Chef 2 Chef – December 2017

Oppenheimer9C32D2DB-080F-4412-8574-6D96930DAF4D-1Inherent in the recipe is an implicit investment of hope, on our part, that it will deliver on its promise to please. Even before our culinary skills mature, many of us harbor the small desire of wanting the recipe to rescue us (not unlike in our search for meaningful love) from the mundane.

As we begin to know ourselves better as cooks, the selection process is refined, and we begin to understand that recipes are not separate from the cook who risks much in both its selection and execution.

But by now, we can see that the recipe (like advice from a friend), is only a guide, a suggestion, a possibility, and with skill, effort and attention to detail, we breathe life into a set of instructions that, without our willingness to fail, will remain unseen on the page, waiting to be discovered.

Each chef has a different story to tell. We all got to talking. Continue reading

What’s on your plate in 2018?

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A humorous and much-shared posting on Facebook earlier this year poked fun at the popularity of the latest food trends of both kale and coconut oil. Accompanying a photo of wilted kale in a frying pan poised over a garbage can was advice that simply stated, “Remember to always use coconut oil when sautéing kale; it makes it much easier to scrape into the garbage!” I totally connected with the jab; I guess I like kale well enough, but I don’t want it in a smoothie, and there has been some controversy about whether coconut oil is good for you.

I do think, as Americans, we take food trends too far; witness the gluten-free craze, for example. On a positive note though, I think the introduction of new ingredients, cooking techniques and cuisines does keep our eating world stimulating and our chefs on their creative toes, which both engages us and brings us back for more. So as we head into the great culinary unknown of 2018, I thought it would be interesting to contact some local culinarians who are actually involved in setting trends, and one who writes about them in the media, to see what they predict will be the “in thing” for the coming year. I also asked them to reflect on any concepts they thought were headed out of vogue or any they hoped would appear on the edible horizon. I got some provocative answers.

Cookbook author and Galisteo resident Deborah Madison was the first to reply. Her many cookbooks and food writing are proof that her finger’s on the culinary pulse. Famous as the original chef of the groundbreaking Greens Restaurant in San Francisco in 1979 (certainly ahead of its time then), and known for her fondly remembered time at Café Escalera in Santa Fe, Deborah admitted she’s not actually a fan of trends or very good at them. 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

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.

Continue reading

Paloma

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

Bringing Back El Nido

El Nido Restaurant

El Nido Restaurant

Before El Nido closed its doors in 2010, Anthony and Wendi Odai were regulars. And like countless other couples across the decades, they celebrated their wedding anniversary there every year with the famous oysters, steak, lobster and beer. Now, they own the landmark Tesuque restaurant—along with friends Rob and Michelle Bowdon—and they couldn’t be happier.

“Back then, El Nido was a run-down restaurant, but we loved it,” Anthony recalls, sitting with Wendi in a booth on a bustling Tuesday night. “So when it closed, we were sad. It sat empty forever.” El Nido had been a special place to both couples, and not just because they lived in the neighborhood—they loved its community ambience, rich history and fine food. So when the opportunity arose for them to bring back the landmark restaurant, they quickly embraced it, devoting themselves to making it better than ever.

“There are such iconic restaurants here—Maria’s, The Shed—and El Nido is one of them,” Anthony says. “When we were building this place, we’d leave the doors open and people would wander in who remembered the days when it was a roadhouse with chairs lined up against the wall so there was room for dancing and a jukebox in the corner. We have brought back so many of the El Nido regulars. People who live up the street and are in their 80’s. It’s fun to hear the stories and to see these regulars come in and say they’re happy to be back.” Continue reading