Planting the Seeds of Change at The Acre

Shawn Weed / Photo by Liz opez

Shawn Weed / Photo by Liz Lopez

(Story by Amy Morton / Photos by Liz Lopez)
Can farm-to-table vegetarian food be accessible to everyone–from foodie omnivores to muscly weight lifters to budget-conscious families with young picky eaters? It may sound like a tall order, but that’s exactly what Chef Shawn Weed and his wife Danielle Reilly Weed are hoping to prove at their new “comfort vegetarian” restaurant The Acre, which opened just before Thanksgiving in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, where the couple lives with their two daughters, ages 5 and 3.

The Weeds’ first restaurant, The Acre caps off a multifaceted culinary journey for the chef, who moved to New Mexico from Indiana as a teenager and landed his first job as a dishwasher at age 15. He later worked in restaurants in San Francisco, Calif., Scotland, San Diego, Calif., and New York City, where he became a private chef for a successful restaurateur. Having had enough of the big city, Shawn convinced Danielle to move with him back to New Mexico. After a decade working as an executive chef for the University of New Mexico’s food supplier and as a food and beverage director at a local casino, he was ready to venture out on his own. “It became time that I needed to do my dream,” the chef says.

Tucked into the Montgomery Crossing shopping center, adjacent to Penzeys Spices and across the parking lot from Natural Grocers, The Acre is not your typical vegetarian restaurant. For starters, its chef is not a vegetarian, but someone who simply believes in eating less meat. If you ask Chef Shawn why, you won’t hear him put forth anything New Age or preachy, but rather a way of thinking that’s steeped in old-school Midwestern values.

“My grandparents in Indiana had a farm, and in the summers we would go to help,” Shawn says. “They called it ‘The Acre.’ After working, we’d put these rickety picnic tables together, and everybody would just sit down. They’d bring out these pitchers of tea, and whatever gets cooked, you’re eating it. A lot of times, it didn’t have meat. It was watermelon and roasted corn and amazing stuff.”

Flash-forward to present day, and “we’re in a culture of people who typically believe you need to have meat at every meal,” Shawn says. “I’m not one to stand on my soapbox against eating meat, but I do think we could all take it down a couple notches. If we scale back demand, it would be a better environment for everyone.” He cites small-scale operations like Estancia’s Old Windmill Dairy––The Acre’s local vendor for goat cheese––as a positive, feel-good environment, one that’s in sharp contrast to modern factory farms, which he describes as “bleak at best.”

His solution is not to oppose these practices, per se, but to champion a shift in appetites, starting in childhood. “I really want to take a stand and say that food is delicious that is not meat,” he says. “You go to McDonald’s and get a kids’ Happy Meal. Is there something you can get that’s not meat? No. So what are we training our kids to think?” For the Weeds, it was imperative that their girls could eat at The Acre. “As much as I love providing for the vegetarian community, I also love providing for local families that go, ‘I can take my kids here, and they’re not eating a bunch of crap. Every other place, they eat chicken nuggets.’’’

As part of his playful appeal to eaters young and old, Chef Shawn has put together a casual, reasonably priced menu of quintessentially American items that feel familiar just as they bump vegetables up from side-dish status to the star of the meal. There’s a Comfort Dog, with a marinated, braised carrot in place of the hot dog, slathered in homemade relish; a Mac ‘N Cheese that uses spiralized local, organic vegetables instead of pasta and can be made vegan upon request; a Meat(less) Loaf made of roasted and milled portabella mushrooms and mashed chickpeas, topped with a spicy habanero ketchup; and a triple-decker Comfort Club sandwich, featuring Chef’s flavorful, crowd-pleasing “carrot bacon.”

How might one make carrots resemble bacon, you ask? “It starts with these giant carrots from a farm in California––like Bugs Bunny, ridiculously big carrots,” Shawn says. “We shave them into planks and put them in a brine of amino acids, Tamari soy sauce, garlic, ginger and liquid hickory smoke. Then we let them sit for about a day. We pull them out, they change color a bit and we cook them off. When they hit the fire again, they pick up some of the smokiness from the cooking.” The idea is not to “clone bacon,” he says, but to make something all-natural that’s “reminiscent of something cured.”

Photo by Liz Lopez

Photo by Liz Lopez

While this may seem like a sleight of hand to some, it should be noted that nowhere on The Acre’s menu will you find any meat substitutes like soy isolate protein. The veggie burger, for example, is made from beets, black beans and quinoa. It’s all about a clever use of vegetables here, which Shawn tries to source locally whenever possible from vendors that include Sol Harvest Farm, Skarsgard Farms and the Downtown Growers’ Market. “We don’t have tofu or any of these machine-made products,” he says. “What we do here is made from scratch with a low industrial footprint.” He plans to change the menu quarterly based on what’s in season, and come summer, he’ll be picking fruit from trees throughout the South Valley, having put together a list of people with trees.

Seemingly, for every new-fangled twist at The Acre, there is an old-fashioned one for balance. Yes, there is a Chicken N’ Waffle dish made with chicken-fried cauliflower, but Shawn also makes his own pickles, just like grandma used to. At any given time, there are 100 pounds of vegetables pickling in the walk-in refrigerator, with the current selection of carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers and bell peppers available as part of the simply named “Pickle” appetizer. Soon, that will shift to sweet pickles as well as spicy pickles, once jalapeños come into season.

A similar dichotomy exists in The Acre’s winsome décor. “We tried to straddle the line between modern farmhouse and country cottage,” says Danielle, CEO of the consulting firm Media Tonic, who helped decorate the 50-seat restaurant and also handles marketing, PR and social media. Modern touches include a sky-high ceiling, exposed ductwork and two huge sepia-toned photographic murals, one featuring a wheat field during the golden hour and the other a weathered barn. “It’s a little bit of the bygone era,” she says. While both are stock images due to the resolution requirements, you can see a real 1970s-era aerial image of Shawn’s grandparent’s farm in the hallway by the restrooms.

