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Hartford Square – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Hartford Square, a delightful cafe on Broadway just north of Central

The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star.”
~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Dante Alighieri’s 14th century poem Divine Comedy postulated the existence of nine circles of Hell, each circle appropriate to the sins of the damned.  The fourth circle, for example, is reserved for hoarders and wasters whose punishment is to spend eternal life rolling giant boulders at one another.  While gastronomy is a virtue and not a sin, were there to have been a circle in Hell for gastronomes, there’s no doubt it would have been to spend eternity eating in chain restaurants where we would be subjected to the tedium and monotony of forevermore eating homogeneous foods.  It would certainly make prophetic my words “I’ll be damned if I ever eat at Chili’s or Applebee’s.”

Gastronomes need the spice of life that is variety.  Unlike gluttons who eat and drink excessively or voraciously, (and therefore spend eternal life in the fourth circle of Hell where they wallow in muck and mire) gastronomes need not consume food in large quantities.  Instead, we (and I’m including the faithful readers of this blog here) need the diversity that comes from foods with varying food profiles.  We need restaurants like Hartford Square.

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The very active exhibition kitchen at Hartford Square

Fittingly Hartford Square’s motto is “variety is the spice of life” and it’s not a motto that graces the menu and its Web site solely for the sake of pandering to an adventurous demographic.  It’s the restaurant’s modus operandi.  Hartford Square changes its menu every week, based on what is abundant and available.  For gastronomes whose favorite dish is the next new adventure in deliciousness, it’s a formula that works.  We like being surprised and rather than fretting the absence of a favorite dish, we celebrate the new dish which took its place. Visiting Hartford Square is almost like visiting a new restaurant every week.

The menu is simple and short.  It’s the antithesis of the compendium menus which promise all things to all diners and fall woefully short.  The only aspect of the menu that’s even remotely formulaic is that you’ll always find outstanding pastries, soups, salads and main course dishes.  Hartford Square embraces farm-to-table concepts; most of its food is local (often organic), seasonal and healthy.  Local sources–Kyzer Farms, Michael Thomas Coffee, Chispas Farms, Old Windmill Dairy and more–are exemplars of quality, freshness and social consciousness.

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Pumpkin Donut and Michael Thomas Coffee

Hartford Square is ensconced in a 1,200 square-foot ground-floor storefront at the Belvedere Urban Courtyard condos to the immediate north of the old Albuquerque High.  The restaurant is wider than it is deep with the exhibition kitchen occupying more than half of the space.  To maximize seating, a bar-like counter with stools provides the best views in the house, allowing guests to watch the assiduous staff preparing various dishes in small batches throughout the day.  If great fortune is smiling on you, that might mean warm scones just out-of-the-oven.

Hartford Square is named for founder-owner Sarah Hartford, a New Mexico resident for two decades but with roots in New England.  On any given visit, you might see East Coast influences throughout her menu.  You will see a distinctive menu unlike that of any other restaurant in Albuquerque.  That might even mean no red or green chile on any dish–even on burritos.  This is a vive la difference approach gastronomes, much as we love our red and green, have embraced.

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Boston Baked Beans with Piccalilli Relish and Macaroni & Cheese

The first thing your eyes will probably fixate upon when you walk into Hartford Square is a glass case showcasing pastries and main dishes.  Then if your eyes need confirmation as to what they’re ogling, menus are scrawled overhead, describing each dish.  Atop the gleaming steel counter where you order as well as on top of the pastry case, you’ll espy covered pastry plates so tempting they may evoke wanton lust (and if you don’t curb that lust, maybe a future trip to the second circle of Dante’s Hell).  Pastry chef Acacia Prechtel is the talented creator of the restaurant’s artisinal pastries, all so good you might be prompted to propose marriage to her if not to one of those pumpkin donuts. 

