Tap That – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tap That

In my review of the Corrales Bistro Brewery, you were introduced to “Le Cochon,” a self-professed God’s gift to women, lady killer, playboy, seducer, Lothario and otherwise philanderer nonpareil. To my knowledge, Le Cochon is still plying his cheesy pick-up lines on women and getting his face slapped a plenty in the Boston area.  He would undoubtedly giggle like the school girls of his dreams at the Albuquerque taproom named “Tap That” which dispenses libations by the ounce.  In its original context, the term “tap that” simply meant putting a spigot on a keg of beer or ale so that its contents can be drawn out. As with so many seemingly innocuous terms, chauvinists like Le Cochon have made “tap that” subject to double entendre (open to two interpretations, one of which is risqué or indecent). Cerevisaphiles understanding the intended connotation of the term probably won’t giggle, but they’ll get just as excited at the prospect of tapping into a keg or six.

Shortly after finding a vacant table in the dog-friendly patio at the back of Tap That, an eager server began very enthusiastically to explain the taproom’s unique-to-Albuquerque concept.  There was so much elan in his delivery that we couldn’t bring ourselves to interrupt and let him know that we don’t imbibe adult beverages when driving.  When we mentioned we had heard great things about the food menu, his enthusiasm renewed.  “The food here is great,” he assured us, recommending several items.  One item of which we couldn’t partake was the smoked pork ribs slated to be the evening special.  A light breeze ensured, however, we’d be enveloped in a mouth-watering smoky haze.

Bulgogi

Solely in the interest of public service, let me explain Tap That’s concept.  Essentially, Tap That sells beer, cider, nitro tea or nitro coffee by the ounce up to a three beer limit.  Your consumption is monitored electronically (yes, there’s an app for that).  To open a tab, you present your ID and credit card and are issued a bracelet that has a limit on how many ounces you can be served.  A wall of some 36 offerings on tap, including local craft beers and specialty beers, awaits you.  Simply find the tap you want and tap your bracelet on a tablet tied to the tap (not since Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven have there been as many taps in one sentence).  When it lights up green, give your glass to the bartender and let him or her know how much you want them to pour.  You’ll be charged based on the number of ounces.

Tap That is located in the same strip mall which houses South Bourbon Kitchen, Curry Leaf and soon Sweet Tooth, which will ostensibly sate our cravings for the sweeter things in life.  If you haven’t been to the area in a while, you’ll be impressed at how the entire retail center has metamorphosed.  It’s become a dining destination or more aptly, a restaurant row in which diverse eateries hold court.  Tap That’s menu is a melange of Asian fusion items, burgers, sandwiches and American fare.  The menu isn’t a multi-page affair, but it does offer a number of interesting and creative options.  There are three section on the menu: Starter, Lighter Side and Burgers, Sandwiches & More.

Fried Avocado

A predilection for potatoes was the first thing we noticed about the menu.  Perhaps Tap That realizes that salty, starchy potatoes will inspire thirst and thus the consumption of more ounces.  Seriously, there are so many potato items on the menu, we thought we were in Idaho.  First on the Starter menu is a “tray o’ fries,” one pound of freshly cut potatoes fried and served with your choice of toppings (four options).  Even one of the salads demonstrates the potential of the potato as a “lighter side” option.  Fries or house chips (outstanding!) come with every burger and sandwich option.

French fry fanatics craving something just a little different would be wise to order the Tray O’ Fries with Bulgogi, a France (or Belgium to be historically accurate) meets Korea surprise. Bulgogi is Korea’s signature dish, one Americans refer to as Korean barbecue. What could possibly go better with barbecue of any kind than a mountain of fries? Seriously, a pound of fries is intimidating. As if a pound of fries isn’t daunting enough, they’re topped with strips of local rib eye which have been marinated in a sweet sauce for 24 hours then sautéed and topped with chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds. The only thing missing is a sizzling hibachi which would have caramelized some of the beef strips. You’ll be ferrying home a doggy bag.