Photo by Liz Lopez

Photo by Liz Lopez

Grounding these large-scale elements, and imbuing a cozier ambiance, are the mismatched vintage white chairs, grainy shiplap walls, Edison-style pendant light fixtures and cushioned bancos covered in an array of homey pillows. Tableside, there are other retro accents, like white stoneware pitchers and housemade lemonades––the version made with Los Poblanos lavender is the most popular of the five options––served in Mason jars with paper straws.

But the pièce de résistance, as Shawn sees it, is the 16-seat communal table made of reclaimed wood. For him, it’s the embodiment of his grandparents’ picnic tables, bringing people together face-to-face over locally produced food and beverages. (New Mexico craft beers from Marble, La Cumbre, Tractor and Santa Fe Brewing Co. are featured on the drink menu, as are nitro cold-brewed coffee and iced teas from Albuquerque’s Villa Myriam.)

“I see it as akin to people sitting at the bar because they want that engagement. Like, ‘I’m here to be part of this,’” Shawn says. In the seven weeks The Acre has been open, the chef says only two parties have declined to sit at the communal table when there’s been a wait for a private one. As for the makeup of this budding interactive tribe, he estimates there’s a 50/50 split between vegetarians/vegans, and those who are not vegetarian or vegan.

 

Photo by Liz Lopez

Photo by Liz Lopez

“We get a lot of people that aren’t vegetarian but just want to eat healthy,” Shawn says. “People like me. I call myself a flexitarian. I don’t eat that much meat, and I just try to eat as clean as I can.” As for vegans, he reports that roughly 75 percent of the menu is “veganizable,” a fun word he and his staff coined for modifying dishes based on pre-tested approaches that meet his quality standards. Because everything is made to order, they also have the luxury of being able to leave out or replace certain ingredients on the fly. “We never say no” to diner requests, he says. “That isn’t in our belief system. We have to be extremely flexible, because it’s also part of being inclusive.”

Between “taking the burden off” vegans by anticipating their needs, feeding kids unprocessed, plant-based foods they’re predisposed to like and getting carnivorous New Mexicans to admit that, yes, The Acre’s meat- and oil-free “unrolled” enchilada isn’t missing a thing (which is truly the case with his unconventional, crave-worthy rendition), Chef Shawn’s got a lot on his plate. But judging by the full house on a recent Friday night–with everyone from families with kids to a large, multigenerational birthday party in the mix–change may be easier than you think.

The Acre is located at 4410 Wyoming Blvd. in Albuquerque, 505.299.6973, theacrerestaurant.com.

A Milestone for Opera Southwest & Bless Me, Ultima

Photo by Liz Lopez

Photo by Liz Lopez

(Story by Stephanie Hainsfurther / Photos by Liz Lopez)

An unmistakable sense of place characterizes New Mexico, a state of the Union like no other—a state of mind, too, according to its fond inhabitants. We have it all: high desert and low, mountain and llano, the river and the highway. That physical tension, for some, evokes a strong feeling that a timeless world exists alongside the everyday, a hidden dimension we call the spirit. Out of this tension between the tangible and the unseen came a touchstone of American literature, Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, published in 1972. A tale of finding one’s identity within and despite a culture of conflict, the novel takes place during the fearful era of World War II. In its simple form, it is the story of Antonio, a New Mexico boy who, through the tutelage and under the protection of a curandera, Ultima, comes of age.

Now the story is an opera, premiering this month at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and performed by Opera Southwest within its 45th anniversary season. Opera Southwest and the NHCC joined resources with California’s Opera Cultura and entrusted Héctor Armienta, composer of La Llorona: A Musical Drama, with the writing of the score and libretto for Bless Me, Ultima.

“As our first main-stage commissioned opera in over 20 years, Bless Me, Ultima is a real milestone for Opera Southwest. We are incredibly pleased to be able to draw on the rich storytelling that is so rooted in our state and embodied and exemplified by the literature of Rudolfo Anaya,” says Tony Zancanella, executive director of Opera Southwest. “This is a project that all New Mexicans should be proud of.” Many of Ultima’s singers are locals, and Ultima herself is sung by mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez of Albuquerque. Kirstin sang Amneris in Opera Southwest’s production of Aida in 2015. She has performed to acclaim in the title role of Carmen, and her voice has been described as “a mix of the earthy and the ethereal.”

Bless Me, Ultima is such a New Mexico story, and it reflects so much of the deepest layers of our culture, so much of the underpinnings that make us who we are,” Kirstin says. She grew up in Asia and so never studied the novel in school. “I came to the story much later. But when I told my sisters (many of whom live in and around Albuquerque) that I would be playing the role of Ultima in a brand new opera, they were over the moon to hear it! They were all made to study the book while growing up.”

Kirstin truly understands the character she plays in the opera, and relates to her on many levels. “I particularly love Ultima’s mysticism; I consider myself to be a very spiritual person, even though I do not subscribe to any specific religion, and Ultima, to me, seems somehow above, or beyond religion,” she says. “It’s as if she gets her very power from the Earth itself, and so it stands to reason that even the animals would bend to her will. I have always been a deep animal lover, and I cherish this part of Ultima’s persona; she may not be a vegetarian as I am (although, I think she might be), but she has an intense respect for all life, and would never take a life needlessly—a theme that reminds me of our Native American ancestors who are also such an important part of our New Mexican history. There is much about Ultima that I myself aspire to be.”

Many New Mexico residents and visitors alike are making their Opera Southwest debuts in this production. Well-known Maestro Guillermo Figueroa, now principal conductor of the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, will conduct the Opera Southwest Orchestra for the first time. Baritone Javier Ortiz of Pojoaque sings Narciso, a friend of Antonio’s family and the town drunk. Javier Abreu, tenor, and Carelle Flores, soprano, both from Puerto Rico, are making their debuts as Antonio’s parents, Gabriel and Maria. The Owl, Ultima’s familiar, will be sung by Countertenor José Luis Muñoz of Seattle.