The house coffee is sourced from Michael Thomas Coffee Roasters on Carlisle.  It’s a very highly regarded coffee which author Andrea Feucht lauded in an article for London’s The Guardian.  Not being quite the coffee connoisseur Andrea is, to me the coffee didn’t have the smoothness and richness of my favorite coffees at Cafe Bella.  Ironically, it was a glowing recommendation from Cafe Bella’s affable proprietor Michael Gonzales which prompted my inaugural visit to Hartford Square.  Where the coffee did is job superbly is as a wonderful complement to the best pumpkin donuts we’ve had anywhere.  The coffee and the donuts brought out flavor notes in one another we didn’t discern on their own.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

Having lived for two years in a Boston suburb, it made sense for old-times-sake that I’d try the Boston Baked Beans (simmered all day in molasses, mustard, cider vinegar, bacon and salt pork) and Piccalilli relish which somewhat countermands the sweetness of the beans.  Despite the city’s “Beantown” sobriquet, not all Bostonians like Boston Baked Beans which are often almost as sweet as the candy-coated peanuts which share their name.  Hartford Square’s rendition is among the very best I’ve had anywhere even without the housemade Piccalilli relish made from pickled vegetables and spices.  This is a relish so good it should be bottled and sold. 

When you order Macaroni & Cheese you don’t always know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes the dish is creamy and moist.  At other times, it’s got a good cheesy caramelization and crust.  The latter is how our macaroni & cheese was served.  Frankly it’s the way we like it because it generally means you get a stronger cheese flavor, one not diluted by cream or milk.  If we wanted runny mac & cheese, we’d open up a box of Kraft dinner (because Kraft dinner will never cross my lips, that’s a lie that will land me in the eighth circle of Hell.)

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Chicken Pot Pie

If you’re a fan of fleshy fungi, you’ll love Hartford Square’s stuffed mushrooms, individually priced mushroom caps stuffed generously with locally sourced Italian sausage.  The wonderful contrast between moist, woodsy mushrooms and nicely seasoned, tangy sausage is memorable.  To keep peace in the family you’ll want to order at least two each for every diner at your table.

Without having paused to photograph the chicken pot pie, we might not have noticed the six-petaled flowery display on the pie’s top crust.  That’s how eager we were to confirm that it tasted as good as it smelled and looked.  Puncture that crust with your fork and fragrant steam escapes, a portend to deliciousness.  The chicken pot pie is moist and unctuous, a panoply of smaller than bite sized pieces of tender chicken and fresh vegetables (carrots, potatoes, celery).

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Lemon Poppy seed Scones and Cinnamon-Apple Streusel Coffeecake

We’ve had scones all over England as well as in New England and have uncovered scones in the Land of Enchantment that are competitive with the best.  Hartford Square’s lemon poppy seed scones are right up there with the scones at Sugar Nymph’s in Peñasco and at Albuquerque’s Daily Grind.  That’s rarefied company.  What makes these scones so wonderful is their feather-light texture and the fact that they’re not overly sweet.  Best, we got them right out-of-the-oven when they were warm and delectable. 

A commonality among the pastries (aside from their deliciousness) at Hartford Square is that none are overly sweet.  They’re all imbued with natural flavors.  On the cinnamon-apple streusel coffeecake, it’s a pleasure to see real apples sliced into small cubes and not a surfeit of pectin from a box.  While pectin is a naturally occurring thickener, its gelatinous qualities can be off-putting when pectic is used to excess.  The streusel is moist and delicious, as good as any we’ve had in Albuquerque. 

If Dante Alighieri can posit nine levels of Hell with each circle appropriate to the sins of the damned, surely there are at least nine levels of Heaven. Gastronomes will be in one of them. So will Hartford Square.

Hartford Square
300 Broadway Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 265-4933
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 18 January 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Pumpkin Donuts, Lemon Poppyseed Scones, Cinnamon-Apple Streusel Coffeecake, Boston Baked Beans with Piccalilli Relish; Macaroni & Cheese; Stuffed Mushrooms; Chicken Pot Pie


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Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery

You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie
is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite.
Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate.
And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us.
If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.
~Jerry Seinfeld

While creative personnel and television promos touted Seinfeld as the “show about nothing,” the truth is every episode of the half-hour comedy offered a number of complex plots, sub-plots and plot twists. So much of the hilarity centered around food moments that readers of Chow declared Seinfeld the “show about food.” It makes sense. In its nine year run, Seinfeld introduced or reintroduced into American pop culture and vernacular such foods and food terms as pastrami, the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats; the really big salad; make and bake our own pizza; vegetable lasagna; Papaya King hot dogs; the soup Nazi and many, many more. 

