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

Santa Fe’s Rooftop Hot Spots

jj_nm150528_0895_V1 from the la fonda bookUp on the roof, the real world slips away, expanding the wide sky above, transforming the city below. From a rooftop bar, the sunsets seem more dramatic and the stars look brighter—nearly close enough to touch. Your cares slip away, too, as you admire the view with a craft cocktail in hand and a plateful of acclaimed fare in front of you. Now that the weather is perfect for rooftop revelry, here’s a look at some of the hottest elevated spots in Santa Fe, where you can impress out-of-town guests with dizzying views or relax and watch the sunset with that special someone. Continue reading

Café Sonder

CafeSonder_DSC7764After two generations have poured themselves into a family restaurant for 70 years, a question inevitably arises. What’s next? For the Razatoses, of Santa Fe institution Plaza Café, the answer is Café Sonder.

With a zest for contemporary American cuisine, Café Sonder is the latest installment in the Razatos family’s trilogy. Three restaurants and three generations have grown from the original Plaza Café, with its heritage recipes and Mexican oilcloth tablecloths: Plaza Café Southside has a fresh though equally diner feel; and now, Café Sonder represents both legacy and departure, with made-from-scratch food at affordable prices, great service and a third generation of chefs and restaurateurs building something of their own from the kitchen to the table.  

When the Zia Diner, another integral part of Santa Fe’s zeitgeist, vacated its prime spot between the Plaza and the Railyard in February 2016, Daniel Razatos, the second generation to steer Plaza Café, seized the space. He set the vision, bringing in stepson Justin Salazar, 30, to make it happen. Son Nick Razatos, 26, has since become executive chef.

“Dad’s focus was on being inclusive,” Justin says. “Ultimately, he decides everything when it comes to the business, the road we’re traveling on. But he ensures everyone has a voice in the process.” Just as family matriarch Beneranda Razatos is where the buck stops at Plaza Café, Daniel is where the buck stops at Café Sonder. Both set a high bar of professionalism—even among family. “It’s strange when you’re here though. It’s not like you’re here with family. We don’t refer to our dad as ‘Dad’ when we’re on the floor; it’s always Daniel. When I talk to my brother, it’s ‘Chef,’” Justin says. Continue reading

Chef 2Chef – Sazon’s Fernando Olea

DSC_8231Sazón: a Spanish word that defies concise translation, and to try demands the expanse of a paragraph. Sazón is the indescribable, distinct quality, the signature a chef imparts to his work, a singularity. It is said to embody perfection, grace and inspiration. Fernando Olea, an imposing figure with a warm and generous spirit, is both grace and inspiration. Barely knowing me, he welcomed me into his kitchen with open arms. He had no idea what he’d gotten himself into. We sat down and got to talking––without hesitation, he spoke fearlessly and generously from his heart.

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

Fernando Olea: What feeds me is the feedback that I get from my guests and friends when they eat my food. That’s what feeds me. You know, it’s amazing to see how much people can be touched by food, even though there’s a transaction. The way that they leave the restaurant, talking about the food, about the experience they have when they dine with me, that’s what feeds me. I remember the experience I once had with three ladies who had lunch at my place. One of them, when they finished the lunch, she was so thankful, so appreciative of the meal; she hugged me, kissed me and says that I touch all her senses. I was very touched by that moment, and when I found out a few weeks later that she passed away––that is when I understood what she meant by touching all her senses. I cannot have any idea how somebody can be when they know they are close to depart. That really, really touched me. That’s one of my biggest experiences, influences and motivation.

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