finlero's Profile

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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

Albuquerque: 72 hours in

If you don't mind, may I ask where you live so I can tailor my recs a little better? ABQ has, for example, some fantastic Vietnamese restaurants, but I wouldn't send you to one if you lived in another Vietnamese-heavy area like LA or Dallas.

The stuff you'll almost certainly find to be unique would be the NM-style Mexican restaurants. The best ones tend to close very early (6:00 tops, many closing after lunch), a few perennial favorites are Mary & Tito's, Barela's, and Padilla's. If you want to have a margarita with your enchiladas, maybe best to drive 50 minutes north to Santa Fe and hit the Shed.

Green chile is NM's signature ingredient, and you'll find it on the majority of even non-NM-style restaurant menus, often used in creative ways. Giovanni's does a surprisingly good NY-style pizza with green chile on it, and Banh Mi Coda (a Vietnamese sandwich place) does a warm turnover stuffed with chicken pate and green chile. The green chile cheeseburger has become canonical here, served in an array of styles from fast food (try local chain Blake's) to fancypants (bar menu at Ranchers Club) and everything in between.

Hope this gets you started, happy to give some less region-specific suggestions too.

Mar 03, 2014
finlero in Southwest
3

What coffee beans should I try next for home roasting?

I've been home roasting for about three years, and I get nearly all my green coffee from Sweet Maria's. Among other things they have a fantastic "coffee library" that has all sorts of great articles on roasting and brewing: http://www.sweetmarias.com/library/?s...

The important thing to remember when you roast is that different coffee "wants" to be roasted to different levels. Most Ethiopian Yirgacheffe seems to taste the best right at first crack, a City or City+, but loses a lot of the nuance as you push to Full City or beyond. Brazil and Sumatra varietals often taste grassy or sharp if roasted too light, but really shine when you go darker, exuding all those great chocolate and caramel notes. Another nice thing about Sweet Maria's is that they have detailed tasting notes for everything they sell, including the roasting range that they found to work best for the coffee in question.

Personally, I started roasting specifically because it's so hard to find good store-bought light roast coffee where I live (it's getting easier -- we have a couple of 3rd wave coffeehouses around town now). Consequently almost all the green coffee I buy is from the handful of locales that produce coffee that wants to roast lighter: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, and sometimes Costa Rica and Colombia, although the last two see a great deal of variation depending on the altitude at which the beans are grown.

I should also say that although I love a good latte and have been known to add a little milk to my pourover, milk and sugar have a tendency to mask a lot of the nuance and uniqueness of the coffee you brew. Even if adding milk is your preference, you might consider at least sampling your coffee black to help you hone your roasting craft.

Feb 14, 2014
finlero in Food Quests

In search of... Albuquerque's best Pad Thai

Only that you should definitely come up to Santa Fe on a Monday and get Talin's hot and sour cucumber dish.

Feb 11, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Izanami, Santa Fe: izakaya returns to NM

Well to be clear, I thought Izanami was perfectly fine, with a few items that were especially good, but don't take that as a rave. It's a good, competent restaurant, made a notch or two more desirable because of its uniqueness within the state.

Feb 11, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Izanami, Santa Fe: izakaya returns to NM

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I've kind of been in mourning since chef Eric Stapelman skipped town in 2013 and took Shibumi with him to Seattle. It’s not just that we lost the only izakaya in the state; we lost what may very well have been the best restaurant in the state, full stop. So when the word spread that Izanami, the new izakaya at Ten Thousand Waves, was actually good, I was excited to get there and give it a try. And although Izanami doesn’t achieve the sublime greatness of Shibumi, it’s still a fine restaurant that fills a void in NM’s dining scene.

The setting is pretty damn spectacular, with Ten Thousand Waves’ Japanese architecture amidst the hilly pine forest a few miles up Hyde Park Road, perhaps at its most beautiful in the winter snow. The restaurant itself is nicely appointed, if a bit too brightly lit and noisy as compared to the rest of the resort. Staff is almost over-the-top well trained to be friendly, knowledgeable, and attentive, committing orders to memory and frequently asking how diners are enjoying each small dish.

The food mostly ranged from pretty good to very good, and if you haven’t had an izakaya-style meal before, Izanami could be a revelation. Like the more familiar Spanish tapas, izakaya is small plates bar food, each dish comprised of a few focused, shareable bites intended to complement some good drink. Izanami sports a few dozen dishes, with the menu broken out into five sections: cold, hot, sweet, grilled, and fried. This is definitely a great spot to go with a small group, as you get to try more of the menu. A few highlights were a simple burdock root and carrot salad, homemade gyoza, and a special of Japanese sweet potato with a miso glaze. Their grilled pork belly was a little meh (especially as compared to Shibumi’s ridiculous kushiyaki pork belly and eggplant), as was the grilled chicken liver, nothing awful, just noticeably less good than the best they have to offer. And everything else was perfectly decent izakaya that I’d gladly order again.

