Rowley Farmhouse Ales – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Rowley Farmhouse Ales in Santa Fe

Only in John Denver’s hit song “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” is life on the farm “kinda laid back.”  In actuality, farm life can be downright arduous, requiring back-breaking work in climatic extremes for low wages.    It was much worse in colonial days when life on a farm generally meant very few luxuries outside of a warm fire and a tankard (or ten) of house-brewed ale.  Beer was brewed not only to refresh, sustain and comfort hard-working farmers, but because during sanitation-deprived colonial times,  it was safer than water.  Farm-brewed beer was created with what was on hand, whether it be wheat, hops, barley or rye supplemented with such ingredients as evergreen boughs, juniper berries, honey and fruit.  Because beer was made with whatever ingredients were available, the lack of convention led to an emphasis of individuality over uniformity.

Along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, beer, it seems, was almost an inalienable right and in many cases, an integral part of a worker’s compensation package.  Gentlemen farmers such as George Washington brewed beer not only for themselves, but for their farm workers whose employment contracts often stipulated a certain daily allotment of beer.   Washington’s farm workers customarily received a bottle of beer a day, each bottle containing one quart of liquid.    Washington himself enjoyed beer so much that he named his hound dogs after his, er, affection for ales. Among the names he christened his dogs were  “Drunkard,” “Tippler,” and “Tipsy.”

Bar and Dining Area

American craft brewers are leading a revival of brewing farmhouse ales in  the old world tradition of Belgian, French and American farmhouse ales of the nineteenth century,  Though not located in remote farmhouse settings, those brewers  strive to capture the rustic essence, seasonality and art of traditional farmhouse brewing.  Among the breweries distinguishing themselves by pursuing the farmhouse style is the aptly named Rowley’s Farmhouse Ales in Santa Fe which opened its doors in September, 2016.  Located about a block south of Cerrillos on Maclovia Street, Rowley’s not only brews and serves its own farmhouse and sour ales, it offers an extensive draft and bottle list of best available beers from the Land of Enchantment and beyond.

It stands to reason that Rowley’s would pair its farmhouse ales with a farm-to-table menu, essentially upgraded traditional pub fare sourced locally wherever possible.  The menu emphasizes ingredients with seasonal availability and includes gluten-free and vegetarian items.  Chef Jeffrey Kaplan, who cut his teeth working for Wolfgang Puck and La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles, created a menu designed to pair well with the beer.  If you’re of the mind that nothing goes as well with beer as do nuts, run out and get a copy of the March, 2017 print edition of New Mexico Magazine  where you’ll find Rowley’s spicy nut bowl recipe.

Korean Style Chicken Wings with Cucumber Salad

That edition of New Mexico Magazine included the Readers’ Choice Dining Awards for 2017 where readers weighed in on their “favorite burger and chile joints, taquerias, doughnut shops, and four-star restaurants, plus the most exciting new places and beloved old standbys.”  Rowley’s Farmhouse topped the list of favorite new restaurants in Santa Fe.  The magazine waxed poetic about Rowley’s: “This southside gastropub captivated Santa Feans with its focus on complex, fruity, Belgian-style ales and an ambitious menu of elevated bar food.”

Rowley’s can seat as many as 25 diners and (or) imbibers in its pub area and another 50 in an  shaded outdoors area.  The pub’s cynosure is a 24-foot-long bar constructed from planks taken from rail-car transport containers and brushed smooth with a high-gloss veneer.  Behind the bar are some 24 tap handles showcasing the pub’s diverse selection of beer styles.  Habitues can also purchase Rowley’s merchandise–polo shirts and sweatshirts–also on display behind the bar.   The pub’s handful of tables also sport a high-gloss veneer.  Seating, more functional than comfortable, is on bright red metal chairs.

