Taste of Espana—May 2012

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 10.57.40 AM“When I first started La Boca, I had some critics tell me I was just jumping on the trend of small plates. And I said, ‘It’s not a trend, it’s a revolution!’” —James Campbell Caruso 

If your idea of dinner consists of an appetizer, entrée and dessert served at a quiet corner table accompanied by the strains of something that sounds suspiciously like elevator music, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover a very different atmosphere at Chef James Campbell Caruso’s new restaurant, Taberna La Boca. The Spanish music’s handclaps and toque guitar are almost overtaken by the collective sounds of voices and laughter. People are gathered around a large community table just inside the entrance where the doors are flung open, blurring the lines between inside and outside. Some sit, some stand and everyone eats. Even your mother would have to admit that here, eating with your hands is proper etiquette. Continue reading

The Poetry of Wine

Where there is no wine, love perishes. —Euripides

“It’s like having hundreds of little magnetic words on the refrigerator door of your brain, and you can choose whatever you want to make your own poetry of wine.”

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 1.39.41 PM

Let’s do it.

The sound of a cork coming out of Champagne: Do you like it with a bawdy bang, gushing its creamy foam, or eased out gently with a whisper, like the sound of woman’s foot slipping from a shoe? An exhale of vapor escapes the bottle like smoke curling from the lips of a noir actress. Put your nose close to the mouth of the glass and draw in its seductive perfume of jasmine, rose, chrysanthemum, of morning-after scent of warm croissant. Now devour with your eyes the shee 24-carat radiance of its pale, golden hue, shimmering–—waiting—for the first touch of your tongue. Lose yourself as hedonistic pleasures explode in your mouth. Suddenly, you’re alert and alive, as you’ve never been, to the cold vibrant liquor and tingling acidity, swooning to sensations flooding you with restrained potency and length. Something brings you back from oblivion, refusing to let go of the moment, as if in a wonderful dream. You want it all: to understand and yet fully surrender at the flash point that culminates in a swallow, an intensity of savor and, finally, your release. All too quickly life comes back on you, yet the taking of this permitted fruit—with its brew of mint, mineral, flint, orgeat, truffles, the musk of earth beneath you—leaves you forever changed.

Bees do it.

Wine isn’t a necessity for life, in the way that, say, water is or food or even sexuality. However, its proven aphrodisiacal benefits lubricate our wheels. In 2009, the Journal of Sexual Medicine published findings conducted by the University of Florence in Italy. (It would be Italian!) The results revealed that women who drank a glass or two of red wine experienced greater levels of desire and overall sexual function than those who preferred other alcoholic drinks or were teetotalers. Do try this at home.

Even oysters down in Oyster Bay do it. Continue reading

Eat Your Heart Out

It’s Restaurant Week 2014!

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 2.07.23 PM

Plan for Crowds and Make a Reservation

While there are no tickets to Restaurant Week and the cost is the cost of a (discounted!) meal, it’s wise to stay one step ahead of the crowds and make reservations. Here are a few places we recommend booking in advance: Bouche Bistro, The Compound, Geronimo, Luminaria, Terra, the Anasazi and Albuquerque landmarks, Seasons, Zinc and Savoy.

Try a Brand-New Restaurant

Haven’t gotten around to tasting some of Santa Fe’s newest culinary endeavors? Here’s your chance to explore L’Olivier, Joseph’s Culinary Pub, izanami at Ten Thousand Waves, Tabla de Los Santos and TerraCotta. In Albuquerque, check out the fabulous new Elaine’s, and in Taos, the new kid on the block is Martyr’s Steakhouse.

Don’t Skimp on the Tip

Though your meals may be cheaper, the service is not. Waitstaff from Albuquerque to Taos work especially hard during Restaurant Week, so show them some love and tip generously. Continue reading

Syne Wine

With the advent and wane of holiday reveries, it’s nearly impossible to escape the maudlin strains of “Auld Lange Syne” and not allow ourselves, in somber or cheerful mood, a reflection on what we leave behind and contemplation of what is before us. At Local Flavor, we’ll take a cup (albeit, a tastevin) in kindness yet, ponder some wines that filled it and share our chronicle of regions, rumors and trends of note.

synewine

      The autumn brought ominous news of the falling worldwide supply of wine, a Chicken Little ruckus that should be taken with a grain of sulfite. The fox in waiting may well be the mega beverage industry hoping we’ll fill our cellars and their pockets. Global warming notwithstanding, those of us who intend to put a dent in the world’s wine supply can do so with alacrity.

      As with any art form, wine affects us sensually and emotionally, but it doesn’t have to be lofty to be significant. As Noel Coward once observed, “Strange how potent cheap music is.” (Listen to the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.”) Similarly, I can as clearly recall reading Fleming as Faulkner. Our daughter recently sent a text from college. She was working on a project about sentimental value and asked about a bottle of wine we’d given her mother one Mother’s Day. We bought it for the label: a 1950’s photo of four little girls posed on a Vespa. One of those girls grew to become its winemaker. Her family’s Cascina Castlet Barbera d’Asti, from Piedmont, is as charming a wine as it was a present. Perceiving how it reverberated for our daughter was a serendipitous return on a $15 purchase. A much sought-after bottle was handed to me on my birthday by a friend and client. It wasn’t wrapped, the label was wrapping enough: Domaine Jean-Louis Chave 2008 Hermitage. What made it particularly memorable is that my friend had inscribed it, as you would a book, by using a special marker pen, a fun way to personalize a gift of wine (available at wineglasswriter.com.)

      Let’s admit there’s nothing like a splurge. Recently, an acquaintance came to Santa Fe, the brother of a friend, to accompany his only child to college orientation. The last time we three gentlemen were together—one student and two starving actors—was 1984. We chipped in to buy the inaugural release of Opus One, a collaboration of Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi. The Bordeaux-style Cabernet blend from Napa currently fetches as much as $500. Our 1979 vintage was $60, a lot of money to us at the time, and at a kitchen table in a Greenwich Village walkup, we opened it with reverence. I really can’t tell you what it tasted like, only that it was elegant and luxurious and didn’t disappoint. Thirty years later, two of us sat with a bottle of Louro do Bolo Godello from Rafael Palacios (the price of our share of Opus), a savory, mineral-rich white from the hilly Galicia region in Spain and toasted to old acquaintances not forgotten. Continue reading

New Mexico Wine Trails Entice and Enchant

NM Wineries

© NM Wine Growers Association

New Mexico wineries allow visitors to get off the interstate and experience the agriculture, food and culture of the southwest. Local Flavor explores New Mexico Wine Trails for a taste of what our state’s wine growers have to offer.

In New Mexico we experience the full force of the elements: intense sun, inundating rains, sere desert air.  When I explore our mountains, mesas, and valleys throughout the seasons, I’m amazed at the challenges farmers face growing crops within thee extremes. The drive from the Española valley to Taos is one time that  I truly appreciate New Mexico’s incredible range of landscapes. One summer I dipped in a silty bend of the Rio Grande above Taos, then drove back through Dixon admiring the apple orchards. As a friend and I stopped in at Vivac Winery to taste some wines before returning south in a monsoon shower, the valley’s green, grey, pink and terra cotta shades intensified in the rain.

Continue reading