While Albuquerque has become increasingly cosmopolitan, it wasn’t until the August, 2013 launch of Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery that Duke City diners could discover for themselves some of the iconic foods mentioned on the “show about food.” Located on the southeast corner of Amherst and Silver in the Nob Hill district, Nosh fills one of the food voids most commonly lamented by readers of this blog. It is an authentic Jewish deli and bakery with some contemporary variations on tradition. Those slight variations don’t include red or green chile; not a smidgeon is to be found. A Duke City restaurant not serving chile is as rare as, well…a Jewish deli has been.

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The Amherst (Pastrami with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and coleslaw on rye) with a side of fruit and a pickle spear

Step ten feet into the cozy, 1,000 square-foot eatery and you’ll run into the counter where you place your order from menus hanging on the wall. From that counter, you’re witness to the heart and soul of the operation—the open kitchen and bakery where deliciousness is prepared. Your eyes will quickly train on baked goods sealed in clear wrapping and you’ll make a mental note to buy a loaf or three on your way out. You’ll take in the pastry case where luscious desserts will tempt and test your willpower. You’ll marvel that so much can get done in such a relatively small space.

The diminutive dining room means seating is in personal space proximity. Weather permitting, al fresco dining on sidewalk tables is also an option. Nosh also seems to do a robust take-out business. Breakfast (until 11AM) and lunch (after 11AM) menus include a couple of cross-over items (potato latkes and matzo ball soup) which are served on both sides of 11AM, but if you’re looking for Challah bread French toast for lunch or a pastrami sandwich for breakfast, you’re out of luck.   Whether you visit for breakfast or for lunch, your visit to a Jewish deli wouldn’t be complete without Dr. Brown’s soda (ginger ale, black cherry, cream soda, root beer), alas in a can.  Better still, have a chocolate egg cream, which despite its name contains no eggs.  An egg cream is a blend of seltzer water, chocolate syrup and milk.  It’s a foamy beverage which isn’t overly sweet.

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Pastrami on double-baked rye with deli mustard, onion rings and a pickle spear

19 October 2013: Our inaugural visit was after 11AM which meant pastrami, which Jerry Seinfeld’s friend George Costanza declared “the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats.” Pastrami has been a passion for me from the moment I discovered it in the Boston area half a lifetime ago. It’s not something most of us would consider incorporating into our bedtime rituals as George Costanza did, but for those of us hooked on pastrami, there is no better deli offering. As do the great delis in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Nosh makes its own pastrami. It’s a pain-staking process obviously undertaken with love.

19 October 2013: Nosh’s pastrami sandwich is hand sliced and served on double-baked rye with a side of grainy deli mustard. Compared to most Duke City sandwich makers which scrimp on meats, Nosh’s sandwiches are ungashtupt (Yiddish for overstuffed). The pastrami is lean and peppery with that distinctive deliciousness imbued only on pastrami. Nestled on a double-baked rye with personality and a smear of Ba-Tampte (Yiddish for tasty) deli mustard, it’s a sandwich which just might inspire carnal yearning.

Club Sandwich with onion rings

Club Sandwich with onion rings

19 October 2013: As with New Mexican chile, pastrami needs no amelioration as it is incomparably fabulous on its own, but if you want to let your hair down, you’ll want to try Nosh’s Amherst, pastrami (or corned beef) with Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and coleslaw on rye. What makes this sandwich sumptuously successful is that the pastrami is still clearly the star. It’s not overwhelmed by the sweet coleslaw or the boldness of the Russian dressing. All sandwiches are served with a pickle spear and your choice of potato salad, coleslaw, onion rings, house or sweet potato fries, or fruit.  The onion rings are strictly an out-of-the-bag variety. 

16 December 2013:  Nosh’s nearest approximation to a skyscraper sized sandwich is the Club Sandwich, a behemoth made on a canvas of lightly toasted Challah bread.  Nestled between two slightly sweet slices of the egg-rich bread are a tangle of roasted turkey, pastrami, avocado, red onions, tomato, lettuce, Cheddar (or Swiss) and horseradish.  It’s a terrific sandwich though this fire-eater would have appreciated even more horse radish.  The vegetables–especially the avocado and tomato–are so fresh that this would have been a great sandwich even without the meats.  The meats made it just that much better.

