Graham’s Grille by Lesley B. Fay – Taos, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Graham’s Grill by Lesley B. Fay, just north of the famous Taos Plaza

While it may be true that you only have one chance to make a good first impression, history has shown that bad first impressions can be overcome.  Further,  given a second chance, someone making a bad first impression may go on to  make a lasting positive impression.   In 1988, a charismatic  young governor was widely jeered during the Democratic National Convention, his first national stage.  After an uninspiring 32-minute-long opening night address, political pundits predicted the demise of the man heretofore considered a rising star in the party.  Four years later Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States.

Feedback to a surprising number of my reviews has a palpable tone of negativity–sometimes even anger–based on a first and only visit to a restaurant which made a bad first impression.  Diners should expect, perhaps even demand, tasty food, reasonable portions,  good service and fair value for their hard-earned dollars.  It’s our prerogative not to return to restaurants which don’t meet those expectations, however, before making a hasty judgment, consider that the restaurant may have had an uncharacteristically bad hair day. That’s especially true if that restaurant has been widely recognized by trusted sources as a high-quality, high-performing paragon of deliciousness.

The larger of two dining rooms at Graham’s Grill

Our inaugural visit to Graham’s Grille by Lesley Fay was more a case of high expectations not being met than it was the restaurant having a bad day.  It seems every national and local source to visit Graham’s Grille–from Bon Appetit Magazine to the Taos Newhas touted it as THE place to dine in Taos.  In 2010, Graham’s Grill garnered “best restaurant” (for the third year in a row) and “best ambiance” accolades in the Taos News‘ annual “best of Taos” balloting with chef-owner Lesley Fay earning “best chef” honors.  In 2010, Graham’s Grille also  earned Wine Spectator’s award of excellence as well as a “diner’s choice” award from Open Table.  It’s understandable that most visitors come to Graham’s Grille with high expectations.

To be clear, our inaugural visit was far from a disappointment. It just didn’t “wow” us to the extent that a restaurant with its sterling pedigree should have been expected to wow us.  Some of that might be attributable to the fact that we visited during brunch, not dinner when Graham’s Grille is reputed to shine brightest, but there were other factors contributing to the lack of the wow effect.

Mexican XXX Chocolate: Ibarra Chocolate, Kahlana, Agave Wine, Whipped Cream and Cinnamon

It’s easy to see why Graham’s Grille is so popular.  As we passed the uncovered patio and approached the stairs, the host greeted us with not just a cordial welcome and smile, but by introducing himself and offering a firm handshake.  He escorted us past the open kitchen into a long and narrow dining room that includes an attractive bar area, a showcase for the Fays who, prior to moving to Taos, worked in winery businesses for more than a decade.  Lesley, in fact, created private label food lines for many of Napa Valley and Sonoma’s famous wineries.

Graham’s Grille has a uniquely Taos vibe.  Though considered a fine dining establishment, it has a casual, almost laissez-faire feel without being “out there” Bohemian yet it’s also cosmopolitan in an understated sort of way.  During brunch, the entire wait staff and even Lesley herself, are nattily attired in balloon pants, some sporting the type of psychedelic color and design schemes found on the hippie buses which traversed the highways and byways of Taos county.   It’s hard to believe the restaurant occupies the former digs of J. C. Penney’s downtown store.

Buttermilk Biscuits with homemade strawberry jam and orange marmalade

A quick perusal of the menu reflects the peripatetic chef’s varied culinary influences. The “California” influence is apparent in the freshness of the ingredients and the abundance of vegetables.  Other menu items pay tribute to Lesley’s travels to the Middle East, Mexico, Cyprus and of course, her move to New Mexico.  Playfully, she even names menu items for previous tenants at the location.  There’s the El Miramon Combination Plate named for a bar at the location in the 1910s.  Then there’s the J.C. Penney Burrito.

Ever the unrelenting purist, I’m not sure what would influence (possess) anyone, much less a heralded chef,  to use  the accursed demon spice cumin on dishes in which the star of the flavor profile should be New Mexico’s incomparable red and green chile, but Graham’s Grille uses it copiously (perhaps the California influence).  As a result of the cumin contaminant, the multi-page menu becomes  a bit more limited for those of us who will never go over to the dark side.  In addition to the New Mexican dishes, cumin slithers onto other items we might otherwise have enjoyed–including the vaunted El Pequeño baked macaroni and Cheddar cheese with mild green chile and hickory smoked bacon.

Winter Spinach, Goat Cheese, Julienned Carrots and Strawberries

Perusing the menu is like reading a fine novel you don’t want to put down.  It’s a voluminous compendium of  interesting and ostensibly delicious items.  Audaciously, page one of the menu is dedicated to desserts and dessert beverages, obviously in deference to American writer Ernestine Ulmer who wrote, “Life is uncertain…Eat dessert first.”  Alas, not all the desserts are available during  brunch, that leisurely weekend repast which makes you feel you’re getting away with something…as if you’re defying your mom’s mandate not to have dessert before the main entree.

The brunch menu is replete with tempting sweet treats such as vanilla orange French toast with fresh strawberries and blue corn blueberry pancakes as well as fresh French donuts and a basket of buttermilk biscuits with homemade jam.  We opted for the latter two.  Having lived in the Deep South for eight years, we grow lascivious at the mere thought of  melt-in-your mouth, tender and flaky  buttermilk biscuits.  Alas, the biscuits at Graham’s Grille were neither tender nor flaky.  Expatriated Southerners would probably compare them to hardtack.  Both the orange marmalade and the strawberry jam are more than a bit on the sweet side and neither showcases the flavor of the fruits ostensibly used in their creation as does the miraculously good orange marmalade at Gutiz.

Peter’s Bigger Boy: Angus Burger with Grilled Green Chile, Cheddar and Swiss, Frizzled Onions and Bacon (served with Cajun fries)

The menu describes the fresh French donuts as having “5 spice cinnamon sugar,” but neither five spice nor cinnamon sugar were in evidence on our taste buds. That’s a pity because either would have enlivened the otherwise bland donuts. Powdery white confectioner’s sugar is fine on beignets, those small, square puffs of fried doughy deliciousness, but it didn’t do much for the French donuts which in addition to being bland, were slightly on the tough side.

