Tag Archives: Albuquerque

hiking, dining and shopping in ABQ (Albuquerque)

Among our favorite trails at the Sandia Mountain foothills:

The Pino trail at Elena Gallegos “Open space” – wide dirt path and slight incline initially, then narrows and winding with more boulders, roots and rocks, plus mud, snow and ice (so we turned back after 50 minutes)

On the Pino Trail

La Luz Trail, a little more strenuous, narrow switchbacks and uphill, very scenic.

at Petroglyph National Monument – we did two dog-friendly short hikes (Piedras Marcadas Canyon Trail 1.5 miles; Rinconada Canyon Trail 2.5 miles) with our lab Millie late in the afternoon when the light was particularly dramatic, walking on sandy flat paths on a trail hugging a canyon of dark volcanic rocks, some with ancient markings of hands, faces, animals, crosses and who knows what else made by the ancestors of Pueblo people and by Spanish visitors. The main trail doesn’t allow dogs.

Among the ABQ restaurants and shops we enjoyed: BUT First a shout out to the free local monthly foodie magazine The Bite, which I happened to pick up early in our visit (along with a bimonthly Edible magazine.) The Bite offered dining scuttlebutt and many suggestions of places to eat in ABQ and beyond and never steered us wrong! Thanks to The Bite, I found FARMessila in Las Cruces, Mille in Santa Fe and Mesa Provisions and Ihatov Bakery in ABQ.

Modern General, which sounds a bit like a TV sitcom but is a southwest breakfast-themed “brunchery” with wonderfully inventive and delicious entrees and smoothies in a bright white space resembling a super tidy and curated “feed and seed” general store but with a handful of books, home goods and local lotions and potions, plus what look like very good cookies, brownies snd bread. We shared savory/sweet Green Chile Cilantro Corncakes, three little pancakes topped with a soft egg, with a squiggle of cilantro lime crema and Chile maple syrup; And The Albuquerque,flavor-packed scrambled eggs with green chiles, bacon, cumin, garlic, sharp cheddar with well-browned diced potatoes.And that drink (in the photo below) is a peach pollen smoothie (peaches, bee pollen, cucumber, banana, pineapple juice.) This is a sister restaurant of nearby Vinaigrette and both have Santa Fe locations.

Pueblo Cultural Center’s dining room – we went with the most traditional Pueblo entrees, according to our very knowledgeable server who was raised on the Taos Pueblo. A contemporary (and delicious) take on Blue corn chicken enchiladas and beef and poesole stew (less delicious). The blue corn onion rings were very good. We’d been through the museum part before. The place is an interesting cultural experience, in a well-designed contemporary building with Pueblo decor.

Mesa Provisions – a splurge to thank our relatives who have put us up for the past month in their newest house, this covid-era Nob Hill restaurant’s chef worked previously at ABQ’s Farm & Table, which gave us high hopes that were not dashed. The food and service were excellent, especially the creative take on a green Chile cheeseburger, the shrimp on toast, smoked chicken, I even liked the kale salad. The key lime sorbet was a perfect end to the meal.

Golden Pride – a local treasure near the U of New Mexico campus and hospital, this restaurant advertises chicken and ribs but is most famous for its breakfast burritos (homemade tortillas,) and sweet rolls, which you can request hot or cold. Our relatives recommended hot, which came in a bath of butter, doused with cinnamon sugar. No wonder there’s often not one but two lines of cars for the two drive through windows every time we drive pass on Lomas Avenue. Word has it, few customers eat inside. Drive through is the way to go, easy in and out.

Heart unhealthy breakfast at Golden Pride

The Daily Grind – we liked this casual breakfast and lunch place, off the beaten path. good salads (turkey club) and sandwiches (Cuban).

ABQ’s Modern General (also in Santa Fe)

Kei and Molly textiles – The production facility and showroom for this well-known, do-good local maker of tea towels, aprons, sponges and napkins is right nearby Nob Hill, prompting some early holiday gift shopping.

Sara Bande Home – well-chosen home goods in a small ritzy strip center in NW Albuquerque on the stretch of Rio Grande that gets fancy, with huge mansions on dusty ranch land. It’s tethered to a good bookstore, paper goods store and outpost of the Flying Star Cafe. We found what we needed so didn’t go on to the fancy and pricey store at Los Poblanos resort up the road.

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Signs of ABQ

Vanishing neon road signs in ABQ appear to be a concern here, also sparking efforts to restore and save them, maybe even via a possible Sign Museum, controversial because signs would be removed from their original locations.

