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Memorable dinner in Santa Fe?

Just a little counterpoint on Restaurant Martin: I've been there a number of times in the four years it's been open, and unfortunately my experiences have been steadily worse over time, to the point I can't really recommend it anymore. The food is still absolutely beautiful to look at, but recently I've had too many dishes where the fundamental food preparation was lacking. Yes, by all means create edible art, but there's no excuse for things like overcooked, dry chicken or dessert cake. I will say that their outdoor patio is among my favorite al fresco settings in town, and in Santa Fe that's really saying something!

Izanami is very good, N.B. it can feel a little frenetic and noisy when it's filled to capacity.

Jul 25, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Memorable dinner in Santa Fe?

If you want the Compound's level of formality, I think you're in the right place. Good, very safe (perhaps a little tired) food in an unparalleled setting. Slightly more progressive food across the street at Geronimo. Neither really bowls me over, but the overall experience at either will be flawless and distinctively Santa Fean.

Places a notch or two down in price and formality that might be worth a peek due to what I think is better chow: Georgia (owned by the Geronimo people) and Taberna. Both have lovely outdoor patios and very good food. Taberna has the more inventive food, Georgia has the nicer patio (although the Compound's setting is still nicer), both are absolutely delicious.

Jul 23, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Where to have dinner before a night at the Santa Fe Opera?

You're right that there aren't a lot of options near the Opera, which leads to two viable non-tailgating options:

* The buffet isn't ultra-chowish, but it's a tick or two above serviceable, down to the wine being reasonably legit. It's served on a very nice covered patio just down the hill from the opera house. And the pre-opera talks are reliably stellar, truly enriching the overall experience with the added knowledge and perspective. N.B. The tables are for six, so for better or worse you'll likely be sitting with strangers who also enjoy opera.

* The Opera is only 10 minutes north of town, so it's totally feasible to dine in town on the early side (5 or 5:30) and still get there in plenty of time.

And just to say it, you don't have to go over the top to tailgate. Some of my favorite nights there have involved dropping by Kaune's grocery store for some cheese, bread, and a bottle of wine, and enjoying it on paper plates and plastic cups.

Jul 23, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Georgia Restaurant, Santa Fe: pretty darn good

After Georgia earned a coveted four chile pepper review in the Santa Fe New Mexican (yes, that really is the newspaper's rating system, for movies as well), I was eager to check the place out. Gotta say, it definitely does what it says on the tin, this is what I want out of a fine dining experience.

The old O'Keeffe Cafe space is virtually unrecognizable, decked out in a palette of refined browns, beiges, and whites to create a modern, but classic look. But the real triumph is the patio, with about a dozen tables set amidst the brick buildings and floor, topped with big umbrellas and LED lighting. Although staff are nothing but gracious, the rumor is that they're struggling with how long their diners are lingering and blaming it largely on the welcoming ambience they've created (the summer's amazing weather probably doesn't hurt).

Anyway, the chow is pretty much beyond reproach. I'll quibble that the overwhelming majority of the menu is very, very safe, with only a couple of more adventurous options, but I recognize that this is probably just how things have to be in a town like Santa Fe. And regardless, safe or adventurous, everything was prepared flawlessly. The presentations, while nicely polished, aren't overly fussy; the focus is on taste (this is a mirror image of Restaurant Martin, who's served me one too many meals of edible art that just doesn't taste great). Starters were very good, but the standouts were the mains. Our group's favorites were the lamb meatballs with homemade mafalde (bold meat in a light tomato sauce, with delicate ribbon pasta), the roast half chicken (huge portion, which isn't my thing, but delicious flavor, served with puckery braised greens and a nice orzo), and a special of 24-hour braised rabbit, served again with the mafalde, almost certainly the best pasta dish I've had out since Trattoria Nostrani closed. Entree prices were high, but fair for the high end, ranging from 18 bucks for a Wagyu beef burger up to 35 for a rack of lamb.

