Warm Crap In A Bag: Does Anthony Bourdain Really Affect How People Think About Food?

Parts Unknown, CNN

As part of CNN’s “Parts Unknown” show, Anthony Bourdain went to New Mexico to check out Santa Fe’s Five & Dime General Store, which is very well known for its Frito Pie. It didn’t end well.

Holding the bag of Frito chips covered in chili and topped with cheese, Bourdain proceeded to refer to it as “warm crap in a bag.” Granted, he was just trying to give viewers an idea of what Frito Pie feels like when you hold it, and he did say himself that the dish was “delicious.”

Bourdain has gotten a bit of flack since the episode. For one, the episode claimed that the dish was made with Hormel chili, when in fact Five & Dime makes its own. Bourdain apologized. But it raises the question: Do people care what Anthony Bourdain has to say about food?

We have a strange relationship with food, and when we see an odd food combination in the national spotlight, we’re often compelled to try it. Just look at the cronut trend.

Is it more important for Bourdain to like the dish he tries, or just to get the dish onto national television? I would wager that there are just as many people who are tempted to try different dishes simply because Bourdain has put them in the spotlight, regardless if he actually likes them or not. Certainly, he should get his facts right, but at the end of the day, isn’t all publicity good publicity?

Be honest: you want to go and try it for yourself. So book a trip to Santa Fe to eat some Frito Pie. Or just make it yourself.

Cave Divers To Explore Unmapped New Mexico Cavern

cave divers
A crack team of cave divers will explore New Mexico’s famed Blue Hole underwater cave system this weekend.

The Advanced Diver Magazine Exploration Foundation will send a team down Blue Hole cave in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The cave has already been partially mapped down to a depth of 225 feet, but it’s believed to be much more extensive and the team is carrying equipment allowing them to go as deep as 350 feet.

Every member of the team is an expert cave diver with at least 15 years experience. Each brings their own specialty in biology, survey, photography, cinematography, equipment, logistics, multimedia, or other skills in order to fully document the cave and produce material for a proposed documentary. The ADM team holds records for exploring the two deepest and longest underwater caves in North America with depths below 450 feet and linear passages of over seven miles.

Blue Hole is a popular spot for scuba diving but the entrance to the caves has been barred by a grate for decades due to the deaths of two cave divers who were exploring the system.

Cave diving is a dangerous sport that requires extensive technical knowledge and physical endurance. While I enjoy caving and will happily go to Iraq and Somaliland on vacation, you won’t see me cave diving. It’s too hardcore for me. Best of luck to the ADM crew!

US National Trail System Expands By 650 Miles

The U.S. National Trail System Adds 28 New Paths
Paulbalegend via Wikimedia

Last week – just in time for National Trails Day – newly appointed U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the designation of 28 new National Recreation Trails located in 18 states across the country. These new additions offer a wide variety of experiences for outdoor enthusiasts while adding an additional 650 miles to the existing U.S. National Trail System.

Being granted National Recreation Trail status indicates that a particular route plays an important role in linking communities to public lands and local parks for recreational purposes. There are now over 1200 trails that hold that distinction across the U.S., covering a distance of more than 15,000 miles through a variety of environments and terrains. Many of those trails also hold particular historic or environmental significance above and beyond their ability to connect us with the outdoors.

Some of the trails that were recently added to the system include the Forever Wild Coldwater Mountain Trail in Alabama, which is 11.5 miles in length and open to hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers alike. Similarly, California’s 28-mile long Nadeau Trail was recognized for its historical significance and offers mixed-use options that include 4×4 off-road vehicles as well. Located in amidst the cornfields of Iowa, the Sugar Bottom Mountain Biking Trail System received its designation for providing 13 miles of unexpected challenges to Midwest mountain bikers, while New Mexico’s Sierra Vista Trail is 29 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding bliss.

These are just a few examples of the new trails that Secretary Jewell approved last week. For a complete list, read the official press release from the National Park Service here. And to find a National Recreation Trail close to you, click here.

Mesilla, New Mexico: Discovering A Different Side Of The Southwest

mesilla
Alex Briseño, Flickr

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to El Paso on short notice for a magazine assignment. I found it enjoyable, but on my final day, I was itching to get out of the city limits and explore before my evening flight. Every local I talked to gave me the same response: go for a scenic drive out to Mesilla.

