PHC Celebrates Native Cuisine with New Winter Menu
Have you ever wanted to travel through time? Pueblo Harvest Café’s new winter menu may be the next best thing.
The Pueblo Harvest Café is among the first restaurants in the United States to offer pre-European-contact dishes, allowing diners to experience a rich flavor palette from half a millennium ago. The selections serve as a meaningful insight into the wealth of flavors of an indigenous diet that are lesser-known to mainstream culinary audiences, while highlighting Native cuisine and adding merit to Albuquerque and New Mexico being an increasingly popular dining destination.
“This pre-contact menu is our take on this growing movement of celebrating Native cuisine,” says Executive Chef David Ruiz, who spent countless hours researching cultivated and gathered plants, wild and domesticated animals, and spending time in the homes and fields of Pueblo people.
The pre-contact menu also opens a cultural and educational dialogue about the origins of the foods that Americans do or do not consume on a regular basis, and why. The absence of beef, chicken, wheat, butter, refined sugar, and common rice varieties illustrates how many modern dietary staples are alien to North America.
The long-researched menu is rich with game meats that were originally hunted by Native peoples, including bison, rabbit, duck, and trout. Many plant varieties either cultivated or gathered during pre-contact times compliment the game: Anasazi beans, wild greens, prickly pears, yams, squash blossoms, blue corn, and manoomin wild rice.
The educational aspect of the menu draws a closer bond between the Pueblo Harvest Café and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. “I wanted the stories we’re telling through the food to reflect the stories being told in the museum, what I call the Pueblo-to-table story,” says Ruiz.
Featured prominently in Pueblo stories, art, and diet are squash blossoms, which can be found on the Tribal Trout dish along with a healthy and hearty yam purée, wild greens, and a colorful sprinkle of prickly pear syrup.
Manoomin wild rice accompanies Anasazi beans to serve as a rustic bed for maple-glazed rabbit with blueberry glass on the Rabbit dish, while Bison Poyha carries over from the summer menu with new seasonal sides of blue corn dumplings, sous vide asparagus, and topped with wojapi compote.
Poyha combines bison, which the Pueblo people have historically hunted each year, with an age-old recipe from the Cherokee tribe that blends ground game with berries and corn to produce a savory meatloaf.
Hazruquive Stew (ha-shoo-keh-veh) comes to the menu with an earthy corn broth seasoned with herbs and cedar, filled with local white hominy, bean sprouts, roasted yellow corn, and served with piki bread—a paper-thin Hopi bread made from finely ground blue corn.
Five entrées and two desserts comprise the pre-contact portion of the winter menu, while many post-contact favorites remain to tantalize wintry taste buds.
In addition to educating diners, Chef Ruiz’ hope is to provide healthier options for people, reduce diet-based illnesses affecting Native communities, and inspire younger generations to continue or reconnect with their traditional culture. “It’s been a really inspiring journey for me,” says Chef Ruiz. “I really want to see in the next couple of years where we can go.”
In the Back to the Future movies, Doc Brown said it was the flux capacitor that made time travel possible. We’d like to think our pre-contact menu does, too. Come and taste for yourself—take a bite, close your eyes, and watch modernity slip away, replaced by an open landscape plentiful with game, clear rivers and springs, and dotted with bustling Pueblos and fertile fields.
The pre-contact dishes are available on the dinner menu, served Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Breakfast and lunch are served Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., with happy hour running from 4 to 6 p.m. Brunch is served Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
View the complete menu here.
Pan-Seared New Mexico Trout | Yam Purée | Wild Greens | Prickly Pear Syrup | Fried Squash Blossom
Bison Short Ribs
36-Hour Juniper Sous Vide | Mashed Yucca | Agave Roasted Acorn Squash | Sumac Baked Pepitas
Slow-Braised Rabbit Leg Quarter | Anasazi Beans | Three-Sisters Manoomin | Maple Glaze | Blueberry Glass
Executive Chef David Ruiz won Albuquerque’s Sustainable Seafood Competition and Salad Mixer Competition and was nominated for New Mexico Chef of the Year by the New Mexico Restaurant Association. In 2016 he was featured on the Food Network’s popular cooking show “Chopped.” He is also the co-founder of 505 Food Fights, a grassroots chef competition that fosters community in Albuquerque’s culinary industry.