The Animas Alfredo at Turtle Mountain Brewing Co. in Rio Rancho was named after the Animas River in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, but it might as well have been named after the Animas Valley, down in the Bootheel of New Mexico where I’m from, where they grow some of the best – and hottest – green chile in the state.
Thanks to genius marketing, it is the village of Hatch that benefits the most from green chile’s ubiquitous reputation, but it is grown everywhere in New Mexico, and varieties from the Animas Valley are every bit as good. If this is the origin of the green chile in Turtle Mountain’s Animas fetuccini ($13 for a full order), the heat makes a lot more sense.
Turtle Mountain (from the Tewa name for Sandia Peak) probably serves more pizza than anything, but the rest of the menu is full of hidden gems like this pasta – made to order, uniquely New Mexican, and hotter than the blue blazes of hell – in a good way.
A giant chicken breast is marinated and then cooked on a super-hot grill for an almost crispy, blackened outside, but moist, tender inside. It’s piled on top of a boat of al dente fettuccine noodles, also cooked beautifully, and then drenched in a housemade Alfredo sauce.
To say it’s creamy would be an understatement. The pasta was swimming in rich sauce, made with cream and parmesan cheese and green chile. Shredded parmesan was sprinkled on top, and a couple of slices of garlic toast came on the side.
The chicken, pasta, and Alfredo sauce were delicious, but the green chile was sweat-inducing – again, in a good way. As an addition to any bland dish, mild green chile can be a great way to raise the flavor profile and add some spice. But there’s also something to be said about little specks of fire-hot chile that detonate in your mouth with all the grace of a car wreck. Then again, Turtle Mountain is a brewery, and few things cool a flaming mouth like a cold beer.
Of course, you could probably ask the kitchen to kindly tone down the heat, but why would you? If you’re a New Mexican by birth or by choice, your you have a duty to grab the pepper by the horns and hold on.
Not as hot but just as good are the “Turtle Shell” potato skins ($10 and well worth the price), made to order and not frozen so the potato isn’t pasty or starchy. Crispy bacon and yellow cheddar cheese are sprinkled on top with a few sliced tomatoes, with a mound of sour cream and green onions in the middle. Indulgent, savory and made to perfection, this is an appetizer for two or three, at least.
The skins also pair well with the Hopshell IPA ($5 for a 16-ounce draft), a delicious, heavy New Mexico beer with an attention-getting bitterness rating of 100. The bitterness might also help mediate the spice from the fettuccine, should you require assistance.
Kid-friendly menu items are available, there is ample parking, and the wait staff is excellent.
Turtle Mountain also offers gluten-free options. If you remember your growler from home, you can also fill up with one of Turtle Mountain’s award-winning brews.
With delicious appetizers and signature New Mexico dishes like the Animas Alfredo, Turtle Mountain is a great restaurant in its own right. But paired with its acclaimed brewery and a cozy pub vibe with big screens showing NFL games, it might be a candidate for the area’s best-spent Sunday afternoon.