By Erin Albanese
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In Pueblo culture, family, friends and guests are welcome and celebrated at a common table. This Native American hospitality tradition continues at the Pueblo Harvest Cafe & Bakery in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Located at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the cafe’s menu features the Native American crops of corn, squash and beans, collectively called the “three sisters.” These basic crops are presented in innovative dishes created under the watchful eye of chef David Tuiz and longtime sous chef Burt Wilson. Both worked under Michael Giese when he was executive chef at the cafe. Giese was recently honored by the New Mexico Restaurant Association as Chef of the Year 2015.
Ruiz and Wilson continue to explore the boundaries of Native Fusion, or creating meals that offer just the right balance of heritage and innovation.
“Our menu aims to bridge cultures by pairing traditional indigenous foods with culinary influences from around the world,” Ruiz said.
Fusion of tastes
Calabacitas and stews, Tewa Tacos, chiles and fry bread just start the conversation of what the kitchen offers. To experience a fusion of flavors, groups can try New Mexico Rack of Lamb served with an ancho chile, piñon and Dijon-mustard crust, and mint chutney.
“With our fusion cuisine, we’ve elevated Native cuisine to more than just stews and chiles,” Ruiz said.
The cafe’s Blueberry Juniper Elk is a fusion of ingredients from different parts of the country. Elk was a staple of the Pueblo diet, and juniper is a plant indigenous to New Mexico and the Southwest, while blueberries are native in the Northeast.
Food is an exciting dimension of the vibrant Pueblo culture.
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the cafe both opened in 1976. They are jointly owned and operated by 19 Pueblos.
“We want to bring people the Pueblo experience of food, which is all about community, all about nourishment,” Ruiz said. “By building upon the foundation of what the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center does, we’re able to translate this element of Pueblo culture, the vital element of food, into a modern context and introduce Pueblo culture to modern America and also the world.”
The Community Teaching Garden, a joint project of Pueblo Harvest Cafe and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, is a highlight for groups. The garden preserves traditional crops and farming techniques, while teaching the Pueblo core values of sustainability and stewardship. The culinary team grows traditional Pueblo and heirloom crops incorporated into weekly specials.
The garden is also an important tool for reaching potential Native American chefs. Native American interns and students work in the garden year-round and see firsthand the link between the harvest and what’s served in the restaurant.
Groups can learn about food, history and culture on a Pueblo Culinary Tour, created in collaboration with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The guided tour blends art, farming and dining as an introduction to the culture of Pueblo people and New Mexico.
Groups may also visit the Community Teaching Garden and the center’s museum. A Pueblo-style feast can be prepared that features Feast Day stew, posole, calabacitas, enchiladas, oven bread and fry bread.
For more information about Pueblo Harvest Cafe & Bakery, call 505-724-3510 or visit indianpueblo.org/visit/cafe.html.