Paradise Donuts – Bosque Farms, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Paradise Donuts in Bosque Farms

Paradise Donuts in Bosque Farms

Though often boorish and crude, America’s favorite everyman philosopher Homer Simpson is prone to occasional bouts of insight. Who can argue with such Homeric sagacity as, “donuts, is there anything they can’t do.” At first browse that statement may appear clouded, make that glazed, but it’s a statement replete with credibility–and not solely with police officers.

Cultural anthropologist Paul R. Mullins posits that one of the best ways to examine a culture is by looking at its eating habits and regional cuisines. He reasons that Americans don’t really have a culinary culture we can call our own, that the American culinary experience is an amalgam of appropriated customs and cooking techniques. The best evidence of this, in his mind, is the donut whose lineage can be traced to the Chinese, French, Germans and Dutch.

In his terrific tome Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut, Mullins examines the evolution of the donut and juxtaposes the rise and fall of its popularity against the development of America’s consumer culture. He exploits the negative stereotypes and perceptions surrounding donuts (think indolent cops and Homer Simpson’s obesity), detailing how the donut has been equally regaled and reviled, the latter often without merit. When it comes to donuts, Mullins argues, Americans don’t sit on the fence–they either love them or they don’t.

If you love donuts, I mean if you really love donuts, options, unlike their effect, are slim. Albuquerque has in recent years seen the demise, departure or diminished numbers of Krispy Kreme, Shipley’s Donuts, Winchell’s Donuts and even Dunkin’ Donuts. Whether it was an onslaught of health-crazed fanatics, reduced ranks in the police force or a combination of other factors, the Duke City can hardly be called the Donut City.

Paradise behind glass

Paradise behind glass

For donuts, Homer clones like me head to Bosque Farms and pay a visit to Paradise Donuts, a regional chain with superior donuts. In fact, these may be the very best donuts in the Land of Enchantment, not that there’s much competition. In business since 1967, Paradise Donuts maintains that the secret to its donuts is a flour blended to be as light and fluffy as air with an incredible shelf life. The other key is that Paradise Donuts, unlike their competitors, focuses solely on donuts.

These are beautiful donuts–imperfect orbs glazed or decorated with sprinkles or engorged with fruit and cream fillings as well as rectangular-shaped long johns, donuts twisted around themselves and even cinnamon rolls. The variety is incredible–buttermilk, chocolate, blueberry, vanilla cake, cherry, apple cinnamon, banana, chocolate chip, chocolate raspberry, pumpkin, strawberry lemon and oh so much more.

Variety is one thing, but where Paradise Donuts excel is in taste. The glazed donuts are melt-in-your-mouth sugary deliciousness, the kind of donuts that leave traces of luscious, lickable glaze on your fingers. The sprinkles are liberally applied to cover most of the top surface of donuts they decorate. The fillings and toppings are rich and delicious. Maple topping tastes like maple, lemon filling tastes like lemon.

A glorious six-pack of donuts

A glorious six-pack of donuts

Paradise Donuts are so good that on some days, the bakery runs out by ten in the morning. They’re so good, savvy donut addicts will call in and reserve a dozen or more. They’re so good you don’t mind the short drive to Bosque Farms, especially considering you can pick up a dozen donuts then have a burger at Benny’s Mexican Kitchen. These donuts will have you behaving like Homer Simpson. Mmmmmm donuts!

Paradise Donuts
1370 Bosque Farms Blvd
Bosque Farms, New Mexico

LATEST VISIT: 27 December 2008
BEST BET: Maple Iced Bar, Chocolate Cake Donut, Cinnamon Roll, Glazed Donut, Glazed Twist Donut

Benny’s Mexican Kitchen – Bosque Farms, New Mexico

Whenever I need to leave it all behind
Or feel the need to get away
I find a quiet place, far from the human race
Out in the country

Before the breathin’ air is gone
Before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime
Out where the rivers like to run
I stand alone and take back somethin’ worth rememberin’

Whenever I feel them closing in on me
Or need a bit of room to move
When life becomes too fast, I find relief at last
Out in the country.”

Benny's Mexican Kitchen

Benny's Mexican Kitchen in Bosque Farms, New Mexico

In today’s dog eat dog rat race world (two bad animal metaphors in one sentence), who doesn’t dream of a peaceful idyll to which you can escape? Somewhere out in the country. *Appropriately the group expressing that sentiment so well in the above lyrics is Three Dog Night whose hit song “Out In The Country” made it to #14 in the pop charts back in August, 1970.