Our disappointment with the buttermilk biscuits and French donuts were tempered somewhat by the Mexican XXX Hot Chocolate (Ibarra chocolate, Kahlana, agave wine, whipped cream and cinnamon), a Mexican hot chocolate with a kick.  It’s one of the very best hot chocolates we’ve ever had, a rich and flavorful elixir with a lively flavor.  It’s not a teetotaler’s cup of tea, but it’s perfectly fine for someone who indulges ever so infrequently on adult beverages.

Passion Fruit Barbecue Sauce Sandwich, Homemade Pickle and Cajun Fries

Our third strike–a salad composed of winter spinach, goat cheese, julienned carrots and strawberries–can be attributed to the bane of my culinary existence, the demon spawned spice cumin. Both the salad dressing and the walnuts normally found on this salad included cumin, a revelation made upon the salad’s delivery. While the blue cheese dressing was good, the vinaigrette with which this salad is normally served was more tailored for the flavor profile we wanted. On the positive side, the salad ingredients were fresh and delicious.

“Graham’s Famous Burgers” are available for both lunch and dinner.  Save for the lamb burger, they are served with Lesley’s “special burger sauce,” a tasty amalgam of mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup and are served on a housemade bun.  On each burger plate is tomato, lettuce, sliced onion and a housemade dill pickle.  Peter’s Big Boy, an eight-ounce angus burger with green chile, Cheddar and Swiss cheeses, frizzled onions and bacon is a very good burger, a burger worthy of consideration for inclusion on the New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail.  The angus beef is hand-formed and prepared to your exacting specifications.  What the green chile lacks in piquancy, it more than makes up for in roasted flavor perfection.  The frizzled onions, a tangle of deep-fried onion strips, are piled on.  Burgers are served with your choice of Cajun fries, New Mexican slaw, house greens, Caesar salad or soup (hopefully not the cumin cursed posole).

Fresh French Donuts with Five Spice Cinnamon Sugar

Barbecue aficionados might be drawn in by a tempting sandwich offering showcasing a passion fruit barbecue sauce on a generous mound of pulled pork. Alas, the passion fruit is wholly understated lacking the sweet richness and aromatic flavor that titillates the taste buds.  The pork is tender and delicious, but would have been something special had the passion fruit flavor come across more prominently.

On the whole, our inaugural visit to Graham’s Grille had some hits and it had some misses, but what it didn’t have was that “wow” factor we crave from the vaunted restaurants anointed as something special.  Lack of wow factor not withstanding, we look forward to future visits when we hope to discover for ourselves why Graham’s Grill is widely recognized as the very best in Taos.

Graham’s Grill by Lesley B. Fay

106 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Taos, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 26 March 2011
# of VISITS: 1
RATING:
COST: $$ – $$$
BEST BET: Peter’s Bigger Boy, Passion Fruit Barbecue Sandwich, Mexican XXX Chocolate

Graham's Grille on Urbanspoon

Quarters – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Quarters BBQ on Albuquerque's Northwest side

Quarters BBQ on Albuquerque's Northwest side

Some of my friends accuse me of making my Web site a bully pulpit against chain restaurants and being a shameless “homer” when it comes to promoting locally owned and operated restaurants. I make no secret of my overwhelming preference for local restaurants, but never at the expense of a personal integrity which won’t allow me to pander to local restaurants which, in my honest opinion, don’t quite measure up. One such restaurant is the venerated Quarters–at least in terms of its barbecue.

One of Duke City’s oldest and most revered barbecue joints, the Quarters is generally teeming with loyal patrons who will tell you that Quarters puts the ‘cue in Albuquerque. Now with three locations, including a sprawling edifice launched in 2004 on Albuquerque’s burgeoning West side, the Quarters shows no surcease in popularity. The Nellos family which owns and operates Quarters is practically royalty in Albuquerque, not only because of their popular restaurants, but because of their civic involvement and community-mindedness.

Teriyaki Shish-Ke-Bab with mushrooms and red and green peppers

Teriyaki Shish-Ke-Bab with mushrooms and red and green peppers

Before you accuse me of sacrilege for not liking the Quarters, hear me out. Like most barbecue purists, to me barbecue is all about the meat, specifically the long, slow process utilizing indirect low-heat to “smoke-cook” meat. The best barbecue emphasizes a faintly smoky taste in succulent meats that are fork-tender, juicy and need little or no sauce. Any sauce that’s added should further emphasize the inherent flavor of the meats, not detract in any way from it. At Quarters, barbecue entrees typically swim in a mediocre  tomato sauce-based barbecue sauce which detracts from any native flavor the meats might have.

When we’ve asked for meat entrees sans sauce or sauce on the side, we’ve determined why the sauce flows freely atop those entrees–the meats are as dry as an Albuquerque summer day…and that’s not just my opinion. During a December, 2005 team outing, I asked several colleagues to break their “I love Quarters” paradigm and honestly assess their meals; not surprisingly, most of them validated my assertion. During yet another team outing (after my team mates’ amnesia had set in) my friend Ellie ordered a brisket sandwich and after  one bit of marathon mastication, proclaimed it a “carne seca” sandwich. Not even the surfeit of sauce could moisten the barbecue.

The rib dinner: eight to ten pork spare ribs with onion rings, corn on the cob and Texas toast

The rib dinner, eight to ten pork spare ribs served with two sides, exemplifies what I don’t like about Quarters.  The ribs are dry despite being slathered with the tangy sauce.  That’s entirely two bad considering the generous amount of ribs on the plate and the fact that the ribs are meaty. The barbecue is dry.  It’s over-sauced.  I think my point has been made, but if you’d like an other opionion, check out the musings of Larry McGoldrick, New Mexico’s premier contributor to Urbanspoon. His sentiments toward the Quarters’ barbecue echo mine.

I started off this review acknowledging that Quarters is “revered.”  It is  indeed a perennial recipient of several “people’s choice” and “best of” awards and its parking lots are usually crowded.  There are probably more people who love the Quarters than there are detractors.  Because it’s not one of my favorites (by a long-shot) doesn’t make me a “hater,” as one of my Quarters-loving work colleagues accused me of being.  I like to think it makes me a discerning diner whose preferences for barbecue are elsewhere. You’re free to agree or disagree as you please.