They have a remarkably extensive drink menu with a few interesting soft drinks (homemade yuzu citrus ade, a nice selection of hot tea), nearly a dozen Japanese micro-brews, and a half-decent selection of wines by the glass. But the real draw is the sake menu which, while not quite as extensive as the one at Shohko Café, offers a whole bunch of good choices across a wide array of styles and prices, including several tasting flights.

Prices seem pretty fair considering the upscale, exotic concept. Most dishes are south of $10, with a few fancypants items (e.g. wagyu beef) in the 10s, 20s, or “market price”. Sakes by the glass float just above 10 bucks, with various bottles stretching from the 30s into the 100s, most 720ml bottles still well under $100. And although all the little dishes can add up quickly, you could easily get out of there for under $50/pp depending on what you order.

All in all Izanami is a great addition to the neighborhood, the city, and the state. And although I’ll continue to pine for a half dozen of Shibumi’s A-game dishes I’d now have to go to Seattle or Japan to enjoy, Izanami does a good job scratching the itch while avoiding the cost of a plane ticket.

http://www.izanamisantafe.com/

Feb 07, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Wine shop with good sherry selection in Albuquerque or Santa Fe?

I'm more of a Madeira guy, so not really. Best thing you could do is go grab dinner at La Boca, they have something like a dozen sherries on the menu and you could try a few different glasses.

Feb 01, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Wine shop with good sherry selection in Albuquerque or Santa Fe?

Susan's and Kokoman up in Santa Fe both have a nice selection of sherries. I'd be pretty surprised if Jubilation in ABQ didn't have some good choices, although I've been a little less impressed with their staff compared to the above.

Feb 01, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Joseph's of Santa Fe

Not bad, per se, just not 100% ready for prime time in terms of how the place is managed.

One time I was there they were out of several of their flagship beers and had "guest taps" from Blue Corn Brewery; I've never had an especially good beer from BCB, so this was a bit of a disappointment. Another time the bartender had to change a keg, but couldn't figure out how, so he had to call an off-duty staffer to figure out how to do it.

Anyway, nothing crazy, and the people who run it seem pleasant enough. I'm sure they'll find a rhythm over time.

Jan 29, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Joseph's of Santa Fe

I've been several times, it's quite good:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922454

The place seems a little disorganized, but both the beer and food are good and a little unusual for NM.

Jan 29, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Joseph's of Santa Fe

Joseph's and Martin are definitely birds of a feather in terms of price point and aesthetic, and I'm glad they're both around. At this point, though, my vote would go to Joseph's.

It's been over a year since I've been to Martin, but I remember it as trying a little harder (too hard, IMHO) to have a trendy menu, while perhaps falling a little short on deliciousness. Joseph's has a more conventional menu of straight-ahead New American (local ingredients with a lot of low-fuss European preparations), but the flavors worked a little better for me than I remember them working at Martin.

To me, Martin has a nominally less interesting wine list, but it's better balanced across the price spectrum, especially in terms of decent options south of 50 bucks. To my knowledge, neither restaurant has a hard liquor license.

Jan 27, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

Joseph's of Santa Fe

I recently had the chance to get over to Joseph's of Santa Fe with a few chow-philic friends. I'd never been to Joseph's Table up in Taos, but I'd heard consistently favorable things about it, and was excited to try the Santa Fe incarnation of it. The meal wasn't quite a revelation, but it was very good top to bottom, and reasonable value for the price point as well, with the arguable exception of its wine list.

Located in the former Azur space near Sanbusco, the place is small, cozy, and welcoming, and although the staff seemed a little green, they had been trained well and were totally personable and knowledgeable.

The menu is unpretentious, upscale farm-to-table New American, using as many local ingredients as possible. As is so often the case at a restaurant like this, the starters seemed substantially more interesting, focused, and delicious than the mains. Standouts were a raw vegetable salad with a truffle vinaigrette and grilled polenta with chicken liver mousse. The entrees were fine, if remarkably large and a little overly blunt. My confit-style duck dish had two giant duck legs, which was particularly weird given the slightly smaller than average starter portions. Neither my entree nor tastes of anyone else's quite knocked my socks off, but they were all competently prepared, and the flavors were fresh and thoughtfully integrated. Desserts were above average, but nothing I'd expressly seek out again; a standout was the "cloud cake", a giant, fluffy Italian meringue cake in a caramel sauce, garnished with grapefruit and tarragon.

Overall, the prices are high, but far from exorbitant; all but one entree fell somewhere in the 20s. On the other hand, I thought the CA- and France-heavy wine list was kind of bizarrely chosen in terms of price, starting high but petering out short of the stratosphere. They have a few cheap (in all senses of the word) bottles in the 30s, the sweet spot seems to be around $80, and almost nothing on the list is above $150. Our Sinskey pinot noir ($78 at about a 100% markup) was possibly the highlight of the meal, but come on, it's not like it would require bending over backwards to offer a few more $30 or $40 bottles that don't suck. They also have a nice, short craft beer menu which would go really well with the bold food flavors.