I know doctors, lawyers, scientists and people from other vocations who make their escape just fifteen minutes south of Albuquerque–to country life in verdant Bosque Farms.

Situated on the east side of the Rio Grande on a flat meadowy valley, Bosque Farms is a coalescence of rural, suburban and agricultural lifestyles along the braided routes of the historically significant Camino Real (the Royal Road) which skirts the Rio Grande.

Salsa and chips

Salsa and chips at Benny's Mexican Kitchen

Bosque Farms provides the relaxed rural atmosphere of a small village with the convenience of big city amenities nearby. It’s the type of village Oliver Wendell Douglas of Green Acres fame would have loved.

There’s something relaxing about seeing contented horses and fatted cows grazing on green grass as you drive toward the village from the north and take in the fresh aroma of dewy alfalfa. Yellow caution signage depicting a farmer on a tractor precedes acres of plowed fields. Other handmade signs offer hay or alfalfa for sale. This is truly country living just 20 minutes from Albuquerque.

While approximately three-quarters of Bosque Farms’ residents work in the Duke City, the village also claims several family owned and operated retail businesses within its boundaries. It’s no surprise that you’ll find numerous mercantiles supplying farmers with all they need to plant and harvest bountiful crops. What might be a surprise to city dwellers is the existence of a terrific restaurant which would be a hit in either the city or the country: Benny’s Mexican Kitchen.

The Benny Burger

The Benny Burger, one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico!

Benny’s Mexican Kitchen has been serving Bosque Farms for more than thirty years. A second location in nearby Los Lunas is equally well known to Valencia county residents, but probably not to many Albuquerque citizens.

Perhaps befitting a small village, Benny’s is a relatively small restaurant those who don’t understand life in the country might describe as nondescript. That’s because they might not understand the premium small towns put on neighbors. The menus at Benny’s include advertisements for local businesses, similar to what you might see on a church bulletin. You might also see a posted notice announcing an upcoming benefit for a neighbor about to undergo an expensive operation or a fund-raising announcement for a  young fiesta queen candidate. That’s just the way it is out in the country.

You won’t find WiFi connectivity at Benny’s, but you will find a skill crane in the corner. These three pronged clawed contraptions will frustrate you at every turn no matter how deftly you maneuver the crane in an attempt to grab a stuffed animal. Benny’s is replete with charm–that and surprisingly good New Mexican food including some twists you won’t see in the big city.

Deep Fried Burrito

Benny's Deep-Fried Burrito

The menu features an assemblage of traditional New Mexican favorites: breakfast burritos, handmade tamales, green chile stew as well as a variety of sandwiches. It is best known for its deep-fried bean or beef burrito (emphasis on the “or”). Don’t dare call it a chimichanga; that’s an Arizona creation some self-respecting New Mexican restaurants just won’t put on their menus.

The deep-fried burrito is one of the specialties of the house. It’s about six-inches in length and topped with a garnish of fresh tomato and lettuce as well as shredded Cheddar cheese. The chile is a deep red, probably ground from chile pods and carefully strained. It is an earthy chile with plenty of flavor and a piquant bite.

Not surprisingly, you can feel and hear the crunch of the deep-fried tortilla as you cut or bite into it. It is a surprise to discover the tender beef encased within. It’s carne adovada tender and delicious.  In its 2008 “Best of the City” edition, Albuquerque The Magazine awarded Benny’s deep-fried burrito an Editor’s Pick for “best deep-fried frijoles.”

Another item for which Benny’s is famous in this part of the country is the Benny Burger, the king-sized version of which is a stacked beauty comprised of  double meat, double cheese, guacamole, green chile, mustard, pickles, onions, lettuce and tomatoes..  Because one might not be enough, you’ll want the king size version of this outstanding burger.

Taco plate

The Taco Plate at Benny's

I’ve heard tell that it’s one of the best green chile cheeseburgers in the entire state, an audacious claim to be sure. The inclusion of guacamole on a burger is an interesting twist, one that the Carl’s Junior franchise has  offered in its burger repertoire for years. It’s also a delicious one–if it’s the Benny burger version.  The guacamole and green chile marriage is my favorite way to go green.