We’ve had much better luck at Quarters with red meat entrees which have, in recent visits, been prepared to our exacting specifications. If you ask for your red meat entree to be prepared medium, the grill chef executes. If you ask for salt, pepper and garlic on both sides of your steak, it’s applied in exacting proportions–and we’re not talking garlic salt here. It’s minced garlic that brings out the flavor of a New York steak. The New York steak is perfectly tender with nary any excess fat. At twelve ounces, it is a beauteous strip of meat with charred edges. Cut into it and the succulent juices flow, exposing the perfect amount of pink.

New York steak with macaroni and cheese

New York steak with macaroni and cheese

Another nice meat entree is the Teriyaki Shish-Ka-Bob sans skewers. It’s a generous plate comprised of sliced steak, mushroom caps and grilled red and green peppers. The ka-bob is sliced into larger than bite-sized pieces of moist, tender and delicious meat, the flavor of which is ameliorated by a teriyaki sauce that is neither too sweet nor too savory.

Another favorite item at Quarters is the dinner salad (iceberg and Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, cucumbers) with as much blue cheese as the wait staff can carry. The blue cheese dressing is light on the mayo and heavy on the blue cheese, a great combination for blue cheese aficionados.

In 2006 and 2007, Quarters earned Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence,” an accolade bestowed upon restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections…and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.”

Quarters
905 Yale, S.E.
Albuquerque, NM
843-7505
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 23 March 2011
# OF VISITS: 13
RATING: 14
COST:: $$
BEST BET: Dinner Salad with blue cheese dressing, Teriyaki Shish-Ka-Bob

Quarters BBQ on Urbanspoon

Santa Ana Cafe – Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico

The resort at Tamaya

As you gaze in awe at the sheer opulence of the expansive Tamaya hospitality complex and resort and consider the Santa Ana Pueblo’s Vegas-style, high-stakes gaming center or 27-hole, championship golf course, you have to conclude that the Pueblo’s tribal enterprises are flourishing–and you would be right. An entrepreneurial spirit is nothing new to the Santa Ana people. The Santa Ana (Tamaya) Pueblo has a long and storied history of forward-thinking and self-reliance. To increase its land base and agricultural production, in 1709 the pueblo purchased 5,000 acres along the Rio Grande. Coupled with its 15,000-acre Spanish land grants and other land purchases, the reservation (population about 500) is today a vast expanse of about 73,000 acres.

While Tamaya, the ancient Keresan (Keres is a group of seven related dialects spoken by Pueblo peoples) pueblo isn’t open to the public, Tamaya, the pueblo’s opulent, award-winning Hyatt Regency resort and spa is. Located just northwest of Bernalillo, Tamaya is a sprawling complex of luxurious pueblo-style guest rooms appointed with traditional designs and modern amenities. The resort is renown for its soothing spa, nationally ranked golf course and restaurants which celebrate the tri-cultural traditions of New Mexico.

The Santa Ana Cafe is the more informal and family-oriented of the two fine-dining restaurants on the site. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a comfortable setting where you’re surrounded by traditional Native American art as you dine. Picture windows provide spectacular vistas, at your forefront being the resort’s hornos in which breads are baked in time-honored ways.

Some of the tasting offerings from the Prime Rib Buffet

The menu is a melding of New Mexican and nouvelle cuisines showcased in innovative dishes, many of which are punctuated with red or green chile and other New Mexico staples. Visit after work on Friday and even if you’re determined to order one of the mouth-watering menu options, you’ll succumb to the lure of the Friday evening Prime Rib Buffet, a bargain at under $30 a person. The buffet features a slow-roasted herb-crusted prime rib of beef, au jus carved to order. With more than a hint of pink and juices oozing freely, it is richly marbled with fat and tender enough to cut with a fork. Alas, the restaurant’s horseradish is one tame pony (if it doesn’t make my eyes water and nose run, it’s not horseradish), so fortunately the au jus and a spicy chimichurri sauce are good alternatives.

You won’t see the traditional marriage of prime rib and baked potato on the Prime Rib Buffet. Instead, you’ll savor the Yukon Gold Whipped Potato Bar featuring sautéed mushrooms and onions, roasted garlic sour cream, butter, chopped bacon, cheddar cheese and scallions–all you need to dress a potato deliciously. The whipped potatoes have the tender, buttery taste of baked potatoes without the mess of the potato skin. The buffet captures the essence of a New Mexican staple and the spirit of the Caribbean with its signature grilled red chile jerked chicken. This intricate blend of uniquely pungent spices and tender poultry is even popular among children who probably think it’s some sort of barbecue.

Salads at the Santa Ana Cafe

The third carnivore’s delight on the buffet might be pork scaloppini with burgundy braised shallots. In our travels, we’ve experienced veal, beef, pork and even venison scaloppini and have had scaloppini with a variety of sauces–some sassy and sweet, some stewy and bland and some even lemony and tart, but few as complementary as the burgundy braised shallots. The pork is moist and tender with a lively melding of savory and sweet tastes. If there’s one complaint we have about the restaurant’s “meaty main event,” it’s that the meats and even Yukon gold potatoes are generally no more than lukewarm, probably to prevent them from drying out. Don’t hesitate to have the restaurant’s attentive wait staff take them to the kitchen and warm them for you. You’ll be happy you did.

A lively mélange of assorted mixed greens with a selection of toppings (including piñon, roasted corn, and bleu cheese crumbles) and dressings (the Italian dressing is incomparable and the green chile buttermilk) make for creative salads. You might also opt for a salad of nopalitos and citrus with a charred jalapeno vinaigrette. The choices are limited only by your imagination.

Chocolate decadence defines the dessert bar. Your eyes, heart and appetite will be immediately drawn to the chocolate fountain where all your fondue fantasies will be fulfilled. You can dip all the strawberries, marshmallows and pound cake you want in rich, creamy milk chocolate. It’s so popular among chocoholics that the hot fudge brownie pudding, New York style cheesecake with strawberries and other tantalizing sweet treats are virtually ignored.

Santa Ana Baby Back Ribs Sweet and Spicy Glazed Ribs served with Steak Fries and Wasabi Slaw

On the evenings in which the prime rib isn’t the featured attraction, the dinner menu provides a number of American and New Mexican specialties, all reasonably priced and generously portioned. The menu includes a build your own burger you can have your way–with a beef, chicken, tuna or veggie pattie and all your favorite fixings. One of the specialties of the house is a Dr. Pepper Glazed Short Rib, a braised, fork-tender beef short rib topped with “Old Time” Dr. Pepper glaze served with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed fresh vegetables.

