“For today’s breakfast options we have a house made chorizo frittata with seasonal vegetables and buttered hominy or a toasted local blue corn meal polenta with two eggs and toast served with house-made green chile sausage.”
I’m currently enjoying a truly farm-to-fork breakfast at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. While Albuquerque isn’t typically the first place you picture when thinking about organic farms, acres of colorful gardens and rows upon rows of delicious produce, it actually has a vibrant farm country culture, especially in the North Valley area. While there are numerous family-run farms and grower’s markets in the area worth exploring, at Los Poblanos you get a truly immersive experience through their farmstays, culinary programing and events.
While I’m not staying at the property — although after for the full Albuquerque farm experience you really should — I’ve come to get a taste of what they offer through a delicious meal of organic, local ingredients, sourced mainly from their onsite farm. I choose the polenta and get back to savoring my appetizer of fresh fruit, made-from-scratch-by-a-pastry-chef pound cake, homemade granola and fresh squeezed orange juice. With every bite — the succulent watermelon, the local milk coating my granola, the organic sugar gowning my pastry — I become more and more immersed in farm culture and how much more satisfying flavors are when they’re not only natural, but local.
Originally, the land Los Poblanos sits on was inhabited by an ancient Pueblo Indian tribe called the Anasazi, followed by the Armijos, a prominent Hispanic political family who built a ranch and used the land for corn, alfalfa, wheat and wine grapes. In 1934 the ranch was acquired by Albert and Ruth Simms and became the model experimental farm that it is today. The couple remodeled the ranch — employing famed architect John Gaw Meem to help with the refurbishment — and turning it into an agricultural center, cattle ranch and community hub for political and cultural activities. In fact, there were often art exhibitions, concerts in their ballroom and lecture series with speakers like Thornton Wilder and Rockwell Kent. Moreover, it acted as a model experimental farm during the 1930s and 1940s and was home to the original Creamland Dairies, playing a major role in New Mexico’s dairy industry.
Today, Los Poblanos in Albuquerque encompasses 25 acres (10 hectares) of the original estate. While it’s been refurbished and added on to over the years, much of the heritage has been preserved through the agricultural focus as well as the architecture and decor. While Meem is responsible for the beautiful fresco murals paying homage to local agriculture and elaborate unfinished wood carvings, New Mexican artist Gustave Baumann is the reason you see the inn’s iconic San Ysidro Labrador with motifs of corn and wheat in the inn’s ballroom. Moreover, pioneer female landscape architect Rose Greely designed their formal Spanish-style gardens, while Robert Woodman, who was part of the Spanish Pueblo Revival movement, is responsible for the decorative tinwork in the chandeliers, mirrors and other furnishings. Throughout the building of Los Poblanos you’ll also find artwork by New Mexican artists. These are just a few of the many people involved in preserving the unique history and culture of New Mexico.
Surprisingly, the room rates are affordable, about $150 to $200 per night. That being said, you can enjoy breakfast or dinner at the inn without being a guest if you make a reservation. Since all ingredients are sourced on property or within 200 miles (322 kilometers) they call the cuisine “Rio Grande Cuisine.” Dishes incorporate French cooking techniques like braising, roasting and confit using local ingredients. The menu changes daily, with some possible breakfast dishes including house-made pound cake French toast; local blue corn meal pancakes; breakfast tostada with local beans, farm vegetables, cheese, sauce and farm-fresh eggs; and cardamom aebleskiver with house-made fruit preserves and house-cured bacon.
“Our budino is also a really popular dish,” explains Kayla Martinez, the director of sales and marketing for the property. “It’s a savory bread pudding with green chile sauce and vegetables. We have a guest who only books a room for Wednesday nights so he can be here on Thursday mornings when we serve it.”
Even indoors you’re immersed in country culture. The historic farmhouse features furnishings like unpolished wooden tables, quilted New Mexico artwork, tin mirrors and chandeliers, lots of paned windows letting in natural sunlight, and wooden chairs with charmingly worn seat cushions. In the kitchen, original Garland stoves from the early 1900s cook up satisfying meals and lavender bath products. It has the type of vibe that makes you relax, talk longer, eat slower and really savor every bite of farm- fresh egg and sticky organic fig.
