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

Sherry is a really tough category in New Mexico. If you're willing to consider mail order The Rare Wine Company in Sonoma is a great source for both Madeira and Sherry. They carry the entire Valdespino portfolio and even featured them in a recent newsletter:

http://www.rarewineco.com/media/29751...

The staff is great and shipping is reasonable at least for case quantities, although it inevitably starts to seem a little steep for smaller orders.

Feb 04, 2014
rcurtism in Southwest

Santa Fe Burger Update

Shake Foundation did have a sign posted that described the sourcing of their beef, but I don't recall the details. I strongly suspect it is from New Mexico and wouldn't be at all surprised if it is grass fed. El Milagro was definitely more of a Sysco type place.

I think the shake program is up and running at Shake Foundation. Next time I will probably just order a straight chocolate shake with Taos Cow ice cream (minus the chocolate chunks) and see how they do with that.

As a side note, Plaza Café Southside claims to serve grass fed beef on their menu and based on recent visits to both places I would rank them a few cuts above Rio Chama (I've only been to Joe's once so really can't comment).

Jan 17, 2014
rcurtism in Southwest

Santa Fe Burger Update

Tried two new places in the past week that I haven't seen discussed here. The first, Shake Foundation, has been doing a brisk business since it opened a few weeks ago near the intersection of Cerrillos and Paseo de Peralta. It's a riff on the Shake Shack concept and apparently the brainchild of Brian Knox, former chef/owner of Aqua Santa. There's no indoor seating, so you can eat in your car or huddle under a heat lamp (it looks like they're set up for extensive outdoor seating in the warmer months).

I had a basic green chile cheeseburger with shoestring fries and a chocolate shake. The burger was on the small side (about 3.5" in diameter, maybe halfway between a slider and a full size burger), with fairly spicy green chile, an obviously hand formed and flavorful patty, and a soft bun with a hint of sweetness (reminiscent of a potato roll). Shoestring fries are not my favorite rendition of fried potatoes, but these were about as good as the genre gets. My biggest disappointment was the milkshake with Todos Santos chocolate - the shake itself didn't seem very chocolaty, and the chunks of dark chocolate at the bottom plugged up the straw and didn't really integrate with the rest of the shake. Overall I came away a bit nonplussed, but I also never really got worked up over the Shake Shack when I was living in NY so this just may not be my thing.

We also stopped by El Milagro, a hole in the wall across from Plaza Café Southside that boasts of serving some of Santa Fe's best burgers, and they did a pretty good job of backing up that claim. Burgers are cooked to order, and they hit our rare and medium rare orders pretty much spot on. Green chile was plentiful and hot, and the onion rings were decent (the fries less so). The buns kind of disintegrated toward the end due to the juiciness of the burgers, but that's kind of a tough thing to complain about. A very pleasant surprise overall.

Since I've been a white knight for Santa Fe Bite in previous posts here, I should also add that I'm having a difficult time getting their burgers cooked to what I consider a proper degree of rareness. At the old location their success rate was better than 9 out of 10. So far at Santa Fe Bite I'm 2 for 5. I'm sure this is just a function of the increased volume and probably somewhat inevitable, but it has lessened the appeal of the place for me.

Enough about burgers, already!

Jan 16, 2014
rcurtism in Southwest
2

Chef Tasting Menu in/around Santa Fe or ABQ

For better or worse, Santa Fe is not much of a tasting menu town. Most of the higher end restaurants tend to stick to the standard three course a la carte formula. I do think I've seen a tasting menu posted at the host station at Coyote Café as I was passing it on my way upstairs to the Cantina, but their web site appears to be down at the moment so I can't confirm that.

If you're looking for something other than first course/main course/dessert your best bets may be La Boca (a wide selection of tapas and one of the best tables in town regardless of format) and Arroyo Vino (an assortment of small plates with an excellent selection of wine from the adjoining wine shop). You should be able to create a "virtual" tasting menu at either place. Service and atmosphere at both are somewhat casual, so if you're looking for a more formal special occasion ambience they may not fit the bill.