Despite no hard liquor license, I was pleased to see they have a bar menu, the rarest of rarities in Santa Fe, including a great looking burger, as well as duck fat fries, all $14 or less.

So although I don't see myself becoming an uber-regular, Joseph's is a nice upscale addition to the city, and I'll definitely be glad to get back from time to time, especially with out-of-town guests.

Jan 25, 2014
finlero in Southwest
2

Santa Fe Talin Market's Crazily Awesome Monday-only "Pop-up Dumpling Bar"

This is one of those chow finds that's so good, but in such a small space, that a major part of me wants to keep it a secret rather than risking spoiling it with crowds. But hey, that's hardly in the spirit of this site, so against my better judgment, here goes...

On Mondays only, from 11 - 6, Talin in Santa Fe has started a so-called "pop-up dumpling bar" at its little restaurant. It is just plain ridiculously good, easily the best chow experience I've had in NM in half a year, maybe much longer. The four types of boiled dumplings they offer aren't just homemade -- they're made fresh on premises all day by one of the women behind the counter.

8 bucks gets you your choice of hot and sour soup or egg drop soup (neither of which is my thing but both of which are nice renditions) a plate of 8 dumplings (your choice of four varieties: "traditional", shrimp, vegetarian, or salmon), and either a traditional, a spicy, or a Sichuan-style dipping sauce, the latter of which is chock full of chile oil and Sichuan peppercorns. DC and I tried both the traditional and the shrimp dumplings, with both sauces, everything was note-perfect, just a fantastic combination of remarkably authentic flavors.

A la carte for a few bucks you can also get a dish of raw cucumbers in Sichuan sauce (also ridiculous, maybe the best thing on the whole pop-up menu) or a sliced duck sandwich on steamed Chinese flatbread (slightly less good than the rest of the menu, but I'll get it again).

As far as I could tell, all the ramen options are still available as well, although if I'm there on a Monday there's absolutely no way I'd get anything other than the dumplings. Between the bar and a handful of tables, there's room for about a dozen diners at a time, so it can be tricky to get a seat. As such, go check it out, but don't tell too many of your friends...

Jan 25, 2014
finlero in Southwest
1

In search of... Albuquerque's best Pad Thai

I've been there in the last 3 months for sure, and it was as decent as ever. I've never quite been able to sing its praises from the mountaintops, but it was definitely not appallingly bad.

Jan 25, 2014
finlero in Southwest

In search of... Albuquerque's best Pad Thai

Siam Cafe on San Mateo may not quite set the world on fire, but it's totally solid, certainly the best Thai I've had in NM. Their Pad Thai is right on par with the rest of their menu, definitely worth a try.

Jan 24, 2014
finlero in Southwest

Chef Tasting Menu in/around Santa Fe or ABQ

Yeah, like rcurtism said, Santa Fe just ins't a tasting menu town. Moreover, I think Santa Fe's high-end dining is so demand-driven that there's just a remarkable amount of tourist-focused mediocrity out there.

Geronimo offers a four-course vegetarian tasting menu. The restaurant is nothing if not elegant, and even if the food leans more toward "flawless" than "sublime" you'd be hard pressed to find a more quintessentially upscale Santa Fe feel to a restaurant.

Other distinctly Santa Fean upscale places worth a peek at the menu: Ristra, the Compound, Santa Cafe. I've never been especially wowed by any of them, but they do get the vibe right.

I also agree with rcurtism that the food at La Boca is among the best in the city. It's a cramped, bustling tapas joint that's nowhere near as ostentatious as, say, Geronimo, but if great food is your primary motivator it would be hard to argue with this choice. I haven't been to Tanti Luce yet, but the word is that both the food and cocktails are more or less the real deal.

Finally, Santa Fe loves its safe, inoffensive French food, so if this is your thing, you certainly wouldn't go wrong at 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar or Bouche.

Dec 20, 2013
finlero in Southwest

Knife Skills Class? [ABQ/Santa Fe]

This was just some interweb searching on my part, definitely not an endorsement:

CNM does a "culinary skills" class that includes knife skills among a litany of other things, probably not quite what you're after.

SFCC offers two levels of Culinary Fundamentals classes, which appear to have a lot in terms of knife skills and food safety, but the first (and probably more appropriate) class is only offered fall semester.

Santa Fe Culinary Academy appears to offer an occasional knife skills class, but doesn't appear to have one scheduled anytime soon.

Dec 17, 2013
finlero in Southwest

Your Favorite NM Chocolate and Wine Producers?

Yes, but it's been a while for me too. I don't remember being either wowed or repulsed, but I should give them another try. :)

Nov 19, 2013
finlero in Southwest

Cafe Vingt Cinq Moving to ABQ

Their FB page says "The search for the new location continues, we are holding out for that perfect one we know is out there!" So apparently their prospective location fell through. Fingers crossed for them...

Nov 19, 2013
finlero in Southwest