Taco Fundación – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Taco Fundación in Santa Fe

Consider it sacrilege if you will, but some pundits believe the taco is poised to become the most ubiquitous and popular dish in the fruited plain. One such heretic is eater.com’s Nick Solares who made the audacious prediction that the taco will replace the hamburger as the American national dish within fifty years. He makes a great case for his conjecture, citing such factors as the rising Hispanic immigrant population, America’s hipster culture, and people in general embracing the taco as a budget alternative to American fast foods. New York City-based chef Alex Stupak is similarly inclined. In recent years, he points out that largely because of the rising cost of beef, chicken has supplanted it as the most consumed protein in America and he believes pork is poised to make a run at beef, too.

Tacos have a way to go before catching up with burgers…a long way.  According to a 2012 PBS Newshour feature, Americans eat an average of three hamburgers a week.  That’s a whopping total of nearly 50-billion burgers per year.  By comparison, that same year Americans consumed 4.5 billion tacos, inexplicably including 554-million Jack in the Box tacos (a taco described by one source as a “wet envelope of cat food).   When it comes to availability and diversity, the City of Angels is peerless.  In Los Angeles, there are 5,575 places to buy tacos which means you can eat tacos three times a day and never visit the same place for five years.  You want diversity?  Los Angeles is the birthplace of the Korean taco, an exemplar of which you can enjoy at Albuquerque’s Soo Bak Foods.

The Fun-Loving Crew at Taco Fundación

As much as denizens of the Duke City may believe we’re prolific consumers of tacos, one scientific analysis ranked Albuquerque 38th in a listing of “America’s most/least taco-crazed cities.” From among the 50 largest cities across the fruited plain, five Texas cities–Arlington, Fort Worth, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio in that order–ranked one through five and Houston ranked ninth. Even El Paso ranked above Albuquerque, finishing fifteenth.  For those of us who don’t believe New Mexico should rank behind Texas in anything, that’s pretty hard to take.

Do these scientific findings mean La Tierra Encantada can’t prepare tacos encantados?  Hardly!  My friend Schuyler, a proud New Mexican temporarily exiled in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, will tell you that New Mexicans spread their love among the multitude of outstanding foods available across our enchanted state.  We’re not as taco-crazed as other states (especially Texas) in which no other foods warrant affection.  He tells me two purveyors of tacos–El Cotorro and B2B Tap Room-— recently showcased on Gil’s Thrilling… are probably better than any tacos you’ll find in the Lone Star state.

Al Pastor

Texans and New Mexicans alike will go crazy for Santa Fe’s Taco Fundacion which opened its doors in late April, 2017. Taco Fundacion sits in the revered Guadalupe Street location which for 61 years housed Bert’s Burger Bowl, a capital city institution. Scant months after the Burger Bowl’s closure (on April 29, 2015, a day which will live in infamy) restaurant impresario Brian Knox announced he would be launching a taco restaurant at that former home of hallowed hamburgers. It took almost exactly two years for his plans to reach fruition.

For nearly three decades, the name Brian Knox was synonymous in Santa Fe with fine-dining, having earned his stripes in such highly regarded restaurants as Escalera and the Coyote Cafe. He also owned and operated Aqua Santa, a contemporary American restaurant which helped pioneer the city’s slow-food movement. Wanting for several years to make high-quality burgers widely accessible and affordable in a fun and welcoming venue, he launched The Shake Foundation in 2014. Now, Knox hopes to duplicate his success with the Shake Foundation by offering “classic” tacos constructed with organic ingredients.

Oyster

From all outward appearances, not much has changed at the familiar site—not even a fresh coat of stucco. That’s certainly a nostalgic boon. As with Bert’s (and the Shake Foundation), you’ll walk up to a counter, scan the overhead menu and place your order then wait to be called. Once your order is ready, you can pick up napkins and douse your tacos with bottled pepper and tomatillo sauce (not that they’re needed at all). Alas, your only seating options are shielded outdoor patios—or your motorized conveyance. Expect the Taco Fundacion to do a booming take-out business.

As of our inaugural visit in August, 2017, the Taco Fundacion was one shy of a dozen different tacos including three vegetarian (verduras) tacos and three with seafood (oyster, shrimp and fish).  Other than tacos, the menu offers salsa and chips, a side of Moriarty pinto beans and guacamole.  You can quench your thirst with Mexican Coke and Jaritos brand beverages.  Perhaps a portend of more deliciousness to come, the marquee in front of the restaurant also reads “burritos” and “bowls,” though the fun-loving guys at the counter didn’t have any details.