Cheese Plate

My Kim jokes that I wouldn’t eat KFC chicken if you put a gun to my head.  That’s not entirely accurate.   I’d drive a hundred miles out of my way for the real KFC.  That would be Korean Fried Chicken and it’s harder to find in New Mexico than Waldo.  Rowley’s chicken wings are described as “Korean style” which is characterized by lightly coated chicken pieces fried until the outside is crispy and the  meat inside is cooked through.  When prepared correctly, the frying actually cooks off the fat from the chicken skin.  Rowley’s wings are prepared correctly and are impregnated with a sweet, slightly piquant sauce, not the incendiary sauce which seems to define chicken wings.  The six wings are sprinkled with crushed peanuts and green onions and served with a fresh and delicious, whisper-thin cucumber salad.

Turophiles will bow in appreciation at Rowley’s cheese plate, three artisinal cheeses hand-selected by Cheesemongers of Santa Fe.  As with all good cheese boards, the three cheeses run the taste gamut—from mild to sharp with degrees of variation in between. Cheeses should be eaten from mildest to strongest so you don’t miss the nuance of a mild cheese after eating a stinging, astringent blue. The most mild of our three was a wedge of Moses Sleeper, a soft, rich and creamy cheese inspired by a classic French Brie.  Of medium sharpness and firmness was an Alpine Blossom with its slightly sweet flavor.  Last to be sampled but certainly not last in our hearts was a pungent blue cheese from Point Reyes.  The cheese plate also included a a coarse salami with a salty finish, plump and sweet Marcona almonds from Spain and bread slices you can use to construct a sandwich or as a palate-cleanser.

Chicken and Waffles

Rowley’s offers two waffle options, the most seemingly de rigueur of which is a chicken and waffles plate showcasing Liege Belgian waffles served with your choice of a leg and thigh or breast,  house-made Colkegan barrel-aged maple syrup and apple coleslaw.  Leige waffles are several orders of magnitude better than any waffles you may have had at IHOP.  They’re made with a yeast raised dough, not a batter and are more full-flavored and sweet than other waffle types.  The Colkegan (a single malt whiskey) barrel-aged maple syrup is similarly much better than any store-bought syrup you can buy.  The fried chicken is lightly battered and moist while the sweet-tangy apple coleslaw proves a worthy foil for every item on the plate.

When prepared well, risotto has a rich, creamy and slightly chewy texture, with each individual grain of arborio rice standing out clearly and having a hint of a bite, rather than being soft or mushy.  Perhaps because preparing risotto can be a complicated process requiring painstaking monitoring, not many restaurants across the Land of Enchantment offer it and those which do tend to prepare it with rich proteins such as lobster.  Rowley’s Farmers Market Risotto features a selection of fresh vegetables.  It’s an excellent risotto made both gluten free and vegetarian.  We were surprised at how well each of the vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, corn and arugula) worked with the rich, creamy risotto.  The sweet corn, especially, seemed to pop in contrast to the otherwise savory dish.

Farmers Market Risotto

It’s easy to see why Rowley’s Farmhouse Ales was listed as one of Santa Fe’s favorite new restaurants according to New Mexico Magazine’s readers.  With an inventive menu of farm-to-table favorites, it promises to be a Santa Fe favorite for a long, long time.

Rowley Farmhouse Ales
1405 Maclovia Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 428-0719
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 18 February 2017
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Cheese Plate, Korean Style Chicken Wings, Farmers Market Risotto, Chicken and Waffles, Onion Rings

Rowley Farmhouse Ales Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Second Street Brewery – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe’s Second Street Brewery

Having served as a judge at many competitive culinary events, it’s always baffled me just how much disparity there usually is between the judges’ choices and the people’s choices. In almost a decade of having had the privilege of judging at the Roadrunner Food Bank’s annual Souperbowl event in Albuquerque, for example, there’s only been one instance in which judges and the general public agreed on the winning soup.  That transpired in 2015 when the Ranchers Club of New Mexico‘s Chimayo Red Chile Pork was a consensus “best in show.”   More often than not, few (if any) of the top three soups in the judges’ estimation  show up among the people’s top three choices. It’s the same in virtually every culinary competition in which you’ve got judges’ choice and people’s choice awards.