Luke Gullickson and Daisy Beltran / Photo by Liz Lopez

Luke Gullickson and Daisy Beltran / Photo by Liz Lopez

But the most awaited debut is that of Daisy Beltran, a 14-year-old soprano from Albuquerque’s Eldorado High School who sings the role of Antonio, “Tony,” the boy who comes under Ultima’s wing. At the writing of this story, she was working with her vocal coach Edmund Connolly for one hour each week, and for 45 minutes a week with Luke Gullickson, principal vocal coach of the opera chorus. Three weeks of rehearsals would begin in a few days with Stage Director Octavio Cardenas.

“I really feel close to Tony,” Daisy says. “When I was younger, about seven, I was constantly told I was an old soul, because I would ask questions that were complicated and controversial. So there’s a sense that I’m connected to Tony because he’s very curious.”

Backstage, another central character takes flight

An opera doesn’t soar on its music alone. University of New Mexico Department of Theatre & Dance Professor Dorothy Baca, a longtime TV and stage costume designer, is doing the costumes for Bless Me, Ultima. Local community muralist Joe Stephenson is designing the sets. And Albuquerque Master Puppeteer Robert Secrest is at work on Ultima’s familiar, The Owl, a character in tandem with that of the countertenor. “We discussed in production meetings the symbolism between the singer Owl, who is the animistic spirit, and the puppet Owl, who is the physical side,” Robert says. “The singer has a special costume.”

They also discussed the scale of the puppet—the Owl’s wingspan is six feet, on a par with the world’s largest existing owl, the Eurasian eagle owl—and the way the director wanted the owl to look. “The director made a strong point that the Owl must be white with some mottling, the summer version of a snowy owl,” Robert says. “We also discussed whether it should abstract or realistic.” Although there is an abstract quality to the puppet, realism won out, certainly. The feathers? They’re made of vinyl slats from Venetian blinds.

Robert will be the man onstage, manipulating the Owl from a helmet atop his head with handheld rods. It’s a Japanese style of puppetry called bunraku, and the puppeteer is dressed in black from head to toe. “My hope is that I will be as invisible as possible,” he says. Robert’s no stranger to the stage, however, having grown up acting in local theater and with Albuquerque Civic Light Opera Association, now Musical Theatre Southwest productions.

New music for a new opera

Composer Héctor Armienta consulted closely with Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya on the story for this opera, a story that must be complete in itself and, as Héctor says, result in “grand theater.” Working with Rudolfo, visiting New Mexico and the specific settings in the story, and researching authentic New Mexican music of the 1940s were all part of his homework. He took seriously his mandate to have Bless Me, Ultima reflect the central themes of the novel while standing on its own as an opera.

Rudolfo Anaya / Photo courtesy of Opera Southwest

Rudolfo Anaya / Photo courtesy of Opera Southwest

The opera’s singers have a lot to say about their favorite results.

From Kirstin, who appears as Ultima: “There is a musical section toward the middle of the opera when I am helping Antonio to find himself in the nature, the land, the air, the water that is all around him—the music is sublime and so expressive, and the words illuminate thoughts and ideas that I, myself, hold so dear. The idea that we are one with one another and that we are profoundly connected to our Mother Earth and all of her gifts. I love this.”

Carlos Archuleta, a baritone from Española most recently seen in Pagliacci last spring, will sing Tenorio, the vengeful saloon-keeper and villain of the story. He has a light-hearted approach to the daunting task of creating a brand-new character within a brand-new work. “I love the music in Act 2. Very Iago-esque,” he said. “I’ve worked on a few world premieres; the challenge is making it make sense, and the joy is actually having the composer there so you can yell at [him]!”

And from Daisy Beltran (who had to write “a lot of boring English class stuff” about the novel in an essay that turned out to be “a really good analysis”): “There’s a persistent question [asked of Antonio]: ‘Will you bless me?’ He knows he can help them but he doesn’t, because he doesn’t feel capable enough. To me, that’s the most raw feeling in the entire opera.”

The world premiere of Bless Me, Ultima from Opera Southwest at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Journal Theatre runs Feb. 18- 25. Tickets cost $15-$89. Visit operasouthwest.org, 505.243.0591 and nhccnm.org, 505.246.2261.    

The Mighty Buzz

(Story by Mia Rose Poris / February 2018)

ALBUQUERQUE: That’s right. The Old Duke is among the hippest cities in the nation. So declares thisisinsider.com, which cites Albuquerque among other hip cities to which folks under 30 would like to move. The site calls the Que a “more under-the-radar hipster city,” ranking cities based on factors that make them appeal to young people, like “density of tattoo parlors, vegan stores, microbreweries and thrift stores, as well as any increases in rent,” according to the Dec. 1 story at thisisinsider.com. Albuquerque came in at No. 19 after Reno, Nev., and ahead of Seattle, Wash. “Downtown Albuquerque is full of breweries, cafes, and art galleries,” the article reads, “making it the perfect spot for young people to explore and enjoy the local culture.” Hey under-30s, what do you think? Are they right? What makes ABQ rad for you? Buzz us.

Many would say, for example, that Effex Nightclub on Central Avenue contributes to Albuquerque’s cool. And now we have another awesome addition from Effex Co-owner Carri Phillis at 6001 Osuna Road NE, Ste. A, just east of San Mateo Boulevard, where Carri’s Blue Agave Republic recently made its home. As of press time, B.A.R.’s Facebook page said they’d be opening soon—and a Jan. 18 post reads: “We had fun playing in the Sysco kitchen yesterday! How do you feel about a build your own Guacamole and Salsa Bar to go with your Tequila?!?” Well frankly, we feel pretty great about that. The tequila and tapas bar joins the likes of Breve Crepes and Coffee and Devons Pop Smoke Wood Fired Grill at the Osuna spot in Northeast Albuquerque. We’re excited to check B.A.R. out. You can find them on Facebook.

