March 30th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Daughter Lesley’s last night in New Mexico. Back to Providence in early ayem. A festive restaurant meal was called for. So, HG/BSK and Lesley dined at Joseph’s Culinary Pub. a buzzy room on Agua Fria Street in downtown Santa Fe. Hearty food. Super big portions. The threesome started with (one portion for the table) fried logs of polenta with roasted radicchio covered in a gorgonzola dolce sauce. The dish could have fed six people. HG went on to marrow bones covered in a sauce of perfectly cooked mushrooms. This was the “small” portion. Misnomer. It was giant. BSK and Lesley shared a ratatouille of charred vegetables in a romesco sauce with ricotta gnudi. Another vast dish. BSK and Lesley then had braised short ribs with some inventive vegetable accompaniments. Good, but not great. Ribs needed more cooking in order to achieve fall off the bone succulence. HG had the house specialty. Rabbit lasagna. Not like any lasagna HG ever encountered. This was a tall, round mound of rabbit meat, fresh pasta, ricotta, mascarpone, parmesan nestled in a rabbit bolognese sauce and topped with slices of sun dried tomatoes. Yes, HG met the Easter Bunny early. The Bunny provided marvelous dining. (Sorry, it seems the dish will soon to be off the menu until autumn). Dessert was butterscotch pudding and lemon tart. The pudding was mind blowing. Joseph’s has a great beer/ale list plus some down home green chile New Mexican dishes. HG/BSK will be back to try.

Saigon Cafe Answers HG’s Prayers

March 25th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Oh, joy!! In the chilly weather of early Spring (or any weather, for that matter) HG longs for a giant steaming bowl of Pho, the glorious Vietnamese noodle soup. (Apologies to my beloved late Mom: Your chicken soup was great but Pho is even better). HG has bewailed the lack of Pho in Santa Fe. Then, early this week, HG discovered the very plain spoken Saigon Cafe, a family owned and operated little restaurant on Cordova Street. Topping the menu was Pho Bo, a Pho with beef and rice noodles. HG was misty eyed as he surveyed a very big bowl and a platter of fresh mint, bean sprouts and sliced jalapeno peppers. The broth was powerful and flavorful. The noodles were properly al dente with great mouth feel. Lots of thinly sliced tender beef as well as some Vietnamese sausage. As good as any Pho HG ever tasted in New York, Vancouver or Denver’s Federal Boulevard (home to a score of good Vietnamese restaurants). HG will become a Saigon Cafe regular. There are about 20 Pho variations on its menu (including a very fiery chicken Pho with a curry base.) The menu also has about a dozen variations on chow fun (wide noodles) and egg noodle lo mein. Everything is modestly priced. Slightly more expensive is shrimp cooked in a clay pot and catfish in hot and sour soup. Intend to try everything.


Movie Heaven — The Bronx Gets Slapped By Santa Fe

June 20th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Depressing fact reported by The New York Times: The Bronx, with a population of 1.4 million, contains two movie theaters (multiplexes with a combined total of 23 screens). When HG grew up in The Bronx, there were scores of movie theaters ranging from palaces (Loew’s Paradise, The Interboro, etc.) to intimate art houses (The Ascot). Fordham Road, in a six block expanse, contained The Lido, The Concourse, Loew’s Grand, The Valentine and The Fordham. “Going to the movies,” like rooting for the Yankees and eating pastrami and pizza, was an integral part of Bronx life. HG/BSK are fortunate to live in Santa Fe. “The City Different” has a population of 80,000 which supports three multiplexes (and another in a nearby community) plus three cinematheques. In terms of movie going, it’s almost like living in Paris. Santa Fe also has opera housed in a spectacular setting; live theater, dance and concerts at The Lensic (a beautifully restored old venue); live music in lots of clubs ranging from the raucous to the sophisticated. And, of course, Santa Fe has art: A dozen museums and numerous galleries plus world famous annual Native American and Hispanic art markets. And, the weather is great. Plus you are never far from a breakfast burrito smothered in green chile sauce. Heaven.


Joe’s Diner

April 2nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

A simple name: Joe’s Diner. Simple decor: 50’s diner. Cuisine: Simple–but great. Joe’s, a restaurant on the corner of Rodeo Road and Zia in Santa Fe, takes simplicity and makes it soar to culinary heights with carefully chosen local ingredients and superb cooking technique. What could be simpler than a hamburger? Well, Joe’s hamburger is cooked with locally raised, organic beef. It is cooked to perfection — pink and juicy in the center, charred, but not burnt on the outside. The bun (both soft and crisp) is toasted and buttered. Served with melted blue cheese, green chile and thinly sliced red onions. The accompaniments: Perfect cole slaw with just the right amount of mayonnaise and state-of-the-art French fries. An All-American dish that soars. HG is going to come back to Joe’s for rack of lamb, barbecued brisket, roast duck and prime rib (Fridays only). Well over 50% of Joe’s food budget is allocated to local producers. Eat local.Eat well. Eat at Joe’s.