Bison

For my Kim, the taco most appealing is always al pastor (roasted marinated pork, pineapple, onion and cilantro), the famous tacos in the style of the shepherd.  Believed to have developed in Mexico because of the influence of Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, tacos al pastor offer a balance of savory, sweet and tangy flavors.  Unlike on some Hawaiian pizzas, pineapple is much more judiciously used so that its tanginess is more hinted at than a dominant flavor.  Two corn tortillas per taco provide a nice savory, intensely corn-flavored contrast to the marinated pork.

Since its launch, one of my favorite offerings at the Shake Foundation has been the fried oyster sandwich with red chile mayo so it stands to reason the Taco Fundacion’s oyster taco (chipotle mayo and cabbage) would also strike my fancy.  It did.  There are never enough oysters to sate this oyster-lover, but what oysters there were, were quite good.  The chipotle mayo packs a barely discernible kick which means it doesn’t take anything away from the unique flavor profile of the oysters.

Chicken Mole

Bison meat is similar to beef, but those of us with discerning palates believe it has a slightly different flavor and texture. It also has more health benefits than beef: lower fat, more lean, low in cholesterol, and high in protein.  At Taco Fundacion you need to know is that it makes a delicious filling for a taco.  The bison taco (creamed corn, Oaxaca cheese, avocado crema) stands out as much for the bison as for the sweet corn niblets and an addictive avocado crema. 

The one taco we found most boring is the chicken mole taco (crema and sesame seeds) which lacked the complexity of flavors and punch of true Mexican moles.  Moreover, it was more than a bit dry.  A much better version can be found at Albuquerque’s Taqueria El Paisa.

In Santa Fe, tacos have already replaced burgers–at least in one location.  Whether or not the popularity of tacos supplanting that of burgers will ever transpire remains to be seen, but if they do you can credit great taquerias such as the Taco Fundacion for leading that charge.

Taco Fundación
235 North Guadalupe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 982-8286
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 11 August 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Al Pastor, Chicken Mole, Oyster, Bison

Taco Fundacion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gabriel’s – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Entrance to Gabriel’s

Located fifteen miles north of Santa Fe, just south of Pojoaque and within minutes of two garish native American casinos, Gabriel’s is a culinary oasis back-dropped by nearby cedar, cottonwood and pine tree-laden hills and the Santa Fe mountains further to the southeast.  Gabriel’s entrance is flanked by unpeeled latillas, a “coyote fence” precursor to one of the best restaurant settings in the Santa Fe area.  In the early spring and fall, weather permitting, the sprawling dining room and its Spanish colonial theme are often rebuffed in favor of an outdoor dining experience. 

For al fresco dining, there are few options to compare with Gabriel’s, a restaurant perhaps more renowned for its experiential qualities than it is for its cuisine.  You won’t read a single review from a credentialed critic which doesn’t sing the praises of the restaurant’s ambiance.  You will, however, read scathing indictments of Gabriel’s cuisine.  Alex Heard of the Santa Fe New Mexican, for example, was brutally honest in his assessment: “my takeaway has been that it serves average food and not much more, closer to chain-restaurant quality than what you’re promised in its advertisements.”

Al Fresco Dining at Gabriel’s

England’s The Guardian, on the other hand, put Gabriel’s on its list of the “top ten restaurants and cafes in Santa Fe.”  That assessment was made by a Denver-based travel journalist who regularly visits family in Santa Fe.  None of the locals with whom I’ve discussed Gabriel’s share the writer’s opinion though all of them rave about the capacious patio and the pine scented air.   Most concede that the margaritas are quite good and that the combination of several margaritas and the fresh, salubrious air somehow improves the food. 

Gabriel’s purports to serve the foods of the great Southwest and of Old Mexico.  The restaurant’s Web site describes it as “an  authentic mix of modern and classic Mexican and Southwestern dishes and seasonal specials,” also indicating that “The personal attention to service and food is what makes Gabriel’s special:a place where little touches enhance your whole dining experience.”  Indeed, the predominantly Mexican wait staff, attired in black trousers and white shirts, is unfailingly polite and formal if not always there when you need a refill.

