El Paso Dedicates the New Streetcar Maintenance and Storage Facility

Dedication ceremony

Dedication of the El Paso Streetcar Maintenance Facility

On June 21, 2018 many El Paso residents and government employees came together to celebrate the opening of the Streetcar Maintenance and Storage Facility at 601 S. Santa Fe Street in El Paso. The facility houses two service bays for the fleet of modernized streetcars that will soon be traveling on two loops in central El Paso.

Streetcar Routes

The Downtown Loop will make a loop north on Santa Fe Street and returning south on Kansas Street. The Uptown Loop, which connects with the Downtown Loop on Franklin Avenue, travels north on Stanton Street to the Kern Place District and returns south on Oregon Street.

El Paso's first new streetcar

El Paso’s streetcars will soon be ready to make their first run

The new streetcars are actually some of the original old cars from the 1960’s which are being refurbished in Pennsylvania and made ready to once again travel the streets of El Paso. For a number of years the hulks of the old streetcars were sitting in the desert at the El Paso Airport waiting for some ultimate fate, and I am glad to see that some of them will have a good outcome. The first streetcar service is scheduled for late 2018.

The streetcar routes will connect a number of restaurants in the revitalized and growing restaurant scene in downtown El Paso and the UTEP/Kern Place area north of downtown. Soon I might be able to say that some of the restaurants on this blog will have a special feature of “Streetcar Access.”

Food Writers Don’t Seem to Get Respect, Even in Hong Kong

As television networks become less and less interesting, I am finding other means of entertainment that I never knew existed. One is the television programs from Hong Kong which are broadcast on the TVB channel. They are usually a one-time program of about 20 to 30 episodes which are broadcast and later distributed on DVD’s or on the Internet. Of course the programs later distributed come with English subtitles or else I would not be able to understand them (even Mandarin speakers have to have Chinese subtitles in order to follow what is happening).

One can gain a surprising amount of food knowledge through the programs, although this is usually done as a means to develop the program plot. In The Rippling Blossom the entire plot is built around Japanese food, which the main characters import to Hong Kong through competing Japanese restaurants. I am mentioning the show as a backdrop, which can be viewed for free at this web site:

https://www.viki.com/explore?country=hong-kong .

I have checked the site and there are no strings attached except that they show ads in the middle of the episodes. Be sure to turn on the English subtitles, though, through the settings icon in the lower right part of the window.

One of my favorite parts of the show is where Keung Keung, a young food writer who specializes in Japanese food, comes to live with the Yu family (their two sons end up operating rival Japanese restaurants). At her first family meal with them Keung Keung is served some dishes but begins to complain about them making such statements as “this is too salty,” and “this does not taste right.” She definitely does not mean this as an insult but out of habit probably said it out loud as she would do when visiting restaurants which she wanted to review. Chi-ying, one of the sons who later becomes Keung Keung’s boyfriend instinctively says to her, “Why do you criticize a family meal?” Keung Keung, not really embarrassed but at the same time not trying to be snooty, replied “I can’t help it. I have sensitive taste buds!” While not condoning her actions, I do understand how she feels.

One of the jokes of the program is that the family’s name “Yu” has the same pronunciation as the word meaning fish, and the sons deal with fish every day as their profession.

Many commenters on forums about this program indicate that they cannot watch any of the episodes without getting hungry for sushi or the other Japanese food shown in the program. The program does show the amount of effort that goes into really good sushi. I think it is helpful when visiting high end sushi restaurants and realizing what really goes into the food they are serving.

Christmas in Southern New Mexico–Tularosa, NM

For those who might be in the Alamogordo or Ruidoso area at Christmas, one way to experience a traditional New Mexico Christmas is to see the luminarias at the Catholic Church in Tularosa, a historic town about ten miles north of Alamogordo.

Setting up luminarias

Setting up luminarias in Tularosa, NM

These photos were taken during the afternoon of Christmas Eve when it seems that practically the entire town participates in setting up luminarias. Hundreds of luminarias are set up outlining the church, lighting up the church grounds, and following the main street in town leading to the church. They are lit at nightfall in preparation for the the special Christmas Eve service which takes place at the church.

The Catholic Church in Tularosa

Saint Francis de Paula Church

The church in Tularosa has the typical Spanish style architecture that is found in New Mexico, and this one dates from 1869. Even without Christmas decorations the town is quite photogenic, and is worth a stop if you are in the area. With the Sacramento Mountains as the backdrop, the White Sands to the west, and extensive pistachio orchards to the south, this is one of the most scenic spots in New Mexico any time of the year. I will say from experience that usually the weather in this part of the state is agreeable enough to enjoy the celebration and possibly a few outdoor activities during the daytime.

The manger scene

The manger scene

The tradition of luminarias signifies lighting the way for Mary and Joseph to find their way to the stable where Jesus is about to come into the world. The tradition of lighting luminarias is found in towns throughout New Mexico, but I find the light show in Tularosa to be one of the most impressive I have seen.

Casa de Sueños

Casa de Sueños Restaurant in Tularosa

Of course most restaurants are closed late on Christmas eve and on Christmas day, but at other times visitors to Tularosa can enjoy traditional New Mexican cuisine at Casa de Sueños on the south edge of town. I particularly liked the red enchiladas with blue corn tortillas (the blue corn variety is not normally served in southern New Mexico). Casa de Sueños is not particularly spicy, but it is spicy enough to be what I would call “real” New Mexican food that is not dumbed down for tourists. Quite a few tourists stop here, though, because of its reputation for serving delicious New Mexican style food.

I also discovered another stop a few miles south of Tularosa on U.S. 54 and 70 where the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch has its store and winery at 7320 US 54/70 (but don’t worry about the address, just look for the giant pistachio on the west side of the highway).

 

The giant pistachio at McGinn's

The giant pistachio marks the location of McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch

 

Of course one of the main items for sale is the pistachios grown on the McGinn Ranch, and these come in different sized bags according to how many you think you might need. They have a number of different flavored nuts, but after trying several of the free samples I decided to go with the plain ones.

Quite a number of other items are also available, including New Mexico salsas.

McGinn’s is open daily according to the newmexico.org web site, but of course there may be special hours around Christmas.