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Matzo ball Soup: Chicken noodle soup with a traditional matzo ball

19 October 2013: In a classic Seinfeld episode, George Costanza tells a woman he loves her but is unsure whether or not she heard him.  Ever the nurturing friend, Seinfeld’s “consolation’ to George was “that’s one giant matzo ball hanging out there.”  Later George ordered matzo ball soup.  At Nosh you can order matzo ball soup for breakfast or lunch.  It’s good anytime.  If you aren’t familiar with or haven’t tried them, matzo balls are a dumpling of sorts.  They’re considered a Jewish comfort food favorite.  The soup is made from chicken stock, short noodles and vegetables.   Save for being just a bit under-salted (my preference), it’s a very good, very healthful chicken noodle soup. 

16 December 2013: One of the favorite dishes of my friend Sr. Plata (a proud half Sephardi Jew, who grew up in Los Angeles a mere four blocks from Nosh founding owner Alisa Young) is noodle kugel, a dish which might surprise the unacculturated.  After the first time they have it, they might well become addicted.  Sometimes made as a savory entree and more often as a dessert, it’s certainly a versatile dish.  The Nosh version is made as a dessert.  It’s a dish of baked noodles and cream cheese layered in a pan and topped with confectioner’s sugar.  The unmistakable flavor of orange is prominent in Nosh’s kugel, atop of which is a dollop of butter and which is accompanied by syrup, neither of which are needed.  Sr. Plata thoroughly enjoyed Nosh’s rendition.  The question is would he have enjoyed Frank Costanza’s version?

Noodle Kugel

Noodle Kugel

19 October 2013: “You can’t beat the babka.”  That was Jerry Seinfeld’s assessment of the chocolate babka at a New York City deli, but which might also apply to the chocolate babka at Nosh.  Sometimes considered bread and sometimes considered a cake, chocolate babka has qualities of both.  At Nosh it’s sliced like a bread, but its chocolate-cinnamon amalgam says cake.  The babka is moist and dense with a flavor profile unlike any other cake you can have.  You really can’t beat the babka. 

19 October 2013: The black and white cookie, dubbed by Jerry Seinfeld as “two races of flavor living side by side,” is a soft, shortbread type cookie iced on one half with vanilla fondant and on the other half by chocolate fondant.  While President Obama may dubbed it “the unity cookie,” just try sneaking a bite from a loved one’s cookie.  You’ll be risking life and limb. To preserve peace at your table, order two (or six). 

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Chocolate Babka and a Black & White Cookie

16 December 2013: Rugelach, a Yiddish word meaning “little corners” may not have made it onto an episode of Seinfeld, but it’s available at Nosh where you can purchase them in quantities of one to a dozen.  For that Albuquerque’s pastry paramours should be very grateful.  Rugelach is a a rolled triangle of dough around a fruit filling.  The filling–Nosh uses apricot–is almost caramelized, but it’s not overly sweet.  It’s a wonderful pastry.

19 October 2013: It wouldn’t be a true Jewish deli if bagels weren’t on the menu.  Nosh imports its bagel dough from a kosher bakery in New York.  Whether you have them with butter or with cream cheese, you’ll enjoy the dense, chewy texture and flavor.  The bakery showcases a number of breads, albeit not a marble rye such as the one Jerry Seinfeld swiped from an old woman.  The Challah bread is artistic in its braided beauty and absolutely delicious on its own, with a sandwich or on toast.

A half dozen Ruggelach

A half dozen Rugelach

Those of us who didn’t grow up with a Jewish bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother) may have missed out on Jewish cooking, but frequent visits to the Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery will make sure we make up for it. Now, there will be naysayers who declare Nosh falls short of their favorite New York or Los Angeles delis they’ve frequented for decades. Instead, we should all celebrate that Nosh has the chutzpah (Yiddish for boldness coupled with supreme self-confidence) to open a Jewish Deli in Albuquerque where transplants will ultimately make those comparisons.

Nosh Jewish Delicatessen & Bakery
116 Amherst, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 919-8022
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 16 December 2013
1st VISIT: 19 October 2013
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Amherst, Pastrami Sandwich, Matza Ball Soup, Chocolate Babka, Black & White Cookie, Bagel, Challah Bread, Club Sandwich, Noodle Kugel, Rugelach, Chocolate Egg Cream


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The Flying Star – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Flying Star on Albuquerque's burgeoning northwest side.