Santa Fe Food News

October 17th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The big food news in Santa Fe has centered around a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown which explored the culture and food of New Mexico. HG/BSK saw the show and thought it unfocused, dull and ultimately failed to convey anything useful about New Mexico or its cuisine. Nevertheless, the show unleashed passions in Santa Fe. Bourdain ate a Frito Pie at the Five and Dime General Store located at Santa Fe’s historic Plaza. At the Five and Dime, a bag of Fritos is opened and gets a scoop of red meat-and-bean chili with a topping of cheese. You can top it with onions and jalapenos from a condiments counter. The F and D has been serving it for decades and folks like it a lot (HG is not a fan). Well, Bourdain tasted it. First, he said holding the warm bag in his hands was like clutching a “colostomy bag.” Then, he said the chili tasted like it came straight out of a can. Fury. Frenzy. Headlines in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The F and D cook swore she made the chile daily from scratch using excellent ingredients. Bourdain backed down, apologized and acknowledged his error. The town is mollified. As for HG, when he wants a Frito pie (which is rarely), HG gets it at El Parasol where it’s made with fiery green chili and served in a proper bowl. The other big news is that Bobcat Bite, the famous hamburger joint, has opened in a new and quite accessible Santa Fe location. Bobcat Bite has been lauded in many national publications as serving possibly the best burger in the USA. Bobcat Bite was, for many years, located in an out-of-the way spot on the edge of town. Hard to find. Then, there was a real estate dispute and BB closed. Sadness. And, then joy. BB has reopened in its better location and the early reviews have been raves. Will try it and post a report.


Street Food Renaissance

March 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG has always enjoyed street food starting with the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, ices and chunks of coconut that were sold along the Bronx streets in HG’s youth. During early manhood HG fancied the grilled Italian sausages with onions and peppers sold from the back of trucks in Greenwich Village. The classic New York City Sabrett hot dog, topped with onions and mustard and sold from a “hot water” cart, was always a treat. In Chinatown, anything sold on the street (no matter how unhygienic it looked) was always good. HG had excellent wurst and rye bread on the streets of Prague and even better wurst at the foot of ski slopes in the Italian mountain town of Selva Val Gardena. HG bought a very savory spleen (yes, spleen) sandwich from a Palermo vendor. HG was not a tripe fan (HG is now a Menudo — Mexican tripe stew — addict) when HG unhappily nibbled a tripe sandwich from the famous truck in the Florence wicker market. In Brazil, HG was too timid to taste the pungent stews being sold by women tending steaming caldrons outside of public markets in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. The largest array of street food HG ever saw was in the colorful, surreal, slightly insane Djeema el Fnaa, the famous public square in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. Established sometime around 1147, the square is a virtual maelstrom of noise, aromas and people (native Moroccans and tourists)/ There are magicians, snake charmers, water sellers, acrobats, story tellers, young men with chained Barbary apes, dancing boys and dentists (with large displays of pulled teeth as proof of their skill and prowess). When darkness falls, scores of food stalls appear and the air is filled with smoke. Hundreds sit on benches eating, grilled lamb (and its innards), chicken and every variety of seafood. Somehow HG found the square exciting but sinister (beneath the square is a police center for the vigorous interrogation of suspicious individuals). HG never patronized any of the stalls. Today, street food is having a renaissance moment in the United States. Serious and creative chefs are opening food carts and trucks alongside the ethnic specialty trucks (which had long dominated the market) in cities throughout America. Both groups of chefs are equally drawn to the food cart’s low overhead and the ripe possibility of building an audience for your cooking before dumping a fortune into a brick and mortar restaurant. And not only are the food trucks opening, urban planners and city governments are recognizing their civic importance. Cities such as Portland are actively supporting food trucks and creating a supportive business environment to help them thrive. The trend has reached New Mexico where excellent street food can be relished all over Santa Fe. This is an attractive trend bringing interesting, affordable food to folks who haven’t the time or patience for the traditional, leisurely, sit down restaurant meal. Finally, a culinary trend HG can stand by.