Good luck, and enjoy your visit!

Dec 19, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest

Escape to Sweets Raku from the Strip? & MGM Questions

For your MGM questions - Craftsteak doesn't get a lot of love on this board, but my one meal there was quite enjoyable - great side dishes, not so great value but presumably you're not paying. I notice you didn't mention Emeril's (maybe too adventurous for your boss?) - I know the man himself has become a bit of a caricature, but I've had consistently good experiences there, and if anyone is your party is into wine they have one of the best and more reasonably priced cellars on the Strip.

Nov 06, 2013
rcurtism in Las Vegas

Christmas in Las Vegas

We've spent Christmas in LV twice in the last few years, and on our last visit things seemed quite busy on Christmas day and the next few days after the holiday, with a bit of a lull on the 28th and 29th before it started building up again for New Year's. One thing you may want to be aware of is that some restaurants will have "special" fixed menus on offer on Christmas Eve/Christmas day. We prefer to avoid things like this, since they are often overpriced and offer limited choices. If you have similar preferences, it's not a bad idea to call the restaurant and make sure they will be serving their full menu.

Have fun!

Nov 06, 2013
rcurtism in Las Vegas

Santa Fe Restaurants, Dish by Dish

It's probably the only dish of its kind on any Santa Fe restaurant menu, but for my money the roast lamb burrito at Atrisco deserves classic status. The red chile is brighter and less earthy than La Choza but still intensely flavorful, and the lamb really tastes like lamb (I believe it may be sourced from the excellent Shepherd's Lamb in Tierra Amarilla).

Agree with finlero wholeheartedly on the overall excellence of Plaza Café Southside. If you can force yourself to pass on their superb green chile they also do a textbook rendition of huevos divorciados.

There's a lot to like about the Ranch House but one dish I am particularly fond of is their green chile brisket burrito. It's the only way I know of to get a green chile and brisket fix now that my beloved Hidden Chicken is closed, and when they get the chile right (i.e. hot) it can be a great plate of food.

In the guilty pleasure department I do have a soft spot for the Pantry Burger at the Pantry/Los Amigos - an open faced burger smothered with red chile and cheese served with curly fries. It's kind of a gloppy mess, but sometimes hits the spot.

Oct 21, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest
1

Cooking class in or around Santa Fe

You could also take a look at Los Poblanos in the Los Ranchos neighborhood of Albuquerque. It's a bit of a drive (although probably less than an hour), and it will give you a view of northern New Mexico that you won't necessarily get around Santa Fe.

Sep 11, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest

Interesting Virgin Cocktails

Since you're staying at Mandalay Bay you may want to investigate Rx Boiler Room, the latest incarnation of Rick Moonen's formal upstairs restaurant. It's a lot more casual and hip than before, and they seem to take their cocktails very seriously. Not sure about the availability of virgin cocktails, but it's probably worth a phone call.

Sep 09, 2013
rcurtism in Las Vegas

Trip Report - Monta, Kabuto, RM Seafood, Cut, and more!

Two New Mexico Chowhounds just back from our latest visit. We stayed a day longer this time so there's even more to report on than usual. Here's the rundown:

Monta - finally made it here, and I'm glad we did. We both had the tonkatsu ramen with one order of extra pork which we split between us, which made for a perfect quantity of meat. This was great stuff, as good as I remember getting at any of the top ramen houses in NYC. Accompanied by a nice but unnecessary order of gyoza. Sweet, efficient service, but there's a good chance you'll have at least a short wait if you arrive at a peak hour.

Kabuto - we've always ordered omakase before, but since we were generally less enamored with the sashimi and cooked items we decided to go for the 10 piece nigiri option with supplements this time. Service was excellent as always, and it was a great meal overall, but we both noticed some consistency issues with the nigiri - the rice to fish ratio was way off on one of my pieces, and another was completely overwhelmed by wasabi. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the first time we weren't seated at Gen san's station. I still consider this an essential Vegas meal, but in the future I might make an earlier reservation or specifically request to sit with Gen san.

