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October 25, 2012
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MATHIS: Food-venture with Lee in New Mexico - part 2

You know it was a great road trip when it takes two columns to finish the story!After Hatch, N.M., I drove over to Roswell for no particular reason. I love driving through the desert and what the hey, I might see some UFOs (Unidentified Food Objects!). I had done some research on local restaurants and none really stuck out, so I did what a lot of us do, ask the locals (or in this case, the desk clerks at the hotel) and the consensus was Martin's Capitol Cafe, on W. Fourth.Not a fancy place (love that!) and off the main road a little (love it!). Got there around 7 and was given a choice of seating, taking a booth as I prefer. The menu is a nice combination of American and Mexican, nothing real "gourmet" but it all sounded like good down-home food and ya know, sometimes that ain't a bad thing!I asked the waitress what she liked and she told me to try the chicken chimichanga, which was covered with a nice green chile sauce. She immediately brought me some chips and salsa (nice heat) and the chimichanga was really, really good! Could have used a little more heat but I seem to be saying that a lot nowadays. Saw a lot of people coming in who phoned in an order, seems like the locals love it, too! Very reasonably priced, too! My entree was less than $9.Taking off early the next morning, I headed up to Santa Fe and one of the places that I had researched and had some of the best reviews I have seen. And it is a food truck (actually a food stand) on the Santa Fe Plaza, Roque's Carnitas.I drove through the large crowd of tourists and finally found a parking place about three blocks away and walked around the plaza, looking for Roque's, finally finding it on the southeast corner. I ordered the carnitas and was not disappointed! Even with all of the acclaim, not disappointed! After the lunch crowd subsided, I had a chance to talk to Rocky (Roque), his helper and a friend, and they could not have been nicer. This place was written up in over 100 newspapers, magazines and websites and it is a food truck/stand! Not fancy, not expensive, just a guy who is really, really good at what he does, and we thank you.I left Santa Fe and headed up toward Taos for my birthday. I had not been there since 1980, or it may have been 1981. I headed up to the Ski Valley and, yeah, the place has changed in 30 years. Condos, fast food places, yuck!But on the way down from the mountain, I came across a place by accident It turned out to be one of the best "finds" I have ever had - El Meze. As their website says: "Experience regionally inspired rustic New Mexican, Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine with a creative twist." And I was not disappointed. A little higher end than what I am used to, but had the best dinner in years! Buffalo short ribs adovada with some great heat for the appetizer and their slow-braised flatiron steak, fresh roasted Hatch green chiles, tomatoes and onion gravy over smashed Idaho baked potato with Tucumcari feta & fresh oregano. Yeah, I finished every bite!For pictures and stuff from this road trip, check out our Facebook page!Lee is the founder and owner of Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes and Catering. He can be reached via email at decadencecheesecakes@mindspring.com, on the web at www.decadencecheesecakes.com, or by calling 970-256-4688. Also, find him on the web by searching Facebook or by visiting Twitter (@decadenceGJ).

"Carnitas" usually means little pieces of fried pork or beef. At the edge of the Plaza in the heart of Santa Fe, N.M., it means a delicious lunch. Roque's Carnitas Wagon parks here between Easter and Halloween and dishes out a hefty sandwich of grilled beef in a tortilla. It tastes best if you can cook the beef on a tight-knit grate over an open fire, but a hot skillet will do fine. Make the salsa in advance, as you want to eat this sandwich good and hot. Note also that the meat needs at least an overnight marinade before being cooked.Preparation Time: 5 minutesCook Time: 10 minutesServings: 4Salsa:2 cups diced fresh tomatoes 2 cloves garlic, minced2-6 jalapeЦo peppers, finely chopped, to taste1 small onion, chopped2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)Carnitas:2 tablespoons oregano 4 cloves garlic, minced1/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup salad oil 1/4 cup beer1-1/2 pounds top round or sirloin sliced into 1/4-inch strips against the grain 1 large yellow onion, sliced thin5 fresh green chile peppers, sliced in circles, with seeds 4 broad flour tortillas, warmed Directions:1. Make the salsa by combining all its ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. 2. Combine oregano, garlic, soy sauce, oil, and beer. Marinate the beef a minimum of 12 hours, preferably 24. Drain beef and discard marinade. 3. On a screen over an open fire, or in a hot, greased skillet, cook the meat, onion, and peppers about 5-6 minutes, tossing almost constantly, until meat is well-browned. 4. Use a tongs to lift a heap of the meat mixture from the grate or skillet, allowing any excess juice to drip away, and place one quarter of the mixture into a warm flour tortilla. Top with salsa (recipe follows), fold the tortilla around the ingredients, and serve.

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The Post Independent Updated Oct 25, 2012 01:30PM Published Oct 25, 2012 01:29PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.