The Dog Friendly Patio

Gabriel’s has three distinct menus: lunch, brunch and dinner with the latter offering the most options from among the three.  Aperitivos (appetizers) include a number of fairly standard options along with some unique offerings such as crab taquitos, bbq skewer and vegetarian quesadillas.  Six vegetarian entrees, all of which will appeal to the omnivores among us, are available as are soups and salads.  Other sections of the menu are titled A La Mexicana, Southwest Platters, Combinaciones, Mesquite Grill Platters, Sizzling Fajitas and Desserts.  The menu indicates  Gabriel’s uses free-range chicken, all chiles are mesquite roasted and cooking oil is high grade cholesterol-free. 

Very popular is the pricey thrill of having your server prepare guacamole at your table.  If you’re counting your pennies, the Guacamole Especial is an eleven-dollar plus thrill you might want to do without even though the guacamole is a real treat–meaty ripe avocados, fresh lime, cilantro, minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, salt and jalapeño mashed to a creamy consistency on a molcajete before your very eyes.  Two entire avocados are used.  Though fresh and creamy, the guacamole could use just a bit more jalapeño and lime, the two ingredients which really give guacamole its personality and without which, guacamole would just be mashed avocados.

One of two Interior dining rooms

The flavorful and piquant jalapeno based salsa is served in a generous faux molcajete (unfortunately, bureaucrats decided the authentic molcajete made from lava rock pose health risks) with plenty of lightly salted chips boasting of a pronounced corn flavor.  The salsa packs plenty of cilantro and garlic, but it’s the jalapenos that will impress themselves upon your taste buds.  Friends swear they were unable to taste anything else after having their taste buds seared by salsa they considered “too good to stop eating” delicious, but tongue-scorching. 

Chips and Salsa

5 August 2017: The Combinacione appetizer plate is a popular starter option, one which offers variety and an opportunity to sample a diverse range of dishes for two: nachos, quesadillas, taquitos and of course, Gabriel’s famous guacamole.  The nachos are covered in a “ranchero sauce” and melted cheese along with chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, scallions and sliced (though somewhat anemic) jalapeños.   The cheese quesadillas are indeed melty and cheesy on housemade flour tortillas, but don’t have much personality unless you top them with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.  If the blue-corn tortilla taquitos were stuffed, it was in such a chintzy amount that neither of us were able to discern much.

Combinacione

5 August 2017: From the Southwest Platters section of the menu, you’ll find such regional favorites as San Diego fish tacos, Arizona chimichanga, rellenos de Santa Fe, Taos combination and Lone Star ribs.  The latter are wholly unlike any ribs we’ve ever had in the Lone Star state.  Described on the menu as “fresh baby-back ribs baked until tender and then mesquite-smoked and basted with our own barbecue sauce,” the ribs are absolutely fall-off-the-bone tender, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.  The best ribs have just a little “give” to them.  These baby back ribs also don’t have the low-and-slow smokiness that characterizes competition-worthy ribs.  It’s pretty obvious that they’ve been baked, likely after being slathered with the “special” sauce and perhaps a rub.  The sauce is very much on the sweet side with hints of citrus.  Served on the side is a bowl of whole charro beans and French fry logs, both of which are rather unremarkable.

Lone Star Ribs

5 August 2017: Another Texas treat, tender skirt steak fajitas arrive sizzling at your table after leaving a steamy trail which invariably draws the eyes and nostrils of all other patrons.  Supplementing the thinly sliced  marinated skirt steak are a pico de gallo as colorful (with red, green and yellow peppers and sweet white onions) as it is delicious; more of the unctuous guacamole and lime slices.  My Kim asked for an extra helping of grilled red and white onions–grilled not to the point of caramelization, but to a crispy, fresh consistency.  If mariscos are more to your liking, seafood fajitas (tender scallops, tiger prawns and red snapper) are also available and equally delicious.  Both corn and flour tortillas are made on the premises and are first-rate.

Beef Fajitas

5 August 2017: A few days before starting my freshman year at Peñasco High School, my friends and I each devoured about a half-dozen or so corns-on-the-cob picked from our garden and grilled on my mom’s antique stove.  It preceded a very painful ruptured appendix.  Though an avaricious appetite for grilled corn was hardly the cause of my burst appendix, I didn’t eat grille corn for years.  Gabriel’s elotes, a grilled corn  topped with a chipotle mayo and queso blanco, reminded me of how good roasted corn can be.  It also reminded me that roasting corn with friends is a great way to pass the time.

