Dream Catcher Ranchito Goat Cheese

GMarks-DreamCatcher-16They are named by virtue of their characteristics: Freckles is dappled with freckles, Clove is the color of her namesake spice, and yes, Shakira “sings.”

Most are a breed of goat called “Nubian,” although there are a few Swiss Saanen and Alpines in the mix as well. Mary Ann Andrews, rancher, cheesemaker and owner of Dream Catcher Ranchito, experimented with a few different breeds before she committed to the Nubian. Brought to the States by European settlers, these hardy goats originated from the Middle East and North Africa, making them beautifully suited to the high-desert landscape in which they now thrive. Although on average Nubians produce a smaller volume of milk, the milk they do produce has the highest butterfat content––“equivalent to a Jersey Cow!” according to Mary Ann. The butterfat contributes to a better tasting milk. And high butterfat content and that signature great flavor combine to create the creamy, delicious, “un-goaty” goat cheese for which Dream Catcher Ranchito, located southwest of Santa Fe, is now known.

Twice each day, Freckles, Clove and the rest of their herd sisters are led by a familiar handler to their milking, after which they receive a treat they enjoy as much for its flavor as we do its whimsical allusion: a handful of animal crackers, of course. These are happy goats. That’s Mary Ann’s motto: Happy goats make the best milk. And from the best milk comes the best cheese.

Looking around these 10 acres of paddocks—for goats, alpacas, the two huge white Great Pyrenees who guard their flocks and free-range chickens—as well as the barn, the house and the commercial kitchen that comprise the Ranchito, it’s hard to believe that a little over 10 years ago, Mary Ann knew nothing of goats. She’d spent her career as a financial planner in Kentucky. And while she’s originally a city girl from Wisconsin, that state’s great reputation for all things cheese is the only hint––and a distant one at that––that Mary Ann’s passion would become making goat cheese in the Southwest. “Retirement,” she explains, “opens up the possibility of other things.” She was drawn to Santa Fe because the mountains “make her heart sing,” and surely the view of the Sangre de Cristo range from the Ranchito keeps her nearly always in song. She had no previous experience with ranching or animal husbandry, but had always loved animals. Continue reading

Still Hungry?

Green Chile Corn Chowder_terraThe etymological confluence of the word soup and the word restaurant offers a satisfying story for chilly November days of waning light—and our Still Hungry? column. Apparently, in 16th century France, what we know of as soups were called “restaurants” (from the French verb restaurer, meaning to restore). “Restaurants” were advertised and the soups sold cheaply by street vendors as wellness remedies. A couple centuries later, a French businessman opened a shop that specialized in “restaurants” (essentially, consommés or soups!). His enticing call to action? Some Latin words inspired by and riffing on the well-known Gospel of Matthew narrative, “Venite ad me vos qui stomacho laboratis et ego restaurabo vos,” or, “Come to me you who are weary and I will restore you in the stomach.”

Fast-forward to today’s “shops that sell soup” in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and it’s not only the dine-in customer, but scores of hungry families, who benefit from the modern confluence of restaurant and soup. We’re talking about Souper Bowl, of course, that delicious January fundraising event presented by Albuquerque’s Roadrunner Food Bank and Santa Fe’s The Food Depot. For the last 20-plus years, participating restaurants have concocted soups in promising categories to be tasted by discerning soup-lovers, who pay to vote for their faves. Proceeds help both food banks to distribute food and manage food programs that assist hungry people and communities across New Mexico, which has been ranked among the hungriest states in the nation.

This Thanksgiving season—just in time for soup and gratitude, that delightful duo—we asked four of the recent Souper Bowl winners for a home-cook soup recipe, so that our readers could try their hand at restoring tummies. Thank you very much to Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen, Terra Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado and Dinner for Two in Santa Fe, and to Bocadillo’s Slow Roasted in Albuquerque—congratulations on your fine food and philanthropic spirit, arguably one of the greatest approaches to restoration there is. Continue reading

Love, Laughter and Linguini at Joe’s Pasta House

Joe’s Pasta House; Owners KC and Joseph Guzzardi; Linguine with Clams with linguine pasta and combination of sauteed little neck and baby clams in marinara sauce; Bruschetta Pomodoro and House-made Bread

Joe’s Pasta House; Owners KC and Joseph Guzzardi; Linguine with Clams with linguine pasta and combination of sauteed little neck and baby clams in marinara sauce; Bruschetta Pomodoro and House-made Bread

Growing up in a Sicilian family in Queens, New York, Joe Guzzardi vividly remembers going out to eat as a kid in the 1970s. It was a big adventure, with one constant: you would always get to meet the charismatic restaurant owner. It’s no wonder, then, that Joe’s genial, round-the-clock presence looms large at Joe’s Pasta House, spurring a level of care and attentiveness that feels genuinely old-fashioned, not to mention just plain genuine.

From the outside––a former IHOP building in a shopping center in suburban Rio Rancho––you might not guess that Joe’s Pasta House is a throwback in all the best possible ways. Or that it’s an in-the-know foodie mecca that is increasingly drawing diners from Albuquerque, 30 minutes to the south, and beyond. But step inside the soothing interior, and you’ll quickly come to understand. The fine Italian products for sale in the foyer, from cannellini beans to balsamic vinegar, are the first tipoff, followed by the warm greetings, red and white linen tablecloths and soft jazz soundtrack.