After lustily consuming Benny King (the double meat, double cheese version of the Benny Burger), I’m ready to proclaim the rumors accurate. This is one of the very best green chile cheeseburgers in a state which serves the best green chile cheeseburgers in the entire universe. In fact, in the Albuquerque metropolitan area, I don’t know if there’s any comparable. About six-inches in circumference and skyscraper high, the Benny King burger is a two-fisted masterpiece of ingredients that go well together.  It’s so highly regarded, it was a natural for inclusion into the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.

Green chile stew

Green chile stew

If you’ve ever lamented the impotence of the wimpy salsa (maybe made in New York City) served at some New Mexican restaurants, make the trip to Bosque Farms for a salsa your tongue will salute. Even though it’s heat comes from jalapenos and not New Mexican green chile, it’s a flavorful, endorphin-packing salsa. It’s served with warm, crisp, lightly-salted tortilla chips.

Benny’s taco plate features three crispy taco shells engorged with seasoned ground beef, lettuce and shredded cheese. Top them with salsa and you’ve got a delectable meal. The taco plate comes with rice and beans though you can opt for two orders of beans or rice.  Only the rice is unremarkable.

Remarkable is a good adjective to describe Benny’s green chile stew. There are literally hundreds of  recipes for green chile stew, all very personal yet most fairly standard, at least in terms of ingredients–cubed potatoes, green chile, stewed tomatoes, cubed pork, onion, garlic, etc..  The best recipes include something just a bit different or extra.  At Benny’s, it’s a few niblets of  sweet corn.  Corn is best scraped right off the cob and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out if this corn came from a nearby farm.  No matter how well ingredients may go together, if they’re not completely cooked (potatoes too hard or soft, cubed pork too tough, etc.), there’s just something lacking.  At Benny’s the green chile stew is perfectly prepared and a delicious prescription for winter doldrums.

Carne Adovada

Carne Adovada

Carne adovada is another Benny’s specialty.  It’s great on the deep-fried burrito and even better on its own.  The shredded pork is marinated in a cumin-free red chile and is as tender and moist as any in the Duke City area.  It’s topped with melting shredded cheese and served with Spanish rice and beans.  The best carne adovada is practically “melt in your mouth” tender.  Benny’s is that good.

Beverages include the usual fountain drink suspects as well as canned soda and fruit juices. Even better are old-fashioned milk shakes: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and pineapple, all made with hand-scooped ice cream. They are refreshing and delicious.

Benny’s Mexican Kitchen
1675 Bosque Farms Blvd.
Bosque Farms, NM

LATEST VISIT: 27 December 2008
1st VISIT: 19 May 2007
COST: $$
BEST BET: Deep-Fried Burrito, Benny King Green Chile Cheeseburger, Salsa, Taco Plate, Pineapple Shake, Chocolate Shake, Carne Adovada, Green Chile Stew

Benny's Mexican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Mai Thai Thai Cuisine – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Mai Thai Thai Cuisine on Eubank

When my buddy Bill Resnik invited me to try a new restaurant called Mai Thai, I immediately wondered if Albuquerque was experiencing a misguided retro renaissance to days gone by when kitschy Polynesian themed night clubs and restaurants were in vogue.

For those of you too young to remember, in the 1960s, 70s and even early 80s, Americans held a huge fascination for the South Seas, an interest propelled by veterans returning from the Pacific theater after the second war to end all wars.  Presiding over the “Tiki” movement was an entrepreneur named Victor Bergeron who founded a popular Polynesian themed restaurant chain named Trader Vic’s.  His restaurants provided temporary departures into escapism replete with waterfalls, torches, carved figures and bamboo huts, all designed to evoke an island ambience.

Bergeron is also renown for the invention of a vibrant and refreshing rum cocktail called the Mai Tai.  Introducing the Mai Tai to the Hawaiian Islands inspired the slogan for his entire business, “Tahitian for the very best Mai Tai.”

Fresh Spring Rolls

Alas, the restaurant Bill invited me to has nothing to do with a faux Polynesian adult beverage and doesn’t even have a liquor license.  It’s also not named “Mai Tai,” but “Mai Thai” as in “my Thai” and maybe as in soon to be “my favorite Thai restaurant” for a lot of Duke City diners if my inaugural visit is any indication.