But plenty classics remain, including near us on Central Avenue aka Route 66. Here’s a choice few from the Nob Hill stretch of Central, our temporary stomping ground:

Night lights
Our dog clowning around (not)

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La Luz Trail, Los Poblanos, Petroglyphs, Snow (yes snow)- ABQ

The weather was glorious, in the mid 60s, so we finally got our Sandia Mountain hike in, starting at the bottom, where the snow has melted (for now) rather than the snowy ice trail up top. And the temperature dropped only a degree or two as we climbed upward.

We walked for about two hours on the La Luz trail, fairly easy at the bottom but we gather it gets more challenging higher up. It’s a narrow dirt path with large rocks here and there, gently rising, with switchbacks. This was Millie’s first mountainside hike and we had to make sure she didn’t go over the edge which she tried to do at first but she quickly got the hang of it.

We had a fancy dinner, thanks to a generous gift from my aunt marking D’s birthday and retirement, at Campo at los Poblanos, a reservations-only “field-to-fork” restaurant at a beautiful historic inn/spa located on an organic (of course) farm in the Rio Grande River Valley, on the outskirts of ABQ which you enter by driving on a narrow road through a tunnel of tall cottonwood trees bordered by lavender fields.

After we were finally seated (we had to wait 40 minutes past our 7:30 reservation. I protested, and soon after we got a table, and our margaritas comped.), we had a lovely meal, a big hunk of steak for D and saffron spaghetti with mussels for me, a shared piece of flourless chocolate almond torte. Next time, we need to check out the inn, on a former ranch, which includes a historic hacienda designed by prominent NM architect John Gaw Meam, with beautiful 1930s “Territorial Revival” rooms (tin light fixtures , hand carved beams, hardwood floors, ironwork, hand plastered walls, fireplaces, period NM artwork) and newer rooms nearby (average March cost appears to be $367 a night). We have visited the “farm shop” in the past, which sells high-end “farm food”/baked goods and artisan/local maker personal care and home goods (“lavender peppermint blue corn body scrub”), some now sold at places like the Des Moines art center gift shop.

Two days after our balmy weather it snowed. Our second snow storm here in 3 weeks but it’s pretty. By early afternoon it was almost gone.

“Our” house, snow
Second snow in 3 weeks. Fleeting

We were pleasantly surprised that the ancient markings on stones by Pueblo dwellers and Spaniards were so cool at Petroglyph National Monument, in western ABQ. We hiked an easy 2 miles on the dog-friendly Rinconada Trail in the late afternoon when the light was particularly dramatic, especially with the clouds parting over the now-snowy Sandia Mountains way to the east. The hike took us on a sandy path lining an edge of a canyon with huge black volcanic boulders. At forest we strained to find the ancient markings on the boulders but by mid trail, we were on a roll, finding markings, some clearly birds or sheep, others maybe symbols of some sort, on the boulders. When we returned to our car at 4:45 (the parking area closes at 5) a park ranger was already shutting some gates.

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Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway and Ten-3 on Valentine’s Day in ABQ

About 10 years ago, we marked Valentine’s Day by doing something nutty — we went zip-lining high above a ravine in Boquete, Panama. Never again. Today was much better. We also went high, this time into Albuquerque’s jagged Sandia Mountains, but we were inside a large glass tram that climbed 10,378 feet to the crest, where we ate lunch, tried unsuccessfully to hike (too icy) and glided back down into the valley in our glass cocoon.

The weather was clear and not too windy, the temperature was the warmest it’s been during our stay here, low 60s, although as promised it was 20-30 degrees colder at the top of the mountain and icy snow kept us from a short hike to a CCC cabin on the ridge. At 2.7 miles in horizontal length, the Tramway is reportedly the world’s longest passenger tramway. The tram came very close to the mountain at times which took some getting used to and the guide pointed out the debris from a TWA plane crash long ago, but we could see only jagged granite and limestone peaks, dotted with ponderosa pine and oak trees, scrubby pinyon juniper, dusted with snow.

Tram view
Tram arriving up top

We had a good lunch in the restaurant Ten-3 (a reference to its elevation, at 10,300 feet above sea level) at the top, an attractive contemporary space with huge picture windows offering spectacular views from on high of the valley and mountains in the distance north of ABQ — part of the 11,000 square mile panoramic view.

The food was very good in the casual restaurant. The fancier restaurant was being readied for Valentine’s night diners. The contemporary artwork, including large thickly coated oil forest landscapes by Frank Balaam turned out to be from Ventana Fine Art, a gallery we visited earlier this week in Santa Fe. (Some prints of southwest ruins, in bold unnatural colors, by Mary Silverwood that we are still considering buying were hanging in the women’s restroom).