So, why the significant difference of opinion? The easy answer is that judges have some level of experience judging food, maybe more refined palates than the general public and perhaps even a modicum of culinary training.   Based on my experience, however, judges are often a mix of culinary experts (usually critics) and local celebrities (usually media and public officials), all with varied levels of experience and culinary expertise.  We tend to see ourselves as everyday Joes and Janes trying to give every item placed before us a fair assessment, usually following some prescribed criteria such as taste, appearance, texture and creativity.  None of us see ourselves as food snobs or as culinary elitists.  Our greatest commonality is a love of eating and a love of getting involved in worthy causes.

Second Street Brewery Dining Room

While sweeping the judges’ choice and people’s choice honors on the same year may be as rare as a Subaru in Santa Fe sporting an NRA sticker, every so often you’ll find a restaurant which earns a nod from the judges one year then earns people’s choice accolades another year.   Albuquerque’s Artichoke Cafe has done it (People’s Choice in 2012 and Judges’ Choice in 2014, both at the Souperbowl).   So has the Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe…and we’re not talking “people’s choice stout” or “judges’ choice lager” here though the Brewery has earned many accolades for its adult beverages.   Second Street Brewery isn’t only about beer.  As judges and people can attest, this brewery’s chefs can really cook, in 2014 earning judges’ choice in Santa Fe’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown.  Two years later, the Brewery earned people’s choice for the aptly named plate lickin’ chile cheeseburger.

If you’re wondering if the Second Street Brewery is a one-trick-pony, specializing solely in award winning burgers (though that should be enough), you’re in good company.  Despite accolades for their prowess with New Mexico’s sacrosanct green chile cheeseburgers, we resisted visiting…or more accurately resisted getting to Santa Fe at eleven when the restaurant opens.  On more than one occasion we arrived after noon only to discover every parking spot within a quarter mile already taken.  Surely, we wondered, they couldn’t all be all there for beer, great as it might be.  Our inaugural visit bore out that as a dining destination, the Second Street Brewery belongs on every serious foodie’s list of “gotta go” restaurants!

New Mexico Farmer’s Plate

When it launched in 1996, the Second Street Brewery envisioned “providing fresh beer to serve by the pint to a loyal, local clientele.  In addition, we wanted to provide just the right atmosphere and food to enjoy along with that pint.”  Though that statement could be perceived as food being an afterthought, the reality is a menu well thought out with an unpretentious array of high-quality pub grub.  There’s really only two entrees (Northern New Mexico Style Enchiladas and a Railyard Chile Philly) featuring New Mexican chile, but chile does play a part on lighter fare such as mustard, croutons, mac and cheese, grits, hand-cut fries, green chile stew and even Texas toast.  Burgers, sandwiches and wraps are the primary featured far, but the menu also includes a number of sumptuous salads and a wider variety of appetizers than most restaurants carry.

As much as we wanted to try the award-winning green chile cheeseburger, the greater impetus for our visit to the Second Street Brewery was the New Mexico Farmer’s Plate,  an embarrassment of riches for one, a shared treasure for two:  fresh lamb sausage, handmade New Mexico cheeses, house made chutneys, local sprout salad, with a side of citrus vinaigrette and toast.  The lamb sausage comes from Naturally New Mexico, a family processing plant which produces arguably the best lamb and beef in New Mexico.  Naturally New Mexico “grain finishes” its lamb with barley from Second Street’s brewing process.  The flavor is telling, as luscious and delicious as any sausage you’ll find.  It’s terrific on its own or dipped into the green chile mustard.  New Mexico cheeses–Stout gouda, smoked gouda and goat cheese–are a highlight, particularly when paired with the chutneys, apricot-tomato and raisin.  The little sprout salad with citrus vinaigrette is a bit of a tease–not nearly big enough for even one and so good you won’t want to share it.