RM Seafood - we finally got around to trying this place on our last visit despite the fact that we almost always stay at theHotel, and were sufficiently impressed to warrant a return visit. Nothing we ordered required any serious skill in the kitchen but between the pristine oysters, amazingly sweet Alaskan king crab, and serviceable steamed clams, this was a decadent and very relaxing lunch (they also have a very nice Edna Valley Albarinho served from keg that pairs perfectly with the food). I don't know that I'd recommend this as a dinner destination, but the flexible menu and relaxed atmosphere make it a perfect lunch spot.

Cut - I am rarely knocked out by restaurant service, simply because it doesn't matter all that much to me compared to the food and wine, but Cut is an exception. Our server was simultaneously crisp, efficient, friendly, and engaging, and overall provided one of the best service experiences I've had outside of a Danny Meyer restaurant. She decanted the bottle of wine we brought expertly and graciously, and was on the spot throughout the entire meal. First courses of bone marrow flan and oxtail boullion were excellent, as were the sides (potato puree and Tuscan beans), but we were both nonplussed by our steaks. My wife's 21 day Illinois bone-in ribeye and my 35 day Nebraska strip were both perfectly cooked but curiously lacking in flavor, and in the case of my strip the problem was exacerbated by the aggressively seared and seasoned crust, which tended to overwhelm the already mild flavor of the beef. I had some reservations about coming here given the emphasis on the more exotic Wagyu/Kobe cuts, and I'm starting to think this may not be the best choice unless you're prepared to make that kind of investment.

Border Grill - we wrote this place off years ago, but since we were hanging out at the Mandalay Bay pool all day it was a practical choice, and I'm glad we gave it another try. The cocktails were so-so but the trio of salsas served with the complimentary chips was outstanding and the fish tacos were reference standard.

Raku - our first time here, and a bit of a rocky experience, but ultimately satisfying. We had some difficult understanding our server, partly due to a speaker directly overhead and partly due to language barriers, and she didn't show much interest in explaining things (she dropped off the blue fin tuna sashimi sampler without identifying the three different cuts and was little to no help with the sake menu). We also experienced an inexplicably long wait between our first two courses. Service aside, the meal had some definite high points, including the aforementioned tuna sashimi, my wife's foie gras custard, and pretty much everything off the grill (especially the beef tenderloin with fresh wasabi and the pork cheek). The only real miss was a pricey, dry, overcooked fried smelt off the specials menu.

Milos - we stopped in here for lunch twice, and between the two visits sampled the meze plate, tomato salad, grilled octopus, smoked salmon, lavraki, lobster pasta, and the Milos special (from the a la carte menu). I've heard some grumblings about declining quality here, but based on these two visits the only evidence I can see to support that is the elimination of the walnut cake dessert option - everything else is as good as ever. I think we will finally bite the bullet and splurge on dinner here next time.

Pinot Brasserie - we selected this place for a small family get together for two reasons - a glowing review from John Curtas at eatinglv.com and the fact that they allow BYO with no corkage charge. No real surprises, but the lobster bisque and escargots were very well executed and the steaks were perfectly cooked and served with a very flavorful mushroom/spinach/potato side. The lobster component of my wife's surf and turf seemed a bit skimpy, but aside from that everything was first rate. If you need a conservative and quiet choice for a family or business dinner this could be an excellent pick.

Forte - I will admit that I had to be dragged here, but I'm glad I went along for the ride. Everything was just superb, with special accolades for the Bulgarian mixed grill and the Adjarski Khachapurri (bread boat stuffed with cheeses and a fried egg). I didn't get to sample the borscht or the stroganoff but they both also received rave reviews. Prices are almost ridiculously gentle given the quality.