Sandia means watermelon in Spanish, a reference to the stunning pink of the mountains at sunset.

Yes, that is a tram employee riding outside atop the tram. We don’t know why.

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Who Knew ABQ? Zsa Zsa Gabor, Puccini, Atomic bomb spies, Early female architect, Guinness record contender for longest hand aid textile braid – what we learned on a free downtown walking tour

If you are a fan of underdog cities and their entrepreneurs (as I am, having grown up in the Detroit area with art gallery-owning parents and having lived in places like Royal Oak, MI, Wichita , KS and Des Moines, IA, you will love Albuquerque and its Saturday morning free downtown walking architecture/history tour. Eight people showed up (including a French women living outside St. Louis and new ABQ residents from Wyoming) for a 2-hour walking tour today of a seven-block stretch of Central Ave, aka Route 66, led by two knowledgeable and engaging volunteer docents. Who knew there was so much cool history and architecture in this deserted (on a Saturday) stretch of downtown between 1st and 8th streets?

I had already noticed the multicolored decorative terra cotta facade of the KiMo Auditorium (1927) but had no idea a hotel just north of central was a gem inside, full of carved wood, Native American designs, vintage furnishings and great stories. Zsa Zsa Gabor married her second husband (of nine) in what is now the Hotel Andaluz, one of the first Hilton Hotels, started by San Antonio, NM native Conrad Hilton. Word has it you can stay in the room she and new husband Conrad Hilton stayed in their first night of their marriage (which lasted five years).

Another interesting story: apparently the hotel was the site of an infamous spy exchange involving Ethel Rosenberg’s brother David Greenglass, the atomic spy for the Soviets who worked at Los Alamos, NM, building the atomic bomb in 1944-1946. David was the one who divulged the bomb secrets but implicated his sister and brother-in-law Julius in exchange for immunity. He alleged that Ethel typed up the spy info. Ethel and Julius were executed for espionage/treason in 1953. After jail time, David was released in 1960. In 1996, he admitted to falsely implicating his sister in order to save his wife who apparently had typed up his notes. He died in 2014. What a schmuck, (excuse my Yiddish.)

In 1945, The early atomic bomb (not sure if it was “Fat Man” or “Little Boy”) was also towed through this stretch of ABQ (without any advance warning) to the Trinity Nuclear testing site near San Antonio, NM, where we were a few days ago .

inside the Hotel Andaluz

Further down the street, we stopped at the El Rey Theater built by the cousin of the Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, who also visited ABQ. The Puccini family built another building here (and Puccini descendants still live here) but not the stunning Occidental Life insurance building, built in 1917, clad in white terra cotta clad, and designed to mimic Venice’s Doge’s Palace.

Andaluz “curio collection by Hilton” where Zsa Zsa married husband #2 (of 9)

At the former Sears building, we learned of a young girl/aspiring shoplifter who hung out in the building past closing time, got locked inside, freaked out and set a fire, severely damaging the Sears.Another building is still home to a famous hat store, with a sign still touting its “mens hats.”

The imposing 1910 yellow brick building bears the name Rosenwald, for Jewish merchants Aron and Edward Rosenwald. It’s not clear if they are related to Chicago’s Julius Rosenwald, (1862-1932) an early Sears Company leader and doer of good deeds, including funding schools for African American kids in the Deep South. The ABQ building was designed by the same architect as the Doge’s Palace-esque building.

A Maisel building fresco
Art Deco building now a holocaust museum

In an Art Deco storefront that now houses a tiny holocaust museum, we met Hiddekel Sara Burks, a retired Chicago nurse and veteran hair braider/“ethnic folk artist” (Singer Roberta Flack was a braiding client), who was braiding as she explained her quest to break the Guinness record for world’s longest handmade textile braid. She needs to reach 6000 feet and was at 5220. She told us various sections of the multicolored braid were an homage to various prominent African Americans including congresswoman Shirley Jackson. Her handiwork honors Black natural hairstyles (Afros, braids, locks) and aims to combat discrimination against those who sport them. (ABQ passed a measure in 2021 banning discrimination against people with natural hair styles, following LA’s measure.)

On the art and architecture front, we looked more closely at buildings that are easy to overlook but turned out to have spectacular details. The 1930s Maisel Building is the home of an iconic Indian jewelry and craft store run by built by another Jewish entrepreneur. The business recently closed, a victim of Covid. But the building has been bought, with restoration promised. Good to hear. It has spectacular frescoes on its facade by a series of young Navaho, Apache and Pueblo artists.

