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

Persian Delights

Pars Cuisine is a sort of culinary Persian and Mediterranean mecca, an oasis of lamb-laced moussaka and spiced falafel in the middle of the American Southwest. Although it’s unassuming from the street, sitting snuggly at the end of a strip mall, a walk through its front doors is a revelation. Emerald-green, satiny striped curtains sift light from a wall of windows onto high-backed, ornately carved wooden chairs and crisp, white tablecloths. In the center of the dining room, cushioned floor seating surrounds a tall, murmuring fountain. Giant swathes of fabric drape from the ceiling and gather in the center, aiding in the sense that one is encompassed at all times by soft, nearly ethereal textiles. Go at the right time and find belly dancers undulating in the aisles. Wander onto the outdoor patio and partake in fruit-, molasses- or honey-imbued tobacco from towering hookahs. Continue reading

How the Pros Do It

When building a restaurant wine list, it turns out that size does matter, but bigger isn’t always better. A smaller wine list requires that each selection be a perfect one, while a more extensive list means struggling to maintain inventory and training servers on lengthy tomes. I talked to three Santa Fe restaurant owners—Harry Shapiro of Harry’s Roadhouse, Quinn Stephenson of Coyote Café and Erin Wade of Vinaigrette—and asked each of them to describe what goes into creating the lists that complement their very unique restaurants.
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Farm to Restaurant

“We now have 30 restaurants as members so far; 15 or so of them are very consistent, ordering every week. Their hearts are in the game—they need no convincing!” Nina Yozell-Epstein

For our fledgling Farm To Restaurant Delivers program (F2R), brainchild of the Santa Fe Alliance, it’s the classic underdog story. Due to a sluggish and unpredictable economy, visitors and residents alike are thinking twice about the efficacy of each expenditure they make. As a result, Santa Fe chefs, all of whom are walking a fine line between creative innovation and keeping prices down, are less likely than usual to court unnecessary risks. Meanwhile, even in the best of times, northern New Mexico is a challenging place for food growers. According to Jacona Farm owner, Phillip Loomis, “with the extreme cold this past winter, a dry and unusually windy spring, the fires and smoke earlier this summer and, through it all, the long drought,” 2011 has been the most difficult he’s ever experienced in 20 years of farming.

And yet, despite such daunting odds, Santa Fe’s Farm to Restaurant program, not quite two years old, stands in the forefront of this pioneering movement: It’s one of the most successful in the entire country! How is that possible? Like all good underdog stories, this one involves a vast, interdependent web of people—from chefs to farmers to grassroots organizers to people like you and me—for whom Cole Porter could have written, “The difficult I’ll do right now/The impossible will take a little while.”

In matters of food appreciation, Santa Fe has had a head start over many other parts of the country. As a unique destination spot, the City Different has always had more than our share of world-class restaurants. And our farmers’ market (which actually began way back in the late ‘60s, with a group of farmers selling their produce on Saturdays from the back of their trucks) has become a vital, bustling crowd pleaser in its permanent year-round home at the Railyard. Continue reading

Chefs of EDo

The evolution of Albuquerque’s East Downtown neighborhood from a sketchy, motel-ridden slice of Central to an urban oasis has been a relatively quick one. In the last few years, EDo (as it’s known)has boomed, with renovated lofts attracting residents, the Rail Runner calling to commuters and various art galleries and retail shops popping up along the stretch. The district’s graduation into a new kind of neighborhood is perhaps best seen in its restaurants. Suddenly EDo is bursting with eateries that draw people from all over the city. From a top-shelf diner and a veteran of fine dining to cafés that make luxury affordable and a pizzeria that raises comfort food to new heights, with a tantalizing rooftop bar thrown in for good measure, EDo has become one of Albuquerque’s best scenes for culinary connoisseurs. Continue reading