One of the great things about traveling, whether it’s for business or pleasure, is getting to try new restaurants. Bonus points, in my opinion, if it’s a new type of cuisine I haven’t tried before.
As a result, tonight’s trip to Mateo’s Santa Fe Cafe in Dumfries, Virginia, was a nice treat. I’d never eaten New Mexican food before — it has a range of flavors that are similar to but distinct from Mexican or Tex-Mex. I can’t speak to its authenticity, since I’ve never been to New Mexico myself, but it definitely intrigued me and has me seeking out a truly authentic experience. Plus the food was good.
For starter’s, my dinner companions and I had the Tres Tapas, a trio of dips for our chips: a spicy but light and fresh salsa, guacamole, and queso. For me, the salsa was the best part, but I couldn’t really dig into the queso too much. The guac was good, but it needed a little something, a little kick. I also had a glass of sangria, which had a fantastic flavor (and, since it was happy hour, was very reasonably priced :D).
For my entree, I had the Enchilada Special, which included blue flour chicken and guacamole enchiladas with green chile sauce, topped with cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, and a side of corn pudding. Going in, I was most intrigued by the idea of Southwestern corn pudding (which is a Southern staple in our household) and the green chile sauce — was it going to scorch out my tastebuds or just bring a nice flavor to the dish?
As I started digging in, I found myself enjoying the mix of flavors in the enchiladas. However, I felt as though the green chiles didn’t bring as much punch to the dish as I’d have liked (I should have gone with my gut and had the red chile sauce), and they needed more guacamole — I almost forgot there was any in there until I got to the last couple of bites.
What I did love was the corn pudding. It was sweet, but not overly so. It had a nice, light texture that enabled it to stand up (literally), unlike the corn pudding I’m used to, which is quite a bit runnier. And it had some spices in it that I’m still working to identify — I think cloves and possibly cinnamon or nutmeg. The flavor combination was a bit unusual for me in a side dish, but I loved it.
Overall, I enjoyed dinner. Especially before I sat down to really critique it and break down what I did and didn’t like about the food. 😛 Despite the factors that were perhaps less ideal about the dishes, I had a fantastic time — the company was incomparable, and we all had a great time. I would go back to Mateo’s again at least once if I lived up here to give the Carne Adovada burrito with the red chile sauce.
Not because I’d want to try to figure out what those spices are in the corn pudding. At all. Really.