?
It's the Weekly Alibi's 18th annual Best of Burque issue. Faster than a speeding red-light runner. More powerful than Don Schrader's home-brewed goat head yerba maté. You, the readers, picked the best of the best in the Duke City. We, Albuquerque's faithful alternative weekly, compiled those green chile slathered nuggets of local goodness into what is sure to be the best Best of Burque issue of 2011.
Don't take our word for it. The issue (officially) hits stands on Thursday, April 7, but if you hunt diligently it can be found in select locations on Wednesday, April 6.
Who will win best Albuquerquean? Which bar has the best staff? Which radio station came out on top? Tune in next week to find out.
I used to think beans needed salt pork or ham hocks to come out right. Not so. Beans are just as delicious with no meat at all. I imagine there may come a time when you don’t even need beans to make beans–just air and a discerning palette. In the mean time, here’s my world-famous recipe for beans.
1) Rinse some dry beans and soak them over night in a large saucepan. The beans expand as they absorb water, so while it’s difficult to know how many you should soak, you can be pretty sure you’re soaking too many. That’s okay, they’re cheap. Some people say you need to sort the dry beans for rocks prior to rinsing, but I prefer to simply buy “rock-free” brands and gamble with my very life.
2) After soaking, drain the beans and replace the water with fresh, then boil them for about five minutes, removing the white scum that forms on top. I like to believe the white scum contains extra fart-producing elements. I have no scientific basis for believing so, but you’ll want to scrape it off anyway because it looks gross.
3) Dump the beans and hot water into a slow cooker (i.e. Crock-Pot®) with half a diced onion and one or two cloves of crushed garlic, then let it cook on high for about five hours. The longer beans cook, they softer they become. Don’t add salt while they’re cooking. Salt lowers the boiling temperature of the water and will cause your beans to cook less quickly. It will also inevitably lead to somebody bitching about how salty they are. It’s best to just salt them to taste once they’re in the bowl.
I like to eat my beans with a little shredded cheddar cheese, and sometimes with some red or green chile. When it’s time to put the leftover beans away, let them cool off to room temperature without a lid before sticking them in the refrigerator. This guards against a disgusting aroma your beans might otherwise develop.
I think my house is haunted. I keep hearing sounds behind me, but when I turn around there’s no one there. Just a terrible smell.
The Food and Drug Administration ordered the seizure of chile products from a warehouse in Derry, N.M.
U.S. Marshals confiscated the chile from Duran and Sons. (I’ve got a call in to the FDA to find out how much was seized, and how this chile is usually distributed.) According to the complaint filed by the FDA, inspectors discovered:
• “Widespread insect and rodent infestation”
• Rodent excreta pellets on and around the food
• Stains that looked like rodent urine
• “Investigators observed and photographed rodent nesting material on finished product.”
• Cats and birds
• Insects, larvae and moths
According to this 2007 High Country News article, Duran and Sons grows 140 acres of chile and processes 600,000 pounds every year.
There was no answer yesterday or today when the Alibi called the chile company. Owner Carl Duran told the Associated Press that he’d been cooperating with the FDA, and the raid was a surprise. He also said the seized chile was slated for destruction anyway.