Food is full of trinities: Hot dogs, beers and ballparks. PB&J. Wine, cheese and crackers. But here in Santa Fe we like to think we’ve got the best three-flavor combo of them all: Green chile, plus cheese, plus burger equals pure deliciousness. We’re the Green Chile Cheeseburger Capital of the World and we’ve got the Smackdown to prove it. More than 10,000 green chile fanatics voted in the top six contenders to compete for supremacy in the juried Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown on Sept. 12. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you your finalists!
Luminaria Lights Up Your Palate
Luminaria at the Inn and Spa at Loretto has a secret weapon in the balsamic grilled onions that Chef Marc Quiñones slathers on his picture-perfect entrant. Cheddar cheese is a classic topper that always scores with voters, and the fresh-roasted New Mexico green chile ensures a delicious heat index. The home-made potato chips were a big hit; in our group, serious sleight of hand was required to get a taste before they were gone. With Bibb lettuce and heirloom tomatoes stacked on the juicy grass-fed patty, it’s no surprise that this beefy baby ended up in the final go-round.
The Taste is Terra-ific
A short drive north into the scenic countryside should be part of any Santa Fe experience and the reward for the trip—besides the breathtaking scenery—is the Terra burger at the Four Seasons Resort and Spa (a breathtaking sight itself). Using Northern New Mexico-grown chile, Chef Andrew Cooper demonstrates his ardent farm-to-table support of the Farmers’ Market Institute (the beneficiary of Smackdown ticket sales). Cooper’s innovative style enhances the bread factor, with tidbits of green chile and pepper jack cheese dotting the tender brioche bun. While it is about the burger, that perfect bun ups the yum-factor to superb. Extra kudos to the chef for a spicy bed of chipotle BBQ sauce under the juicy, cooked-just-right local beef. And did I mention the red chile onion rings?
How I Ate Your Mother(burger)
Chef Patrick Lambert of the Cowgirl BBQ knows how to please Mom, but she needs a hearty appetite to get through his Mother Burger. Cowgirl was the proud recipient of the 2013 Smackdown People’s Choice Award, and no wonder - this mother of a meal boasts a mix of ground buffalo and beef topped with bacon and melted brie. A healthy helping of green chile is layered on top and the chile-cheddar bun adds extra kick to the whole megillah. Every mouthful offers a different hit — one minute beef, one minute brie — and each bite was killer-delicious. Think I ignored the truffle fries and huge selection of on-tap beers? Wrong!
There’s Nothing Ancient History About This Burger
“Wagyu gonna say” about 100% Wagyu beef? I say “bring it on” and Chef Juan Bochenski of Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi does just that. Cooked a la parilla (on a grate), the result is an enviable crust encasing a perfect center. Green chile mixed with chimichurri sauce (piquant chopped garlic, cilantro and parsley) reflects the chef’s Argentinian background and melds beautifully with the slice of avocado on top. Another entrant upping the ante with a fresh-baked brioche bun, this burger features provolone cheese as a creamy palate cooler. The house-made BBQ chips disappear in a flash!
It’s Never Too Late to Get In to Win
In Sunday School you may have heard the last shall be first. It could sure happen for Amaya at the Hotel Santa Fe, the Hacienda and Spa, a last-minute entry that shot up in a hurry. The all-natural, half-pound (be hungry, be very hungry) bison burger created by Chef Walter Dominguez boosts the flavor meter to high with a hefty dose of fire-roasted green chile and extra-sharp cheddar cheese. The tempura onion rings are a more-than-worthy accompaniment. And I love the beautiful covered patio and adjacent grassy lawn on which lucky folks like me can see a Pueblo dance.
Area 51 Comes to Santa Fe
The alien has landed at the Second Street Brewery at the Railyard. Chef Shawn Perry had a close encounter of the third kind when this idea landed in his mind: an all-beef patty topped with a crispy blue-corn-dusted chile relleno. Add richly-flavored stout queso, fried red onions and bacon, and it becomes even more other-worldly. And there’s nothing like a swash of guacamole to balance the heat of chipotle mayo and chopped green chile. Chef had best be careful not to get beamed up to serve the aliens on their home planet!
Don’t Miss the Lip-Smacking Smackdown Coming Up
By now, I expect you’re ready to buy tickets. Doing it soon is my advice, because this is one event that will definitely sell out. And guess what? You’ll be enjoying a bonus addition: The six finalists will be joined by a Lucky No. 7 chosen by local radio host Carlos Duran, turning this burger-iffic night out (with beer included) into seventh heaven!