Going for the world record in braiding
At the Maisel building, a fresco done by a protege of Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera

KiMo Auditorium remains my favorite and it was great to see it up close and personal and learn more about its history. (We had to walk around a homeless man laid out on the pavement and were told someone was en route to provide help. Homelessness is a big issue here.) KiMo is reportedly a Native American word for mountain lion/king of its kind.) The auditorium still hosts concerts but not much during Covid. It’s apparently amazing inside, which we got a taste of from the ornamentation around the outside lobby and office box which we peered in at through metal gates.

We also went to an intersection where Route 66 crossed Route 66. That’s not a typo. Apparently Route 66 through Albuquerque first went north-south but was rerouted in 1937 to east-west.

Outside lobby ornamentation of the KiMo

Now on our list (from what we learned during the tour): a visit to a hotel terrace north of Bernadillo with great sunset views of the Sandia Mountains and to the Castañeda hotel in Las Vegas, NM, (closed 70 years ago, restored and reopened around 2019). It was part of a chain of architecturally impressive hotels built and operated by Fred Harvey along the route of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, known as Harvey Houses.

The same restoration-minded developer also recently fixed up architect Mary Colter’s self-proclaimed masterpiece La Posada, in Winslow, Arizona. A pioneering female architect, Colter (1869-1958) designed the gorgeous ABQ train station hotel that was ignominiously knocked down in the 1970s and replaced with a less glorious replica. (Why? Why?) Colter was the chief architect and decorator for the Harvey company. Her many other impressive works include: the interior of Santa Fe’s La Fonda Hotel and The Grand Canyon’s Hopi Bright Angel lodge.

The county building and the convention center in ABQ also apparently have great interiors full of artwork and likely an interesting history too. I also heard the city is planning a Sign Museum, which sounds great especially given all the city’s great Neon signs!

More KiMo detail

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Old Town shopping, museum sculpture park and Rio grande nature center state park and and more Bosque trail – Albuquerque (formerly AlbuRquerque)

Somehow I missed really visiting Albuquerque’s Old Town during previous visits, dismissing it as too touristy and a pale imitation of Santa Fe’s old plaza area. My bad. Wandering around the small pocket of oldness dominated by a huge adobe San Felipe de Neri Church (Spanish Colonial, 1793) in the central plaza, past adobe buildings dating from 1870 to 1900, we found some touristy place but also fun shops with local crafts and goods including (thanks to a recent Travel and Leisure mag story): Tiny Grocer ABQ, a little hole-in-the-wall stuffed with local meat, jalapeño hot sauce, baked goodies, homemade soups; The silver artichoke, selling jewelry made with turquoise and a lovely orange shell from Mexico by a mother-son duo; Nizohoni Soap – run by a young woman born in the Great Navajo Nation (ship rock, NM) that sells products with resonant names such as “REZ dirt soap,” “blue corn Pollen lip scrub,” “piñon pine needle foam wash” and “Navajo Sage and Wild Rose Chi’shie Oil w/Eucalyptus”; and Back Alley Bruhas, a fun boutique with vintage and locally designed clothing, jewelry and home goods.

Old Town plaza’s church

From a historical marker in the plaza I learned that ABQ was even harder to spell in olden days: AlbuRquerque. We also wandered down one courtyard in Old Town and ended up in the sculpture garden next to the Albuquerque Museum.

The weather is warming! It was around 60 as we walked Millie around the Rio Grande Nature Center, and I mean around since we learned the center itself doesn’t allow dogs. We ended up on a nice length of the River shaded by cottonwood trees where the only other visitors were birds.

Heading north on Rio Grande (the street not the river), We found one big southwestern estate after another, huge houses set back from the street, surrounded by long fields and often a stable. Moneyland, ABQ style.

Other ABQ finds:

Ikhatov Bread & coffee, new Nob hill bakery, Good egg salad sandwich, Quiche, kakawa (Santa fe) hot chocolate.

Takeout brisket tacos from Casa Azule.

Fantastic special occasion meal (dirck’s belated bday, my signing with a literary agency, early Valentine’s Day at Farm and Table. Trout with crunchy flavor packed quinoa (how does that happen?); pork chop with a savory sauce, even the bread was delicious. (Discovered a good dry cider from Michigan — Rose co-op 39

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Snow, Indigo Textiles at the ABQ Museum, Spur Line small batch design – Albuquerque

Snow. Blowing snow. Bitter cold. Is this Iowa? No it’s New Mexico. At least it’s very pretty and the low temperature in Albuquerque today was the high temp in Des Moines. We shelved any hiking and looked for indoor activities. The Albuquerque Museum fit the bill, an airy contemporary building with an appealingly eclectic collection of New Mexican contemporary art and a new show on Indigo Textiles from around the world, something I fell for hard when we visited Kyoto, Japan awhile back. And during Covid 2021 I took a Zoom class in Shibori Indigo tie dying from the Des Moines art center. The Albuquerque show features textiles from Asia, South America, the U.S., vintage and contemporary, utilitarian and artwork. I loved a collection of giant-sized indigo-dyed costumes on display, accompanied by a video of the costumes worn by men on stilts, who danced and pranced in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. The locals’ expressions: priceless.