New Mexico Farmer’s Plate

You can, however, share the side salad which is available for a pittance when you order a sandwich, burger or wrap.  At the Second Street Brewery, a pittance (two dollars as of this writing) will get you a lot of salad, more than you’ll get for thrice the price elsewhere and it’s  of excellent quality.  This haystack-sized salad is composed of mixed greens, shaved carrots, grape tomatoes, goat cheese, beets and your choice of salad dressings: bleu cheese, bleu cheese vinaigrette, jalapeño ginger tahini, balsamic vinaigrette, citrus vinaigrette, chipotle Caesar and ranch.  Pity the Francophobes who won’t order bleu cheese because of its “Frenchified” spelling.  This is an excellent bleu cheese–pungent, sharp, rich and wholly delicious.

Sandwich side choices at no additional charge include Idaho potato chips, chile seasoned hand-cut fries, sweet potato waffle fries and coleslaw.  For an extra charge, you can have beer-battered onion rings, a Caesar salad, chile cheese fries or the aforementioned side salad.  Should you choose a build-your-own-burger (half-pound grilled black Angus patty or veggie patty), you can have it topped with American, Tucumcari mild white Cheddar, Tucumcari feta, provolone, Swiss, Chevre, Wisconsin Bleu cheese or Wisconsin chile-Jack.  Also available is a buffalo burger constructed from all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free six-ounce ground LaMonte buffalo patty on a cornmeal dusted baked Kaiser.  Ostensibly all are very good, but we wanted to taste people’s choice certified greatness.

The Fatty Burger with Fries

That would be the aptly named “Fatty Burger” which truly lives up to its name (renamed since the Smackdown).  Picture if you will a skyscraper tall, “single decker” burger constructed from an all-natural and hormone-free Harris ranch beef patty stuffed with good, old-fashioned American cheese topped with Hatch green chile and three slices of Farmland bacon served on a locally baked Fano brioche bun.  This burger comes with a warning and it has nothing to do with the caloric over achievement.  The warning reads “since this is a stuffed burger, we do not take the temperature on this burger.  Per the chef’s request, this burger must be cooked through thoroughly.”  Despite being prepared to those specifications, it’s a moist and juicy burger impregnated with flavor.   Smooshing this behemoth down is the only way it’ll fit in your mouth, but it also squeezes out the molten cheese.  Though a messy, multi-napkin challenge to eat, this is a magnificent burger!

It’s a challenge to imagine a sandwich as tasty as the Habanero-Citrus Pulled Pork Sandwich (slow-roasted pulled pork topped with habanero-citrus BBQ, creamy coleslaw and pickled onion on locally baked baguettini).  Habanero may be renowned for its incendiary heat, but it’s also got serious flavor with delightful citrus notes.  The Habanero-Citrus BBQ sauce is so mouth-watering it should be bottled and sold.  It’s one of the best barbecue sauces we’ve enjoyed in quite a while.  The creamy, tangy, tasty coleslaw has a cooling effect that goes oh so well with the tender tendrils of pulled pork as do the pickled onions.  This sandwich goes well with the housemade potato chips and at least one Bario Brinery pickles.   What makes these pickles so unique is that they’re brined in salt, not vinegar.  That means more cucumber flavor and more freshness.

Habanero-Citrus Pulled Pork Sandwich

Judges and people alike would certainly agree that the Second Street Brewery warrants every award it’s earned over the years.  Just get there early or you might not find a nearby place to park.

Second Street Brewery
1814 2nd St
Santa Fe, New Mexico
(505) 982-3030
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 22 October 2016
COST: $$
BEST BET: Habanero-Citrus Pulled Pork Sandwich, Potato Chips, The Fatty Burger, Fries, New Mexico Farmer’s Plate, Side Salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing

Second Street Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato