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Wolf in the Woods: Hatch chile heaven

New Mexico’s claim to fame

Hatch chiles on a burger or in a chowder; New Mexico would be proud.
Hatch chiles on a burger or in a chowder; New Mexico would be proud.

Wolf in the Woods treats food as a cultural expression, presenting the flavors of New Mexico with artful craft, assisted by the freshest ingredients and heartfelt preparation.

Place

Wolf in the Woods

1920 Fort Stockton Drive, suite C, San Diego

Owner Johnny Rivera has managed a perfect blend of rustic charm and fine cuisine in this Mission Hills neighborhood location. Starting with the charm: the interior is inviting, with warm lighting and wooden accents that create a homey ambiance and a carefully curated array of folk art — the enchanting chandelier made of branches, the elegant Santo gracing the bar — that lends an exotic flair. Moving on to the cuisine: the hatch chile, New Mexico’s claim to fame, is the star of the show, adding a smoky sweetness to many of the dishes. And the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, making sure that every guest feels welcome and well taken care of.

We eased into the evening with their special aperitivo, The Venice Sunset ($8): a crisp, light cocktail made from bitters, soda water and Prosecco. To accompany our sips we were served a bowl of homemade warm mini potato chips, salted, with a whisper of rosemary. Light, crispy, divine.

Sponsored
Sponsored
The Venice Sunset is a crisp, light cocktail made from bitters, soda water and Prosecco.

The menu is structured like Spanish tapas, with plates meant to be shared. Our first choice, the Sweet Corn and Pinon Soup ($15) is made daily from fresh corn. Three mild hatch chile corn fritters floated atop a blissful puree of pastel-yellow sweet corn, with each spoonful gathering a dusting of red hatch chile powder. Tiny edible flowers and crushed pine nuts gave the soup its final flair. The color and texture were enough to win over my senses, but it was the flavor of this extraordinary soup that lingered on my palate long after we the licked the bowl clean.

For our next taste, the Maize and Hen of the Woods Mushroom Polenta ($19) caught my eye. Polenta is my comfort food, and I rarely turn down an opportunity to indulge. Earthy hen of the woods mushrooms are sautéed until crisped, then spooned over silky polenta and drizzled with tangy sun-dried tomato oil. Fresh watercress lends a peppery freshness that contrasts with the salty mushrooms. The food felt personal—like the chef had just returned from foraging in the woods and let inspiration take flight.

Whether the mushroom polenta or the vanilla bean panda cotta, both were almost too pretty to eat.

In keeping with the tapas theme, we next chose the Jamon Iberico De Bellota ($20) — acorn fed Spanish ham. It was served as a bruschetta trio: thin ham shavings garnished with a dollop of garlicky aioli that was so spicy and delicious, I wished I had a full ramekin of it.

For those who want to spare the tapas but still crave a taste of New Mexico, go for the Skillet Mini Burger ($16), decorated with a miniature New Mexico state flag. The juicy, grass-fed beef burger, smothered with — there they are again — chopped hatch chiles and topped with melting white cheddar cheese, was served with the crisped thin and rosemary-salted potato chips.

Bruschetta: Spanish ham with a garlicky aioli dollop.

Wolf in the Woods offers three desserts, and while choosing just one was tough, The Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta ($14) lured me in with its promises of sugared dark cherries and orange zest. As expected, the sublime cool cream dotted with bright cherry compote with a dusting of cinnamon crumble was the perfect ending to our dinner. Not too sweet, and gorgeous to look at. I hated spoiling it with my spoon!

With our tapas, we enjoyed the suggested wines by the glass: a crisp Valencisco Rioja Blanca ($20), and a light bodied Meerlust Estate Red Blend from South Africa ($15). Both drank exceptionally well.

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Hatch chiles on a burger or in a chowder; New Mexico would be proud.
Hatch chiles on a burger or in a chowder; New Mexico would be proud.

Wolf in the Woods treats food as a cultural expression, presenting the flavors of New Mexico with artful craft, assisted by the freshest ingredients and heartfelt preparation.

Place

Wolf in the Woods

1920 Fort Stockton Drive, suite C, San Diego

Owner Johnny Rivera has managed a perfect blend of rustic charm and fine cuisine in this Mission Hills neighborhood location. Starting with the charm: the interior is inviting, with warm lighting and wooden accents that create a homey ambiance and a carefully curated array of folk art — the enchanting chandelier made of branches, the elegant Santo gracing the bar — that lends an exotic flair. Moving on to the cuisine: the hatch chile, New Mexico’s claim to fame, is the star of the show, adding a smoky sweetness to many of the dishes. And the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, making sure that every guest feels welcome and well taken care of.

We eased into the evening with their special aperitivo, The Venice Sunset ($8): a crisp, light cocktail made from bitters, soda water and Prosecco. To accompany our sips we were served a bowl of homemade warm mini potato chips, salted, with a whisper of rosemary. Light, crispy, divine.

Sponsored
Sponsored
The Venice Sunset is a crisp, light cocktail made from bitters, soda water and Prosecco.

The menu is structured like Spanish tapas, with plates meant to be shared. Our first choice, the Sweet Corn and Pinon Soup ($15) is made daily from fresh corn. Three mild hatch chile corn fritters floated atop a blissful puree of pastel-yellow sweet corn, with each spoonful gathering a dusting of red hatch chile powder. Tiny edible flowers and crushed pine nuts gave the soup its final flair. The color and texture were enough to win over my senses, but it was the flavor of this extraordinary soup that lingered on my palate long after we the licked the bowl clean.

For our next taste, the Maize and Hen of the Woods Mushroom Polenta ($19) caught my eye. Polenta is my comfort food, and I rarely turn down an opportunity to indulge. Earthy hen of the woods mushrooms are sautéed until crisped, then spooned over silky polenta and drizzled with tangy sun-dried tomato oil. Fresh watercress lends a peppery freshness that contrasts with the salty mushrooms. The food felt personal—like the chef had just returned from foraging in the woods and let inspiration take flight.

Whether the mushroom polenta or the vanilla bean panda cotta, both were almost too pretty to eat.

In keeping with the tapas theme, we next chose the Jamon Iberico De Bellota ($20) — acorn fed Spanish ham. It was served as a bruschetta trio: thin ham shavings garnished with a dollop of garlicky aioli that was so spicy and delicious, I wished I had a full ramekin of it.

For those who want to spare the tapas but still crave a taste of New Mexico, go for the Skillet Mini Burger ($16), decorated with a miniature New Mexico state flag. The juicy, grass-fed beef burger, smothered with — there they are again — chopped hatch chiles and topped with melting white cheddar cheese, was served with the crisped thin and rosemary-salted potato chips.

Bruschetta: Spanish ham with a garlicky aioli dollop.

Wolf in the Woods offers three desserts, and while choosing just one was tough, The Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta ($14) lured me in with its promises of sugared dark cherries and orange zest. As expected, the sublime cool cream dotted with bright cherry compote with a dusting of cinnamon crumble was the perfect ending to our dinner. Not too sweet, and gorgeous to look at. I hated spoiling it with my spoon!

With our tapas, we enjoyed the suggested wines by the glass: a crisp Valencisco Rioja Blanca ($20), and a light bodied Meerlust Estate Red Blend from South Africa ($15). Both drank exceptionally well.

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