Good-ish wine list, adequate selection, not great value but not spectacularly poor either. I'd love to get back to sit at their full bar and enjoy their nice-looking bar menu. Staff was very well trained, personable, and knowledgeable.

I think the biggest surprise to me was that Georgia could be this good, this soon. They've been open less than two months and the place is already a well-oiled machine. Very pleased to have this place downtown, I wish them well.

(One N.B.: not a bad place to go with valet parking. They don't have a self-park lot, and street parking can be hit or miss around Johnson St.)

http://www.georgiasantafe.com/

Jul 22, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

Loyal Hound, Santa Fe: the recent midscale deliciousness trend continues

When I moved to Santa Fe five years ago, I have to admit I was pretty disappointed by the midscale chow scene. There were some terrific places at the high end (La Boca, Trattoria Nostrani RIP) and some very good places at the lower end (Pupuseria Salvadoreno, Tecolote Cafe RIP), but there were surprisingly few places where you could go out, have a couple of courses and a drink or two, get some decent change back from President Grant, and actually feel like you'd had something worth leaving your house for.

Flash forward to today and things are getting so much better. Dr. Field Goods, Izanami, the Ranch House, the bar at Joseph's Table, Duel Brewery, and Jambo Cafe all have their place, plus 2nd Street is as good as ever and Plaza Cafe has returned to form.

So although Loyal Hound isn't as groundbreaking as it would have been two years ago, let alone five years ago, for me it's nonetheless a sight for still-sore eyes. The food is delicious and inventive without being weird, the drinks are unusual and well considered, and the prices are remarkably reasonable.

On the northeast corner of St. Michaels and Pacheco, the former Hidden Chicken (RIP) space is practically unrecognizable, with dark woods and trendy light fixtures. A bit of bar seating and a TV or two up front with the semi-open kitchen, and a dining room in the back. Although every dining room table was full when we visited, the volume was just a pleasantly convivial murmur without being at all overbearing.

The chow was super tasty if rather heavy, generally hewing to the "inventive riffs on retro comfort food" playbook. Both our deviled eggs with "frisky jalapenos" and fried Castelvetrano olives and Marcona almonds were excellent snacks. My BLT was about perfect, on properly not-too-fancy homemade bread with a legitimately good tomato (since living in New England I'm a tomato snob), great crispy bacon, and lettuce that wasn't an afterthought. DC's mixed green salad was pushed over the top with beet chips and absolutely delicious bison short rib meat. And the tres leches cake for dessert, while perhaps a notch less good than the savory stuff, was nonetheless worth having, beautifully executed and canonical, and thankfully not obscenely large.

Drink menu is at least as thoughtfully selected as the chow. Although they have no hard liquor license they have a few cordial cocktails, one with cassis, soda water, and basil, the other white port, lime, and soda. Very nice, unusual selection of beers, fewer in number than Dr. Field Goods but on par in terms of quality. And a surprisingly interesting set of wines by the glass (more by the bottle) including several casks on tap, which I always enjoy.

Staff was friendly and attentive, and they genuinely seemed to care about making the experience as good as possible.

Dinner for two with a few drinks, tax, and tip was about 60 bucks. Loved this place, I could easily see myself becoming a regular.

Jul 15, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

Kung Fu Cowboy, ABQ: funky little tea house in the heights

I recently happened to stumble on this little tea house at Candelaria and Eubank, in the same shopping center as Duke City Donuts. Seems to be an oddly well-kept secret: despite having been open for five years I asked a few friends who work two minutes away and they'd never heard of it.

Regardless of its low profile, Kung Fu Cowboy is a nifty spot. Digs are nothing fancy, just a strip mall setting with counter service, two small rooms of tables, and a whole bunch of board games to play during your visit. I didn't try the food, but it all looked perfectly decent, a nice array of relatively basic sandwiches, salads, and the like, some with slight twists (Oolong tea roasted chicken in the chicken salad).

