La Montañita Food Co-op and Eagle Café Invite Gallup to a ‘Taste of New Mexico’
By Sydney Null with special thanks to La Montañita staff
Plenty of people in Gallup would be surprised to hear that there’s a grocery store downtown. But behold: tucked into a little square of space (at the end of Coal Street across from Comcast) is a grocery store selling everything from healthy road trip snacks to all the ingredients you need to make a gourmet dinner. The Gallup store is the smallest of the La Montañita Food Co-op family, with three big stores in Albuquerque (plus a grab-and-go location at the University) and the largest branch in Santa Fe. La Montañita is the only food co-op in Gallup. Anyone can shop at La Montañita, but members actually own the stores and have a say in how they are run. Plus, members get to take advantage of super specials throughout the year.
The Co-op is also a great place to find local products. We’re talking regional specialties like New Mexico chile down to the micro-local eggs and beauty products from right here in Gallup. In fact, there are local offerings in each category of products sold at the Co-op. Until the organic Colorado peaches reach the end of their season, customers will be buying them like crazy. Some people even buy them by the 20lb. case! Clever customers make jam and freeze sliced peaches and save a summer treat for the cold winter months. They could do something similar with organic Hatch chile, which isn’t available at other grocery stores in town. The Co-op strives to buy as much local organic produce as possible throughout the year.
How about starting your day with a local breakfast – say a real, fresh bagel and freshly roasted coffee with the best tasting cream you’ve ever had? Crumby Bread Company delivers freshly baked organic breads, including those amazing bagels, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Blunt Bros. currently sells six different coffees in the bulk section of the store, including two single-origin coffees for the connoisseurs out there. Cream (or any kind of hormone- and antibiotic-free milk) from Rasband Dairy in Albuquerque completes that breakfast duo. Other staple ingredients from Gallup and the rest of New Mexico make it possible to eat locally and organically at every meal. A few families sell free-range eggs with orange-like-they-should-be yolks to the Co-op throughout the week. The 100% grass-fed ground beef, steaks, and roasts come from a cooperative of farmers in Colorado and New Mexico (sweetgrasscoop.com). Kyzer Pork is based in New Mexico and offers a variety of addictive sausages (including green chile, of course) in addition to chops and roasts. There are even handmade tamales, from a women’s cooperative in Albuquerque, in the freezer and organic pinto beans from a farm in Colorado in the bulk section.
The Co-op is so proud of its local products that it puts many of them in the first grocery case customers see when they walk into the store. Raw honey from Durango, New Mexico pinon coffee, jams made with local fruits, roasted chile, salsas and hot sauces, blue corn baking mixes . . . it’s all there. If you’re not convinced yet, stop by for a ‘Taste of New Mexico’ at the Co-op during the September ArtsCrawl. This will be the first in a series of tastings during ArtsCrawl to let customers sample new, seasonal, or other special products. For this inaugural tasting, La Montañita is teaming up with Gallup’s oldest restaurant, the Eagle Café (220 W. Highway 66), to offer a special sampling of local cuisine. With Owner/Chef Marco Bello at the helm, you can count on trying some very tasty bites.
If you’ve made a pledge to ‘Buy, Build, Believe Gallup,’ shopping at La Montañita will help you keep that promise. Like other food co-ops, La Montañita serves its community in many ways beyond providing high quality products. Two great examples are the Veteran Farmer Project and the La Montañita Fund. The Veteran Farmer Project in Albuquerque has been extremely successful; the veterans who’ve been trained in business and agricultural skills are looking for more markets for their produce, and there’s no reason a similar project couldn’t work here in Gallup. Blunt Bros. expanded their coffee enterprise with a grant from the La Montañita Fund, which supports small businesses like farms and food start-ups. If you want the money you spend on groceries to truly benefit your community, then you’ll find plenty of reasons to shop your local co-op! For more information about local products at La Montañita in Gallup or the benefits of co-op membership, call 863-5383 or check out lamontanita.coop.