Road Trip

WHERE: Albuquerque

GUIDE: Jacqueline Baca, Albuquerque native and president of Bueno Foods, a producer of authentic New Mexican and Mexican foods, which blend Native American and Spanish influences. The family-owned company is famous for its flame-roasted green chile. This is Bueno's 50th year in business.


BEST PLACE TO TAKE A CHILD: Rio Grande Zoo, a 15-minute walk from downtown, on the east bank of the river. It's near the Barelas, one of the oldest parts of Albuquerque, where people who worked on the railroad lived. (The polar bears, especially, are fun.)

LOCAL BREAKFAST FOOD OF CHOICE: A breakfast burrito smothered in our red or green chile. Even McDonald's has one.

WHAT TO DO WITH A THREE-HOUR LAYOVER: Visit the National Hispanic Cultural Center, a seven-minute trip from the airport by taxi. The Center celebrates all aspects of Hispanic culture, including its cuisine.

BEST PLACE FOR A REALLY GOOD HAIRCUT: Tijeras Hair Co. It's a mother-daughter team. Go see them and say good-bye to bad-hair days forever.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT RED-HOT CHILE PEPPERS: Our common varieties are the New Mexico 6-4, the Joe Parker, and the Nu Mex Big Jim. Piquin is a superhot red chile. From August through October, when peppers are green and harvested, they're eaten fresh or they're frozen. From October through December, peppers are dried whole or crushed into puree or powder.

IF YOU HAVE TO BE RUSHED TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM: Go to St. Joseph's, on the west side of town. I know, because I was making fudge for a Christmas Eve party one year when I cut my wrist on a broken glass dish. They got me stitched up in time for the party.

DON'T EVEN THINK OF LEAVING HERE WITHOUT: Tasting New Mexican cuisine. Mainly, it's about the chiles -- you can even find green-chile burgers and pizzas around here.

DON'T EVEN THINK OF COMING HERE WITHOUT: Sunglasses.

THREE NEW MEXICAN FOODS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT: Atole, blue-corn gruel you eat when you're sick. Bizcochito, an anise-flavored sugar cookie molded by hand into a butterfly shape. And sopapillas, squares of deep-fried bread. The legend is that if you tear open a sopapilla and hold it next to your ear, you can hear the desert.

ALBUQUERQUE IS FAMOUS FOR: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, held every October, when about 1,000 balloons ascend skyward in the morning, and then everybody parties for a week or so. Also, the Old Town, just west of downtown.

BEST PLACE TO CHILL OUT: The Sandia Mountains. Take the tram -- it's the world's longest tram ride at two and three-quarters of a mile -- to the summit (10,378 feet). The temperature mercifully drops 20 degrees on the way up.

Written with Nancy Austin


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