But the real draw here is the large and interesting assortment of teas from around the world. Nice selection of about 50 teas, not too pricy for the apparent quality. I had a fantastic made-to-order jasmine iced tea, served in a one liter mason jar, for about 4 bucks. Of course they have hot tea, and they also do boba teas, tea smoothies, etc.

The board games seemed to attract a slightly odd collection of people. They were perfectly friendly, but some tended a little toward the "adults obsessed with RPGs" set. That said it didn't get in the way of my sitting off to one side and reading a book. They also have free Wi-Fi, so not a bad place to bring a laptop or tablet.

Cool little spot with great tea, I'm excited to have found a new place to hang out when I'm in ABQ.

http://kungfu-cowboy.com/

Jul 14, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

Old Town Albuquerque Sunday night restaurant recommendations?

Good, non-Mexican chow near Old Town, on a Sunday night, possibly a splurge is actually a bit of a tall order. The only non-Mex restaurant I half like in Old Town is Seasons, but I can hardly wax ecstatic about it; it's reliably decent but it always feels a little "restaurant groupy" to me, the closest thing we have to a Fox Concepts place in NM. Also, ABQ just isn't a splurgy kind of town; low- and midscale seems to be the sweet spot. (If you're specifically interested in a splurge, I can give you some good recs an hour north in Santa Fe.)

A few other Sunday recs, listed by increasing distance from Old Town:

On Central, Vinaigrette is a "salad bistro", growing many of the greens at their own farm 90 minutes north in Nambe. It's pricy for what it is, but the quality is pretty tough to argue with.

Budai is phenomenal for Chinese and Taiwanese, just be sure to ask for the secret menu where a bunch of the best stuff is. They have xao long bao, which is an absolute must.

Huong Thao is pretty no-frills, but they serve up some excellent homestyle Vietnamese, especially the pho.

Also, although I had one meh meal at Mas, a tapas restaurant downtown, it was a super crowded night right after they first opened, and its two sister restaurants up in Santa Fe are among my favorites in the state. I certainly want to get back at some point and give them another try.

Jul 14, 2014
finlero in Southwest

One week in Santa Fe-BLD suggestions, please!

Welcome in advance! Honestly, this board has little enough traffic that the best thing you could do would be a search to dig up some existing threads. I'll throw out a few of my midscale favorites and you'll be able to search for tons of info on any of them. Just a note that what you call "Southwestern" we often just call "Mexican", but it's definitely much different out here.

Santa Fe (all of these good for take-out)

* Dr. Field Goods
* 2nd Street Brewery
* Plaza Cafe
* Ranch House
* Vinaigrette
* Jambo Cafe
* Counter Culture
* Santa Fe Bite
* Santa Fe BBQ Truck
* Duel Brewery

Albuquerque

* Mary & Titos
* Taca Cabana (Montgomery and San Mateo locations only)
* The Grove
* Nosh

Jun 23, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Blue Corn Tortillas [Santa Fe]

Blue corn is definitely still around, but it's less of an "it" ingredient than it was in the 70s and 80s, so you won't see it on as many upscale menus.

As far as upscale dinner, I see that Santa Cafe still has blue corn enchiladas. You can definitely find blue corn at a lot of New Mexican restaurants (the Shed, Plaza Cafe, Tia Sophia's), and blue corn pinon pancakes are pretty common at breakfast (Tecolote Cafe RIP had my favorites, but Plaza Cafe does good ones). I'm sure there are plenty of other places where it's on the menu but not overly hyped anymore, since the rabid demand for blue corn above all else seems to have subsided over the course of a few decades.

I assume you mean Tesuque Village Market? I don't think it really sets the world on fire as a chow destination, but it's a better-than-average neighborhood restaurant, especially considering it's basically the only restaurant in the neighborhood. If nothing else, they do have blue corn on the menu. The classic thing to do before the Opera is to tailgate: make yourself a picnic from Kaune's or get a to-go meal from wherever (my favorite is the Ranch House for terrific BBQ, but it's across town) and enjoy it in the remarkably scenic parking lot before the show.