While we’re on a roll here, we’ve got another reason why the largest city in the Land of Enchantment is out of this world. Aside from an elevation of 5,300-some-feet, the Duke City is, of late, home to its very own astropub. The restaurant, called The Kosmos, and owned by Jerry Miller, is located at 1715 5th St. NW in the Wells Park area. With a great local beer celestion—oops, selection—plus “high quality comfort food,” as a five-star Jan. 2 Facebook review puts it, the service is also stellar and the atmosphere extra-terrific/terrestrial. Earthlings, visit the Facebook page of “the home of the Kosmic Burger,” or visit the spaced-out (in its galactic sense, of course) dig in person.

And get this. While The Kosmos may be out of this world, upon this very planet, only 246 terrestrials claim the title: Master Sommelier. With that said, big congrats to Albuquerque-area resident Tim Gaiser for being among such wine elite. The process involved in passing the Master Sommelier exam may be “more arduous and difficult than studying for a medical or law degree,” a press release says. And Greg O’Byrne, executive director of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, adds, “Tim has been an instrumental part of the success of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. For the past 20 years, he’s traveled here from San Francisco to lead wine seminars and instruct industry personnel at annual Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory classes and Certified Sommelier exams. I speak for many of us in the New Mexico wine community in that we can’t be more excited for the wine-related educational opportunities with Tim now living here full-time.” Among other endeavors, Tim’s an internationally renowned wine expert as well as adjunct professor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. You can find his blog at timgaiser.com/blog.

Word has it a double whammy of delight is arriving on Montgomery Boulevard just in time for Valentine’s Day. We’re talking about Tap That, a taproom of local brews, owned by Huy Nguyen, which opened last month, and its neighboring Sweet Tooth—owned by Dao Pham, who also happens to be Huy’s sweetie and business partner—which will open up on or around Valentine’s Day. With love in the air and spring around the corner, Sweet Tooth, with its front and back patios, might just be the perfect spot for sunshine, ice cream and some Boba Tea. Therefore ladies, after your man treats you to something sweet next door this V-Day, might as well buy that bro to a beer at Tap That.

Photo by Kim Jew

Jim Long / Photo by Kim Jew

And if you’re looking for a local haunt away from home this Valentine’s Day night, consider Hotel Chaco. Last month, the Old Town hotel made the list of the Best New Hotels in USA Today’s “10 Best Readers’ Choice” travel award contest, ringing in at No. 10. The 118-room luxury hotel, part of the Heritage Hotel & Resorts group formed by Jim Long, “celebrates American Indian heritage through a collection of works by contemporary Native American New Mexican artists,” according to USA Today. “The hotel features a rooftop restaurant and lounge, outdoor swimming pool with hot tub and 24-hour fitness center.” Wm. Mulherin’s Sons in Philadelphia, PA, came in first, followed by Lodge Kohler in Green Bay, Wis. Hotel Chaco opened in 2017, and we’re super excited for the 2019 opening of Heritage’s Sawmill Market, an artisan market of restaurants, food vendors, galleries and beyond, in the old lumber warehouse just across from the hotel. Visit hotelchaco.com.

SANTA FE: Lest you worry about those post-Valentine’s Day blues (surely someone must have this worry…), a mere four days afterward, Restaurant Week returns to Santa Fe, before heading to Taos on the 25th. From Feb. 18 through 25, restaurants all around the capital city (we counted 40 of them) are participating in the most delicious week of the year. The event is an awesome way to check out restaurants you might not otherwise have tried—or simply love way too much—and save a little dough while you’re at it. Plus, you don’t need tickets to attend, though definitely consider making reservations, since after all, we all want to partake of this tour de taste. As nmrestaurantweek.com puts it, “Restaurants get to ‘put their best food forward’ in order to gain new fans and can experiment with menu items. Above all, it showcases New Mexico as one of the world’s premier dining destinations.” Most restaurants offer a three-course, prix-fixe dinner option that ranges from $15 to $45 per person (you can order off the regular menu for the regular price, too) depending on the restaurant, and a specially priced, two-course lunch offering, to boot. After the trek to Taos, Duke City’s restaurant week begins March 4. Visit nmrestaurantweek.com to see the lineup and learn more.

March 1 and 3 bring us three events made possible by the Châine des Rôtisseurs and the Santa Fe Community College Foundation that your taste buds won’t want to miss. On the 1st, a Guest Chefs Culinary Arts Dinner, with paired wines(!), supports the SFCC Culinary Arts Scholarship Fund/Châine des Rôtisseurs Endownment Scholarship and celebrates the  college’s culinary students who’ve been selected to compete in the Châine’s Far West Regional Young Chef Competition. With that said, the $100 price tag is totally worth the splurge—not to mention, there are only 100 such golden tickets to be had…therefore hurry! But if you can’t make the dinner, on the 3rd, free of charge, the Châine’s Far West Regional Young Chefs Competition is followed by the Châine Culinary Arts Ribbon Cutting. And the guest-chef lineup is impressive, comprising local faves Jen and Evan Doughty of the Palace Restaurant and Saloon; Mark Connell of State Capital Kitchen; and Cristian Pontiggia of El Nido, who join SFCC Co-Lead Chef Instructors Patrick Mares and Jerry Dakan. Made up of nearly 25,000 members, the Chaîne “is an International Association of Gastronomy,” reads its website, that brings “together enthusiasts who share the same values of quality, fine dining, the encouragement of the culinary arts and the pleasures of the table.” Visit sfcc.edu/foundation/events for tickets to the dinner.

