Burritos at Santa Fe’s El Parasol

Arne and I spent this 4th of July in Woodland Park, CO, with his parents. We try to get up there every summer. It was a lovely trip, with cool weather, beautiful thunderstorms, a trip to glorious Eleven Mile Canyon, and lots of hanging out.
And a little bit of work. Arne’s parents own a nice wooded property. The tall, spindly trees, though lovely, occasionally die – and when they do, someone needs to cut them down. There was a particular tree that had been dead for a couple of years that Ernie wanted Arne’s help to cut down. A few years ago Arne took a class on cutting down trees, so he kind of remembers what to do. He was taught to do this with a chainsaw – work of a few seconds. But Ernie doesn’t have a chainsaw. So the two went to work with a sort of giant hacksaw, one on each side.
This is less speedy.
After five or ten minutes of cutting, and lots of well-advised breaks (I jumped in once, and I’ll testify – that’s hard work), they decided they had cut a large enough wedge and should be able to guide the final break and tree fall with some pushing. So they pushed. The tree wobbled. Arne waved his dad out of the way and pushed some more. The tree creaked, and slowly toppled… from the roots. The tree had been dead long enough that the roots had almost completely rotted underground. They could have pushed that tree over without a single minute of sawing!
The victors gloat over their fallen foe.

But what I really want to tell you about happened well before that. On our drive up to Colorado, we always look forward to a meal in Santa Fe. I had spent a lot of time on the computer the day before, trying to decide where to eat. I still hadn’t made up my mind when we got in the car. So, as we drove, I surfed Urbanspoon on my phone and bounced suggestions off Arne. We picked a Mexican place that was reported to have amazing stuffed poblano peppers in cream sauce. I mapped it and we found it.

And it was closed.

We were flailing about what to do when we spotted a little restaurant with a cheerful sign a couple of doors down. El Parasol. It seemed familiar, probably because it had come up over and over in my research the day before. I’d rejected it because it was a walk-up spot with no place to sit. But there we were, and we were hungry, and I had read that the food was awesome. So in we went.

The menu featured a variety of New Mexican classics – including a decent vegetarian selection – and I had read that the tacos were amazing. But happily it wasn’t veggie week, because I knew what I wanted the moment I saw it: a chicharrone and bean burrito, smothered in green chile. Arne opted for a chile relleno burrito, also smothered in green chile.
As we waited, sipping our Mexican Coke, I checked my phone and found a nearby park. (That thing has really made travel easy, let me tell you.) Salivating at the luscious smells emanating from our brown paper bag, we strolled down there – and then around a bit, because the park was behind a fire station – and found a nice picnic table in a beautiful grassy area. We plopped down, pulled out the styrofoam containers, and were greeted by the sight of at least a cup and a half of roasted chopped green chile obscuring the view of each burrito. We found the plastic cutlery and dug in. And swooned.
This was the ultimate chicharrone and bean burrito. The pork was crackling crisp despite its bath in smooth, rich refried beans. The tortilla had just enough chew. And the green chile was perfect – just warm enough to tingle the lips and start that flow of endorphins, without being hot enough to cause pain and tears, or to distract from the vegetable’s simple roasty earthiness. Everything was perfectly balanced. Elemental.
Arne’s was excellent as well; the eggy batter on the relleno complemented the other flavors of the chile and beans almost as well as the chicharrones, though without their delightful crispness.

I won’t say that the cool, damp evening and the freedom of the road, the green grass and the presence of my sweetheart had nothing to do with the perfection of that meal. Of course they did. And yet. For the next two days, we kept turning to each other and saying, “Man, that was a great burrito!” We described to each other the ways in which that chile was perfect, that meal exceptional.
I cannot wait to do it again.

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El Parasol on Urbanspoon El Parasol on Foodio54