The Santa Ana Baby Back Ribs, sweet and spicy glazed ribs served with your choice of pinto beans or wasabi coleslaw, are quite good–better, in fact, than baby backs served at several local purveyors of barbecue.  These baby backs are uncharacteristically meaty and the meat is fork-tender.  As advertised, the glaze has a nice pronouncement of spicy sweetness though it’s not as much glazed on as it is slathered.  The wasabi coleslaw is considerably more piquant than the barbecue sauce though it won’t quite water your eyes either.

Fish Tacos

The lunch menu includes burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups and daily specials, some very inventively crafted.  Fish tacos, for example, are made with seared ahi topped with a cabbage slaw, a lime-cilantro crema and guacamole in a crispy, hard-shelled blue corn taco.  Though different than other fish tacos I’ve had in New Mexico, these are characteristically dry with the ahi being the dominant flavor.  More of the crema’s influence would have improved these tacos greatly.

Santa Ana Cafe
1300 Tuyuna Trail
Santa Ana Pueblo, NM
867-1234
LATEST VISIT: 20 March 2011
# OF VISITS: 5
RATING: 19
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Sunday Brunch, Friday Evening Prime Rib Buffet, Santa Ana Baby Back Ribs

Santa Ana Cafe on Urbanspoon

Straight Up Pizza – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Straight Up Pizza in the far Northeast Heights

Straight Up Pizza in the far Northeast Heights

Hall of Fame New York Yankee Yogi Berra is renown for his malapropisms, notorious flubs that made him one of the most quoted personalities in the sports world.   “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six” is one of his classic examples of misspeak.  In a more serious vein, Pulitzer Prize award-winning writer Anna Quindlen, used pizza in an analogy  “Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around.”

Profound quotes all, but perhaps the one which best expresses the sentiment most Americans feel about pizza–which we consume at the rate of approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second–comes from “every man” comedian and actor Kevin James who said, “There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap.”

Posting in the Chow Down in Burque Town forum, a Duke City Fix member who goes by the sobriquet “Coffee Freak” waxed eloquent about a new pizza restaurant which opened in the Northeast Heights in May, 2009. Feeling as if he’d “been stuck in exile since moving to the NE Heights,” the coffee connoisseur’s dreams had been dominated by good pizza, dreams which “were answered with the opening of Straight Up Pizza.”

The Chupacabra

The Chupacabra

Diversifying from his nocturnal and now diurnal cravings, Coffee Freak also discovered that Straight Pizza offers “one of the best calzones I have ever devoured,” a calzone so good he considered “giving up pizza and just eat calzones. Except that their pizza is amazing.”  Amazing pizza!  Best calzones!  Could this be straight up?

That rousing endorsement was filed in my expansive mental database of new restaurants to try. By coincidence, shortly after reading Coffee Freak’s homage to Straight Up Pizza, we happened to be in its neighborhood one Sunday at about lunch time. Maybe it wasn’t coincidence.  Maybe it was straight up fate.

Straight Up Pizza is located in a modern stucco edifice on Wyoming and Burlison, directly across from Academy High School. An ill-fated tenant named Woody’s Sports Cafe previously occupied the yawning space which doesn’t subscribe to the stereotypical trappings of an American pizzeria.  In fact, it has the look and feel of a modern, maybe even industrial space whose tenant happens to be a pizza restaurant. The walls are relatively stark with no pretensions to New York style pizza or any other.  Air Force and Marine Corps banners are proudly displayed on one wall.

The Meaty Calzone

The Meaty Calzone

Above the counter at which you place your order is a menu scrawled with the pizzeria’s offerings which include the aforementioned calzones as well as salads, wings, garlic cheese sticks and of course, pizza.  Pizzas are available with your choice of three sauces: original marinara, hot marinara or garlic and olive oil and are baked with mozzarella and ricotta cheeses.  They range in size from a ten-inch personal pizza to an eighteen-inch large pizza.  The menu lists only seven pizzas, but you’re free to customize your pizza or calzone with any number of ingredients: bacon, black olives, chicken, fresh basil, fire-roasted red peppers, fresh Hatch green chile (regular or XXX hot), green peppers, ham, jalapenos, meatballs, mushrooms, pepperoni, pineapple, red onions, roasted garlic, sausage, spinach and tomatoes.

One of the more intriguing pizzas is called The Chupacabra.  Readers new to New Mexico or who haven’t caught the playful banter between KRQE’s legendary news anchor Dick Knipfing and manic meteorologist Mark Ronchetti might not be familiar with the term chupacabra which literally means “goat sucker,” a name which comes from a mythical creature’s reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of domestic livestock, with a particular taste for goats.  Straight Up’s rendition has nothing to do with goats.  It’s made with pepperoni, meatballs, fire-roasted red peppers, hot (XXX) green chile and hot marinara chile.

The Chupacabra is sure to catch your attention and not solely courtesy of its piquancy.  It is an excellent pizza with a canvas of made-from-scratch dough and artistically positioned ingredients.  The pizza is prepared in a WOW conveyor oven reputed to cook any pizza in four minutes.  The pizza arrives at your table piping hot and disciplined though you might be, you’re going to want to attack it.  Burnt tongue not withstanding, you’ll enjoy every bite.  The XXX chile is not only five-alarm piquant, it has a roasted flavor chile lovers will appreciate.  The other ingredients are top-notch, too.

It started off as a Pizza Margherita (Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and garlic white sauce) before we added green chile, roasted garlic, onions and ham

Straight Up’s rendition of the pizza which started it all, the legendary Pizza Margherita is fashioned in the traditional manner with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag.  It wouldn’t be America if we didn’t do it our way, however, and that’s what we did during our second visit, adding red onions, green chile, roasted garlic and ham.  The additions don’t change the color montage, but certainly alter the pizza’s flavor profile.  Prepared with the garlic and olive oil sauce, it’s an excellent pizza.  The crust is thin, but not cracker-crispy.  It’s formidable enough to stand up to the ingredients which aren’t piled on, but placed strategically so that there’s flavor in each bite.