Mai Thai is located on Eubank north of Lomas and south of Constitution in a site that previously housed several other Thai restaurants.  Thai Dining, Queen of Sushi and Pataya Thai and Rabieng Thong all probably believe the location to be cursed because all were short-lived in that building.  If years of restaurant experience from the restaurant’s owners mean anything, Mai Thai should succeed where the others did not.

Mai Thai is owned by Thanakith “Kit” Chanthvong and his effervescent better half Sam.  Kit handles the kitchen as he has at several of Albuquerque’s best Thai restaurants while Sam is the consummate hostess with a perpetual smile, a role she previously held for five years at Thai Cuisine on Albuquerque’s West side.  They opened Mai Thai in August, 2008.

Laab Gai

Both Kit and Sam were born in Laos but their Thai lineage run deep.  So does their menu.  It’s well organized, segmented into appetizers, soups, salads, noodle dishes, stir-fry, curry, seafood, rice, side dishes, dessert and beverages.  It’s a veritable compendium of all my favorite Thai foods.  In 2009 they will eliminate their all-you-can-eat buffet, citing wastage and cost as the reason, but with all the menu has to offer, serious Thai aficionados won’t mind.

If you order your entree “hot” you might want your appetizers delivered in between bites as fire-extinguishing palate cleansers.  That was my thought when consuming incendiary green curry.  The appetizer which might have done the trick is the fresh spring rolls, two to an order.  Translucent rice paper envelops shrimp, fresh cucumber, carrots, cilantro, daikon and thick rice noodles.  The spring rolls are accompanied by a peanut dipping sauce (fish sauce, chili sauce, lime juice, shredded carrots and other ingredients).  Like many Thai dishes, it offers several taste sensations (sweet, savory, piquant, tart) to appeal to different taste buds.

Green Curry (Kang Kiew Wan)

Fiery hot Thai food isn’t subtle; it doesn’t sneak up on you.  It’s also not for everybody (and Mai Thai will prepare it to your exacting specifications of piquancy), but if your tongue is laced with asbestos, it’s the only way you’ll have it.  One of the wonderful aspects of Thai cuisine is that its incendiary qualities aren’t your taste buds singular focus.  No matter how fiery an entree might be, your taste buds can still discern other qualities–the sweetness of coconut milk, the tanginess of citrus, the savoriness of fresh, crisp vegetables, and so forth.

One of the most inspired entrees is laab gai, ground chicken mixed with green onions, dried red peppers, ground roasted rice and freshly squeezed lime juice with flourishes of cilantro on top.  At some restaurants laab gai looks and has a texture similar to clumpy and crunchy granola, but not so at Mai Thai where this popular salad has an exciting flavor and texture.  The rice is first baked then ground, giving it a nice crunch.  The ground chicken comes from all white meat seasoned to perfection.  The melding of tart lime juice and the fragrant, fresh flavor of cilantro coupled with the piquant red peppers provides a taste triumvirate you’ll enjoy immensely.  This is some of the best laab gai in town.

Also quite good is the Kang Kiew Wan, green curry mixed in coconut milk with bamboo, eggplant, bell peppers and your choice of chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or vegetarian.  It is one of six curries on the menu and one for whom the standard bearer for me has always been the green curry at Thai Cuisine.  The green curry at Mai Thai might be better.  It is thinner than some green curry I’ve had, but it is intensely flavored and not solely in terms of piquancy or sweetness (from the coconut milk).  The bamboo shoots and eggplant are cooked to perfection.  In fact, all ingredients meld together wonderfully.

Mangoes with sticky rice

The menu offer several traditional Thai desserts including mangoes with sticky rice.  This classic desert pairs fresh mangoes (in season) with sweet coconut milk and sticky (glutinous) rice to form a refreshingly delicious post-prandial delicacy.

Mai Thai joins other terrific Asian restaurants such as Ming Dynasty, Taj Palace and Yummi House as popular Eubank dining destinations and not just with the Sandia Labs crowds.  Duke City residents have another reason to head east.

Mai Thai Thai Cuisine
1225 Eubank Blvd, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 19 December 2008
COST: $$
BEST BET: Mangoes with Sticky Rice, Green Curry, Laab Gai, Spring Rolls

Mai Thai on Urbanspoon