Where else besides New Mexico do people watch chile roasting with the same focus as they watch the NFL?
Who else but New Mexicans would find the sight of chiles scorching as they spin round and round in propane-powered roasters thoroughly entertaining?
At Wagner Farms in Corrales, the hottest ticket in town is a folding chair in front of the chile roasters. The price of admission is the cost of a burlap sack of fresh-picked chile.
There you can see your carefully selected pods meticulously poured into the roasters. Big Jims and Sandias take the heat as each roaster goes round and round while the green pods within acquire their glorious black char and emit an aroma to swoon for. For many local families, the spectacle is an annual pilgrimage, often with several generations in attendance.
So it is convenient that alongside bins of squash, melon, corn, peppers and apples for sale, Wagner Farms’ Apple Tree Café next to the farm store offers dishes made from their very own fresh-roasted chile. A bowl of four-alarm chile stew ($4.75) is the favorite seasonal accompaniment to a farm visit and a reminder that nothing beats going to the source. The indoor location is utterly simple, reminiscent of a remodeled shed, and the experience sitting outside at the oilcloth-covered café table is about as good as it gets.
Did I mention the chile stew is hot? Warning: This is not the way to introduce Aunt Hazel and Uncle Milt from Dayton, Ohio, to the local cuisine.
I find it addictive, but I have a love-hate relationship with this particular brew of ground meat, chunky potatoes, chile and spices. After every bite, my singed taste buds scream, “No more!” before I take another bite.
My husband, on the other hand, thinks it is perfect. He is a New Mexico native and as such is many years of chile tolerance ahead of me. However, the milder, meaty, flavorful chile used in the plump breakfast burritos is layered with bacon (not crispy enough for my taste) scrambled eggs and potatoes ($5 plain; $6.95 smothered). Wagner’s breakfast burritos earned a place on New Mexico True’s Breakfast Burrito Byway.
Apple Tree’s menu developed alongside the farm’s growing ecotourism opportunities. The green chile cheeseburger with fries ($6.95) and the red chile cheese enchilada plate ($7.95) are worthy orders.
Fall means a trip not only to Wagner’s, a family farm that has served the area since 1910 and is now in the fourth generation, but to the corn maze, pumpkin patch, petting zoo, hay rides and Pumpkin and Apple Festival put on by Wagner Farmland Experience.
We were disappointed in the apple pie ($6) which we were told was home-baked, but the overly thick crust encased apples that tasted canned. There are seven flavors of ice cream to choose among. Half a cantaloupe with ice cream is $5, and the peach cobbler looks good.
Fresh watermelon juice and sweet tea plus an assortment of refreshing fresh, fruity beverages are available.
Apple Tree Café is only open for the fall chile roasting season until Nov. 1, allowing time to get your ristra once red chiles come in; however, the café’s burritos are available at the Corrales Growers Market on Sundays.