Two More Santa Fe Winners

September 29th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Here are two more Santa Fe dining musts. Gabriel’s is ten minutes north of Santa Fe. Beautiful outdoor terrace and lively indoors. Heed HG. There is only one meal to order and that is great. All else is mediocre. Start with guacamole and chips. The guacamole is mixed tableside and it is sublime. Best ever. Then have the pork carnitas platter. One platter can easily serve two and is a nice example of down home New Mexican cooking. Very good flan for dessert. Wash it all down with margaritas.

A polar opposite is New York Deli at the north end of Santa Fe. Here is where you will find nostalgic New Yorkers reading the New York Times while indulging in traditional treats. Owner Jeffrey Schwartzberg is an ex-Brooklynite (reared in Brooklyn before it became a hipster paradise). He serves all the usual suspects: corned beef, pastrami, matzo ball soup, chopped liver, nova smoked salmon with onions and scrambled eggs, bagels, cream cheese, Reubens, etc. Jeffrey has good standards. He cut out bialys when he couldn’t find any that met his standards. Okay, New York Deli isn’t Katz’s or Barney Greengrass, but if your New York heart longs for a traditional New York heartburn, try this haimish place. You’ll find some old Jews telling jokes: Abe Meets Moish. “Moish, the fire. Terrible.” Says Moish: “Shhh. It’s tomorrow.'”

Santa Fe Dining Musts

September 24th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Santa Fe seems to have more restaurants per capita than any place in the West. A very wide range from the pretentious and pricey to the down home and cheap. Permanent population is small but when the legislature is operating there is a deluge of politicos, lawyers, lobbyists, etc. And, of course, there are the omnipresent tourists. Once more a wide range: Dusty drifters, plain folks, multi-millionaire art collectors — and everything in between.

HG is often asked for dining advice in “The City Different.” Here are some must-visit spots that HG has posted about previously: 12 minutes north of Santa Fe in Pojaque is El Parasol and O’ Eating House. El Parasol is where the Latino folks eat and it is homey, cheap, delicious. Real Northern New Mexico cooking. Do not miss the green chile menudo and the chicken tacos. O’ serves sophisticated Italian food and creative, thin-crusted pizzas. In Santa Fe, go to Tia Sophia’s for Tex-Mex food, Jambo Cafe for Caribbean and African food, Tune Up (a real neighborhood hangout) for a great breakfast burrito smothered in green chile sauce. Tune Up also has wonderful pies and cakes (so save room). Shohko Cafe has surprisingly good sushi and crisp, light tempura. HG’s favorite New Mexico chef, Eric Stapelman, has two wonderful places: Shibumi Ramenya (ramen and Japanese izakaya dishes) and Trattoria Nostrani (sophisticated Italian food and splendid wines). Be forewarned: Eric runs fragrance-free restaurants so omit perfume and cologne. HG;s luncheon favorite is The Compound on gallery-lined Canyon Road. Do not miss the chicken schnitzel with caper sauce. Bon appeit!!

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.

Tune-Up Cafe, A Santa Fe Gem.

October 19th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

It has always been HG”s belief (shared by SJ) that the breakfast burrito at Pete’s Diner on Denver’s gritty Colfax Avenue was state of the art. A big time, flavorful belly buster.

Well, move over, Pete. HG and BSK lunched on breakfast burritos at the rollicking Tune-Up Cafe on Hickox Street in Santa Fe and this is the new champ. The Tune UP serves a Breakfast Burrito that dreams are made of: Organic, thick cut bacon. Perfectly scrambled eggs. Crisp and not greasy fried potatoes. All wrapped in a tortilla and smothered in possibly the best green chili sauce in all of New Mexico. Yes, HG knows this is an inflammatory statement that may provoke disdain and anger among serious green chili heads. But, Tune-Up’s green chili is extraordinary. Dark. Smokey. Just enough heat to tickle but not bludgeon the tongue. Multi-level flavors.

There’s lots more on the menu. Salvadoran pupusas. Mediterranean pasta. Burgers of local, non-biotic-injected beef (served on a brioche bun with garlic mayonnaise). Flatiron steak. And, a long list of Mexican specialties ranging from fish tacos to enchiladas, chicken mole and tamales. You can accompany it all with fairly priced wine. Open all day (seven days a week) from breakfast to brunch, lunch and dinner. Very casual atmosphere, Friendly service. Affordable prices. But, the cooking is serious. Real talent elevates comfort food to new levels.

HG has come late to the party. Tune-Up has been discovered. Guy Fien of Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” visited and did a program (you can see the segment here).

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