Giving credit where it's due, King's Chef has set the local standard for searing and superlative green chile. But if you're forever seeking a sweat, you should also meet the New Mexican food truck Mira Sol. It's given me the best burn in recent memory, dishing Scoville heat units like Halloween candy.
I'm pretty sure I said the words "My tongue's on fire" at least thrice during each of two forays: one at Smiling Toad Brewery, the other at Red Leg Brewing Co. Which means I happily left with several half-finished plastic ramekins that I rolled out again at home in subsequent meals.
When people ponder the essence of Colorado cuisine, green chile often emerges as a defining ingredient. But we really owe the legacy to New Mexico, whose denizens know inside and out the differences between their cuisine, common Tex-Mex and traditional, Spanish-influenced Mexican.
For instance, shredded iceberg and tomato garnish is a Land of Enchantment given, but that little sour cream dollop that Mira Sol puts on top? Front man José Apodaca, who grew up partly in Roswell, acknowledges that's an addition that actually strays from the truest of New Mexican.
Good to know, but what's way more intriguing to me are the flavorful green and red chilies — not made with tomatoes or vinegar, but instead the respective chilies, garlic salt and salt, thickened with a flour roux. The red hail from New Mexico. The green come from Pueblo's Milberger Farms and are of the Mirasol variety, named for the way they grow skyward. When dried, they become Guajillo chilies.
Also differentiating: the wide employment of sopaipillas across the menu, from ground-beef-stuffed, red- or green-chile-smothered sopaipillas to a Muenster-and-green-chile sopaipilla burger, and caramel-sauced sopaipilla bites. I'd say fried dough was the new black were it not for indigenous peoples of the Southwest having manipulated it and gifted it to New Mexican cuisine long ago.
But again there are Mira Sol's little twists, like subbing that caramel for the traditional honey on the smaller-than-usual sopaipilla bites. They're totally bomb, in that guilty, get-more-than-your-day's-sugar-allowance-all-at-once way. That stuffed sopaipilla's also a hearty pleaser, and the burger's pretty badass, too, served over house tortilla chips when the usual french fries have run out because the rush arrived before you did.
José and his wife Toni Mae, who shuttles food inside very personably, happily modify the menu. They whip up nachos and vegetarian bean tacos easily for the kids (hey — it's why breweries serve root beer), and do a deft cheese enchilada stack and smothered burrito.
To really light things up, add "extra fire" in the form of Milberger's chopped Fresno peppers for 50 cents. José told me during an earlier phone interview that his food's "traditional, like something your grandmother made at home"; if that's true, Grandma's definitely the tough-love type.
When visiting Mira Sol at a brewery, mitigate that heat with an IPA, generally believed to be (though not fully accepted as) superior for spicy pairings. Smiling Toad handles the varietal well, with a regular, Rye PA and Imperial included in our sampler. Red Leg was tapping a beauty of a blood orange IPA for its weekly firkin, while also serving a one-off Cascade single-hop. We smoldered, sipped and enjoyed the trip to the real New Mexico, a notch of machismo above this city's combo-plate-and-salsa sanctuaries.