Elote

5 August 2017: For dessert, there are three options: flan, banana Vallarta and a tres leches cake you’ll be besotted by.  Topped by a chocolate frosting, it’s one of the most moist and rich tres leches cakes we’ve had.  Press your fork into it and the three milks from which it is made ooze out.  My Kim said she’d drive the 75 miles from Albuquerque just for a slice.

Tres Leches Cake

The Gabriel’s experience is memorable even if not all your meal may be.  You may visit for the food, but you’ll stay–and you’ll return–for the views and that enrapturing piñon scented ambiance.

Gabriel’s
U.S. 285/84
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 455-7000
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 5 August 2017
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 17
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Guacamole, Salsa, Tres Leches Cake

Gabriel's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

B2B Tap Room – Albuquerque, New Mexico

B2B Tap Room: Brewers to Beers

I’m a uniter, not a divider.
~ George W. Bush, Governor of the Great State of Texas
No one wants to listen to politicians, but everyone wants to eat tacos. Tacos are the great uniter.”
~ John Fetterman, Candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania

Ideologically and politically, denizens of the land of the free and home of the brave seem incapable of agreeing on virtually anything, but turn the topic to tacos and there’s almost consensus. Americans love tacos! We love them to the depth and breadth and height our appetites can reach…and our appetites can reach bottomless depths, expansive breadths, dizzying heights and tremendous distances.  In 2012, we loved tacos to the tune of 4.5 billion tacos consumed across the fruited plain. That’s the equivalent weight in tacos of two Empire State Buildings (775-million pounds). Our appetites surmounted the equivalent of 490,000 miles of tacos, enough–as Frank Sinatra might croon–to fly you to the moon and back.

No one, it seems, loves tacos more than professional gurgitator (scientific word for “power-eater”) Joey Chestnut, who in May, 2017, set a new taco eating world record by downing 126 tacos in eight minutes. His nearest competitor was only able to polish off a mere 103 tacos (the wimp!). Chestnut, whom you might recognize as the nine-time winner of Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest in Coney Island, also holds records for having consumed 54 brain tacos, 30 fish tacos and perhaps most impressively, 53 soft beef tacos from Taco Bell (most people I know won’t admit to choking down even one).

Basic Taco Construction Recipe on the Wall

We love tacos every day of the week, but more so on Tuesday. The Moody Blues, a British rock band, even wrote a song in which they extolled the “beauty of Taco Tuesday afternoon.” Okay, okay, maybe the song didn’t mention tacos, but what else (other than the fact that it’s not Monday) could make Tuesday so beautiful? There’s even a holiday, albeit with no corresponding paid time off, dedicated to tacos. National Taco Day falls on October 4th each year. In 2016, National Taco Day fell on Tuesday as if we needed more reasons to love and eat tacos.

Other than Joey Chestnut, perhaps no one loves tacos more than New Mexicans. In the July, 2017 edition of New Mexico Magazine, the Land of Enchantment’s scintillating four-time James Beard Award winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison penned a feature entitled “Tacos, New Mexican Style.” The feature explored “how a quintessentially Mexican street food jumped the border and gained official red-or-green cred.” Cheryl debunked the myth that Taco Bell invented the hard-shelled taco, recounting that in a 1949 cookbook entitled The Good Life, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert “was the first to include a recipe that featured crispy hard-shell tacos.”

Tequila Lime Guacamole, Blue Corn Chips and Pineapple Pico De Gallo

Until rather recently, independent mom-and-pop restaurants specializing in tacos—or at least including tacos on their marquees–were few and far between across the Duke City. More often than not, tacos were just one item listed in compendium-like menus at Mexican and New Mexican restaurants. Today, several eateries include the term “taco” or “taqueria” on their marquees, among them: Casa Taco, El Taco Tote, Tacos Mex Y Mariscos, Taqueria El Paisa, Zacatecas Tacos & Tequila, Taco Sal and Taco Shel.  In its Fall Food and Wine Issue for 2016, Albuquerque The Magazine (ATM) indicated Albuquerque has “nearly 170 restaurants that create and serve some of the tastiest tacos of every ilk–from New Mexican to gourmet; seafood to veggie.”

These are not your mama’s tacos! These are tacos the likes of which Margaret C de Baca Martinez (author of the first New Mexican cookbook which referred to tacos) would not recognize. When it comes to today’s tacos, it’s catch-as-catch-can. There are no limits to the diversity and inventiveness of the ubiquitous taco. In January, 2016, a new player in the burgeoning taco market entered the fray, poised to enrapt Duke City diners and imbibers with its own take on gourmet tacos. Owned and operated by the same team which brought us B2B (Burgers to Beer) Bistronomy in Nob Hill, the B2B (Brewers to Beers) Tap Room in the chain-riddled Uptown area, has the pedigree to succeed.