As Coffee Freak discovered, the only thing on the menu which could possibly top a Straight Up Pizza is the calzone.  A Meaty Calzone (pepperoni, ham, sausage, meatballs and bacon) half the size of a football may be the very best calzone I’ve had in New Mexico, certainly in the top three.  Rather than the seemingly de rigueur marinara sauce, try this carnivore’s dream calzone with the garlic and olive oil sauce.  Carnivores might expect the five-meat combination to be the star of the show, but it’s the sauce which they’ll remember most.  There’s especially something magical about garlic and bacon.

Perhaps even better than the meaty calzone is the ominously named “Devil Dog,” a calzone made with pepperoni, pineapples, hot green chile, roasted garlic and bacon.  The combination of the green chile’s piquancy and the sweet tanginess of the pineapple is eye-opening.  The only way to have improved this calzone is if the pineapple had been grilled to the point of near caramelization, but that’s a nit.  With either (or both or neither) the garlic and olive oil sauce or the hot marinara sauce, this is one special calzone, one I’ll order time after time.

A "Devil Dog" Calzone: Pepperoni, Pineapples, Hot Green Chile, Roasted Garlic, Bacon

Straight up, this is one of the best new pizza restaurants in the Duke City.  In 2009, Albuquerque The Magazine readers selected it as the city’s best unknown restaurant. If it continues to make the same broad strides it’s made in its first couple of years of operation, it won’t be unknown for very long.

Straight Up Pizza
6501 Wyoming, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 796-9343
Web Site

LATEST VISIT:  20 March 2011
1st VISIT: 19 July 2009
# OF VISITS: 2
RATING: 20
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Chupacabra, The Meaty Calzone, The Devil Dog Calzone, Pizza Margherita

Straight Up Pizza on Urbanspoon

Josh’s Barbecue – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Josh's Barbecue in Santa Fe

Josh’s Barbecue in Santa Fe

Perhaps indicative of the world becoming more broad-minded and accepting, “peasant food” (which usually includes traditional foods of specific regions) is now looked upon as a culinary art form in which skillful cooks are celebrated for employing the wisdom of the ages to prepare wonderful meals using inexpensive, generally home-grown, ingredients.

In France, the term peasant food is actually translated as “food of the country” because it is usually associated with poor rural farmers.  In Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, peasant food is regarded as a visible tribute to the inherited knowledge culled by generations of peasant food producers honing the ideal cuisine of their regions. In the United States, three of the most obvious examples of down-home, regional peasant food are our own New Mexican cuisine, Louisiana Creole and of course, barbecue.  To generations, this is comfort food at its very best, the delicious bounty of a rustic life.

Alas, as a commercial enterprise, barbecue restaurants often seem to perpetuate a bumpkinly stereotype.  The “template” seems to include red and white checkered cloth tablecloths adorning oak tables, cute ceramic pig figurines on the counters and country music blaring from a tinny stereo.  At the extreme end of this stereotype, you might even see bails of hay, barbed wire and steel buckets serving in some fashion as part of the “ambiance.”

Chile con queso with carne adovada

Chile con queso with carne adovada

Josh’s Barbecue is at the opposite end of the spectrum, situated in a sophisticated edifice with exposed duct work on the ceilings, stainless steel appliances and other modern restaurant accouterments.

You’ll  have to look hard for the trappings of the stereotypical barbecue restaurant.  Sure, there’s a colorful saddle by the railing behind which diners queue up, but it has a utilitarian purpose–it holds laminated menus which diners study before they place their order.  the most “countrified” ornamentation on the walls are several framed picture of decorative, multi-hued cowgirl boots.

Josh’s launched in April, 2006 in Santa Fe’s then brand new San Isidro Plaza.  It is adjacent to the parking garage at the multiplex theater complex and is one of several new strip malls and businesses in the city’s burgeoning southwest sector. Josh’s Barbecue wasn’t even open yet when the May, 2007 edition of Santa Fean magazine went to press with its “Chef’s Picks” issue in which the city’s chefs were surveyed about their favorite dining venues.  Although the public had yet to savor Josh’s handiwork, his restaurant garnered a “best new restaurant” vote with one chef confiding “I’ve tasted Josh’s recipes and his is the best barbecue around.”

A three meat plate

A three meat plate

The Josh behind this enterprise is Josh Baum, a graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, a Le Cordon Bleu affiliated school.  His spangled resume includes tenure as sous chef at the Old House Restaurant under the tutelage of executive chef Martin Rios, a culinary icon in the City Different and beyond.

As the unnamed chef confided, Josh’s barbecue may indeed be the best barbecue around.  His restaurant had been open for just under a month when we first visited.  I wondered if the lengthy queue of diners waiting to place their orders  would be there months later or if the long line was characteristic of the “new restaurant syndrome.” Studying the mesmerized faces of diners besotted by the aroma of smoked meats, I surmised that these diners would probably be back.  After our meal, I became certain Josh’s would become their favorite barbecue restaurant in Santa Fe, perhaps New Mexico.

The menu includes several barbecue favorites as well as some interesting localized twists to favorites such as a green chile coleslaw, green chile flecked cornbread, chile con queso with smoked carne adovada and smoked carne adovada.  The best deal is a two- or three-meat plate with two sides, especially if a dining companion orders different meats than you do.

Another three meat platter, this one with smoked carne adovada

Another three meat platter, this one with smoked carne adovada

On each table (sans red and white checkered tablecloth) is a carousel with three different sauces: a “seasonal” sauce, a “traditional” sauce and a “traditional hot” sauce.  Purists will argue that well-smoked meats need no ameliorants and that sauces mask inferior barbecue.

Josh’s smoked meats need absolutely no sauce, but if you’re so inclined, these sauces might just blow you away, especially if you don’t waste your time trying to discern the genesis of their unique flavors.  The sensational seasonal sauce, made with blackberries, honey and bourbon is reflective of Josh’s inventiveness.  The traditional hot sauce creates a nice warming sensation at the back of your throat.

One appetizer sure to become a local favorite is the chile con queso with carne adovada.  We’re not talking smallish shards of carne here.  Covered in a creamy cheese concoction are large chunks of smoked porcine perfection.  The thin tortilla chips were in trouble when they had to bear the weight of the carne adovada so you might want to dispense with them and use a fork.

