#53 | The State Fair, an Old Fashioned, and Entrances & Exits

Giant Hungarian mammoth pumpkins. Oddly shaped fruits. Egg art. Freedom, even in the somewhat narrow sense of creative license, means different things to different people. For Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, it meant designing a park with buildings topped with what looks like whipped cream. For the cake architects of today, it can mean building cakes that look like parks, classical nineteenth-century still lifes, or the cosmos. And for the grand winners of the 2021 New Mexico State Fair Unique Food Competition, it meant using pancakes instead of buns to assemble that most beloved and controversial of sandwiches, the hamburger. (A few years earlier, the burger stuck between two funnel cakes took home no prizes.) 

This year’s fair opens September 8 and runs through the 18. We don’t know who will win the Unique Food Competition, much less who will win for jerky, canned pie filling, pickled okra, or divinity in the Home Arts competitions, but perusing the guidelines for the preserved food category, we couldn’t help but consider just how thin the line between freedom and obligation can be. Canning, no matter how artful, is work, and there’s something to be said for celebrating the acumen of homemakers. There’s also something to be said for dabbling in the ephemeral. For us, creative license has lately meant pairing savory herbs like mint and basil with salty cheeses and now-or-never peaches, and not caring if the resulting dish is original—just caring that it’s good.

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Delicious Things

Taos’s Rolling Still Distillery says the water they use—“water unlike any other”—comes from eleven thousand feet, starting as snowmelt and rainwater that filters through the mountains before resurfacing, making their spirits exceptional. We don't know whether it’s the water or the craft, but they serve exquisite cocktails. Last weekend, we sipped on the Folklore Old Fashioned, made with their Sidewinder rye whiskey, apricot liqueur, and black walnut bitters, and served up with a cherry wood smoker cap. Even after the smoke had wafted off the drink's surface, we could feel the cherry wood fill our nostrils with every sip we savored. 

Entrances & Exits

Albuquerque’s Sawmill Market has another new vendor: Hiro Sushi. Hiro (not to be confused with sushi master Jiro Ono, although we do recommend watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi if you somehow haven’t yet) focuses strictly on rolls, including at least two vegetarian options.

Also at Sawmill, chef Gilbert Aragon is soon to add porchetta (not to be confused with the much more familiar pancetta) to his menu at Roti N.M. If The Bear had been made in Philadelphia instead of Chicago, you’d be looking for a version of this dish (a.k.a. roast pork) instead of Italian beef.

Burnt Fideo sells tacos. Originally from a truck, lately at El Vado in Albuquerque. Owner and chef Mikey Vince Phillips will be opening a second food shop, Fideos, sometime this fall, and at least a few people are hoping fideos will be on the new menu. 

If you missed Beck & Bulow’s offering this week of live Maine lobsters, which arrived on Thursday and rapidly dispersed with Santa Feans able to take on preparing a two-pound crustacean for their dinner table, take note that they’ll be back. It’s just a matter of when, so watch their Instagram for updates.


This weekend, the Harvest Wine Festival takes place at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque and at the Southern New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Las Cruces. In addition to more than a dozen New Mexico wineries, a number of food trucks are scheduled to be on hand. 

Remember that thing about "Air Fryer Southwestern Salsa Verde Corn and Bacon Rangoons”? Find out more at a 505 Southwestern party at Tin Can Alley in Albuquerque September 15.

Do you have to stand all day if you attend the White Sands Balloon & Music Festival? No, and you can bring a blanket or a lawn chair to the September 16–18 event. But you cannot bring drones, four-wheelers, tents, packs of dogs, or your own booze—the latter because vendors will be proffering alcohol as well as food.

Burqueños who lamented the closure of Jambo Cafe’s Duke City location may be interested to know that Jambo Hapa, among others, will be serving food at Globalquerque September 22–24. 

September 25, at the 12th Annual Salsafest in Las Cruces, bartenders will compete to make the best Bloody Marys and margaritas. Also, there will be salsa. The kind you can eat and the kind you can (at least try to) dance.  


If the stomach is another brain, what does it mean to eat a chile relleno corn dog? 

Speaking of fair fare: this year’s New Mexico State Fair Signature Cocktail is Strawberry Lemonade with Vodka, a canned adult beverage created in partnership with the talented team at Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery. Learn more about their process in this Q&A from our sister mag, or find cocktail inspiration from edible New Mexico’s pre-pandemic but still pretty solid guide to craft distillers around the state.


The Bite satisfies a hunger for provocative, artful, community-minded, diverse stories about the raw, the cooked, the distilled & the fermented. We strive for inclusion and a wide range of perspectives in our coverage of the New Mexico food and drink industry, sparking readers to veer out of their comfort zones and into the open territory of the region’s culinary landscape.

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