“Our house” in ABQ
Indigo!

Back in the Sawmill District, we wandered around Spur Line Supply Co., a cavernous high-design space with cool furniture, home goods, clothing, paper products, some local, by New Mexicans, but others by small batch makers elsewhere, including Des Moines’ Moglea, a letterpress studio that makes irresistible handmade notebooks, stationary and cards. (The ABQ museum gift shop also sold Moglea notebooks. Who knew?)

Spur Line

Lunch was at Vinaigrette (which has a mean vegan mushroom stew/soup…fyi, my dear reader Charlotte) to celebrate Dirck’s 65th birthday. We were supposed to have dinner with dirck’s sibs at Farm and Table but we got snowed out. There’s not much snow by midwestern standards. A few inches. But the roads are slick with ice and the cold wind is harsh.

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Sawmill Market, Hotel Chaco, Chello Middle eastern, Bosque Trail – Albuquerque

We found a new (to us) pocket of coolness in Albuquerque, a city we have chosen to ride out February in, living in a half-finished yet lovely adobe-style house next door to dirck’s sister and brother-in-law (who own the house we are bunking in.) The Sawmill District is dominated by the huge and super trendy Sawmill Market, a well-designed and lively food hall in a former, you guessed it, sawmill. I had excellent Vietnamese food and dirck had designer tacos, sitting outdoors in an industrial chic courtyard.

Across the street are trendized warehouse-looking buildings now housing an enormous mineral shop and another made-by-locals place. But we were blown away by the Hotel Chaco, dramatically designed to look like and pay tribute to area pueblos and Chaco Canyon, with a round high-ceilinged entryway, rugged materials and cutting-edge contemporary art by “Native American New Mexico artists.” The top floor restaurant we’re told has spectacular views of the mountains, buttes and plateau.

Today we had fast and tasty middle eastern food at Chello and then walked along the muddy Rio Grande on the dirt paths of the Bosque Trail (Bosque means forest in Spanish) stopping at a pond to bird watch.

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Los Poblanos, Church Street Cafe/Old Town, Nob Hill, Bosque trail, motel el Vado and Duran central pharmacy —Albuquerque

The weather wasn’t cooperative enough for us to take a proper hike so we walked instead in Leah’s Nob Hill neighborhood past pretty adobe houses with colorful vegetation and cacti to the main Nob Hill shopping district, where we explored some craft, resale and jewelry shops – and discovered a familiar car with Michigan plates and Iowa bumper stickers that did indeed belong to our friend Scott who moved here recently. We tracked him down and had a drink later. Small world.

Even when it’s rainy, the sky is very dramatic, with a band of dark blue and below it light blue and fluffy grey white clouds. The dark bit looks like a heavy curtain rising up or down on the mountains. We walked around the pretty grounds of Los Poblanos, a farm converted into a classy inn, restaurant and pricey gift shop. The bar there was closed so we ended up having chips and salsa in old town at Charles Street Cafe, an old New Mexican place.

On our last day, we walked along the muddy banks of the Rio Grande along the Bosque trail and checked out the El Vado motel, a renovated white adobe gem along Route 66.
Way cool mid-century modern furnishings, pool, outdoor food court and reasonable prices. Turns out it’s owned by the same folks as our go-to lodging in Santa Fe — the El Ray Inn. Our last meal in abq was at Duran Central Pharmacy, a fun place that’s a little dining area with a counter and good New Mexican fare (particularly hot carne adovada, I learned) tucked in an adobe drug store that is also an interesting gift shop. We really enjoyed Albuquerque and are thinking it may be a possible retirement option…

h

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Cocina azul, High and dry Brewery — Albuquerque

We arrived to blue skies and brisk temperatures in Albuquerque this afternoon and were whisked off to some excellent New Mexican food at Cocina Azul, near old town by our relatives here, Leah and Wellington. The brisket and carne adovada were highlights. I would have tried the flan if I had an room left in my stomach. This evening, after visiting dirck’s mother, we stopped at one of the many brewpubs in town, High and dry, for some beer and, in my case, cider.

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