When the meal arrives, it’s like art on a plate. The blue corn of the polenta pays homepage to Native Pueblo culture, as this is a staple in their diet due to the high nutrition content. Moreover, the green chile in the sausage spices up the meal using New Mexico’s most iconic regional food. Executive Chef Jonathan Perno and Sous-Chef de Cuisine Adam Nelson are truly artists, foraging for their tools and using their creativity to come up with recipes that use the resources on hand.
“Locally sourcing and using organic ingredients from our farm inspires us to be as creative as possible,” explains Chef Nelson. “Sometimes all you have is celery root and you’ve got to figure out how to use it to make something delicious.”
A Tour Of The Farm
After breakfast, Chef Nelson takes me on a tour of the kitchen garden and lavender fields. Eighty-percent of the property’s organic farm is used for agriculture, using what’s grown in the food and beverage program as well as in the decor and amenities. There are a large range of crops grown in their organic garden: Sunflowers, arugula, eggplant, chard, apples, corn, melon, roses, herbs, mint, artichokes and much more, not to mention the farm animals that lay eggs and make dairy. If there is something they’re not growing they’ll source it from a local farm, for example, organic heritage turkeys from Pollo Real in Socorro, New Mexico, and certified organic grass-fed lamb from Shepherd’s Lamb in northern New Mexico.
Chef Nelson walks into the rows of tomatoes and begins plucking them from the vines . “You have to try these Cherokee Purple Tomatoes,” he says, excitedly. “I never liked tomatoes until I started working here and tried these. It may sound corny, but it was really a life changing experience for me.”
The beefsteak-style tomatoes are juicy, bursting with sweet yet smokey flavor as I bite down and the juices coat my palate. I can understand why Chef Nelson found tasting these was a special moment, as it opens your eyes to how much better fruits and vegetables taste when you sample them straight from the farm.
As we walk back farther we meet Dr. Armin Rembe, the resident beekeeper and the father of the current inn director, Matt Rembe. He once worked as a doctor and in retirement he’s pursued his passion of beekeeping, although staff members will often go to him with questions about bites and burns. Luckily, the onsite lavender and pure honey are often the cure people need for their ailments.
“What’s really great about our honey is its pollinated with our own lavender,” explains Chef Nelson. “It gives the honey these wonderful floral notes.”
Continuing on, we walk to the grosso lavender fields, the sweet heavenly scent permeating the air. Los Poblanos’ lavander farm is part of a village and state-driven sustainability initiative to create a high margin crop using very little water. Grosso Lavender in particular is very medicinal, with antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive and anti-depressant properties. Additionally, it gives you more oil than other types of lavender, and can handle the big swings in temperature New Mexico experiences.
While some people grow lavender because they enjoy the flowers, Los Poblanos grows it for its oil, which I fully explore next in their adjacent farm shop.
To end the farm tour, we go to their Farm Shop. It’s the epitome of an artisanal country-inspired store, with made-from-scratch pastries at the counter, lavender salves and body products, hand-milled soaps, beeswax candles, rustic kitchenware, and a variety of local nuts, to name a few of the many sustainable products. While perusing the items is enjoyable, I especially love testing the different bath and body products as I’m able to truly appreciate the difference between all-natural, organic soaps and lotions and ones that contain chemicals or are tested on animals. And as a self-proclaimed pepper head, I also fall in love when I spot a bowl offering free samples of house-made candied New Mexican pecans with cayenne, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla bean. Lucky for my wallet I’m only traveling with a carry-on or I would have purchased the whole store. Instead, I opt for the pecans and a lavender lip salve, feeling good about my local purchases.
Experience Los Poblanos For Yourself
Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm is located at 4803 Rio Grande Boulevard in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Their phone number is 505-344-9297. Along with staying at the bed and breakfast as a guest or visiting the space for breakfast and/or dinner (reservation only), you can experience their farm and local, organic food through cooking classes, farm tours, educational events on beepkeeping, lavender and gardening. Call to inquire.
*Featured image of Los Poblanos courtesy of Sergio Salvador Photo.