Bacon & Potato Salad

You’ve got to appreciate a chef who realizes the potential of the avocado, who recognizes that you can do so much more with it than make guacamole. We’ve long believed Santa Fe’s El Farol had shown the most creativity in exploiting the avocado’s potential. Tap That tops that! Picture a fried avocado half placed on a bed of chimichurri slaw topped with fresh pico de gallo, Cojita cheese, bulls blood microgreens and a drizzle of spicy chipotle ranch. There’s a lot going on in this starter with explosions of flavor from the pairing of ingredients we hadn’t thought would go together. The unctuous, buttery avocado has a built-in cooling effect that tempers the heat of the pico de gallo and spicy chipotle ranch. Texturally the chimichurri slaw provides a delightful contrast to the avocado’s softness. Cojita cheese, of course, improves everything it touches.

It’s a bit ironic to find a bacon and potato salad (fresh Arcadian lettuce topped with apple wood bacon, seared fingerling potatoes, sliced eggs, Stilton blue cheese and toasted walnuts tossed in a light Dijon vinaigrette) on a “lighter side” menu…and because we were inclined to believe such a salad would be too light, we asked for the optional four-ounces of steak. Arcadian lettuce is actually a mix of four lettuce varieties of different textures and colors. It makes an excellent canvas for the other ingredients and because all the lettuces are rather mild, it doesn’t steal their thunder either. That’s the job of the Stilton, a creamy, rich blue cheese with a pungent aftertaste. It’s not as sharp as Roquefort, but turophiles love it. There are only about four fingerlings strewn about on the salad. Rather than eat them with other ingredients, we plucked them off and enjoyed them by themselves.

Green Gouda Goo with Chips

The first two burger options on the menu are aptly named. If you have a monstrous appetite, go for the Green Monster, twelve ounces of New Mexico beef served in six-ounce patties. For lighter fare, try the Green Gouda Goo, a six ounce patty with your choice of cheese and green chile stacked on a toasted potato (what else) bun with Boston bib lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle. My sole complaint—and because we’re in New Mexico, it’s a big one—is about the insipid green chile which had no heat. All other elements of the burger were fine, but without a modicum of heat, chile is just pretty green colored fruit. If you’re tired of fries by now (and even if you’re not), you’ve got to ask for chips instead of fries. The house-made barbecue chips are easily the best in Albuquerque (excluding Jay’s served at the AK Deli and which are actually made in Chicago)!

Tap that may be a haven for serious cerevisaphiles, but bona fide foodies will find much to like in a small, but interesting menu showcasing several inventive options…and lots of potatoes.

Tap That
6910 Montgomery, N.E., Suite E
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 433-3931
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 7 April 2018
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Green Gouda Goo, Bacon & Potato Salad, Bulgogi, Fried Avocado
REVIEW #1036

Tap That Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Desert Valley Brewing – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Desert Valley Brewing on Ellison in Albuquerque’s Burgeoning West Side

Every time a new brewery launches in the Duke City,  aficionados of quaffing ales, lagers and stouts celebrate another venue where they can slake their thirsts. The media, on the other hand, always seems to ask one question: “Is Albuquerque approaching a “saturation point?,” meaning can the market sustain another brewery. Cerevisaphiles will tell you this is just an alarmist “sky is falling” media seeing the (beer) glass overfull and creating yet another sensational headline.  In any event, the answer seems to be a resounding no.  In that respect, Duke City brewing trends mirror those of other cities throughout the fruited plain.

There are more craft breweries operating today than at any point in the fruited plain’s glorious history–about a thousand more than the previous all-time high set in the mid-1870s.  Within a decade after the Civil War there were some 4,000 breweries operating in America, serving a population of plus-or-minus 45-million.  That’s an astounding one brewery for roughly 11,000 people.  With 5,000 breweries operating across the fruited plain as of the end of 2016, the number of breweries as a proportion of the population is one brewery per 65,000 people based on a population of 325-million.  If the same number of breweries per capita matched that of the mid-1870s, there would be nearly 30,000 breweries across the United States.  So, yes, there’s room to grow.

Waffle Nachos

In 2015, the state’s breweries produced nearly 70,000 barrels of beer, an increase of more than 10,000 barrels over the preceding two-year period.  As of September, 2016, the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department counted 67 breweries in the Land of Enchantment.  That seems to indicate the state’s brewery industry is performing well with no surcease in sight.  Even those of us who don’t imbibe adult beverages find something to like about purveyors of pilsners.  A Yelp search indicates there are fifteen pages (at ten listings per page) of brewery-restaurants in the metropolitan Duke City area.  Even more impressive is the number of brewery-restaurants rated four stars or higher.  Perform a yelp search for “new restaurants” and invariably, a large number of new restaurants listed will be brewery-restaurants.

