New Mexican Sundae - Gastro Obscura
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New Mexican Sundae

Frozen custard gets topped with green chile sauce and salty pecans to make this Las Cruces specialty.

Anyone who’s lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the last two decades knows Caliche’s Frozen Custard. The hot dog and ice cream joint has provided refreshing, creamy relief from the desert sun since 1996. Customers order from a window, sit outside, and enjoy concretes (a term describing frozen custard that’s blended with candy, nuts, or fruit), hot dogs, and one particularly unique sundae: the New Mexican. This local specialty counters the green chile’s signature heat with cool sweetness. Caliche’s churns out vanilla frozen custard, then smothers it in green chile topping—in a format akin to homemade strawberry sauce—and tops it with a handful of salted pecans.

Fabián García, New Mexico’s pioneering horticulturalist, is crucial to the presence of both ingredients. The Mexican immigrant was instrumental in developing standardized chile pepper varieties and planting the state’s first pecan trees. Pecans became one of New Mexico’s primary commercial food crops and the state’s official question—“red or green?”—refers, of course, to chiles.

After graduating from New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now New Mexico State University) in Las Cruces, Garcia became director of the state’s agricultural experiments. Today, just over 100,000 people—many of whom are students—call Las Cruces home. And though the fruits of García’s labor appear in dishes across “The Land of Enchantment,” Caliche’s union of sweet frozen custard, spicy chiles, and salty pecans offers a hyper-local taste of New Mexican heritage.

Need to Know

There are currently two Caliche's locations in Las Cruces and one in Alamogordo. Situated on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, Las Cruces is less than an hour's drive from White Sands National Monument—the largest pure gypsum deposit (sledding, anyone?) in the world.

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