A Tale of Two Bakeries

DSC_1431If you suddenly find yourself hungry when you’re in the south end of Santa Fe’s South Capitol district, there’s a good reason for it. That fragrant aroma of baking baguettes, croissants, pastries, muffins and more wafting through the air comes from two beloved Santa Fe restaurants that are new to the neighborhood—the relocated Clafoutis and The New Baking Company, inspired by the old Santa Fe Baking Co., which closed in 2016.

Eateries have long populated this neighborhood, serving everything from Asian and Indian to Mediterranean, Italian and New Mexican cuisine. But the addition of these two spots—located catty-corner to each other—adds to the vibrant food scene in this neighborhood. This culinary corner draws locals and visitors alike for the comfort food and conviviality found in two restaurants with strong ties to the community.

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Chef 2 Chef with Mark Kiffin

DSC_2001The process and mechanism of an interview is a delicious little tidbit that stands on its own. While it’s not quite a profile, it is an intimate reveal, a portrait of both interviewer and interviewee. No two minds perform the same, thus, what I think is an interesting question to one subject falls flat with another. It’s like word association. I ask a question and the answers are the associations the mind conjures, while the questions are the vehicles that stir the mind—and hopefully, both reader and interviewer, along with the subject, come to learn something new about each other and themselves. What I hope to achieve is to sneak past someone’s protective self and meet them in the delicate landscape of their humanity. I’m humbled and excited; I hope he’ll trust me. We got to talking…

Mark Oppenheimer: What feeds you and what do you feed?

Mark Kiffin: There’s a passion to the craft, a great romance to cooking that is very personal. I feel that what I’m doing matters, that I’ve contributed to other people’s significant moments and memories. There’s a joy in understanding that my work is important to people I’ll never really know. I think the passion and love of what you do shows up in the food you serve.
I’m bilingual everywhere in the world. I can’t speak Chinese, but when I’ve been in China––and I’ve even done various stages in Singapore, Spain, North Africa––we don’t have the same language, but we’re in the kitchen cooking together, seeing what the other is making, and we communicate unencumbered by language differences. Everywhere I go in the world, there’s food, and I have a connection with someone because of it. It’s very exciting to continually be learning new techniques, to travel and see the world of food. I love the fact that food has taken me to so many places in the world. I think my job is unlimited, because it’s everywhere.

Food has only made my life better, through learning more about it as well as myself. It has given me a lot of great things that have happened in my life; it has introduced me to a way of life that I can’t imagine ever leaving. My life’s work has been expressing my joy of cooking for others. I’ve met my family, my wives through the joy of food. I’ve had the pleasure of watching my daughter, London, seeing and tasting things for the first time. That re-invigorates me and opens my eyes that here’s a one-year-old who has never seen this or had that and either falls in love with it or hates it. It’s the joy of watching that come about.

I prepared my father’s last meal. He was in hospice dying of cancer. He asked me three days before he died to cook his last meal for him. He said, “This is what I’d like for my last meal.” And he devoured it.

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The Root Cellar

LL The Root Cellar16The adage says it takes a village. Greg Menke, owner and chef of Beestro, The Hive Market and The Root Cellar, contends it’s not a village it takes—it’s a hive. That’s the model for effective, healthy communities—ones that renew and aid their landscape rather than deplete it—he’d like to see adopted. “The bee is really just a metaphor for how to live locally, live sustainably and give more than you take,” Greg says. And he’s taking over one storefront at a time on East Marcy Street to import it.

Greg inherited his infatuation with honeybees from his grandfather, an aeronautical engineer who studied honeybees and honeycombs, and applied those principles for lightweight strength to his work. Pouring through his grandfather’s old journals and workbooks, he found inspiration and answers to questions he hadn’t known he had. He’s come to see bees, providers of honey and beeswax for candles, as an emblem of sweetness and light, both of which are in need of spreading.

In Greg’s own work, those ideas have manifested in the form of the honey-centric businesses that have grown in recent years off the established lunch spot, The Beestro, which opened six years ago. The Hive Market, which opened in November 2015 in the former home of the Blue Rooster and the Rouge Cat, began as a holiday pop-up shop themed around “gifts from the hive.” The aim was to take a test run at the space and the idea of a store centered on honey-based products. It worked. Continue reading

Albuquerque: A City on a Hill of Beans

Duggan's Coffee; The OpEd brakfast burrito

Duggan’s Coffee; The OpEd breakfast burrito

Full disclosure: I drank decaf for years and then I saw the light roast. Now, I really know my beans. Although we have many chic new coffee cafés here in Albuquerque, let me tell you about the java joints that know how to brew it up old-school. They all have Wi-Fi and are open seven days a week unless otherwise noted.

Duggan’s Coffee

Because coffee doesn’t count as breakfast (I’m told), I head for Duggan’s Coffee. Wedged into a row of storefronts, it reminds me of living in New York City—not Manhattan, more like Queens or Staten Island. Duggan’s neighborhood has its arms around Presbyterian Downtown, the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College Main Campus and all of those bleary-eyed commuters on their way to the ART-exhausted businesses along Central. Continue reading

Chef 2 Chef with David Jacoby

LL David Jacoby1I first met David Jacoby, the owner of the now-closed Backstreet Bistro, in the hollowed-out shell of what was once his restaurant, a vital and thriving community meeting place full of kibitzing, Hungarian Mushroom Soup and Corned Beef Sandwiches. Amongst the few remaining remnants, I sat on one of two chairs and waited. I watched David greet two men with a furniture dolly, obviously friends who’d come in to load up and wheel out an aging ice machine that David had given them. As they wheeled out the ice machine, they chatted briefly about David’s future. It was obvious to me that David had made an enormous impact on the community he fed for over 20 years. I had met him for the first time that day, but for the rest of Santa Fe, he’ll be sorely missed. It was a privilege for me to sit and talk with a man in the midst of such a monumental decision to so radically change his life. We got to talking. Continue reading

Albuquerque’s Rooftop Patios

Hotel Chaco, on of Albuquerque's top rooftop spots

Hotel Chaco, on of Albuquerque’s top rooftop spots

With bright, sunny days that ease into cool, clear evenings, Albuquerque’s weather earns its much-lauded reputation this time of year. ’Tis the season for the outdoors, from shopping in plein-air farmers markets to imbibing on patios. With their lofty vantages, rooftop terraces level up the favored bar pastimes of people-watching, city-viewing and stargazing. Here are a few spots that offer a breath of fresh air. Continue reading