September, 2017 saw the launch of Desert Valley Brewing, a brewery-restaurant on Albuquerque’s burgeoning west side.  Desert Valley occupies the southwest corner of the familiar edifice which previously housed such short-lived ventures as Quarters BBQ, Stumbling Steer and Vernon’s Open Door.  (Is it just my imagination or does Desert Valley resemble UNM’s famous Pit…er, Dreamstyle arena?)  The northwest corner of the sprawling complex is home to Matanza New Mexico Local Craft Beer Kitchen which showcases more than 100 New Mexico only beers and wines.  For aficionados of adult beverages, visiting this area is akin to a shopping center for their favorite beers.  Duke City diners will also find much to love at both venues.

Granola Parfait

Seating options include a capacious dog-friendly patio with plentiful shade for those sultry summer days and an interior space with a long bar and televisions tuned to sporting events.  Our inaugural visit was on an early Saturday afternoon when brunch was featured fare.  We had hoped to partake of the more intriguing lunch-dinner menu with such tempting teases as green chile meatloaf and carne adovada nachos (alas made with cumin).  The kitchen is helmed by Chef Dakota McCarthy, a graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale Arizona.  The brunch menu is replete with mostly calorific “breakfasty” items served in portions large enough to sustain some of us for an entire day.

Watching platters of food destined for other tables convinced us this brunch wouldn’t be our usual two entree, one appetizer and maybe a dessert experience.  No, we would have to share everything (not that we don’t already do that).  Our appetizer, the waffle breakfast nachos (waffle pieces, tortilla chips, bacon, sausage, black beans, avocado, cherry tomatoes, scallions, Cheddar and Jack cheese, three eggs cooked your way) served with salsa and sour cream) validated our approach.  Perhaps indicative of the brewery-restaurant’s newness, our server forgot the salsa, sour cream and syrup for the waffles.  They’re an important component of this mammoth platter.  Without the syrup, you’ll find yourself extricating the waffle triangles and wishing they were slathered in sweet syrup.  Make sure you order your eggs over easy so the lovely yellow oak can coalesce with everything else on this “but the kitchen sink” appetizer.

Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter

My Kim certified the Granola Parfait as the best she’s ever had in Albuquerque (though in my estimation, The Shop is nonpareil in the granola department).  Served in a large goblet, this parfait showcases a house-made brewer’s granola, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and berries.  The Greek yogurt is uncharacteristically (but very much welcome) sweet, a nice foil for the sweet-tart berries which burst with flavor when you bite into them.  The brewer’s granola is superb mixture of rolled oats, nuts and honey which crunches nicely when you bite into it. 

The menu offers an inviting chorizo biscuits and gravy entree (probably large enough for a family of five), but all we could manage was an order of buttermilk biscuits with honey butter.  The biscuits are light and fluffy and about the size of an Olympic discus.  The sweet honey-butter is a perfect complement to the natural savoriness of the biscuits.   

Whether or not the Duke City is approaching a brewery saturation point, the Desert Valley Brewing Co. is poised to become a favorite for cerevisaphiles and foodies alike though you should be forewarned that if you consume the entirety of your meal, you may not be able to eat again for a day or so.

Desert Valley Brewing Co.
3700 Ellison Road, Suite C
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 899-8494
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 14 October 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET:  Granola Parfait, Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter, Waffle Nachos
RESTAURANT REVIEW #1004

Desert Valley Brewing Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boxing Bear Brewing Company – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Boxing Bear Brewing Company in Albuquerque

In the 2008 Will Ferrell comedy Semi-Pro which centers on a fictional professional basketball team, there’s a scene in which Ferrell’s character wrestles with a grizzly bear at halftime of a game. While young viewers might find this scene preposterous, if not unbelievable, some of the more geriatrically advanced among us might remember when such promotions actually took place–usually at rural county fairs where members of the audience were offered money if they could last a few minutes with a wrestling or boxing bear.

Bears who were forced into pugilism or grappling were typically de-clawed, de-fanged, fitted with a muzzle and often even drugged.  Despite these disadvantages, the 600- to 800-pound Ursidae could easily defeat anyone who stood before them.  Most matches lasted less than a minute (longer than George Costanza lasted in the Festivus Day feats of strength wrestling match with his dad).  Although enthusiasm for bear wrestling and boxing has waned with the rise of animal rights, a barbaric subculture still exists which gets its jollies from watching animals fight.