Meow Wolf is making big moves. Few locals and tourists—it’s after all top among myriad reasons to visit Santa Fe, right?—are unfamiliar with the interactive art installation located in the old Silva Lanes bowling alley, which has garnered national attention and help from the likes of George R.R. Martin. And the ever-expanding art collaborative is branching out to the Mile High City, with an opening of a new concept set for 2020, as well as to Las Vegas, Nev., set to open late 2019. The Denver exhibition will be even larger (by far) than that in the City Different, with 60,000 square feet of exhibition space—we’re talking triple the size of the House of Eternal Return here—while the Vegas permanent exhibition (more details will be available later this year) is looking to be about 40,000 square feet. The Santa Fe install opened in March of 2016, and is going ever strong. Exciting stuff for our homegrown art scene! Look out for more project updates throughout 2018, and check out meowwolf.com.

Photo by Gaelen Casey

Leonardo Razatos / Photo by Gaelen Casey

Plaza Cafe Southside’s doing the impossible. And it’s bloody delicious. Or at least, alt-bloody delicious, but delicious nonetheless. The Café’s bringing in “a much-hyped meat alternative that looks, cooks, tastes, smells, and yes, even bleeds like the real thing,” the folks at the Cafe tell us. Their Impossible Burger is a 100-percent plant-based alternative to the real deal (with an even higher protein content) that, according to “chefs, farmers and scientists,” recreates “the experience that meat-lovers crave.” Plus, the creation of such Impossible patties calls forth fewer natural resources than does beef. Leonardo Razatos and Belinda Marshall, whose family’s been serving tourists and locals at their Plaza Café locations since 1947, plan to offer tasting samples before adding the Impossible Burger to their menu full-time. Visit plazacafesouth.com or find them on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you’re among the first to grab a bite!

What’s really, literally quite hot in Santa Fe? Louis Moskow’s homemade hot sauce. Seriously, since the Buzz is all about what’s hot, let me just tell you, you might want to to hit up 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar for some of that sauce…which you can purchase ($5) and bring home and enjoy on just about everything. And while you’re there, the dinners are darn good, often locally sourced, the wine list is amazing, and the half-off happy hour oysters (try one with that hot sauce) are so fresh. Last time I was there, I heard a diner put it like this: “If I’m not on my couch, I’m here at this table…” To which I’ll just add: If I’m not on my couch eating hot sauce, I’m here eating oysters.

Guess what, guys. Santa Fe Brewing Co. has gotten approval to open a new—that’s to say, its fourth!—taproom on Galisteo Street. According to Brewing Co. General Manager Alana Jones, it’s looking like they’ll open the doors of the new downtown dig in March. “It’s exciting to have a little spot downtown that fits our taste,” she tells us. The brick Galisteo Street building, which recently housed Santa Fe Cigar Co., has about 1,600 square feet of space, a central bar and a shaded outdoor patio—just perfect for upcoming spring and summer sips outside (plus, Alana says, they’re thinking of having food trucks stop by, too). Speaking of sips, on Jan. 20, the Brewing Co. launched their Black IPA 2.0, part of the Winter In & Out Series. It’ll be on the shelves for a couple months, Alana says, so grab it while you can. Checkout their Facebook page or visit santafebrewing.com.

Have you heard of the Double Up Food Bucks program? It’s a truly wonderful opportunity for folks with SNAP/EBT benefits to make use of a dollar-for-dollar match to get free New Mexico-grown produce at participating markets, groceries and farm stands. “It’s an awesome thing, to take out $50 in tokens and then be able to buy $100 worth of fruits and vegetables and beans, for example,” a local customer at the Santa Fe Farmers Market tells us. It works like this: if you spend $10 (or any other amount) from your SNAP EBT card at a participating outlet, Double-Up gives you another $10 to buy fresh fruits and veggies grown in New Mexico. Double-up’s available even in the winter, when something fresh out this local earth tastes as sweet and fresh as ever. Check out doubleupnm.org to learn more about the community wide program and find participating locations across the state.

TAOS: In January, Chokolá Bean to Bar, among 20 national finalists, was a winner of the Good Foods Awards for its Guatemala, Verapaz 70% & Maya Mountain, Belize 70%. The awards are “a three day-long celebration of the exceptional food and drink crafters who are pushing the envelope in both craftsmanship and sustainability,” according to the Good Foods website. Owned by wife-and-husband team Deborah Vincent and Javier Abad, Chokolá’s been around since 2012, and Javi and Deborah have since taken the shop to true chocolatey, Taos-style heights. “Every morning, the pure Alpine air is laced with the rich aroma of our freshly roasted cacao beans,” their website reads. “By ethically sourcing beans of the highest quality and by crafting small, select batches, we follow the bean to bar process to bring out each bean’s unique, nuanced flavors and aromas, yielding our premium single origin chocolate bars.” Visit chokolabeantobar.com or stop in for a treat and watch them in action in their open kitchen—they’re just off the Plaza. And check out goodfoodawards.org to learn more. Congrats!

And don’t tell anyone, but… Chef Chris and Valerie Maher of Cooking Studio Taos have a secret supper up their sleeves. This means participants know they’re in for a treat, but they won’t know the supper spot until the day of the event. Go solo and meet new friends or bring your sweetie along for a belated Valentine’s treat. Learn more and book your spot for the Feb. 16 dinner ($78 per person, plus tip the night of) at cookingstudiotaos.com. The rest is a secret, so we’ll leave it at that.

Top Tix

(Story by Stephanie Hainsfurther, February 2018)

David Mamet’s The Water Engine was staged as a radio play when it first was produced in 1977, and Mamet later adapted it as a 1992 TV movie starring William H. Macy. Oasis Theatre Company Inc. out of Abiquiu is bringing their version to Teatro Paraguas this month. “I am doing a combination of a staged radio play and live scenes,” says Artistic Director Brenda Lynn Bynum. “When the emotion runs high or there is a deepening tension with the characters, the scenes break out of the ‘radio play.’” Wear your thermal lululemons; this tale of an inventor whose brainchild is quashed by corporate Powers That Be is bound to chill.