The Slammer (Pulled Pork and Polish Sausage)

The Slammer (Pulled Pork and Polish Sausage)

The chile con queso is also available with pulled pork and similar to its counterpart with carne adovada, there’s pulled pork a plenty on this appetizer.  This isn’t your Velveeta con queso.  It’s thick, rich and utterly delicious.

Josh obviously understands his clientele by offering a wedge of green chile flecked cornbread with each plate.  This cornbread isn’t dessert sweet or crumbly as some cornbread tends to be.  Neither is it dominated by the green chile.  Instead it melds the best of a quintessential rural (peasant) Southeastern bread with the very best the Southwest has to offer–a piquant New Mexico green chile.

The taste of green chile is somewhat more prevalent in the green chile coleslaw, one of several available “sides.”  This coleslaw is light on the salad cream and heavy on flavor, particularly of the “sneak up on you” green chile and of pepper.  It is the antithesis of the Colonel’s runny, cloying coleslaw.

Smoked Chicken Taquitos

Smoked Chicken Taquitos

The meats are all delicious: fall-off-the-bone ribs; tender, smoky pulled pork; incendiary hot links; juicy and tender brisket; spicy Polish sausage and a uniquely wonderful smoked carne adovada (which would have been made even better with a flour tortilla).  This is barbecue at its finest, a step up from what might be considered “peasant food” but still a progeny of the best in down-home cooking traditions.

Meats are available by the half pound, on plates, as family meals and as sandwiches.  Your best sandwich bet just might be “The Slammer” because you get to choose one meat and one sausage, both of which are engorged between sesame seed burger buns barely able to contain all the meat piled on them.  Polish sausage and pulled pork make a surprisingly good combination with the spicy, smoky sausage serving as an interesting foil for the delicate pulled pork.

One of the most delicious qualities of Josh’s smoked meats is that they’re not heavily saturated with smoke.  There’s just enough smoke to let you know it’s there, just enough to imbue it with the unmistakable bouquet of wood fragrance.  That’s all Josh’s turkey club needs to set it apart from the boring day after Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwich.  Well, that and crisp bacon, avocado, mayo, tomato and lettuce.   This is simply one of the very best turkey club sandwiches I’ve ever had.  It’s not a multi-layer skyscraper of a sandwich as some club sandwiches tend to be.  The turkey is sliced into generous quarter-inch thickness and it’s the star of a sandwich imbued with all-star accompaniment.

Smoked turkey club sandwich

Among the New Mexico inspired barbecue specialties are smoked chicken tacquitos. Most tacquitos, it seems, are cigar-shaped and tightly wrapped corn tortillas with a dryish chicken and bean amalgam. At Josh’s, the tacquitos are thick and moist, packed with delicious smoked chicken almost juicy enough to have come from a chicken stew. The tacquitos are served with a mildly piquant salsa that seems tailor made for the lightly crisp tortilla shells and their pronounced corn flavor.

With Josh’s Barbecue around, you won’t hear too many Santa Feans deliberate the merits of barbecue from Memphis, Kansas City, the Carolinas or Texas.  That’s because they’re too busy smacking their lips and uttering yummy sounds as they enjoy the city’s very best barbecue.

Josh’s Barbecue
3486 Zafarano Drive
Santa Fe, New Mexico

LATEST VISIT: 13 March 2011
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: Chile Con Queso, Green Chile Coleslaw, Pulled Pork, Smoked Carne Adovada, Cornbread, Ribs, Hot Links, Pulled Pork Sandwich, Brisket Sandwich, Turkey Club

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Las Fuentes at The Bishop’s Lodge – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Bishop's Lodge on the road from Santa Fe to Tesuque

In 1927, Willa Cather penned one of the very best novels ever written about New Mexico in Death Comes For the Archbishop, an American literary classic based on the the vicissitudes of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy. As the first bishop of Santa Fe, Lamy faced the prolific challenge of reestablishing a congruent Catholic church while facing religious corruption and the desolation and loneliness of living in a strange and unforgiving land. It’s no wonder he had a secluded retreat built for him in the colorful foothills of the Sangre De Cristo mountains. That exquisite hideaway has become one of America’s best retreats with exceptional accommodations, unlimited recreational opportunities and now, the finest in dining.

In the spring of 2002, the Bishop’s Lodge Resort and spa launched a new concept restaurant called Las Fuentes (The Fountains), so named because of the lush green oasis watered by the Spa’s own water recycling plant. On Sundays, Las Fuentes features a lavish brunch buffet which perennially garners “the best in Santa Fe” recognition. To say it’s one of the very best brunch buffets we’ve had in New Mexico is a vast understatement. For just shy of $40 per person,  not including  tip, you can engorge yourself on among the best brunches you can find anywhere.

One of two buffet stations. This one includes an omelet and egg table.

It’s a Bacchanalian feast, an indulgence in the type of excess you dare not allow yourself too often–even if you could afford it–for fear of caloric over-achievement.  It’s a bounteous buffet the type of which is a complete antithesis of the eating Olympics E.B. White described in his 1952 classic Charlotte’s Web when he wrote about Templeton the rat’s scavenging at the fair.  It’s on par with the very best of buffets in Las Vegas which, contrary to stereotype, are no longer the  all-you-can-choke-down fests of cheap chow yore.

The featured fare is Continental (French, Spanish, New Mexican, Native American) American cuisine at its finest, at least thirty different items showcased decorously in stainless steel vessels that are both attractive and utilitarian.  Two elegant dining rooms with western appointments make diners feel instantly at home where they’re surrounded by authentic Navajo rugs and commissioned murals by early Santa Fe artist W. E. Rollins.  Dulcet musical stylings provide a soothing tone by which to enjoy your meal.  The buffet stations occupy two elongated rooms, both thematically laid out and a joy to navigate.  In the nearly seven years (2004-2011)  between visits, the buffet was actually scaled down, emphasizing high quality over sheer volume.

Clockwise from top: corn on the cob, Virginia ham with pineapple glaze, oysters, candied walnuts and assorted cheeses

Seafood items include snow crab legs, oysters on the half-shell, shrimp and a fish entree.  During our most recent visit, the  carving table featured Virginia ham served with a pineapple glaze.  An expert carver will fill your plate if you wish.  Salads of both the legume and vegetable variety as well as macaroni fare are plentiful. Turophiliacs (those obsessed with cheese) will find a wide variety of high quality cheeses: creamy mozzarella, mild Swiss, sharp Cheddar, bold goat cheese and more, all of which go well with the dried fruits and candied walnuts.