Valentino - the pasta tasting here blew our minds on our last visit, but it appears they have already begun to wind down operations in anticipation of closing later in the year. The formal dining rooms were closed, so we were seated in the casual grill, no tasting menus were offered, and we were presented with a two page wine list (I assume the larger list may be available, but since we brought our own wines I didn't inquire). All of our pasta courses were outstanding (delicate lasagna, a very bright tasting spinach and tomato cappellacci, and a special of fettucine with scallops, mushrooms, and Australian black truffles). My main course of lamb shanks with mushroom tortellini was excellent, but the osso buco received mixed reviews from my companions. The kitchen is still turning out solid food overall, but don't come here expecting the sort of formal dining experience they delivered in the past.

One editorial note - I've read that the Venetian chose not to renew Valentino's lease because they wanted to bring in something with more of a celebrity chef pedigree to fill the space. It's never been difficult to get a table here even at prime time, and I understand that the market dictates these things, but it's still a little disheartening to think that food of this caliber isn't sufficient to keep an establishment going.

Another superb visit - looking forward to our return in February!

Sep 04, 2013
rcurtism in Las Vegas

The Bite in Santa Fe

Based on our one visit so far (lunchtime on Indian Market weekend, so they were slammed) I saw no indication of service problems or longer than average waits. The service staff has probably quadrupled in size, so you're not going to get as much personal attention from Bonnie and Ashleigh any more, but our server turned out to be a familiar face from Harry's who just moved over to the Bite and did a great job.

People also need to remember that this has never been fast food. I frequently showed up to the old location precisely at opening time and always paid attention to when the first burger came out of the kitchen - it was generally at least 20-25 minutes after the first order was placed. To fyfas' point, some of the negative comments may be coming from newcomers with unrealistic expectations.

FWIW, fyfas, I also share your thoughts on Hidden Chicken. I was semi-regular, always ordered exactly the same thing (Green Chile Brisket Melt), and can't fathom how anyone could possibly have anything negative to say about the service. There is obviously a personality type that revels in publishing vicious comments on the web (sometimes even second hand in nature, with no basis in reality) - we can only hope that most readers have enough sense to sniff those types out and ignore them.

Sep 01, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest

Lunch At Mandalay Bay

RM Seafood is open for lunch, and while it's certainly possible to drop a stack of money there the menu is quite flexible and offers a number of different ordering options, so I think you're $50 price point should be achievable.

Aug 14, 2013
rcurtism in Las Vegas

Nexus Brewery - Finally, Real Soul Food in Albuquerque

What a great recommendation - thank you! I'm a big fan of ABQ brewpubs but for some reason always chose to skip over this place. It will be at the top of my list the next time I'm in town.

Aug 13, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest
1

Best bar food in Santa Fe.

The bar room at Rio Chama meets just about all of your criteria. I'm not crazy about the restaurant itself, but the bar is actually quite pleasant, and they have one of the better burgers in town now that we've lost Bobcat Bite (at least temporarily).

Jul 31, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest
2

Santa Fe: Great Wine Lists?

For my money La Casa Sena has by far the best cellar in town, with excellent depth and breadth as well as relatively gentle markups (at least by SF standards). Unfortunately, the kitchen simply doesn't measure up to the standards of the wine program. I would love to eat there more often, since it really is one of those rare wine lists that encourages exploration and discovery, but I just can't get past the shortcomings of the food.

Maybe there's a creative dining strategy that could compensate for this - tapas at Taberna followed by a nice bottle of wine and a token food order at Casa Sena?

One other option to consider is Arroyo Vino - it's a newish wine-centered restaurant with an adjoining wine shop in an upscale residential neighborhood far outside the tourist orbit. I've only been once, but the inventory seemed well chosen and the food was thoughtful and well prepared.

Jul 01, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest
1

Iconik Coffee Roasters, Santa Fe: finally, the all-around coffeehouse I've been wishing for

As a member of the virtual office brigade I would add two things to finlero's list of criteria - stable wifi and plenty of power outlets. I'm happy to report that Iconik gets high marks in both of these areas. On a recent visit around noon I spotted at least half a dozen laptop jockeys who looked like they were settled in for extended stays.

