What a totally fun and interesting day in Southern New Mexico. It warmed my midwestern heart to be able to stroll down a city street full of other strollers looking over farmers market goodies and crafts during Las Cruces twice-weekly market (Saturdays and Wednesdays.) This time of year there were more crafts than produce but we did spot some garlic and lettuce. Mostly we saw pecans (and pecan-infused lotions and potions), southwestern-themed woodwork and photography, turquoise jewelry.
The market is held on Main Street, which has some interesting old adobe and brick buildings, including a theater decorated with colorful terra cotta. On nearby streets, we found similar buildings in the Mesquite Historic District, home to small shops run by independent entrepreneurs. We began the day in the district with coffee at the welcoming Beck’s Roasting House and Creamery.
As fate would have it, it was the third Saturday of the month, which I learned from a flyer in the Beck’s bathroom, is when a local church group “Weaving for Justice” sells Maya textiles hand-woven by women in Chiapas, Mexico. At the church, a kind older woman with long white hair showed us around and explained the church’s project to provide work and money for impoverished Mexican families. We left with a bag full of hand-woven placemats and scarves, hand-embroidered pillowcases and two hand-made woolen animal dolls (an owl and llama).
A short drive away, Mesilla felt a bit more like Santa Fe, with a small concentration of adobe houses containing shops for tourists around a pretty central plaza dominated by a Catholic Churchthat is on the national historic register and is often used in film shoots. It’s pleasantly rougher around the edges and with much more reasonable prices for artwork. In one gallery that was having a reception, I bought a handmade silk poncho-like blouse for $30 and a one-of-a-kind ceramic plate for $35.
There seemed to be a battle of the local nuts going on, with two stores facing off across from each other on the plaza, one selling all things pecans, the other all things pistachios. (Unwilling to take sides, we bought both.)
We popped into the famous historic Double Eagle restaurant, circa 1849 and the Plaza’s oldest structure, according to a lengthy history provide as a handout by the restaurant, filled with Victorian armchairs and old oil portraits. We gawked at ornate “Imperial Bar,” which sports a 30 foot hand carved oak and walnut bar, light fixtures with Lalique Crystal rosette shades, an antique brass foot rail, two seven foot tall French Baccarat Crystal chandeliers, and a tin ceiling with bits of 18 karat gold. No wonder visiting movie folks reportedly hang out here.
Once the home of some of Mesilla’s fancy families, Double Eagle was named after the eagle-adorned 1880s era twenty dollar coin by a Roswell NM native who bought the building in 1970. (The Roswell guy became president of Atlantic Richfield Oil.)
The sunlit “”Billy the kid” patio (yes Billy was around here) has a seven- foot carved stone fountain surrounded by palms, an eccentric space that reminded me New Orleans. The restaurant is fancy but has a casual cousin called Pepper’s.
We ate instead at the wonderful local specialty market FARMesilla, which looked like something out of Magnolia mag, a bright airy space full of local meats, cheeses, eggs, sausages, spirits, jams, salsas, bread, oils, vinegars, soaps and lotions. At a counter, we ordered interesting entrees that we ate outside on a patio. Delicious and different and such small portions, which I found refreshing after days of eating huge heaping plates of beans, rice and melted cheese atop meat. Example: my Green Chile Cheddar Polenta, a small mound of creamy polenta topped with a soft-cooked egg, green Chile (of course), melted orange cheddar and a strip of crispy sweet Serrano bacon, served with a small container of what I later learned was “carrot habanero” hot sauce. Delicious and different. We brought home crunchy slight sweet blue corn bread muffins. On our way out of town we stopped at one of the outposts of the Las Cruces frozen custard maker Caliche but skipped the green Chile topping option, choosing heath bars instead.