The Flying Star Cafe at the crossroads of Corrales, Albuquerque and Alameda

In the ancient Chinese art and science of Feng Shui, flying stars are used to assess the quality of the energy flow (qi) in a given place at a given time.  The positive and negative auras of a building are charted using precise mathematical formulas to determine the wealth, academic, career, success, relationships and health of a building’s inhabitant.  By understanding the course of harmful and beneficial flying stars, appropriate Feng Shui cures can be employed to mitigate the effects of those harmful stars while enhancing the positive effects of the beneficial stars.   

While owners Jean and Mark Bernstein may not have renamed their successful local restaurant chain for the Feng Shui principles of flying stars, there’s no denying the qi (energy flow) at Flying Star is  active, vibrant and positive.  It’s been that way from the very beginning, even before their restaurant was rechristened Flying Star (likely for its meteoric rise in popularity).

Mexican Latte and Chocolate Croissant

Mexican Latte and Chocolate Croissant

The Flying Star chain got its auspicious start in 1987 when the Bernsteins launched a high-energy restaurant named Double Rainbow in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill district.  A franchisee of a San Francisco ice cream store of the same name, Double Rainbow was an immediate hit.  It was renamed Flying Star in the millennial year when the restaurant struck out on its own.  A quarter-century later, it remains one of New Mexico’s most popular and successful independent restaurants.

The Flying Star is a ubiquitous presence–some would say institution–in the Duke City with seven locations situated seemingly not too far from every neighborhood.  Flying Star has also expanded to Bernalillo and Santa Fe. The burgeoning enterprise is the Duke City’s answer to Starbucks in the lucrative local coffee market, launching several Satellite Coffee shops throughout the city.  It seems the only area in which Flying Star has not been successful is in fulfilling the first part of its mission statement–”to fly below the radar of the larger chains and to cook where no one has cooked before.”  Flying Star is on everyone’s radar–restaurant chains, singles and families, blue- and white-collar workers, hipsters and nerds, doctors, lawyers and probably even a few Indian chiefs.

Morning Sundae: Organic vanilla yogurt, Fresh and dried fruits, Walnuts, House made granola     Honey

Morning Sundae: Organic vanilla yogurt,
Fresh and dried fruits, Walnuts, House made granola
Honey

From its onset,  Flying Star has been a welcome departure from the ubiquitous gobble-and-go fast food franchises.  It’s an inviting milieu, a haven from the mundane and a hangout for huddled masses.  It’s as unpretentious as restaurants of its high quality come with absolutely no tablecloths, reservations or waitstaff.  Over the years its menu has expanded from its core offerings of sandwiches, soups and salads to pastas, rice dishes, a variety of blue plates and regional specialties, serving food that’s “not fancy, but really delicious and plentiful.” The Flying Star’s bakery makes some of the best artisan bread in the city and its desserts continue to earn accolades a plenty. 

In 2008 Albuquerque The Magazine readers voted the Flying Star Albuquerque’s “Best Place to Overindulge,” indicative perhaps of the profuse portions American diners have come to expect.  Ironically, much of the feedback from readers who frequent the restaurant more frequently than I do has two themes: the Flying Star’s portions are increasingly parsimonious and its prices are increasing.  Two September, 2013 visits in three days certainly bore witness to the second contention–a burger which was nine dollars the last time I had it in 2009 is now nearly thirteen dollars.  I don’t visit the Flying Star often enough to validate the shrinking portion sizes, but had to smoosh the oversized burger down to be able to put it in my mouth.

Ranch Breakfast: Two Eggs,Home fries,  Bagel, Turkey green chile sausage patties

Ranch Breakfast

In September, 2002, Bon Appetit magazine named The Flying Star one of the “ten favorite places for breakfast in America.”  That’s an incredible honor considering the tens of thousands of restaurants across the fruited plain that serve breakfast.  Best of all, every item on the menu is available all day long.  You can have the Flying Star’s amazing French toast for dinner and you can have the rosemary chicken with couscous risotto for breakfast and the counter staff won’t look at you quizzically. It’s the best of both worlds, a perpetual brunch for diners who can’t decide what to have.