Jun 20, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

Good wine store in Santa Fe

La Casa Sena has a nice wine shop, and I'd be shocked (shocked!) if anywhere else in town did instant gift certificates online.

The two wine stores I really count on are Susans and Kokoman (the latter a little outside town but excellent). To some extent, these others are also pretty good: Cliff's, Arroyo Vino, the Kelly's at 2885 Cerrillos (others not as good), and Kaune's.

Jun 10, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Food-centric weekend

Santa Fe is a fine spot too.

For my personal tastes, SF's high end dining is a little too staid and safe, but there are a myriad of places that offer consistently well-executed dishes, many with some Southwestern flair. Off the top of my head, a few "celebration" places along these lines: Joseph's, Geronimo, Restaurant Martin, L'Olivier, Bouche, Santa Cafe, the Compound.

Places a notch down in price that arguably have better chow: Izanami, Taberna, Terra Cotta Wine Bistro, Shohko Cafe.

Places two notches down in price that definitely have outstanding food: Santa Fe Bite, Dr. Field Goods, Plaza Cafe (I'm partial to the Southside location, but the downtown one has been doing much better lately), Ranch House, Iconik Coffee, La Choza.

Jun 06, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Authentic Sichuan in ABQ?

Actually, that's not true -- you just have to ask for it. They have a semi-secret 23-item Sichuan menu, available on request:

http://www.pacific-paradise-restauran...

It's quite good, I was impressed!

May 12, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Doughnuts

Whoo's.

May 12, 2014
finlero in Southwest

BBQ tour

Sparky's in Hatch, NM is best known for serving up a ridiculously good green chile cheeseburger, but they do some solid BBQ as well. My favorite thing on the menu combines all of the above: the Oinker is a green chile cheeseburger topped with smoked pulled pork.

May 08, 2014
finlero in Southwest

ABQ c-hounds,, need your help picking one of the following restaurants for a dinner meeting

To ninrn's point about being unimpressed by Scalo, mixed on Artichoke, and conditional on Indigo Crow, I'd have to agree (although I've had a few nice pasta dishes at Scalo and they have a nice wine list). I've been to Mas for dinner (and I generally love La Boca in Santa Fe), but it was very soon after they opened, they were totally slammed, and everything was pretty lackluster; I do want to give them another chance.

This shines a light on a broader point: although I think Albuquerque is an unusually good city for excellent chow, I just don't think upscale is its forte. There is decent upscale dining to be found, but nearly every eatery has its peaks and valleys.

To that end, although I find the food at Savoy to be about on par with its siblings (competent, tasty, but ultimately a little soulless), it actually might be among your better bets in that if nothing else, you'd very likely get a good, well-executed product.

May 05, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

ABQ c-hounds,, need your help picking one of the following restaurants for a dinner meeting

Are the guests mostly from NM or out of state? Indigo Crow easily has the most local color of the four. I've always liked, not quite loved the food, but it's unpretentious and sincere.

Zinc and Seasons are run by the same restaurant group, and both are casually upscale, the food is well executed, and everything feels a little plastic (ditto at Savoy, their other project). I haven't been to Antiquity but the food looks tired to the point of being almost retro, a 1970s take on an American French restaurant (of course it could be delicious all the same).

Of the four the only one I'd go to regularly is Indigo Crow. You might also check out Scalo or Artichoke Cafe, both are tried and true, although leaning more Italian than French.

May 04, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Authentic Sichuan in ABQ?

May 01, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Pacific Paradise, ABQ: Real Deal Sichuan in a Tacky Tiki Room

Last year I had the good fortune of getting to visit Chengdu with a UNM professor who grew up there (the food was easily the best we had in China, and being from NM we got to impress everybody by being able to handle the heat). Inevitably, the discussion of Chinese restaurants in NM came up, and I mentioned how much I enjoy Budai, to which he dismissively said, "That place just serves Taiwanese food. For Sichuan food I go to Pacific Paradise."