Feb. 8-25, teatroparaguas.org, 505.424.1601

Among many treats at the Lensic this month, I am most excited about Ailey II, the younger troupe of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Burning with passion and on fire for modern dance, this company brings the work of new choreographers on tour and into communities with their outreach programs. There is no better way to warm up your pre-Valentine festivities than to be energized and inspired by the gifts that these beautiful, talented people bestow upon (lucky) us.

Feb. 13, ticketssantafe.org, 505.988.1234

Speaking of young, beautiful and at the Lensic, the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra brings internationally renowned cellist Joshua Roman here for a concert led by Maestro Guillermo Figueroa. The works of Glinka, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky are on offer. A few days later, Roman will play in his own concert recital. As a composer himself and artistic director of TownMusic in Seattle, Roman premiered his own work “we do it to one another” in the 2015-16 season, based on the poems of Tracy K. Smith from her book Life on Mars, with soprano Jessica Rivera. He also covered Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” on cello with DJ Spooky on iPad, for The Voice Project. According to writers on classical music, Roman is single-handedly saving the world from stuffiness. Take a breath of fresh air.

Feb. 11 & 16, ticketssantafe.org, 505.988.1234, santafesymphony.org

Vadim Gluzman / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Vadim Gluzman / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Couples who work together will appreciate the musical relationship of husband and wife Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe. Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano was composed for them, and they premiered it together in a recording. How romantic it would be to hear them together at St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art in a sparkling program that includes Richard Strauss’ Sonata for Violin and Piano, which Strauss wrote for his future wife.

Angelga Yoffe / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Angelga Yoffe / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Feb. 10, performancesantafe.org, 505.984.8759, ticketssantafe.org, 505.988.1234

Leave your electronic leashes in the car for Mummenschanz’s new show You + Me at Popejoy. It’s all about relating to one another, and you just can’t do that while waiting for your iPhone to vibrate. These “musicians of silence” will teach your tech-addicted children new tricks, so bring the whole family. If your fam is fidgety, bring them back to experience STOMP, those Brits from Brighton whose percussive shows are anything but quiet. STOMP is the flip side of Mummenschanz, low-tech but noisy, and absolutely mischief minded. Don’t be surprised to find your brooms, buckets and trashcan lids missing in action once you get home.

Feb. 17, Mummenschanz; Feb. 20-21, STOMP, unmtickets.com, 505.925.5858

Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill is betting that Matthew Yde’s original play, Mrs. Warrens Profession 2.0, will intrigue and entice audiences to see this reboot of the 1894 G.B. Shaw play and the 1960 film starring Lilli Palmer. Mrs. Warren’s Profession told the story of a brothel madam explaining herself to her university-educated daughter, and had a rather feminist take on the very few “career choices” of Victorian women. Security is tight around how this new play contrasts with the old, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you in any case, but I must say, I am itching to see it. Bridget Kelly stars as Mrs. W. so, if you missed her as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, get your naughty self down here. Playwright Yde is the theater critic for the Albuquerque Journal.

Feb. 2-24, auxdogtheatre.org, 505.596.0607

The National Hispanic Cultural Center and Opera Southwest have commissioned the opera Bless Me, Ultima based on Rudolfo Anaya’s classic novel. My story on page 28 of this issue goes backstage to look at preparations for the world premiere of this quintessentially New Mexico production.

Feb. 18-25, operasouthwest.org, 505.243.0591; nhccnm.org, 505.246.2261

CrystalwebIf like me you only watch the Winter Olympics for the ice-skating events, get your frozen toes over to Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho for “Crystal: A Breakthrough Ice Experience.” We are promised extreme skating, synchronized skating, and freestyle, not to mention Cirque de Soleil’s signature acrobatics. The Ice Capades on steroids, mixed with hot chocolate and a young woman’s coming-of-age story, will propel you off that couch.

Feb. 7-11, cirquedesoleil.com/crystal

And you’re going to think I’ve lost my mind, but I’ve seen The Amazing Acro-cats twice in person and once on The Stephen Colbert Show. If you love and “get” kitties, please don’t miss this tourbus full of them at Studio Center of Santa Fe (formerly Warehouse 21). Yes, Ringmaster Samantha Martin trains cats to do circus tricks and it’s just as laugh-out-loud unpredictable as you are picturing right now. Samantha has all the patience in the world, and will tell you a lot about her pet rescue efforts and a little about what dating is like when your apartment is overrun with furry critters.

Feb. 22-24, eventsfy.com, brownpapertickets.com

Still Hungry? Dining Solo

Cooking-for-Oneweb

(Story by Cullen Curtiss)

Did you know there are more people living alone now than at any other time in history? Even in Paris, the fabled city of lovers? Oui, oui! So what does this mean right now during the month of love and romance? It means: love thyself right on up to your eyeballs by cooking delicious, soul-hugging food for your table of one. On our hunt to get you started, we plucked four cookbooks, among a surfeit of options, that stand out for their inventive recipes, charming stories and practical tips…and each is designed for the solo cook. The following books (and highlighted recipes) will help you not just cook, but feast!…as well as eschew take-out, plan, shop and store wisely, prep and be thoroughly sated and nourished by cooking for No. 1. 

Cooking for One: A Seasonal Guide to the Pleasure of Preparing Delicious Meals for Yourself, by Mark and Lisa Erickson—yes, they’re married, but they live apart because he’s provost at The Culinary Institute of America in New York, and she’s in Atlanta—is seasonally organized with periodic his-and-her modifications. It’s designed to shift the solo person’s thinking from cooking-is-a-chore to cooking-is-a-celebration. Heed the Ericksons’ words to you: reduce waste, operate in a mise-en-place fashion and feast throughout the week on what they call planned-overs (featured).

Southwestern Beef Stew

2 teaspoons canola oil, divided use
11/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2/3 cup chopped onion
2 1/2 pasilla or ancho chiles, stemmed, seeds and veins removed
¾ water
1 cup homemade chicken stock
8 to 1 ounces beef stew meat, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed
1 cup large-diced Tukon gold potato
Warmed corn tortillas

Preheat the oven 325˚ F

Heat ½ teaspoon of the canola oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, stirring frequently until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add the chiles and sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the water and stock and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until flavorful, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, let it sit for 30 minutes to cool and then pureé it in a blender until smooth. Set the sauce aside.