15 September 2013: Because of the menu’s “everything all day long” approach, you could easily plan to start off your morning wanting breakfast, but changing your mind as you peruse many options on display over the counter.  Any meal goes well with the Flying Star’s coffee which earned “best coffee or espresso” accolades from Alibi readers in 2009.  An invigorating option is the Mexican latte (Espresso, steamed milk, cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon) Grande-sized.  A little chile would make it even better.  The Mexican latte pairs very well with a chocolate croissant, made in-house.  It’s flaky, buttery deliciousness laced with dark chocolate.

The New Mexico Burger With French Fries

The New Mexico Burger With French Fries

15 September 2013:  If the Mexican latte doesn’t wake you up, perhaps the Morning Sundae will.  Served in a glass goblet, it’s a rejuvenating elixir served slightly chilled.  The goblet is brimming with organic vanilla yogurt, fresh and dried fruits, walnuts, house-made granola and honey.  It offers an amazing world of contrasts in flavor (sweet, sour, tangy) and texture (nutty crunchiness, chilled firmness of the fruit).  More importantly, it’s as delicious a yogurt dish as you’ll find in the Duke City. 

15 September 2013: The Ranch is a more conventional American breakfast offering with an optional New Mexico touch you’ve got to have.  That option is turkey green chile sausage patties, one of the very few proteins good enough for diners to eschew an excellent smoked bacon.  Green chile doesn’t just make a cameo appearance on the sausage.  It’s very prominent in the flavor profile of a sausage which would still be quite good without it.  The Ranch also includes two eggs prepared any way you want them as well as your choice of a bagel or whole grain toast and home fries.  The home fries would be exceptional were they not in need of desalinization.

The ABC Patty Melt

The Patty Melt with French Fries

13 September 2013: If you’re craving a moist and juicy green chile cheeseburger, the Flying Star’s New Mexico burger, served on an egg bun, is an excellent (albeit pricey at nearly $13) option. The green chile is only slightly piquant, but the accompanying red onion, lettuce and tomato are garden fresh and the melted Cheddar cheese tops a perfectly seasoned slab of hamburger to form an excellent rendition of New Mexico’s favorite burger. Meatatarians will also appreciate the ABC Patty Melt–”A” as in avocado, “B” as in smoked bacon and “C” as in Jack cheese all served on grilled rye. It’s a beautiful sandwich when ordered medium done with a pinkish hue that would be the envy of many a blushing bride.  In 2009, the ABC Patty Melt was accorded the city’s “best burger” honors by Albuquerque The Magazine readers.

Sandwiches and burgers come with your choice of French fries, homemade potato salad, coleslaw or a fresh fruit salad. For a mere pittance you can also substitute a little greens salad or soup. While the fries are actually pretty good (crispy on the outside and soft on the inside), a refreshing alternative is a unique coleslaw flecked with red and green peppers as well as red onion. It’s not overly sweet or creamy and its component parts are invariably fresh and crunchy. Most coleslaw in Albuquerque is boring, but not at the Flying Star.  If you’re having a burger or sandwich, make sure your meal also includes a chocolate shake. It’s served cold and thick with what doesn’t fit in the glass served to you in a steely vessel. The chocolate isn’t teeth-decaying sweet as so many chocolate shakes tend to be.

The Miami Shrimp Stack

The Miami Shrimp Stack

The Flying Star’s menu provides food raised with a conscience.   The Bernstein were among the first Duke City restaurateurs to establish relationships with producers and growers of sustainable and humanely farmed meats, dairy and eggs. Burgers are crafted with 100% fresh and drug-free beef raised by seven New Mexican ranches while the chicken is cage-free, veg-fed and drug-free. Health conscious diners will appreciate the wide variety of inventive fresh salads; the menu showcases 45 freshly cut vegetables and fruits. All dressings are even made from scratch in the restaurant’s kitchen: Ranch, Bleu Cheese, Caesar, Spicy Sesame or House Vinaigrette.

One of my favorite salads anywhere is the Miami Shrimp Stack (no longer on the menu), a timbale of seasoned shrimp, black beans and fresh avocado chunks drizzled with Ancho BBQ sauce. This salad is served with freshly made blue corn tortilla chips and a crunchy little salad (cucumber, carrots, jicama and green onion). Its pretty as a picture plating resembles an expensive fusion dish and the high quality of ingredients belie the price (under ten dollars). Despite the seemingly disparate ingredients, flavors coalesce to create a happy harmony on your taste buds.  Hopefully the Flying Star will someday resurrect this happiness generating salad.