One minor cautionary note - on my first visit I showed up shortly after 8:00 am and they were just in the process of mixing the batter for the daily batch of scones, so there was essentially nothing to eat except some cookies from the previous day. Arriving early with an appetite may not be the best idea, at least for now.

Jun 11, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest

Bouche Bistro (Santa Fe)

Had an exceptional meal last Friday at this new restaurant helmed by Charles Dale, formerly of Terra at the Encantado resort. It's a tiny, bustling space that seems much lighter and more convivial than it did in its previous incarnation as Aqua Santa, and the food was superb across the board.

First courses included seven-herb ravioli with a (huge) crispy frog leg for me and sauteed foie gras for my wife, both of which were excellent. Main courses were a reference-standard steak frites featuring densely flavored, beefy hanger steak and crispy fries, and the real highlight of the evening, short ribs "pot au feu", a pile of meltingly tender meat in a light broth with brussel sprouts and carrots that managed to be both classic and original at the same time.

One could hope for a few more interesting under $50 selections on the wine list (especially on the red side), but that's my only minor quibble. I always had a sense that Chef Dale's talents were somewhat underutilized at Terra, and Bouche seems to confirm that. This looks to be an exciting and most welcome addition to fine dining in Santa Fe.

Mar 18, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest
1

My Northern New Mexico Itinerary

Tecolote is an excellent choice, especially for their red chile. This is one of those places that is think is underappreciated by locals due to the Diners/Drive-ins/Dives connection and the fact that it can be somewhat overrun by tourists.

You may already know that La Choza offers essentially the same menu as the Shed - it's good, but it won't be a noticeably different experience from your meal at the Shed (other than the atmosphere).

I would skip Tomasita's and Tia Sophia's and consider Atrisco Cafe and the Plaza Cafe (either location) as alternatives (the green chile at the Plaza Cafe can be exceptionally good). Enjoy your visit.

Mar 18, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest

Albuquerque

I second the comments on Chama River. If you want good brewpub atmosphere with some decent grub try Il Vicino (the Canteen, not the restaurants) or Marble Brewery (check the web site to see which food trucks will be serving).

Jan 31, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest

Javier's @ the Aria. Anyone ??

The Las Vegas branch received a scathing review on the EatingLV website:

http://www.eatinglv.com/2012/10/javie...

Jan 21, 2013
rcurtism in Las Vegas

First impressions of Vivre (Santa Fe)

Conceptually this place looks very promising. Menu prices are exceedingly gentle - the most expensive entree is $26 - and the "everyday" wine list includes some very nice selections at $25 and $50 (I actually saw one of the items on the $25 list in a local retail shop the next day priced at $23).

The menu itself is quite straightforward, with a relatively familiar roster of French classics. Unfortunately, on our first visit the execution didn't quite measure up to the concept. Three out of our four dishes were unimpressive - frisee and goat cheese salad was dressed with an incongruously sweet vinaigrette, duck confit with caramelized onions, pear, and gruyere was sort of a soft brown mush with little textural or flavor contrast, and a nicely cooked piece of pork belly came with a murky red wine reduction and an almost flavorless turnip gratin. A perfectly executed piece of salmon with lentils was the only real bright spot.

Having enjoyed some delightful meals at Nostrani, I'm sure the kitchen will hit its stride eventually, but I was little surprised at the number of rough spots in this meal. Still, there's a lot to like here, especially the wine program, so I'll look forward to a return visit in the near future to see how things are progressing.

Jan 21, 2013
rcurtism in Southwest

Finalized Choices, Arriving Tomorrow Night 27th. Please Provide Specific Dishes If Possible...Thank you

For lunch at Milos we've found it best to stick with some of the basics - specifically the meze sampler and the lavraki. Some of the other items we've tried were not all that great (specifically the crabcake and the lobster pasta), and they all involved supplemental charges. The one supplemental item we did enjoy was the octopus. Have fun - it's a great deal.

