Red or green? In Santa Fe, it's all about the chile-the ubiquitous red and green chile that locals seem to put on just about everything. Most Santa Fe chile sauces are made from peppers from Hatch, New Mexico, in the southern part of the state. "Green chile" refers to roasted fresh peppers, harvested while still green, usually chopped and made into a sauce. Green chile can range from "sweet with an edge" to "pretty darn hot." And it's true: locals put it on everything, from eggs and enchiladas to steaks and pizza.
"Red chile" is a smooth sauce made from peppers that have been dried after being allowed to ripen. It has a sweeter, smokier flavor, and while it's usually not as hot as green chile, it can still be plenty spicy. If you like your chile hot enough to make you cry-or prefer it on the milder side-ask your waiter which is hotter, as the spiciness of different batches can vary. (Tip: order extra sour cream on the side. An enzyme in the dairy product counteracts the heat of the chile.)
If this is your first time in Santa Fe, ask for "Christmas chile" (both red and green) on the side. Be sure to try them both: if you haven't tried the chile, you haven't really been to Santa Fe! Before long, you'll be ordering your "chicken enchilada with green" and "carne adovada with red" like a native.
Warning: this stuff is addictive. Why do you think visitors keep coming back to Santa Fe? (Sure, there's the art, the sky, the beauty of the landscape, and the history-but I know I'm not the only one who used to dream of green chile when I lived away from New Mexico.)