Located just 44 miles northwest of El Paso on the fringes of Las Cruces, Mesilla is a historic village established in 1848. Perhaps best known as the location for Billy the Kid’s trial, Mesilla has also played an integral role in the development of the Southwest, in part because it was along the Butterfield Stagecoach Line. I’m obsessed with all things New Mexico, but despite numerous visits to the northern part of the state, I’d never been south of Albuquerque. I was an easy sell.

The drive to Mesilla presents a dramatic contrast in topography. About 30 miles past the arid plains and stark Franklin Mountain range of El Paso, the Rio Grande grows from a trickle to substantial enough to support lush vegetation. I’d never seen a pecan tree before, and suddenly I was passing thousands of acres of them, in all their towering, leafy glory (after Texas, this region – Dona Ana County – is the nation’s largest producer). There were fields of onions and chiles (Mesilla is just 42 miles away from Hatch), and vast dairy farms. As a former ranch kid, I instantly felt at home.

mesilla, new mexico
Courtesy of Cisco Photography

As you enter Mesilla off of Highway 10 West, there are indications you’re approaching someplace special. Walk a couple of blocks down to the historic Plaza, and it’s impossible not to be charmed. Despite the inevitable souvenir shops, of which there are only a few, a number of buildings are on the historic register. The vibe isn’t one of touristy kitsch, but rather, small-town Southwest. There are coffee houses, cafes, boutiques, antique stores, galleries, wine tasting rooms and museums. A chocolate shop sells small bags of dipped pecans, while Solamente!, a specialty food boutique, offers tastes of the region in the form of green chile-spiked pecan brittle and salsas.

I whiled away a few hours by strolling the Plaza and talking to the handful of vendors who sell their wares from tables around its perimeter. This is the place to buy a bag of pecans and homemade bizcochos (buttery little cookies), or a pair of earrings. The Basilica of San Albino dominates the north end of the Plaza, and is open to visitors from 1 to 3 p.m. daily, except on Sundays. Afterward, I sipped an icy horchata and read on the shady patio of a coffee house. It’s unthinkable (to me, at least) to be in New Mexico and not eat. The region’s most famous restaurant, La Posta, is around the corner from the Plaza. This stunning 19th-century compound was once part of the Butterfield Stagecoach Line, but today it’s better known for its green chile enchiladas and signature Tostada Compuesta.

mesilla, new mexico
Courtesy of Ken Stinnet

Before heading to the airport, I drove the few miles down a back road to Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. Unfortunately, it was still closed for the season, but the drive meanders past pecan orchards, crumbling adobe homesteads and tranquil farmhouses. Horses graze in verdant pasture, and fields of onion with their flowering lavender heads intersperse the orchards. It’s lovely, and a side of New Mexico I’ve never seen, used as I am to the dramatic ochre landscape, canyons and severe mesas of the north.

At the end of a business trip, I’m often content to just get to the airport early, and spend the time people watching and reading. My jaunt to Mesilla was a reminder that sometimes it’s worth the extra effort to hit the road instead.

Culinary Vacations Not ‘Cookie-Cutter’ With Destination Discoveries

cooking classAs we’ve continued to report at Gadling, a new generation of culinary tours is on the rise. Food-loving travelers want more than generic cooking classes that teach how to make pad thai in Thailand or risotto in Tuscany. And a few companies – such as Destination Hotels & Resorts, North America’s fourth largest hotel management company – are complying by offering tours and classes that focus more on culture, locality and experiential elements.

With the launch of Destination Discoveries, hotel guests can tour the on-site apiary at Kirkland, Washington’s, The Woodmark, before taking a honey-themed cooking class with Chef Dylan Giordan. On Maui, personalized farm tours enable participants to harvest ingredients for a private class in their accommodation, as well as visit producers and sample handcrafted foods from the island.

The adventures aren’t just limited to food. There are also art, literature and active themes that reflect a sense of place; fly-fishing lessons in Lake Tahoe; nordic pursuits in Vail; art classes in Santa Fe; or a cultural and historic tour of Walden Pond via the Bedford Glen property in Boston. Here’s to more hotel groups doing away with homogenous travel.

[Photo credit: Destination Hotels & Resorts]