Dec 27, 2012
rcurtism in Las Vegas

Pls critique our New Mexico dinner plans

If you haven't totally OD'd on Northern New Mexican food by the time you get to Taos you might consider Orlando's as an alternative to Graham's Grille. It's a charming little place and some of the menu items have a slightly different spin than what you typically see around Santa Fe.

Dec 20, 2012
rcurtism in Southwest

Aqua Santa to reopen under Charles Dale

According to the voice mail recording at Aqua Santa, the restaurant has been sold and will reopen under the direction (and presumably ownership?) of Charles Dale sometime in January. It will be interesting to see how Chef Dale's cuisine evolves outside of the constrictions of a resort like Encantado. Given the currently somewhat haphazard fine dining environment in Santa Fe I'm looking forward to seeing where this leads.

Nov 19, 2012
rcurtism in Southwest

Duck in Denver area?

If you're open to mail order Hudson Valley Foie Gras is a great source:

http://www.hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com/

Not sure about breasts on the bone, but they do sell the larger Magret breasts which are a completely different proposition than the scrawny numbers you see at Whole Foods. Shipping is costly as with all mail order but if you place a sufficiently large order it averages out OK.

Oct 30, 2012
rcurtism in Mountain States

Compare notes on Squeaky Bean?

A recent poster made this observation:

"Squeaky Bean. If the food wasn't so good, it would be a tragic case of style over function. And sometimes it is. Loud loud space."

This mirrors some of my thoughts about this place (except for the noise, since I've gone at off hours when it was quieter), so I'm wondering what others are thinking.

My first visit was very promising - carefully crafted cocktails, well thought out food, some nice flourishes like tableside saucing of dishes, and very gentle prices given the level of ambition. On my second visit the balance seemed to be tipping in the wrong direction - my scallop and mango first course felt like a triumph of creative plating over eating pleasure (although the scallops themselves were delicious), and the porchetta main course had at least two or three too many ingredients and ended up seeming a little blurry as a result.

So what's your verdict? "Tragic case of style over function" or a bold, contemporary restaurant?

Oct 18, 2012
rcurtism in Mountain States

Scarpetta portion size

Based on our one visit, the classic antipasti-primi-secondi meal could end up being a lot of food at Scarpetta. We ordered some heavier items (duck ravioli, veal chops), but we found the pastas large enough to share and ended up pretty full after just two courses. I think you could make it work by ordering carefully and avoiding the more filling dishes on the menu (FWIW, the veal chops were pretty mediocre and are not recommended).

Oct 18, 2012
rcurtism in Las Vegas

suggestions/thoughts?

I'd recommend against making a special effort to visit Fleur (actually, I'd recommend against walking downstairs to eat there if you were staying at Mandalay Bay, but that's a different question). I've eaten there twice and was completely underwhelmed on both occasions. There are literally dozens of better choices within walking distance of your City Center location.

Oct 09, 2012
rcurtism in Las Vegas

Specific Santa Fe questions

Since no one else has chimed in on Atrisco I'll add one more entry to the "highly recommended" list. For my money they serve the best red chile in town, and they have a few unusual items that don't show up on most NNM menus (specifically, the roast lamb burrito and lamb ribs, both of which are sourced from a local rancher, Shepherd's Lamb in Tierra Amarilla). The lamb ribs are a dinner special only offered on certain nights and they come and go seasonally, but the burrito is a fixture on the menu. The shopping mall location may prevent this place from getting the acclaim it deserves, but it's near the top of our list for NNM cooking.

Oct 04, 2012
rcurtism in Southwest

Foie in Las Vegas

The last time I checked Comme Ca at the Cosmopolitan had a foie gras terrine on their dinner menu (but not on the lunch menu).

Sep 11, 2012
rcurtism in Las Vegas