The Capacious Dog-Friendly Patio

Boxing Bear Brewing Company’s logo-slash-mascot depicts a bear walking on all fours, a red boxing glove covering its right front paw.  Both the brewery’s motto–beer with a punch–and several beers–Hairy Mit, Ambear Ale, Paw Swipe Pale Ale, Uppercut, Red Glove Red Ale, Barril de Oso–are thematic.   If the Boxing Bear Brewing Company continues to earn accolades, the New Mexico state legislature may add a red glove to the image of our state animal, the American black bear.  In 2017, the Brewery won third place for Best Brewpub in USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice national poll.  In 2016–in only its second year of competition-it was named Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year at the Festival.

Boxing Bear launched in 2014 at the capacious 8,200-square-foot complex which previously housed Elliot’s and before that The Cooperage West. It’s situated on the northeast corner of the Alameda and Corrales intersection. Although not part of its name, Boxing Bear is also a winery, producing and serving local varietals all made locally. This sets it apart from most traditional brew pubs in the Duke City. Another people-pleasing aspect that sets it apart is its use of the great outdoors. Nestled beneath towering shade-providing trees and flanked by shrubs and flowers is a sprawling dog-friendly patio. Blaring speakers mean your conversational volume has to go up just a bit.

Nachos

While several brew pubs (Bosque Brewing Company and Starr Brothers Brewery come to mind) across the Duke City have embraced the gastropub spirit of serving high-end, high-quality food with their libations, Boxing Bear’s menu is rather Spartan. Essentially, everything on the menu can be prepared on a panini press or crock pot. Boxing Bear’s focus is clearly on its award-winning beer and wine. Its culinary fare won’t win any awards, but it’s good, basic beer accompaniment. The menu lists five items “to share,” six grilled paninis and three hot dogs. That’s it.

For us, the big culinary draw were the nachos. Dancing Bear’s “to share” menu promised “a pile of chips served with your choice of Ambear-infused Korean BBQ pulled pork or Texas chile topped with house-made beer-infused queso, pickled jalapenos and a dollop of sour cream.” They had us at “Korean BBQ pulled pork.” Alas, whatever beer-infusion process was used on the queso was rather ineffectual; the cheese was reminiscent of the gloppy, canned cheese often used on ballpark nachos. Worse, the “Korean BBQ pulled pork” was more akin to Kansas City barbecue pulled pork than to the bulgogi barbecue we were expecting. Still, to cover that pulled pork with the cheese is near criminal.

Grilled Club

The terms “panini” and “grilled club” are mutually incompatible. When you think of a “club” sandwich, your mind’s eye conjures images of layered sandwiches—often double- or triple-deckers–piled high with meats and vegetables. Some restaurants pride themselves on the skyscraper-high size of their clubs. Panini, on the other hand, calls to mind pressed (and compressed) sandwiches smooshed down to maybe one layer of a Dagwood sandwich. Panini and grilled club are antithetical! Boxing Bear’s grilled club (turkey, roasted pork, bacon, Swiss cheese, spinach and cream cheese) may not be a two-fisted behemoth, but it packs a very satisfying flavor with fresh ingredients that work very well together. Because the Bear uses telera bread (a flat, crusty white bread often used on tortas), you also don’t have to worry about the panini’s rough texture beating up the roof of your mouth.

Also quite good is the Al’BEAR’querque Turkey (turkey, bacon, mozzarella cheese, green chile, chile mayo, spinach and cream cheese). Though it’s been a pet peeve of mine that far too many restaurants seem to believe every turkey sandwich should be called an “Albuquerque Turkey,” at least this one takes a creative twist. What works best on this sandwich is the combination of delicate turkey and green chile. Even though the Boxing Bear’s chile has a pronounced bite, there’s enough turkey in this sandwich so that it doesn’t get overwhelmed. The combination of mozzarella and cream cheese, two very distinct cheeses, also works very well.

Al’BEAR’querque Turkey

Boxing Bear may not ever become a dining destination, but for savvy cerevisaphiles, it’s become a popular Albearquerque draw.

Boxing Bear Brewing Co.
10200 Corrales Road, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 897-2327
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 28 May 2017
# OF VISITS: 1
RATING: N/R
COST: $$
BEST BET: Al’BEAR’querque Turkey, Grilled Club, Nachos

Boxing Bear Brewing Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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