Mais oui, Clafoutis

Mais oui, Clafoutis


French people have such an enviable relationship with food—to them, it’s so much more than mere fuel. They don’t suddenly smack their foreheads at the end of the day and say, “Oh, mon Dieu, dinner!” and commence rifling frantically through the freezer for something to nuke—they think about the next meal, with fondness, even; they shop for dinner every evening on their way home from work. Or at least, that’s their heritage.

In France, food is a celebration, an affirmation, if you will, of all things bon appetit. When friends get together for dinner, it’s not unusual for them to linger till dawn, savoring each course, sipping wine, gesturing animatedly, interrupting each other cheerfully and with gusto while leaning too far back in their chairs.

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Santa Fe’s Top Ten Dishes of 2011

Top Ten Dishes of 2011

I was reading the just-released Wine Spectator’s Top 10 List of Wines for 2011 with great interest. I reflected on how we consumers gobble up top ten lists and, providing they come from a source we trust, tend to follow them. (I won’t be following Kim Kardashian’s Top Ten Ways to Save a Marriage!) David Letterman has made a career out of them; the music industry relies on them to promote new music.

So it is always fun for me to put together my own list at the end of the year, hoping that you, the reader, will agree to some of choices. Perhaps, by giving my own personal recommendations of the dishes that floated my boat in 2011, I also might send you in that delicious direction to check them out for yourselves. As for my credibility, I think the fact that I have worked in the industry for 40 years, teach about cooking and write about food, means that I have a worthwhile opinion. But hey, if you disagree, even better—one man’s pork belly is another man’s purse.

So here are some of the great dishes our talented chefs have wowed me with this year, not in any particular order. I am truly blessed to have this job; dining well is the best revenge in this nutty economy. Right now I’m off to purchase the best wine in America; Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009. I’ll drink to that!–JV Continue reading

Top Ten Dishes of 2012

During a most extraordinary dinner this past summer, at a magical restaurant called Rundles, in Stratford, Ontario, I asked my waitress to bring me a side of vegetables to augment my already perfect meal; I had three hours of the Bard ahead of me, and I needed to fuel myself. What she returned with was the most exquisite plate of veggies I have ever sampled: eight identical tiny baby bok choy, simply steamed and sprinkled with a dash of sea salt. It was a revelation. They were so simple in their presentation, so delicious in their lack of adornment, they linger still in my mind––a highlight on a list of the fantastic food that has crossed my lips this year.

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Divine Burgers in Edo

Holy Cow in AlbuquerqueDivine Burgers in Edo

Holy Cow isn’t your typical burger joint. If it were, it wouldn’t have wood plank floors, sleek zebrawood chairs, and aluminum-topped tables that give it a hip, contemporary flair. It wouldn’t have vegan entrees like the “no-cow burger,” moist and flavorful and made of roasted eggplant and chickpeas. It wouldn’t serve gourmet salads like seared ahi tuna infused with subtle Asian flavors, or offer sides like sweet potato fries and parmesan-zucchini fries. It wouldn’t have a curved bar flowing into  an open kitchen. And it wouldn’t be the newest addition to Edo, Albuquerque’s up-and-coming Eastern Downtown area centered around Central Avenue, home to a number of trendy restaurants that were featured in the June 2011 issue of localflavor.

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At the Table…tomme

Santa Fe Restaurant TommeAs a longtime fan of Max’s restaurant, I was excited to hear that the team that runs the intimate Guadalupe district foodie haven was opening a second venture nearby. By the time I corroborated the rumor, barely a week later, the former Louie’s Corner Café was boasting a new sign, Tomme: a Restaurant. Initially, I wasn’t sure what the name referred to. I surmised that perhaps, just as Tomme proprietress Maria Renteria prefers to go by the nickname Max, Tomme might be a pet name for her chef, Mark Connell. I called young Connell to get the scoop; he explained that tomme was, in fact, a cheese that hails from a French mountain region.

Connell then detailed the new project. It is a combined effort of Renteria, himself, and his kitchen cohort Brian Rood. Rood was a  chef at Max’s during its early years when it opened in 2007. I had also been a fan of Rood’s culinary skills and was sad to hear, a year ago, that Max’s might not make it. Connell came to the rescue in the eleventh hour, became a working partner and saved the day. But Connell was put in charge of the menu, and at first it didn’t look like there was room for Rood as well. Apart from the fact Rood is 6’7”, Connell had his own ideas for where he wanted to take the Max’s name. Continue reading

Top Ten Restaurant Dishes of 2011 Albuquerque

Food, like all other forms of art and beauty, should be judged by the beholder. What piques and pleases one person’s palate may not resemble what tickles the taste buds of another. And so declaring what individual dishes make up the best of what Albuquerque’s restaurants have to offer seems impossible, and maybe a little bit implausible, too. The truth is that there are countless stunning culinary creations in the Duke City, from gourmet, seasonal standouts to the comfort food you always want to warm up to. So while this list is far from comprehensive and subject to the whims of my own collection of cravings, I believe it still shows scope of the city’s offerings, and the talent of its cadre of chefs. Continue reading