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Join in Albuquerque’s annual fall celebration of humble breakfast burrito

The breakfast burrito — long a staple of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta — is a favorite of young and old alike. (Journal)
The breakfast burrito — long a staple of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta — is a favorite of young and old alike. (Journal)
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It’s officially called the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but the annual hot-air extravaganza could easily be subtitled “Breakfast Burrito Bonanza.”

Attendees gobble so many of the tortilla-wrapped treats that they’ve become an instrumental part of those brisk, early-morning mass ascensions.

That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, although some of the recipes just might. Burrito variety is one of the changes attendees will find amid the fiesta food booths.

“There will be breakfast burritos all over the place, but they won’t be the same, typical breakfast burritos that everybody makes,” says Jay Satenspiel, regional vice president of Ovations Food Services, the company overseeing fiesta concessions. “Everybody will have their own little flair.”

At least one-third of the 36 food vendors participating  will offer some type of breakfast burrito, Satinspiel said. And rest assured, customers seeking the most basic model — eggs, potato, chile and cheese — will find what they want. But Ovations has urged concessionaires to play with the formula, whether that means incorporating different types of sausage or adding new ingredients.

“We’re encouraging the vendors to come up with different ways and different things to enhance their breakfast burritos,” he says. “But (we’ll) still have the standard (also).”

Other options

Those seeking sustenance beyond the breakfast burrito will also have diverse options. For example, new fiesta vendor Island Noodles will do a breakfast dish using eggs, bacon and noodles prepared in woks. Then there are the pastries and doughnuts — lots of doughnuts. Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts and Tom Thumb Donuts have all reserved booth space.

There are numerous choices for satisfying those late-day hunger pains, too.

Think burgers and barbecue and the Navajo offerings of Platero Fry Bread. Customers can line up for Persian and Mediterranean food at the Pars Cuisine booth or get their dinner from Scalo or Heydi’s Latin Grill.

Satenspiel said fiesta has something for nearly every taste.

“If you think of something you want to be able to eat, odds are you’re going to find it at the fiesta, whether you want a gyro, green chile cheeseburger, a slice of pizza, a reindeer sausage, a buffalo burger or you’re a vegetarian or want something healthy,” Satenspiel says.

Sweet things

If the sweet tooth is calling the shots, there’s also ice cream and churros and funnel cake.

Funnel cake is surprisingly popular regardless of the time of day, according to Fred Kelly, whose Funnel Cake of New Mexico business has been at the fiesta for more than 30 years.

“All day (they sell),” Kelly says of the fried, sugary indulgence. “And if the weather is a little rainy or cold, they sell better.”

Kelly also offers coffee, hot chocolate, fresh-squeezed lemonade and soft-serve ice cream. But even the ice cream doesn’t move as quickly as those funnel cakes. Kelly says he can sell 800-1,000 cakes on a good fiesta day, each dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon. That’s probably because they’re seen as a rare treat.

“You can go any time of year to get a hamburger, hot dog or burrito,” he says. “Where can you go to get a funnel cake besides the flea market every weekend on the fairgrounds?”

Home-grown

Like Kelly, approximately half of this year’s fiesta food vendors are New Mexico-based, Satenspiel says. The concessionaires also represent an even mixture of fiesta returnees and newbies.

Sadie’s of New Mexico — one of Albuquerque’s oldest and most established restaurants — is among the first-timers. Owner William R. Stafford says going to the fiesta made sense this year because Sadie’s is considering future growth and the event is a great way “to expand our brand name.”

Sadie’s will pare down its menu to the basics for fiesta, sticking with a short list of favorites like breakfast burritos, enchiladas and tamales. It’s what Stafford calls “traditional Sadie’s” with chile and the taste the restaurant’s fans will recognize.

It may be a simple menu, but the Sadie’s booth won’t be subtle: staff will also be roasting chile on site.

“No. 1, (that’s) to get the smell, and No. 2 , just for the show of it, (so people say) ‘Check that out — they’re roasting chile there,’” Stafford says.

Satenspiel says Chile Traditions will also be roasting at its booth.

This marks the first year the fiesta has hired a professional food management company to oversee its food booths. As part of the change, Ovations had considered “price standardization,” so that similar items cost the same at every booth, but Satenspiel says that will not happen. Novice vendors who need help setting prices can get it from Ovations, but veterans can exercise their own discretion.

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