International Santa Fe

November 11th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Two cliches that should be buried: You can eat well in London if you only eat breakfast and you can eat well in Santa Fe if you only eat burritos. Okay, English breakfasts are great if you hold off on the tinned mushrooms and beans and burritos smothered in green chili are a blessing. But, London is now one of the world’s great food cities, on a par with New York (better than New York for Indian food, not as good as New York for Chinese dining). And, Santa Fe, though resolutely New Mexican, offers the eater a wide variety of exceptional international food treats.

Jambo Cafe, located in a strip mall on busy Cerrillos Road, is an HG favorite. Chef-owner Ahmed Obo offers a distinctive Afro-Caribbean cuisine. On a chilly afternoon this week, HG warmed body and soul with Jambo’s “Island Spice Coconut Peanut Stew.” Flanked by a plate of fluffy jasmine rice, this was big bowl of layered flavors. There was plenty of heat (Jalapeno or Scotch Bonnet peppers?) gentled by coconut milk and chicken stock. The peanuts gave the stew a Szechuan Tan-Tan noodle zing. The chunks of chicken in the stew had a juicy, free range taste. There were some halved cherry tomatoes in the stew and it was topped with grilled scallions. A super generous portion designed for all day nourishment. There are other great stews at Jambo — goat stew reminiscent of Jamaica, East African lentil stew, Moroccan lamb stew. There’s jerk chicken, plantains, lamb burgers, hummus — cooking that hops and skips from the Maghreb to Eastern and Southern Africa and over the seas to Caribbean islands. Everything is assertively spiced and served by charming wait persons in a very busy, casual room.

Other Santa Fe destinations for the discerning internationalist: Eric Stapelman’s Shibumi Ramen Ya for outstanding ramen and small plate izakaya treats; plus his adjacent restaurant, Trattoria Nostrani for sophisticated and creative Italian cuisine. Another good Italian bet is Steve Lemon’s “O” Eating House, located a short drive north of town (HG has written about it often). There’s Shohko Cafe for wonderful sushi and tempura, La Boca for Spanish tapas, New York Deli for bagels and bialys and Geronimo, for classic cuisine in the elegant European style. Raaga is the spot for Indian food (whole curry leaves enliven a number of dishes). Nile Cafe has good middle eastern fare and Pupuseria y Restaurante Salvadoreno fills its customers up with hearty pupusas (like tamales but more robust).

Lots of good international dining. But, don’t skip burritos and green chili.

and green chili.

Zena And Stags’ Leap: Winning Combo.

November 8th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Zena Burns, the beauty and high powered radio and internet biggie, came to dinner (accompanied by her pal, Valerie, also a remarkable lady). The astonishing duo brought a bottle of Stags’ Leap 2008 Merlot. This is one of HG’s favorite wines, smooth and rich. Zena’s smile and laughter enhance any dinner. And, of course, a Stags’ Leap goodie is a nice companion. HG mused that Merlot has become an unappreciated wine. That’s because the vintage was so attacked in Sideways, a funny and wistful movie set in California wine country. Why take the advice of a movie character when it comes to wine?

N’Orleans Treat

November 6th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night, HG and BSK watched their DVD of the HBO post-Katrina New Orleans series. “Treme.” Relished the joy, sadness, madness, piquancy and pathos of that glorious city. HG honored the music pouring out of the TV by pouring some copious amounts of a modest brandy which HG enhanced with Peychaud Bitters. Never heard of Peychaud? It is a bitters native to New Orleans — created by a Creole apothecary — and that’s where HG was introduced to it by a New Orleans native very aptly named Peter Bordeaux. Adding Peychaud to brandy makes it sing. Also good sprinkled over vodka on the rocks. Let the good times roll.

Nasty Nash Had It Wrong

November 6th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The master of light verse, Ogden Nash, summed up his feelings about HG’s home borough in a two word couplet: “The Bronx. No Thonx.”

Obviously, the poet had not sipped, supped and dined in The Bronx during its golden food days (which lasted into the early 60’s). Every east-west shopping street (Kingsbridge Road, Fordham Road, Mt. Eden Avenue, Burnside Avenue, etc.) was dotted with great Jewish delicatessens and bakeries, Italian fruit stands (very fresh produce from Long Island and New Jersey truck farmers); purveyors of superior smoked salmon and sturgeon (these were known as “appetizing stores”). Arthur Avenue in the Belmont section was the center of Italian cuisine. Tremont Avenue and Bathgate Avenue catered to Jewish tastes. The Irish population of The Bronx was not renowned for cuisine but ran many estimable taverns on Jerome Avenue. Well, times changed and by the 70s the Bronx became a symbol of urban decay and hopelessness.

But, don’t count the borough out. Tremont Avenue and Bathgate Avenue have changed or been obliterated. But, Arthur Avenue has expanded and retained its vitality (it is a must for every foodie visitor to New York). There are a lot of very good Puerto Rican restaurants in operation. Good African restaurants have opened on the Grand Concourse. SJ vouches for the Jamaican food on White Plains Avenue and Gun Hill Road. There’s both traditional Jewish delicatessen food in Riverdale and the world’s greatest carrot cake. Obviously, the ethnicities have changed but there’s still some sizzling tastes to sample in The Bronx. And, let’s hope the championship flags will be flying again soon at the new Yankee Stadium.

Mexican Oregano. Ole!

November 3rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Here in New Mexico every supermarket sells packets of dried Mexican oregano. You can probably get it in Latino groceries everywhere or order online here. Buy it. It is great stuff, much more powerful than the usual dried oregano you’ve been using in Italian sauces. HG uses it combined with chopped raw onion on sides of white beans and on all chili (red or green) stews. Also very good on ratatouille. Along with middle eastern za’atar, it’s HG’s go to dried herb.

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