So I finally got the chance to go to Pacific Paradise this week. And despite the fact that the slightly dilapidated Polynesian digs and menu make it look damn near impossible that anything good will come out of the kitchen, this place has the goods in the form of a semi-secret 23-item Sichaun menu available by request: http://www.pacific-paradise-restauran...

We tried the Dry and Sauteed Green Beans (very good, gingery and just a little sweet), Spicy and Aromatic Chicken (breading was a little heavy, otherwise excellent), and the Spicy Eggplant (serious heat, phenomenal flavor, couldn't ask for more), the latter two of which included a healthy dose of tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns in addition to plenty of red chile. Excellent trio of dishes, I'll be excited to get back and try more of the menu. In fact the Sichuan food was made with enough care that I might even try some of the suspiciously Americanized-looking Pacific Rim and sushi dishes.

Our server embodied everything that's great about ABQ, she was sincere, friendly, and attentive. And for those who care, they have an unremarkable selection of beer, wine, and sake.

Pacific Paradise and Budai are very different, but they both have their place. Some of Budai's dishes have a delicate elegance to them (three cup chicken, lion's head beef, xao long bao) that appeal to me in ways that Pacific Paradise's more in-your-face dishes simply can't. But that's not a knock on Pacific Paradise, it's more a question of appreciating two different outstanding regional cuisines. As far as I'm concerned, New Mexico is lucky to have both.

May 01, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

Great huevos rancheros in Albuquerque/Santa Fe/Taos

In Santa Fe, I love the huevos rancheros at the Plaza Cafe Southside (the original has become pretty lackluster), especially with green chile.

I also like them at the Shed or sister restaurant La Choza, although the quality gets variable when they're too busy. Their margaritas are also among the best in town.

If your husband is a chile head, you might also check Horesman's Haven; they're justifiably notorious for having the spiciest chile around, although I personally I think that level of heat comes at the expense of flavor.

2nd ninrn's suggestion for Rancho de Chimayo, just over 30 minutes north of Santa Fe, along the high road to Taos. Very pretty setting, and surprisingly good food.

Apr 07, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Tucson (+ some Phoenix) Report

Nice write-ups! When we were in town last month, we very much liked, didn't quite fall in love with our food at 47 Scott. That said, the cocktails were simply beyond reproach.

We also made it to Proper and I'm right with you on your assessment. Interesting restaurant, everything competently prepared, especially the charcuterie, but nothing was quite the best XYZ I'd ever had.

Dick's Hideaway is New Mexican-style Mexican food, and even after having lived in NM for about five years now, I think it's among the better renditions I've had. By NM standards it would be on the pricey and upscale side, but it's beautifully executed, down to the fact that the chile tends to have some legitimate heat.

Apr 06, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Headed to Santa Fe -- suggestions?

Between Santa Fe's tourism industry and the affluent local demographics, your 11 year old's dietary restrictions shouldn't be much of an impediment at all.

Green and red chile sauces are a major element of New Mexican cooking, and you should know that some places use vegetarian recipes while others don't (a lard roux is still a popular way to start). Given that I'm an omnivore I don't have a good list of places that do vegetarian chile bases, maybe others can chime in.

Beyond that, I'd really just do a board search for Santa Fe and see what strikes your fancy. Some interesting places you might check out, a board search will yield info aplenty on all of them:

* La Boca/Taberna
* Plaza Cafe (Southside only!)
* La Choza/the Shed
* Tecolote Cafe
* Joseph's of Santa Fe
* Izanami
* Santa Fe Bite
* Dr. Field Goods
* Iconik Coffee

Mar 27, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Favorite AZ wineries?

Thanks everybody for all the great input (I hope people continue to add to this for posterity too...)

Unfortunately our schedule was a little tighter than we'd hoped, so we weren't able to get out and visit any of the wineries, but we'll definitely be back.

We did get a chance to try a bottle of Dos Cabezas El Norte at Proper in Tucson. Basically a Rhone red (mostly Grenache and Syrah), it was ok but not especially impressive. Ran hot, didn't seem to have much in the way of structure, relatively low on tannins. But hey, gotta start somewhere.

