Am I Blue: Stumbling Across the Best Cheese
For a New Mex Burger

Spending Hatch chile season in Santa Fe means eating plenty of green chile cheeseburgers, a topic of intense debate among New Mexican food lovers.

Who makes the best version? Is green chile really a better burger condiment than red chile? And should there be anything on a burger besides green chile and cheese?

But perhaps the most important question for folks who didn't grow up eating green chile cheeseburgers is one that gets remarkably little attention from longtime fans of the dish: What kind of cheese?

The default cheese is cheddar. New Mexico's official tourism site, which includes an elaborate map of the state's green chile cheeseburger trail, describes the sandwich as, "a juicy thick patty grilled over an open flame or sizzled on a griddle, then blanketed in molten cheddar or other cheese."

Until this trip, I'd always had cheddar with my green chile sauce. But George Gundrey, the owner of Santa Fe's Atrisco Café and Bar -- "Greeks run the best Mexican restaurants," he told our group -- persuaded me to try blue cheese instead.

Wow. The funky cheese was a terrific match for the herbaceous sauce: Just as blue cheese belongs on celery sticks, so too does its earthiness showcase the fresh green flavor of just plucked chiles. While I sense my cheese experiments aren't finished, the blue cheese-green chile pairing thus far stands as the best thing I've learned in New Mexico.

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