Aliyah Chavez
Indian Country Today

A New Mexico enterprise has reimagined its fine dining experience during the pandemic.

The Indian Pueblo Kitchen, located in Albuquerque, has created monthly events where customers can order a pre-prepared, three-course meal and pick it up curbside. While at home, they can watch a video featuring their chef as he creates and explains how their food was prepared.

“One consequence of the pandemic is the loss of community and human connection,” said executive chef Ray Naranjo. “People miss simple things like the experience of dining with family and friends at their favorite restaurants.”

“The Pante Project” was inspired by this reason — in hopes of continuing to give people delicious food and colorful memories, but from the safety of their homes. 

November’s meal included pure heirloom squash bisque, cedar house smoked salmon, and wild berry compote with acorn flour crumble (Photo courtesy of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center)
Curbside delivery is due in part to workers who package and hand off meals to customers (Photo by Aliyah Chavez)

It was created in partnership with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, a museum and gallery space, that is home to many cultural programs celebrating Pueblo nations.

The ingredients Naranjo uses to cook with are intentional. “Please join me for an Indigenous culinary adventure of North America from a Tewa perspective,” Naranjo says before creating January’s meal on camera.

Then he gets to work creating a meal consisting of red chile turkey posole, braised duck with red mole, crispy cactus strips, red corn crumble, roasted tomato with quinoa and spicy chocolate with popped amaranth.

January’s meal included red chile turkey posole, braised duck with red mole, crispy cactus strips, red corn crumble, and roasted tomato with quinoa. (Photo courtesy of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center)

The project is only in its fourth month after being created in November. It has gained local and national attention, including being featured in Forbes.

Organizers say the reaction has been positive since it began, adding that many non-Native customers enjoy the fine dining experience from their homes.

And the reaction from Native customers has been unique, too.

“Sometimes people don’t know that certain ingredients are edible, and that’s because some Pueblo people’s history has been erased. They don’t associate with a lot of these ingredients so it’s almost like reteaching people what our ancestors used to eat,” Naranjo said. 

The idea to create a professionally produced video of the kitchen creations came from wanting to try “fresh” and “new” ideas by the entire team. In the videos, Naranjo describes ingredients, their colors and their significance.

“This is actually some of the first video projects I’ve done,” Naranjo said laughing. “This is all brand new to me.”

Customers living in Albuquerque or Santa Fe can sign up for the monthly meals online. There is a deadline to order, usually a few days before the meals are created. Most events happen on a Saturday. The three-course meals are $60 per person.

See more from The Pante Project

Some of the proceeds from the Pante Project go towards the Pueblo Relief Fund, a fundraiser created by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the All Pueblo Council of Governors, to support Pueblo communities impacted by the pandemic.

“Any opportunity to help our people, I’d like to extend that helping hand,” Naranjo said.

March’s meal will include white corn and sumac porridge, slow roasted buffalo short ribs, cranberry coulis, blueberry white corn grits, acorn squash with sweet grass and lingonberry and mesquite tart.

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Aliyah Chavez, Kewa Pueblo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @aliyahjchavez or email her at achavez@indiancountrytoday.com.

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