Heat the remaining canola oil in a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper and add it to the hot oil. Sauté until browned on all sides, turning the beef as necessary, about 6 minutes.

Add the reserved sauce and bring it to a boil. Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven for 45 minutes, adjusting the temperature as necessary to maintain a simmer. Add the potatoes, return the casserole to the oven, and cook until the potatoes are tender and the beef is very tender when pierced with a fork, another 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the casserole from the oven and skim off any fat that has risen to the surface. Taste the stew and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with warmed corn tortillas.

Reprinted with permission from Cooking for One: A Seasonal Guide to the Pleasure of Preparing Delicious Meals for Yourself by Mark Erickson, cmc, and Lisa Erickson, copyright © 2011. Photography by Ben Fink. Published by The Culinary Institute of America.

Cooking-SolowebCooking Solo author Klancy Miller unabashedly acknowledges her happy single life and reminds you that, as a single person, you only have yourself to please—in the kitchen and otherwise. Organized by meals that can be cooked in 30 or so minutes, find international influences inspired by Klancy’s globetrotting childhood. During her France stint, she earned a Diplôme de Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Her friend’s response to the dinner she’d made for herself—a salad of sautéed smoked duck breast with frisée, mâche, carrots, orange zest, and lardons? “Tu t’aimes bien.” Translation: You really love yourself.

Roasted Chicken with Mango Chutney on Rye (the Tina Fey)

For the chutney:
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons chopped red onion
1 cup chopped ripe mango
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon seeded and minced Thai chile
¼ teaspoon curry powder
Salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

For the sandwich:
2 slices rye bread
4 thick slices roasted chicken
2 lettuce leaves

1. For the chutney: Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, tilting the pan to coat the bottom. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mango, vinegar, brown sugar, chile, curry powder, and pinch of salt. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mango is slightly mushy, 6 to 8 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if desired. Remove the chutney from the heat, and stir in the cilantro, if desired.

2. For the sandwich: Toast the bread. Spread a tablespoon of mango chutney on each slice. Top it with the chicken and the lettuce, close the sandwich, and enjoy.

Reprinted with permission from Cooking Solo: The Fun of Cooking for Yourself by Klancy Miller, copyright © 2016. Photography by Tara Dunne. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Serve-YourselfwebWith sections devoted to sweet potatoes, sandwiches, tacos and condiments, Serve Yourself by two-time James Beard Award-winning food and dining editor of The Washington Post Joe Yonan is refreshing throughout. He positions himself as the opposite of Miss Lonelyhearts, who, when seated alone at a table for two in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, raises her glass and tries to conjure a smile in the direction of her phantom lover. No forced smiles when dining solo, Joe writes, “I gotta eat, I gotta cook, and I am determined to do both well.” Enjoy his 100 recipes—so sensible, inventive and globally inspired—as well as his confessional anecdotes, which will make you revel in singledom.

Personal Paella with Squid and Scallions

1 cup seafood stock or clam juice
Small pinch of crumbled saffron
¼ teaspoon pimento (smoked Spanish paprika)
4 to 5 ounces cleaned squid, bodies cut into ¼-inch rings and tentacles halved lengthwise
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup Arborio, Bomba, or other short-grain rice
4 large cherry tomatoes, quartered

Preheat the oven to 400˚F

Combine the seafood stock, saffron, and pimento in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer; reduce the heat to very low and cover.

Lightly season the squid with salt and pepper. In an 8-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the squid and cook, stirring frequently, just until the squid lose any translucence and exude their juices, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer the squid to a plate and decrease the heat to medium.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil, then the red pepper flakes, scallions, and garlic, and sauté until the scallion starts to soften, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the pan mixture, 1 minute.

Pour the hot broth and bring to a gentle boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Taste the liquid and add salt to taste, then let it continue to gently bubble, swirling the pan occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the rice has swelled and absorbed much of the liquid; it should still be slightly soupy.

Stir in the squid and the tomatoes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the rice is al dente, or mostly tender but with a little resistance in the center.

Remove the pan from the oven, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until the rice is tender. Uncover and return it to the stovetop over medium-high heat and cook about 2 more minutes, to brown the bottom of the rice.

Spoon it out onto a plate, and eat. Don’t worry if it sticks. Just scrape it up and know that this is what the Spanish call soccarart, the crispy pieces that are considered a sign of a great paella.

Reprinted with permission from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan, copyright © 2011. Photography by Ed Andersen. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

Eat-Your-VegetableswebAlso compliments of Joe Yonan is Eat Your Vegetables, which is “a vegetable cookbook, not a vegetarian one.” Talk about romance—after the preface alone, you’ll be a swooning believer in the virtues of solo cooking: “[it’s] a worthwhile, satisfying, potentially meditative, possibly invigorating, and even delightful endeavor.”

 

 

Creamy Green Gazpacho

1      medium tomato, cored and cut into quarters
1      small cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
Flesh from 1/2 avocado, cut into large chunks
3      large basil leaves
1/2  jalapeño (optional)
3/4  cup lightly packed watercress or baby spinach leaves
1      small celery stalk (optional)
1      clove garlic, crushed
1      tablespoon red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1      tablespoon honey
2      ice cubes
Filtered water (optional)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1      teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Reserve one-quarter of the tomato, two cucumber chunks, two avocado chunks, and one basil leaf. Combine and finely chop for garnish.

Stem and seed the jalapeño half and reserve the seeds. Cut the jalapeño into several pieces. Combine one or two pieces of the jalapeño with the remaining tomato, cucumber, avocado, and basil and the watercress or spinach, celery, garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, and ice cubes in a blender or the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth. Add 1/4 cup or more water to thin the mixture, if necessary.