“A restaurant, to me, is a gathering place, where a family comes together to offer not only food, but a cultural style,” Joe says. Along with wife and co-owner Kassie, he’s created a personality driven destination that makes everyone feel like they’re part of something special. “We want to welcome people like they’re coming to our home for a traditional Sicilian Sunday dinner,” Kassie says. “We want them to laugh, relax, have good conservation and not be rushed.” Continue reading

Hip Hop – Here and Now

WakeSelf-COVER01-DSC_1149Mescalero Apache and Mexican on his father’s side, Wake Self, a small-town kid from the Fort Wingate and Gallup areas, says that, growing up, the surrounding lakes, mountains and Native American reservations “had a profound impact on my outlook on life.”

Living in epic times is not for the feint of heart. Since Local Flavor began this series last November, the times have only gotten dizzyingly more confounding. “We’re on a hero’s journey—and it’s scary,” Native activist and artist Cannupa Hanska Luger said in our first installment of the series. He called this a time of “Here Be Monsters,” requiring passionate, dedicated monster-slayers stepping up to put their hearts on the line for what they believe. We can do this, Cannupa said, if we act collectively. And then, he added, “seven generations we’ll never meet could look back and tell tales of this mythical time.”

And in fact, even in the face of dauntingly overwhelming obstacles, stouthearted heroes are indeed emerging. Standing tall among these is born-and-bred New Mexican Andrew Isaac Martinez, better known as Wake Self. Now in his mid-20s, he’s been a performing hip-hop artist since he was 15; starting at 12, he began teaching himself to write poetry lyrics. “They were my own personal counseling sessions,” he says unabashedly. “I was having some depression, some growing pains.” Mescalero Apache and Mexican on his father’s side, Wake Self, a small-town kid from the Fort Wingate and Gallup areas, says that, growing up, the surrounding lakes, mountains and Native American reservations “had a profound impact on my outlook on life.” Early on, he honed his focus, mentioning without fanfare, for example, “I’m a rapper artist who’s proudly sober.” And as his DJ name makes clear, he’s committed to diverging from typical mainstream rapper obsessions—wealth, conspicuous consumption, male domination—to help us wake up from all that. The first few lines of a recent song “Fluteboxsesh,” filmed at Yellowstone with longtime DJ friend Def-i, express Wake Self’s priorities: “Ever felt so alive/Your brain stretched to wide open/no sense of ego, no swollen pride/Nothin’ is holdin’ you back/Wakin’ up outta the trap?”   Continue reading

Chef 2 Chef with Paulraj Karuppasamy

PaperDosa_DSC5217Paulraj Karuppasamy’s food story doesn’t begin with a sweet or savory memory from childhood that led him into the kitchen, or from dishwasher to a hardboiled apprenticeship in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe. With no plans of becoming a chef or cook, Paulraj’s trajectory from working the line in a cruise ship kitchen to the chef/owner of Paper Dosa in Santa Fe was not by design, but rather the serendipitous happenstance of overhearing the name of a friend from his past spoken in a bar half way around the world.

With humility and grace, the need to survive and help his family, all the while carrying the family’s dream of emigrating to the U.S., Paulraj caught the spice route from India to America. His is a story of courage and survival. We got to talking.

Mark: Living in a foreign country with different ingredients and food customs, how has cooking the foods of your village helped maintain the emotional link to your heritage?

Paulraj: Just eating a food like Rasam, I connect with my mom. I would ask her for some of her recipes when I wanted to cook certain foods I remember from the village.
Once I finish my shift, eating my dinner, whether it is the Pepper Chicken, or it’s a new curry, I’ll be reminded of my friend [from Dosa]. Whenever I eat that food, it reconnects me with family, friends and then memories come. When I started working in San Francisco, I asked my mom how to make Rasam and I just followed her recipe. When I think about those things, not just with my mom’s cooking, I feel connected. Also, some of the dishes I got from her, I put on our specials menu.

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Paloma-resziedBefore Marja Martin was the catering maven of Santa Fe, she spent evenings in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, listening to the crooning song “Cucurrucucú Paloma” at a tiny bar. The ballad tells of a broken-hearted man whose mourning sounds like a dove. It’s a far cry from the bright, vibrant restaurant that would later borrow its name from the tune, but Paloma hails from authentic nights like these.

Marja only opened the Santa Fe Railyard-adjacent Paloma in July, but the restaurant has already inspired a following. Marja says diners frequently tell her, “Santa Fe needed this.” Indeed, Paloma has found a sweet spot: It draws inspiration from traditional Mexican ingredients and flavors—a rarity in a town smothered in New Mexican cuisine. The crave-able fare walks the fine line between fatty and fresh, and the price point settles between taco trucks and high-end restaurants. Both mature diners and millennials eager for a night out in the pricey capital city appreciate that balance. “We want Paloma to be a once- or twice-a-week restaurant, not a special-occasion restaurant,” Marja says. That Paloma has so gracefully taken off on the winds of the Santa Fe culinary scene comes as a result of a decades-long journey.

Marja grew up going to the Dallas farmers’ market with her mother, “before going to the farmers’ market was a thing,” she says. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately for her well-meaning parents, the budding foodie landed in New Orleans, where the city’s culinary charms only cemented her passion. After culinary school and stints in San Francisco and Washington D.C., Marja landed in Santa Fe, where she ran Marja Custom Catering for two decades.  

As the Drury Plaza Hotel’s Eloisa hovered between catering bookings and an unfinished restaurant space, Chef John Sedlar enlisted Marja and her commissary kitchen. In turn, Marja called upon Nathan Mayes, who moonlighted in the catering business after day jobs at The Betterday Coffee Shop and Arroyo Vino.   Continue reading