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Thirty-Six Hours in the Burque

A very good friend came to visit me in Albuquerque for my last full weekend there. We did a bunch of random things and tried a lot of restaurants, but when my partner Joe came down from Santa Fe on Friday evening, we went for a whirlwind tour of city of events. 

Some of these were holiday-specific, so you might not be able to replicate our adventure exactly, but you should try because Duke City has a lot to offer for a quick weekend getaway.

  • Casa Rodeña Winery. This first stop would be nicer in the warm weather because the scenery and patio were probably both lovely. Inside in the winter is a bit chilly - we had to keep our coats on - but we enjoyed the wine. We tried both the red and white flights. I liked all the reds, though the Copine was a bit too dry for me, something I never thought I'd say. The whites were good too, except for the Merlot Rose, but I don't like Merlots anyway. They have a great selection of charcuterie for purchase if you need to something to snack on while you drink. 
  • Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. This small museum on the University of New Mexico campus was having an open house night to coincide with other Christmas events on campus. They served cookies and Mexican hot chocolate, and had a guitarist playing classical Mexican music in the museum. The event was free and a very nice stop for an hour.

  • Founders Speakeasy. Yes, you really do have to email them for a password to get in. But no, it's not hoity-toity at all. You enter the liquor store, give them the password, and then, when there's room, they open the freezer door (it's obviously not a freezer anymore even though the liquor store itself is real) and let you downstairs. The vibe is ultra-casual and the seating is cozy. They have a very creative and tasty cocktail menu. The bartenders come to you to take drink orders, no need to wait at the bar. And because the space is small, it doesn't get too loud or rowdy. 
  • Ancora Cafe Albuquerque. This was our choice for Saturday morning breakfast. The place has a mission of employing former addicts and helping them get back on their feet, which is great. The atmosphere is welcoming and the staff are really attentive and friendly. The breakfast menu has a lot of great options, as does their bakery case. They have outdoor seating for the summer, and inside they have an event space for open mic nights and other events. I'm looking forward to going back there.
  • Big Jim Farms. This farm hosts a lot of different Christmas events, and since chile comes Christmas style (that's red and green together), tamale making is one of their offerings this time of year. The class wasn't at the farm site but in a big, commercial/education kitchen, which makes sense. The chicken was already roasted, so all we did was wash the hojas, shred the chicken, and start assembling tamales with masa spreaders, garlic powder, and of course, as much chile as we wanted. Honestly, there's not that much to making tamales and the ingredients are cheap, so I don't entirely think it was worth the $60. This seemed to me more like a $45 class. But the instructor was lovely and we all had a great time. Plus we took home three dozen tamales to steam in the Instant Pot and enjoy!

  • Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. Los Poblanos was right across the street from where the tamale class was, so we drove up the lovely, tree-lined entryway and found a spot to park. We didn't have a reservation for brunch, but they accommodated us just fine for a mid-day cocktail. In the summer, there's an expansive outdoor seating area with a fantastic view of the Sandias but in the winter even the big roaring fireplace wasn't enough to entice us to sit outside. Everything about this farm is upscale, and it would be nice to stay at the historic inn sometime, but the gift shop was so wildly overpriced that I wasn't tempted to buy anything. 

  • Pueblo Montaño chainsaw sculpture garden. This was a brief stop only ten minutes from the farm, on our way back to my house. This is at one of the trailheads for the Bosque, which I have yet to run along since I have a bum knee. 

  • Tumbleweed Snowman. And next, an even shorter stop to see this Albuquerque classic. Tumbleweed is my favorite plant, so we had to. But from inside the city, you can only see its backside and it's fenced off so you can't get close. It's better to get a nice view of the man from I-40. 
  • Abó Unit of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Technically an hour south of Albuquerque, once a year this mission lights up with luminarias (or farolitos, it's a hot debate which is correct), so we had to go see it. There was a mass, a posada re-enactment, Mexican hot chocolate, carolers, and, of course, tamales. And again, it was all free! We did have to take a shuttle from a remote parking lot because this event is extremely popular and the normal lots were full, but it worked out just fine. On the way home, we stopped for mulled wine ingredients to make our own special Christmas drink.   

  • Little Bear Pop Up Market. After eating a bunch of tamales for breakfast Sunday morning, we stopped at a pop-up craft market before heading to Santa Fe for the day. I got some lovely prints from this artist, Solseco, and my friend bought some earrings. There are tons of pop-up markets in Albuquerque this time of year, so you won't be scrambling for gifts if you're here.