An omelet and egg station with made-to-order service is made to please.  Adventurous diners might want to try a “Hangtown Fry,” essentially an omelet made with bacon and oysters, a weird barnyard meets seafood combination made exceedingly well in California.  The brunch bunch will appreciate the oversized sausage and crisp bacon, the type of which only restaurants seem able to find.  Hashed browns topped with melted cheese, eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and enchiladas are among the best reasons for waking up in the morning and Las Fuentes prepares them all well.

Clockwise from top: Virginia ham with pineapple glaze, smoked salmon, blue corn enchiladas with red and green chile; hashed browns, sausage, eggs Benedict

The dessert table alone is almost worth the cost of the brunch. It’s both a chocolohic’s paradise and an Adkin’s dieter’s nightmare with moist, rich and sinfully rich indulgences.  The tiramisu is terrific, never mind that the great Daniela  Bouneaou at Torinos @ Home might not find it entirely authentic   An apple pie cheesecake topped with caramel is a sweet piece of heaven, but my very favorite dessert is the bread pudding which is one of New Mexico’s very best. For the more health conscious, baskets of succulent, juicy fruits are available.

To wash it all down, champagne and mimosas are complementary after the noon hour (courtesy of a New Mexico state law that prohibits the sale of alcohol any earlier on Sundays).  Gone is the fresh-squeezed tangerine juice with which we fell in love during previous visits, but you can hardly call the orange juice a consolation prize.  The coffee is superb, a rich blend with a fragrant aroma.  Service is attentive without being intrusive.  Even the chef will come out to check up on you.

Apple pie cheesecake with caramel topping and tiramisu

Las Fuentes is one of Santa Fe’s premier restaurants for more than just brunch, but it’s at brunch that it seems to shine brightest…or could that be the sun’s rays on a summer morning while partaking of the city’s best brunch from the spacious patio.

Las Fuentes at The Bishop’s Lodge
North Bishop’s Lodge Road
Santa Fe, NM
983-6377
Web Site

LATEST VISIT: 6 March 2011
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 22
COST: $$$
BEST BET: Sunday Brunch Buffet

Las Fuentes Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

The Cajun Kitchen – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Albuquerque's Cajun Kitchen

Albuquerque's Cajun Kitchen

Note:  After 24 years of serving Albuquerque in two locations, the Cajun Kitchen closed its doors on Friday, March 11, 2011.  On a notice in the menu, the Hebert family wrote, “It has been a privilege serving the Albuquerque community and have been equally blessed by the support of those who have graced our tables making the restaurant the institution it has become.”

When we moved back to Albuquerque in 1995 after eight years of living in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, we begrudgingly accepted the fact that in New Mexico, we would never experience the type and quality of  Cajun and Creole cuisine with which we had fallen head-over-heels in love.  Our taste buds, we thought, would be deprived of  the very lively, very colorful and very varied rustic cuisine characterized by the use of the “holy trinity” (bell pepper, onion and celery), just-off-the-boat seafood, spicy sausage and perfectly prepared rice.  Where, we wondered would we receive our meals with the “laissez bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll) attitude so prevalent in the Deep South?

Obviously we didn’t know about the Cajun Kitchen, where Duke City diners have been getting their Cajun and Creole cooking fix for nearly a quarter of a century.  In that time, several usurpers–including chains–have come and gone.  The Cajun Kitchen is the real deal, an unpretentious and authentic, straight-forward purveyor of Cajun and Creole cuisine as well made as it can probably be done in Albuquerque, especially considering the distance to the Gulf and to seaside suppliers.  This should not be interpreted in any way that the Cajun Kitchen is some sort of “consolation prize.”  It is a very good restaurant with a loyal following that includes many other Gulf Coast transplants who recognize and love its food.

Hungry alligator headed toward Cajun Kitchen

The Cajun Kitchen is 1,162 miles from New Orleans, 1,082 miles from Baton Rouge and 918 miles from Natchitoches.  How do I know this?  Similar to the iconic signpost from the television series MASH, the walls on the kitchen at Albuquerque’s  Cajun Kitchen are adorned with signs indicating the distance to those three Louisiana bastions of Cajun and Creole cuisine.  Greatness of distance to Cajun country does not  mean greatness of distance to good Cajun food in Albuquerque.

The Cajun Kitchen is festooned in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple (representing justice), green (representing faith) and gold (representing power). One wall is bespangled with expressions of “Fat Tuesday” celebrations: multi-colored beads and bangles, Mardi Gras masks and more.  Some of the green comes in the form of a large mural depicting a bayou swamp replete with a large alligator and other fauna and flora indigenous to the bog.  The gator’s mouth is open wide, a mere foot or so away from the open kitchen.

One wall has a Mardi Gras theme

Yet another wall (pictured below) lists the lexicon of Louisiana–po-boys, French Market, krew, Hebert (the family name of the restaurant’s owners) and more along with pronunciations for some of the words not widely spoken outside of the deep south. Immediately above this dictionary are some of the trappings of the Mississippi Gulf Coast fisherman, the life’s blood of Cajun and Creole cuisine. A painting of Louisiana manor named Lemeuse takes up much of the easternmost wall.

While all the symbolism is reflective of the Cajun culture and life in Louisiana, nothing shouts Cajun louder than the restaurant’s food.  It’s the food that tugs most at our heart strings.  It’s the food that brings us back.  The Cajun Kitchen’s menu is hardly a compendium of all the great foods showcased on the menus in the great restaurants of New Orleans.  Instead, it focuses on a select few familiar offerings, those entrees that even those barely conversant in Cajun would recognize.

Cajun lexicon

Most would recognize gumbo–if not the dish, certainly the word which is actually a corruption of the African name for okra.  Okra is only one of the vegetables on traditional gumbo where it shares the stage with the aforementioned holy trinity of vegetables (celery, bell peppers and onion).  The strength of the Cajun Kitchen’s gumbo is its roux, a thickening agent made from flour and fat (perhaps clarified butter).  Gumbo options include seafood (fish, shrimp and scallops) and crawfish, both of which are quite good. This is a flavorful, full-bodied soup!