Papas Got a Brand New Mac

The Flying Star’s inventiveness is often best expressed in taking comfort food favorites and giving them a personality, an unconventional twist.  Sometimes this creativity works and sometimes it doesn’t.  When the latter occurs, it actually comes as a surprise. Such was the case when the restaurant’s Mac & Cheese, a 2008 “best in the city” honoree by Albuquerque The Magazine readers “morphed” into “Papa’s Gotta Brand New Mac”   The Papa dish was more of the same…with a twist. That would be the addition of sauteed crimini mushrooms, green onions and crispy chicken breast to the Curly Q cavatappi and creamy cheese sauce. The highlight of this macaroni and cheese is resoundingly the crispy chicken breast which is tender and delicious. The low point is letting Velveeta anywhere near the dish.  

15 September 2013:  One of the more interesting menu items to hit the Flying Star menu in quite a while is a risotto not made with arborio rice, but with couscous, a coarsely ground semolina paste.  Somewhat similar to rice in color, texture and shape, couscous is often used in dishes just as rice would be.  Despite being more filling than rice, it’s actually a bit lighter and more airy.  By itself couscous is a bit on the boring side, but the Flying Star prepares it with an herbed, grilled chicken breast, asparagus, fresh peas and feta crumbles with plenty of rosemary.  It’s an excellent entree with more creaminess and flavor diversity than you might expect.

Rosemary chicken with couscous risotto

Rosemary chicken with couscous risotto

As the Double Rainbo, this powerhouse restaurant was named in Southwest Airlines’ Spirit magazine as one of the best places in their routes for the most important meal of the day–dessert. The dessert offerings are lavish indeed, including the ice cream which is sinfully rich and creamy. In its Food and Wine issue (May 2007), Albuquerque The Magazine (ATM) accorded a “Hot Plate” award to the restaurant’s Raspberry Blackout, a decadent dessert worthy of adulation. A display case showcases some of the best looking desserts you’ll see anywhere. They’re so “pretty as a picture” perfect you might think they’re wax imitations of the real thing. Thankfully they don’t taste waxy. 

Singling out one dessert at Flying Star is akin to singling out a single star from a Northern New Mexico night sky. It’s a daunting task sure to invite deliciously contentious debate. One choice, especially on a hot summer day is the turtle sundae, among the best anywhere.  Perpetually on display under glass are some of the most mouth-watering baked desserts, baked fresh daily in the old-fashioned, hand-crafted manner of yore.  The Flying Star is one of New Mexico’s most lauded and lionized artisinal bakers.  Some of its decadent desserts are works of art in the form of irresistible post-prandial deliciousness.

One of the Flying Star’s decadent desserts

You can almost imagine Mary Ann in her tight, skimpy shorts serving you the coconut cream pie, which like the one served on Gilligan’s Island isn’t overpoweringly sweet as some of its genre tend to be. The caramel apple pie topped with sumptuous vanilla ice cream is “mom worthy.” Still, my vote might go to a gigantic wedge of bread pudding cake, served with a luscious caramel sauce. The adjective decadent has nothing on this oh so rich dessert. It’s so rich you’ll have to share it with a dining companion.

Being the proud “dad” of the two most beautiful dachshunds ever conceived, I also appreciate the Flying Star Cafe’s commitment to our four-legged children who sometimes eat from the floor. The restaurant is helping the Animal Humane Association of New Mexico build a low-cost or free medical treatment center for pets. The center will help families who can’t afford to provide even basic medical care for their beloved pets. How can you not love this altruism?

Chocolate shake

Chocolate Shake

As one of Albuquerque’s very favorite fun places to dine, Duke City diners agree the Flying Star really is in orbit around the city with its seven palate-pleasing restaurants.

The Flying Star
3416 Central, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 255-6633

LATEST VISIT: 13 September 2013
# OF VISITS: 15
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Turtle Sundae, Machacado, Baked Bread, New Mexico Burger, Coleslaw, Raspberry Blackout, Bread Pudding, ABC Patty Melt, Miami Shrimp Stack, Morning Sundae, Mexican Latte, Ranch Breakfast, Rosemary Chicken With Couscous Risotto


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