finlero's Profile

Title Last Reply

Bonnie's Jams: obscenely good, obscenely priced jam

I happened to stumble on Bonnie's Jams in the refrigerated section of my neighborhood Whole Foods, and in a moment of effete weakness I threw a $7 jar of the apricot orange in my basket.

Holy crap, that's some amazing jam. I doubly followed the serving suggestion on the front, "tasty with toast or a creamy cheese" and had it on toast with whole milk ricotta. Neither too sweet from the apricot and sugar, nor too tart or bitter from the orange, just beautifully balanced and complex.

The price makes me hate myself too much for this to become a regular indulgence, but it really is a spectacular product.

http://www.bonniesjams.com/

Sep 29, 2014
finlero in General Topics

looking for "real NEW Mexican" in Santa Fe

Well...it's inexpensive before you tack on a few of their excellent silver coin margaritas, about 10 bucks a pop. :-)

Sep 26, 2014
finlero in Southwest

looking for "real NEW Mexican" in Santa Fe

If memory serves there's no difference in lunch and dinner prices. Most entrees are around the $10 mark, give or take 2 bucks.

Sep 26, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe trip. . .suggestions?

How about Joseph's on Sunday? No OpenTable, but they do seatme. Personally I think it's better than any of the options you listed.

Taberna and La Boca are pretty darn similar, which would be great if you enjoy La Boca and not so great if you don't.

Sep 22, 2014
finlero in Southwest

looking for "real NEW Mexican" in Santa Fe

P.S. Anything upscale won't be real New Mex either. If real New Mex is your goal, steer clear of Santa Cafe, Coyote Cafe, Geronimo, etc.

Sep 21, 2014
finlero in Southwest

looking for "real NEW Mexican" in Santa Fe

Virtually everything in town is New Mex, especially anywhere near downtown. A few exceptions are the amazing Salvadoran pupuseria in the Days Inn on Cerrillos and El Comal, both multiple miles SW the Plaza.

Three NM favorites in ABQ: Mary & Tito's, Barela's, Padilla's.

El Rancho de Chimayo in Chimayo (different than Casa Chimayo in SF) is also excellent.

Sep 21, 2014
finlero in Southwest

looking for "real NEW Mexican" in Santa Fe

A board search will turn up tons of choices on this low-traffic board, but my $0.02:

My preferred NM places in town right now are Plaza Cafe, especially Southside, and sister restaurants the Shed and La Choza. Not my top picks, but some people also like Tia Sophia's (certainly canonical if nothing else), Casa Chimayo (people I trust rave about it, but I've only had so-so chow there), and Maria's (very strong margaritas, decent chow). Pasqual's has some good NM food at breakfast and lunch, not as much at dinner.

The best NM food I know is down in Albuquerque, but all the good places close before dinner.

Sep 20, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Arroyo Vino, Santa Fe: the best upscale restaurant in New Mexico

Well color me surprised: Arroyo Vino isn’t good, it’s freakin’ phenomenal. Sorry in advance for the long write-up…

The restaurant had been on my radar for a while just because the “small plates with an adjoining wine shop” concept seemed like a layup even if the chow was only OK, and even if it was way the heck out in Las Campanas. But the chow isn’t only OK, it’s easily the best upscale food I can think of anywhere in the state.

Long winded semi-aside: when my better half and I lived in the Boston area, there was no shortage of ways to hemorrhage our hard-earned cash on high-end dining. We were lucky enough to slowly dine our way through the marquee places around town, from the stuffy Parisian formality of L’Espalier to the aggressive rusticness of Craigie on Main. But the place we kept coming back to was a small, somewhat off-the-radar bistro on a Cambridge side street named Salts. Salts’ chef, Gabriel Bremer, was a Ferran Adria disciple, but rather than using molecular gastronomy techniques to create a cerebral, boundary pushing art project, he chose to focus on farm-to-table deliciousness first and foremost, with the occasional flourish of molecular gastronomy punctuating his dishes for effect. Much of Salts’ produce came from their own farm in Vermont, and preparations tended to be understated, giving the excellent ingredients a chance to stand on their own merits. But many of the dishes also sported just a dash of MG to keep your interest, for example we once had a roasted fish dish topped with black truffle “caviar”, engineered little edible pearls that would burst with a delicate truffled liquid when bitten into.

So all of this is a roundabout way of saying that although it’s impressive that Mark Connell, Arroyo Vino’s executive chef, studied at CIA Greystone and worked at French Laundry, I’m much more excited that he worked under Gabriel Bremer at Salts. The food uses a very similar playbook, starting with top-notch ingredients (some from AV’s own garden), employing many relatively simple preparations (unlike Salts, leaning a little more Italian than French), and throwing in the occasional molecular gastronomic twist to make the experience unusual, playful, and fun. AV’s menu is seasonal and market driven, thus it changes frequently, but a few highlights from our visit: heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese sorbet and olive oil croquant (this last was a little crystallized candy filled with a robust olive oil), a special of sweetbreads, impossibly light pan fried gnocchi, and a sous vide egg, and an unbelievable Colorado peach soufflé. The daily specials are purported to be the most experimental items offered, I’ll be excited to get back to try more of them.

