Just off the banks of the Rio Grande sits a chic and farm-like retreat Los Poblanos, a historic inn and organic farm that is also host to an exceptional dining experience found at the property’s restaurant Campo. Most dining experiences begin to envelope you in anticipation upon crossing their threshold. Los Poblanos greets you at the street with a long and narrow graveled road framed by tall rows of thick cottonwood trees and flanked by lavender fields on either side. Like finding a gemstone on a morning walk, you discover immaculately neat and landscaped white stucco buildings that make a truly iconic first impression. This is the front of the organic dining experience at hand; both perfect and refined. The truth of the meaning “Field to Fork” is the passion behind this assembly of fields, gardens, silos and finally the culinary masterpiece that awaits in Campo.
Photo by Alexander Vertikoff
Stretching from Colorado, through New Mexico and Texas, and into Mexico, the Rio Grande is the settling point for cities that define the quintessential American Southwest, like Santa Fe, Albuquerque and El Paso. It is here in Albuquerque that I discovered a revival of agriculture, architecture and culture at a bespoke Inn known for more than a century as Los Poblanos. In the early 1900’s, Los Poblanos was an experimental farm, boasting one of the finest purebred herds of Guernsey and Holstein cows in the Southwest known for their high-quality dairy. Its location in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley gave it the environmental diversity to house a laboratory for raising new varieties of roses and chrysanthemums. Today, the farm produces organic produce, lavender, honey bees and James Beard semifinalists all paired with chic, authentic accommodations.
My dining experience at Campo started with a perusal of an extensive and impressive wine list, properly organized by region, while I waited for my first course of smoked trout tostadas to arrive. I’ve always thought of trout as an underrated fish, largely for good reason, but the ambiance made me feel adventurous and I went out on a fin. The fish arrived plated on two round, crisp tortillas spread with avocado and topped with local microgreens. The trout was outstanding, with the initially smoky palate balanced perfectly with that of bright citrus and avocado. After experiencing this impeccable pairing of flavors, I felt the creative spirit behind the menu, and I knew I would be in for a treat.
Photo by Douglas Merriam
As it turns out, Campo is host to Chef Jonathan Perno, a five-time James Beard semifinalist who demonstrates absolute mastery over Southwest cuisine. Chef Perno trained at the California Culinary Academy, later working under Wolfgang Puck, before joining Los Poblanos twelve years ago. His culinary experience is immersive, with a large open kitchen and hearth visible from the entry and an exclusive chefs table featuring eight courses with pairings.
Since Los Poblanos is well-known for its vibrant lavender fields, it’s no surprise lavender naturally crept its way onto the menu.
Since Los Poblanos is well-known for its vibrant lavender fields, it’s no surprise lavender naturally crept its way onto the menu, as a noticeably delicious component of the Campo Margarita. Surprisingly however, lavender also found itself paired with the chicken. The wispy flavor of such a traditional aroma gently elevated the succulent chicken breast and made the ordinary a magical moment, especially when paired with beans and blue corn polenta.
After the joyful meal, dessert was chosen by our exceptional server. She delivered a twelve-layer cake, replete with honey from the farm’s own bees baked into each layer, then neatly stacked with dividing layers of light and airy whipped sweet cream. Topped with brittle, the cake found the necessary texture to please anybody who’d have a taste.
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Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is a special place. It’s architecture is iconic, imagined by well-known architect John Gaw Meem, whose “Pueblo Revival Style” composes much of what we attribute to Southwest design today. And there is certainly more to say about the luxury accommodations provided within just 50 guest rooms organized neatly around the farm grounds, each clad with carved ceiling beams, hardwood floors, luxurious bedding and lavender spa amenities. Despite all that, the culinary masterpiece which is the adjoining Campo deserved the bulk of my attention, but not to say the rest doesn’t deserve yours.