Fried Chicharrones with Cilantro Crema and Ranchero Sauce

With tacos constructed from New Mexico sourced products–beef from Farm Fresh, pork products from Talus Wind Ranch, and even the blue, red and yellow corn (used to prepare hand-made tortillas) from Sunny State Products of San Jon–the B2B Tap Room has earned the right to use the tagline “New Mexico True.” New Mexico True holds true for its beers, too–54 taps, all from local breweries. Your  heart may not swell with state pride when you set foot in the 1,600-foot restaurant, but you should take comfort that the menu promises tacos which are “localicious, tacolicious and delicious.”

The menu lists only two starters–blue corn tortilla chips with your choice of guacamole or salsa and fried chicharrones with cilantro, lime, crema and ranchero sauce.  There are ten tacos on the menu constructed with some sort of protein: fresca chicken, braised mole, braised pork carnitas, red chile adovada, house-made chorizo, fried tilapia, sauteed shrimp, lamb barbacoa, beer-braised short rib and steak mojo de ajo.  Three vegetarian tacos–chile relleno, squash blossom and nopales–also grace the menu.  You’ll wish you had half of Joey’s Chestnut’s appetite so you could eat more than the handful most of us can eat in one seating.

Three Vegetarian Tacos: Squash Blossoms, Nopales and Chile Relleno

The tequila lime guacamole is thick and obviously made with fresh avocados, but like most guacamole in Albuquerque would benefit from a bit of salsa to cut the richness of the “alligator pear.”  We didn’t discern much tequila, but did notice the citrusy tang of the lime sneaking through every once in a while.  The pineapple pico de gallo is terrific, a sweet-savory blend that pairs red and white onions with small pineapple chunks.  If we could offer just one criticism, it’s that both the guacamole and salsa are served in tiny plastic cups about the size of medicine cups in which pills are dispensed.  Not only is it difficult to extricate salsa from such a tiny cup, you can fit only so much salsa in such a small vessel.  Other salsa options on the menu are green chile tomatillo, habanero salsa, salsa de arbol and pico de gallo.

The term “chicharrones” has different connotations, all based on where you’re from.  In New Mexico, chicharrones are almost universally deep-fried pork cracklings.  Occasionally and in Texas, you’ll find restaurants serving something labeled “chicharrones” but which New Mexicans might call “cueritos” (a tripe-like pork strips marinated in vinegar).  You’ll also see pork rinds (puffy, crispy fried skin) called chicharrones.  The third type is what is served as an appetizer at the Tap House.  A cilantro-lime crema and ranchero sauce is drizzled on top of the pork rinds.  As pork rinds go, these are pretty good, but if you’re craving New Mexican style chicharrones, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

Chile Relleno Taco and Braised Mole Taco

Consider it heretical if you will, but we found the vegetarian tacos–Squash Blossoms, Nopales and Chile Relleno–even tastier than the meat-based tacos.  All tacos are served with pickled carrots, onions, jicama and radishes.  Of the three vegetarian offerings, the chile relleno taco has the most piquancy and it’s the only vegetarian taco which also includes corn niblets.   Squash blossoms, the edible flowers of the squash plant, make a wonderful taco filling.  Even fried, they’re soft and delicate with a flavor reminiscent of squash itself.  Noptalitos (prickly pear cactus pads cut into slivers) impart a tangy-sour flavor.  The blue corn tortillas, made fresh daily, are not only delicious, but good for you.

The braised chicken mole taco (Cotija cheese, roasted corn, frizzled garlic) is terrific.  The mole has the type of complexity indicative of a lengthy preparation process while the chicken is tender and shredded.  The mole is sweet, spicy and bright.  It makes the other ingredients sing.  One word of advice–don’t squeeze any lime onto this taco.  The tangy citrus of even a little lime tends to obfuscate some of the other flavor notes of the mole. 

Life would be just a bit more pleasant and certainly much more delicious if we all lived every day as if it was Taco Tuesday.  Now Taco Tuesday–that’s something we can all agree on.

B2B Taproom
2201 Louisiana, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 508-4406
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT:
1st VISIT: 13 June 2017
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chile Relleno Taco, Lamb Barbacoa Taco, Squash Blossoms Taco, Nopales Taco

B2B Taproom Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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