Chowing From Fort Lauderdale's Canyon Southwest Cafe and on to Albuquerque

Categories: Love Bites
prickly pear margarita.jpg
Photo by Flickr user lorda


My steady (and hopefully permanent man) and I headed to Albuquerque to meet the 'rents for Turkey Day. On the flight out, I had to instruct him on the epicurean eccentricities of the American Southwest. He was practically drooling by the end of the conversation, imagining all the new porkless and seafoodless eats he could try.

It's probably best that I didn't tell him that these rules I had developed for Southwestern food came about from a blind date.

It happened a few months back when an unsuspecting victim asked me where I'd like to go four our first meet-up. A friend had described him as "a really, really intelligent Cuban guy," so I figured he was smart enough to enjoy the prickly pear margarita at Canyon.

Intelligent Cuban had never visited the Southwestern states, so I thought it would be fun to educate him about the true flavors of the region. My parents moved out to Albuquerque a few years ago and have made it their mission to have me try every well-known restaurant in the city. 

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Canyon's herb and goat cheese stuffed poblanos.
We started with a few of those famous margaritas and began our meal by discussing the finer points of Canyon's blue corn fried oyster appetizer. The little crispy critters arrived with toasted sweet corn, chili vinaigrette, and cilantro cream. I labeled the dish "pretty authentic" for the incorporation of not only two types of corn but also chili and cilantro, and we quickly polished off the plate.

Intelligent Cuban then ordered the steak that was on special that day, while I munched on the tasty tequila and jalapeño smoked salmon tostada with goat cheese, capers, peppers, and scotch bonnet tartar sauce. We split the toasted pecan pie for dessert and, while reducing it to mere bits, somehow decided we were best suited as just friends.

But while there was no love connection, I did develop this set of three rules for determining true Southwestern fare:

1. Everything has chili in it
You'll find it in your scrambled eggs, atop your burgers and hot dogs, and hiding in your salad dressing. They sell it on nearly every roadside, like those vans in Florida with velvet paintings of Elvis. Even desserts: On my last trip, I encountered its fiery flavors in apple pie, fudge, and ice cream. 

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Photo by Edward Altman
2. Don't expect dinner rolls or breadsticks
If you get any form of carb before a meal, it'll be a bowl of fresh tortilla chips, a foil-wrapped packet of steaming flour tortillas, or a basket of puffy sopapillas. In fact, some places will even make up sopapillas shapes for you (or at least, they did for me), like the Florida lobster-shaped one pictured here. I was tempted to make it my pet but instead twisted off a few of its legs, drenched them with honey, and made it my dessert.

3. The flavor and color combinations are extraordinary
Gummy bears come in hues of turquoise, peach, and chartreuse. Frito pies can even be found on the menu of high-end restaurants. Expect guacamole on salmon and blackberry and jalapeño in the glaze. In the milk shakes, you'll find pumpkin, coconut, blood orange, and basil.

After the beau's first day in Albuquerque, he was thinking he was nearly a local, even putting extra green chili on a burger. But then my mom tried to kill my boyfriend. As Mr. Persnickety made the grave mistake of answering a cell call at the table, she stealthily told the waiter to give him "Christmas" on his burrito. "Christmas" means that the dish should arrive with red and green chilies. He bravely ate four bites -- while sucking down three large glasses of ice water -- before throwing in the towel. His face got so red from the heat that I thought he might simply explode. 

I'll admit I was a little ticked at my mom for pulling that prank, but all was forgiven the next day: He got revenge by nearly burning her house down. Seems my little darling was so busy laying on the charm that he forgot to take his cheddar-chili bagel out of the toaster. My parents will never let him set foot in the kitchen again, and I'm never letting him near mine now either. Guess he'll just have to take me to Canyon the next time I develop a chili craving.

Canyon Southwestern Café is located at 1818 E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-765-1950 or visit canyonfl.com.


Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try and eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.


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