Taste and season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if needed. If you want the soup spicier, add more of the jalapeño, a little at a time, as well as some of the seeds if desired, blending and tasting after each addition. Refrigerate until cold, then pour into a bowl and top with the reserved chopped tomato, cucumber, avocado, and basil and a drizzle of olive oil, and eat.

Reprinted with permission from Eat Your Vegetables by Joe Yonan, copyright © 2013. Photography by Matt Armendariz. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art Buzz

(Story by Cullen Curtiss)
TAOS: After nearly six years as Taos Art Museum at Fechin House’s executive director and curator, V. Susan Fisher has stepped down. According to the board of directors, under Ms. Fisher’s guidance, “the Museum’s visitor base grew to become the largest and most diverse in its history, experiencing record audiences for exhibitions, and enthusiastic response to rewarding new programs and community outreach.” With winter hours in effect, you have the weekend to squeeze in a visit; regular hours resume in March. This month, take your kids on the Museum’s Treasure Hunt. Pick up the map and clues at the house lobby, explore the grounds and learn about the story of life and art in Taos. Details at taosartmuseum.org.

At Society of the Muse of the Southwest on Feb. 17 from 7-8 p.m., long-time commercial photographer Pat Pollard reads and shares stories from her new memoir Long Time Lost. Attendees are certain to gain insight about the journey of a true artist. After a successful career as a commercial photographer, Pat relocated to Taos in 1990 and began to experiment with various media, combining everything from photographic imagery to construction, sculpture and found objects. Details at somostaos.org.

SANTA FE: Over at 7Arts Gallery, there are two wonderfully different exhibitions opening Feb 2. Donna Sherry Boggins shows the uniquely pleasing Indigenous-inspired Gourd Art, motivated by her work on archaeological dig sites. The lowly gourd is transformed with Donna’s eye. She says, “I try to recreate the gourds’ domestic purposes, plus capture the spirit and mysticism of [those] who revered these sacred vessels.” Also showing is Imagined Landscapes by Nanette Shapiro, a member of the National Association of Women Artists, who works in pastel, cold wax and other mediums to create paintings that represent her “subconscious memories of inner landscapes.” Details at 7arts.gallery.com.

The late and lovely and prolific Ciel Bergman lives on with The Center for Contemporary Arts’ exhibition of The Linens, paintings never previously exhibited as a series. Beginning Feb. 9 and running through April 29 in the Tank Garage, the exhibition celebrates this beloved figure’s life with a series of 48 acrylic paintings on unstretched Belgian linen, made between the years of 1970-1977. The series ranges from minimal to bold, exploring philosophy, sexuality and physicality. Details at ccasantafe.org.

The Artist-in-Residence Adventure continues at La Fonda on the Plaza this February, featuring prominent New Mexico artists in the hotel lobby each Thursday through Saturday between 4 and 7 p.m. Scheduled artists include Hollis Chitto, known for his intricate and vibrant beadwork (Feb. 15-17); silversmith and basket weaver David McElroy (Feb. 22-24); painter Nocona Burgess (Feb. 1-3) and painter Marla Allison (Feb. 8-10.). Details at lafondasantafe.com/artist-in-residence.

Of course, we have learned that hindsight is always 20/20, but have we truly internalized what that means? New York-based artist R. Luke DuBois has, and SITE Santa Fe is presenting his solo exhibition of the same phrase through April 4. Hindsight is Always 20/20 (2008) synthesizes the State of the Union addresses by 41 U.S. presidents, organizing their top 66 words into the familiar descending format of the Snellen Eye Chart. Can we, the electorate, gain 20/20 vision in advance of electing our next leader? Go to SITE and decide. Details at sitesantafe.org.

Patricia Leis' Tramonto

Patricia Leis’ Tramonto

OTA Contemporary starts off 2018 strong with an exhibition called Reflections, featuring diverse painters Charley BrownTim CraigheadMarietta Patricia Leis and Gail Winbury. Opening with a private reception on Feb. 2 (contact OTA if you’d like to attend, 505.930.7800), Reflections was so-named by Kevin Wass, professor of music (applied tuba and euphonium) at Texas Tech University, who will play his tuba in the acoustically sensitive gallery on opening night. Details at otacontemporary.com.

ABQ: Don’t trip over this beautiful play on words: Recycled Heart. Yes, this poignantly named show at the Harwood Art Museum, opening Feb. 2 and running through Feb. 22 is a mixed-media and recycled art exhibit that captures the diverse and distinct ArtStreet artists’ interpretation of poverty and homelessness. ArtStreet—a program of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless—artists are well recognized for their skill in recycled art. Says Evelyn Kuhn, ArtStreet artist and Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless board member, “Recycled Heart is an open and quirky but artistic setting for emerging artists at ArtStreet. There is an artist in everyone.” Details at harwoodartcenter.org.

Join San Francisco-based author, radio host, video blogger and home-chef Diana Silva for a book reading and signing of Molé Mama; A Memoir of Love, Cooking and Loss at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on Feb. 10, 2-4 p.m. Molé Mama tells the tale of Diana’s mother’s final 13 months, during which time Diana cooks her mother’s heirloom Mexican recipes every weekend while her mother taste-tests from her bed. Get yourself a savory signed copy and have access to a wide variety of recipes, as well as life lessons. And you can also check out Diane’s Molé Mama recipes on her YouTube channel. Details at nhccnm.org.

Meridel Rubinstein's Mt. Bromo From Above Encircled

Meridel Rubinstein’s Mt. Bromo From Above Encircled

We need to consider ourselves very fortunate that venerable, wildly credentialed photographer Meridel Rubenstein’s work Eden Turned on Its Side is in the Que at the University of New Mexico Art Museum, Feb. 2 through June 16. Comprising three parts, Photosynthesis, Volcano Cycle and Eden in Iraq, the work is about the human relationship to the environment over all spheres of time. This stunning display may take some time to absorb, so we’re glad it’s around for a few months. Details at artmuseum.unm.edu.