Circling back to the rest of the concept, the adjoining wine store is a tremendous value add, especially at the high end: you can bring any of their 600+ bottles over from the store for a flat $20 markup over the retail price. Tons of excellent, fairly priced selections, with a lot of emphasis on Italy, France, and Spain. And although there are some bottles it would be a crime to drink right away (just-released Bordeaux and Brunello), there are plenty of choices that are totally ready to drink.

Arroyo Vino has cultivated a semi-casual bistro vibe, with wood floors, colored metal chairs, and chalkboard specials. It’s a bit loud for an upscale restaurant, but not deafening. The well-trained staff is just about bouncing out of their shoes with excitement over the great product they’re turning out, which is in turns sweet and slightly exasperating; it’s one of those restaurants where it takes an extra 30 seconds per dish for them to recite all the different components. Prices are quite high and worth every penny: $5 - $10 for the smallest “bites”, $15 - $20 for tapas-sized “plates”, and a couple of full-sized entrees in the high $20s or low $30s.

The only drawback is the Las Campanas location – it’s a “Santa Fe shlep” (almost 20 minutes from downtown) to get out there, but it’s dramatically faster and cheaper than hopping a flight to Boston to go to Salts, so I’ll go ahead and keep my yap shut.

http://arroyovino.com/

Sep 17, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

Santa Fe trip. . .suggestions?

Just made it to Arroyo Vino. Run, don't walk, it's absolutely stellar. I'll write in more detail soon.

Sep 14, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe: Canyon Road lunch?

Gotcha, fair enough. The only one I really dislike is the Teahouse, probably for semi-irrational reasons, but some people swear by it. Personally I get annoyed by the aloofness of the staff, the sometimes bizarrely long waits for simple food, and the mild, vague dirtiness of the place.

The Compound, El Farol, and Cafe Des Artistes all fall into the category of "there are better similar options elsewhere in town", but they're each fine for what they are.

Sep 10, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe: Canyon Road lunch?

The only other restaurant I can think of on Canyon Road is Cafe Des Artistes. I've only been a couple of times but the food struck me as more serviceable than I might have expected.

Frankly, none of the options you've listed, including the Pink Adobe, are anywhere near my high rotation. Places downtown I specifically enjoy for lunch (search for more info on this board for any of them): Taberna, the Beestro, Terra Cotta, the Shed, Shohko Cafe, Plaza Cafe, Santa Cafe, Santa Fe Bite.

Sep 10, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Food-centric weekend

Yep, Taberna and La Boca (sister restaurants sharing a kitchen) are both reliably good, especially during harvest season when their farm-to-table ethos is in full effect.

Sep 02, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe trip. . .suggestions?

La Casa Sena - I haven't been, but over and over again I hear that the food simply doesn't stand up to the wine program. If you go I'd probably suggest hitting the Cantina and just accepting the fact you're effectively getting mediocre bar food to go with some excellent wine and a nice setting.

I haven't been to Arroyo Vino, but if you don't mind driving 15 minutes out of town their food is purported to be spectacular. I've poked around their adjoining wine shop (all bottles fair game to bring to the dining room) and it's lovely.

In terms of tapas, El Farol < El Meson < Taberna < La Boca, and I have little use for the first two. In terms of entertainment El Farol and El Meson both have live music, which makes them fun.

Chimayo: El Rancho de Chimayo is very good for straight-up Northern New Mexican food, definitely worth stopping for a meal.

Abiquiu: the restaurant at Abiquiu Inn is better than it needs to be and not too expensive; this isn't a rave, but it's reliably tasty. Also, Bode's general store makes surprisingly good sandwiches, also sporting a few fancy yuppified drinks like Itoen cold teas. If you want real-deal local color, Espanola isn't the prettiest of towns but there's plenty of local regional chow. I get a kick out of the apple fritters at the Lovin' Oven, and although I haven't been I've heard some good things about El Paragua for lunch and dinner.

I'm not crazy about Tia Sophia's; it's fine, but it's not on par with the other NNM choices on the thread. Bumble Bee's is good in that it's fresh and innocuous, but it's not a chow revelation.

I'd highly recommend Dr. Field Goods and Loyal Hound for Santa Fe riffs on farm-to-table, both well outside the tourist vortex.

Sep 02, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe trip. . .suggestions?

I grew up in Phoenix, I'm afraid Terra isn't much like T. Cook's. When Encandato (now managed by Four Seasons) was an Auberge property and Charles Dale was the chef it was a reliably good spot, if overpriced; now it's just expensive, overly safe, and dull.

Sep 02, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Joseph's of Santa Fe

Interesting, I'll definitely have to check out Arroyo Vino. To be fair, a restaurant's employees saying the restaurant is the best is a little like my mom telling me I'm cool ("But you are!"), but point taken all the same.

Aug 26, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Are New Mexican green chiles seasonal?