Cajun Kitchen starters include seasoned Cajun fries which are much better than the flaccid fries most restaurants serve–so good, in fact, they’re starting to catch on in other restaurants.  As good as the crispy seasoned fries  (coated in Cajun seasonings) are, most diners will start off with a crawfish basket, an oyster basket or a shrimp basket, all three of which feature fried, delicately breaded seafood.  The popcorn crawfish tend to be the most fresh, with the surprising sweetness crawfish tend to have.  All are served with traditional cocktail sauce, but are better with the “po’boy sauce,” a sweet, tangy orange marmalade sauce that contrasts nicely with the briny seafood taste. It goes without saying that the well-dressed oyster po’boy should have plenty of that po’boy sauce.

Seafood Gumbo

Better yet, if fried seafood is what you crave, order the large combo platter and you’ll be treated to a fisherman’s fried dream: Louisiana style oysters, crawfish tail meat, catfish, and shrimp. Because these treasures of the sea are lightly battered, it’s their native flavors  that will captivate you, not some thick coating which masks those flavors.  In all honesty, it’s with the fried seafood where you can most tell you’re not on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where it’s not uncommon to partake of freshly caught, just-off-the-boat seafood treasures.  Oysters, in particular, are best when that fresh and when you’ve had these pearlescent gems just plucked out of the water, you’ll notice the difference.  From among the large combo platter, the catfish stands out.  In Mississippi, we lived in the catfish capital of the world and will attest to Cajun Kitchen’s preparation of catfish being some of the best we’ve had anywhere–and certainly the best we’ve had in New Mexico…by far.

The fried seafood entrees are served with your choice of red beans and rice or seasoned fries. The red beans and rice, with or without sausage (and it would be a sin not to have the sausage), are in a class of their own in the Duke City.  This Louisiana Creole dish, traditionally served on Mondays is good seven days a week (although the Cajun Kitchen is only open Monday through Friday).  Red beans and rice get their kick from cayenne pepper, but their flavor from the holy trinity as well as  smoky Andouille sausage.  By the way, at the Cajun Kitchen, all the wait staff can pronounce Andouille correctly which is always a good sign.

Chicken Sauce Piquant: two fried chicken breasts in a very hot and spicy sauce made with jalapeños and cayenne peppers simmered in a tomato roux

It’s because we love the fried catfish so much that the entree I’ve had most often is catfish smothered in crawfish etouffee, an absolutely stunning dish brimming in the rich, flavorful spices that make Cajun cooking so popular. The basis for the Cajun Kitchen’s etouffee, a French word for “smother” is a thick, well-seasoned tomato sauce served over perfectly prepared white rice. The sauce wholly dissimilar to the tomato sauces used in Italian cooking. It’s redolent with the fragrance of the holy trinity and the olfactory-arousing seasonings so prevalent in Cajun cooking.

Another saucy and spicy offering New Mexicans will appreciate is the restaurant’s chicken sauce piquant, two fried chicken breasts in a very hot and spicy sauce made with jalapeños and cayenne peppers simmered in a tomato roux.  Hot and spicy Cajun style isn’t synonymous with hot and spicy New Mexico style.  Anyone who’s had Tabasco sauce can attest to the zesty heat the capsaicin-rich cayenne can generate, but it wouldn’t, for example, be very good on enchiladas.  What cayenne does is invigorate acidic-based sauces such as the tomato roux used on this dish.  The fried chicken is terrific, as good as any fried chicken in town.  It’s lightly breaded, moist and delicious.

Catfish filets topped with crawfish etouffe

On the “Personal Favorites!” section of the menu is a delightful surprise for diners who like flavor combinations.  It’s blackened salmon chipotle, salmon lightly glazed with raspberry chipotle and served on a bed of herbed rice and red beans and sausage.  On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, blackened entrees are de rigueur, but not many restaurants blacken salmon.  Give the Cajun Kitchen an “A” for originality and high marks for execution, too.  This entree is surprisingly good with a flavor profile that includes piquant, savory, sweet, smoky and tangy combinations.

A highlight of any meal at the Cajun Kitchen is the buttery, toasted French bread.  It’s accompaniment for most of the non-sandwich options, but so good you might want a slice or two even with a po boy, so good it doesn’t need butter or any topping.  This stellar bread is wonderful for dredging up any of the wonderful sauces and roux.  The only problem with this bread is that you’ll have a few slices too many and might not finish some of the other Cajun delights.

Oyster Po Boy with seasoned fries

Among the Cajun specialties no self-respecting Cajun restaurant would be without are po boys.  While some essayists will tell you a po boy is essentially synonymous with other sandwich types–submarines, heroes, grinders and others, Louisiana natives will argue that the po boy is different, that it’s better.  One of the things that distinguishes the po boy from other sub-type sandwiches is the French bread, baked into two-foot-long “sticks” then sliced into “half” (a six-inch sandwich called a “Shorty”) and “full” at a full foot long.  Po boy are served “dressed” with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with pickles and onions optional. Traditional po boys are served hot.  That’s the way the Cajun Kitchen makes them.  The po boy menu includes catfish, crawfish, shrimp, oyster, a shrimp-oyster combination, blackened catfish and chicken.  Po boys are served with red beans and rice or seasoned fries.

Though portions tend to be very generous, diners should never leave the Cajun Kitchen without finishing their meal with Lynn Hebert’s famous bread pudding, a version my friend Larry McGoldrick,  New Mexico’s preeminent expert on bread pudding rates among New Mexico’s best.  His assessment of the Cajun Kitchen’s bread pudding: “smooth, velvety texture, and the taste is enhanced by a light honey-based syrup and a slight cinnamon taste.  Pretty delicate dessert.”  The only thing I’ll add is that this bread pudding isn’t cloying as some syrup-enhanced bread puddings tend to be.

Lynn Hebert's famous Bread Pudding, one of Albuquerque's very best

Cajun Kitchen has been our respite when missing the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a terrific reminder of that there is laissez bon temps rouler in New Mexico.

The Cajun Kitchen
5505 Osuna, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
344-5355

LATEST VISIT: 3 March 2011
# OF VISITS: 10
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Fried Crawfish, Fisherman’s Platter, Crawfish Bisque, Garlic Bread, Crawfish Etouffee, Chicken Sauce Piquant, Beans and Rice, Oyster Po Boy, Seafood Gumbo, Bread Pudding

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