Mar 21, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Anything Chowish between Albuquerque and Roswell (maybe via Socorro)?

Although I haven't been personally, I've heard a number of positive things said about the pizza at Cafe Rio in Ruidoso. Ruidoso in general seems to have some interesting stuff going in, maybe worth driving a little bit out of your way.

I'm afraid I have no idea about farm stands and the like, sorry. Curious what others have to say...

Mar 21, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Best Bakery in Santa Fe

I've never tried a wedding cake from Chocolate Maven, but I don't like the pastries I've had, universally big, bland, and boring. That said, if Maggie recommended them, I'd imagine they'd do a fine job with wedding cakes -- I don't really think a baker's ability to make giant industrial batches of muffins has much to do with their ability to make a great wedding cake. On the other hand, if it were I, I wouldn't take the risk if I weren't able to get to the bakery to do a tasting.

My favorite bakery in Santa Fe (by FAR) is Dulce. In addition to phenomenal breakfast pastries, their cupcakes and layer cakes are outstanding. I've never heard of them doing a wedding cake, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if they would do one for you.

You might also consider calling local NM chain Flying Star. Once again I don't know if they do wedding cakes, but I think their layer cakes are among the best items they have to offer, and they do a robust catering business, which suggests they would at least have the capacity to do a wedding cake.

If the above don't work, you may want to broaden your search to Albuquerque down the street. It's a much bigger city, and I've always been impressed how much the average Burqueno really cares about great chow. Maybe some folks can chime in on ABQ choices?

Mar 20, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Incredible Ethiopian Food near I-10! Tuscon

We were just in town and stopped by Zemam's for dinner, definitely enjoyed our meal. Several of us ordered samplers, which meant we were able to try close to a dozen different dishes.

Nothing was the best I've had, but everything was quite good, and especially welcome given that we don't have any Ethiopian restaurants where we live in NM. As best as we could tell the food was made in batches in advance (it would be tough to do otherwise with such a large menu and a relatively small restaurant). Highlights were the yemisir kay wat (red lentils), cauliflower with peppers and garbanzo, and gored-gored (beef with red chile). The injera was pretty good, again not quite the best I've had.

Friendly people running the restaurant, reasonable prices, definitely a good all-around experience.

Mar 17, 2014
finlero in Southwest

any suggestions for Tucson happy hours with good drinks and food?

Was just there a few days ago for a late dinner, really enjoyed it. Stellar drinks, good food. Didn't realize they did a happy hour -- what is it like?

Mar 17, 2014
finlero in Southwest

any suggestions for Tucson happy hours with good drinks and food?

I haven't been personally, but I have a friend who swears by the happy hour specials at Reilly. Both the food and the cocktails are supposed to be pretty respectable.

Mar 17, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Favorite AZ wineries?

Thanks everybody who replied so far (and please keep the suggestions coming!).

For those of you who recommended specific wineries, I'd love to hear more details about what you liked. Was it the wine itself? The setting? The overall vibe? If if was the wine itself, do you remember the specific wine(s) you enjoyed?

Mar 11, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Favorite AZ wineries?

Hey Phoenix hounds,

I posted a question about AZ wineries over on the Southwest board, but wanted to cross post here. Would love any input you can provide:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/967796

Mar 05, 2014
finlero in Phoenix

Favorite AZ wineries?

Hey AZ hounds,

We're going to be out in Tucson in a few weeks, and are hoping to visit a few of AZ's increasingly interesting wineries.

We're especially interested in spots within a few hours of Tucson (Callaghan in Elgin and Dos Cabezas in Sonoita are definitely on the list), but seeing as I haven't seen a thread on this anytime recently, I thought it might be useful to broaden the scope to the whole state. So:

What are your favorite AZ wines and wineries? Have you visited? If so, how was the experience? At the winery, were there any specific wines you particularly liked? Anything else people should know?

Thanks in advance, looking forward to the info!

Mar 05, 2014
finlero in Southwest