I don't know if restaurants store a whole year's supply or if they buy periodic wholesale batches (presumably it varies from restaurant to restaurant), but it'll definitely be frozen. The chile harvest is late summer only; the lowest point in NM is about 2800 feet, so we have winters despite being so far south.

As for home cooking, lots and lots of people in NM have chest freezers to store their personal chile stashes for the year. Each August or September you buy a 50 lb sack of green chile at the grocery store, get it roasted in the parking lot (chile roasters look like giant bingo tumblers with propane jets at the bottom), divvy it up in to whatever size bags you find useful, and freeze until needed. Every late summer you'll see ads in the paper for sales on chest freezers.

Aug 26, 2014
finlero in General Topics
1

Are New Mexican green chiles seasonal?

I live in NM where green chile seems to be on the majority of restaurant menus (including McDonalds, Sonic, etc.), and here at least, most restaurants get locally roasted chile from around Hatch and freeze for the year. It freezes and thaws very well, and I've never been able to tell much of a difference between the in season vs. the frozen. There's definitely a range of quality; in my experience you've found a good batch if the pieces of chile are irregularly cut, have some char marks, and sport the occasional tinge of red.

CO, AZ, CA, west TX, and Mexico all grow their own green chile. A lot of people in NM claim that the terroir around Hatch stands its chile head and shoulders above anywhere else; I'm not enough of an expert to really have an opinion. Regardless, there are a number of protectionist in-state campaigns to "keep New Mexico green" and only source local green chile, and NM's usually amicable relations with Colorado periodically get a little testy when CO publicly touts its green chile over NM's.

Aug 25, 2014
finlero in General Topics

Santa Fe: Arroyo Vino?

Hey, thanks for the nod!

I will say that these days I'm probably partial to L'Olivier over Bouche for French, and Andiamo doesn't bowl me over, but I'd be surprised if you had a net-bad experience at any of the places. Joseph's, Georgia, and Loyal Hound have been recent favorites of mine.

Welcome in advance, and thanks again for the note!

Aug 15, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe: Arroyo Vino?

I had no idea about the Max's connection, we loved that place. Now I'm kicking myself that I didn't go to Arroyo Vino sooner, I'll totally have to check it out.

Aug 12, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe Liqour Stores

NB Kaune's (a local grocery store) closes quite early, 6:45 IIRC.

FYI I just checked and it turns out La Casa Sena carries beer and spirits too, so that's easily the closest to the Plaza.

It would be a little more of a shlep, but depending on your personal notion of "walking distance", you could also argue that Owl (straight-up packie), Cliff's (nicer packie), and Sprouts (grocery store with a pretty good liquor selection) are in range, which all stay open later.

Aug 12, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Santa Fe Liqour Stores

Kaune's is walkable for upscale beer, wine, and liquor. La Casa Sena is just off the plaza, for wine only, much of it ultra high end.

Aug 11, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Georgia Restaurant, Santa Fe: pretty darn good

Well that's certainly a bummer. I wonder if they're finally starting to buckle a little under the pressure of their popularity.

FWIW we had a second well-executed meal at Georgia, this time at the bar. The bar menu didn't quite hit the same high notes as the dining room, but everything ranged from pretty good to good. The shrimp cocktail was a little weird with the shrimp heavily sprinkled with herbs, but not un-tasty. The crab cake was wonderfully canonical, light on filler and gently fried. And the charcuterie plate was thoughtfully chosen, although I hope the chef eventually stretches out and makes his own charcuterie preparations instead of sourcing from elsewhere. Don't remember which wines we had by the glass, but they were much better than average, which is to say they were actually potable (I'll fess up to being a wine snob who will often drink a cocktail or beer, or teetotal, instead of drinking crappy wine be the glass).

Anyway, hopefully you just had a one-off experience, but I guess time will tell...

Aug 11, 2014
finlero in Southwest

El Comal, Santa Fe

You know, I've always wanted to check this place out but haven't made it yet. It's well into the nondescript strip mall section of town, which often tends to bode well for the lower price point stuff. For better or worse, as the name suggests the menu is straight-up Mexican, not New Mexican, kind of a rarity around here. If you go, please report back, I'd be very curious to hear about it.

Jul 29, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Memorable dinner in Santa Fe?

Definitely didn't mean to stew you! I really WANT to like Martin, and I hope they find their feet, but lapses in the fundamentals have happened too frequently lately for me to be able to ignore.

Jul 29, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Memorable dinner in Santa Fe?

The other place I'd consider is Joseph's of Santa Fe. The menu is at least a smidge more progressive than Georgia and prepared very well, with a heavy emphasis placed on eating local.

I'd say I was more impressed with the food at my one visit to Georgia than I have been on my multiple visits to Joseph's. The more "varsity level" chow items at Georgia are in limited supply (presumably based on limited demand in this town), but if it's on the menu I think there's a pretty good chance it will be excellent. One of my DCs ordered a 24-hour braised rabbit pasta special that was truly, you know, special.

Joseph's is quite good, though, especially the starters. And my better half swears by their "cloud cake" dessert, a meringue cake with caramel, grapefruit, and tarragon.

Jul 29, 2014
finlero in Southwest

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