Dr. Field Goods Kitchen – Santa Fe, New Mexico
At first contemplation, Dr. Field Goods sounds like a strange name for a restaurant. To the lexicologist in me, it brought to mind the Hippocrates missive “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” To the white-coat-syndrome suffering, borderline iatrophobe in me, the name sent shivers down my spine. To the gastronome in me who finally realized the emphasis is on “field goods” and not on “Doctor,” the name elicited a curiosity that wouldn’t be sated, especially after an effusive tweet recommendation from the Lobo Lair.
As you’ve probably surmised, Dr. Field Goods is all about using fresh, local ingredients (“field goods”), a farm-to-table approach which delights the locavores among us who prefer consuming foods that are produced locally, not shipped long distances to market. The farm-to-table movement in New Mexico is more than just alive and well. It’s thriving with several exemplars who do it exceedingly well. With expectations high for a restaurant named Dr. Field Goods, it’s got a lot to live up to.
The “Doctor” is Chef Josh Gerwin, an accomplished MD (master of deliciousness) who’s cut a wide swath across Northern New Mexico’s culinary landscape. Chef Gerwin earned his doctorate in deliciousness at the New England Culinary Institute, garnering the Institute’s “Golden Tong Award” for best savory chef in his class. After serving as sous chef at the prestigious Five Diamond Fairmont Princess Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, he relocated to New Mexico. His first culinary venture in the Land of Enchantment was in operating the Curbside Café, a revolutionary food truck stationed in Santa Fe which made high-end gourmet food affordable.
In May, 2009, Chef Gerwin leased and reopened the historic 300-year-old Casa Vieja in Corrales where he created a menu featuring rustic New Mexican fare showcasing fresh, local produce from the Corrales Growers’ Market and other local purveyors of freshness. By year’s end, he had garnered “Best Chef in Albuquerque” recognition from readers of the Alibi. A year later, Alibi readers accorded Casa Vieja “Best Restaurant in Albuquerque” honors. Alas, in 2011, the Casa Vieja succumbed to the ravages of age and was forced to close after being deemed a public safety hazard.
Undaunted, on June 14th, 2012, the enterprising chef launched Dr. Field Goods, a food truck emblazoned with the slogans “Rockin’ Out Fresh NM Fusion” and “Where the Field Meets the Street.” The food truck more than lived up to those slogans with an innovative New Mexico meets the world cuisine approach belying the expected limits of a mobile kitchen. Its inaugural menu featured such avant-garde delights as green chile chicken and cheese egg rolls with peanut dipping sauce and cornmeal crusted fried frog legs tossed in a habanero apple hot sauce. Chef Gerwin doesn’t own a can opener or microwave and all his sauces are homemade, the way he’s always made them.
On April 6, 2013, Chef Gerwin launched the second instantiation of Dr. Field Goods Kitchen, this time as a more stationary operation in an easy-to-miss nondescript strip mall along Cerrillos Road just south of Jackalope. The restaurant’s storefront doesn’t face heavily trafficked Cerrillos so if you’re not paying attention, you just might miss it. That would be a near tragedy because this is one restaurant you don’t want to miss.
Telltale signs that you’ve arrived include the inviting aromas emanating from the restaurant’s custom-made oven which bears some resemblance to a New Mexican horno. Visit during the height of the lunch hour rush and you might not find a seat in the relatively tiny restaurant. Seating is in personal space proximity and the preferred seating appears to be on the bar where diners can take in the assiduous activity of the bustling open kitchen. Chef Gerwin, he of the chin curtain and serious tats, holds court with guests. The atmosphere is rock and roll raucous and fun.
Unlike virtually every restaurant in New Mexico which has a slavish relationship with either Coke or Pepsi, Dr. Field Goods dares to be different, serving refreshing and delicious soft drinks with attitude. The housemade ginger ale is wholly unlike any other ginger ale you’ve ever had. Muddled ginger, lemon juice, simple syrup and soda water in perfect proportion to each other render every other ginger ale anemic in comparison. Ditto for the fresh orange soda which is made from fresh Orange juice, simple syrup and soda water. It’s orange juice with a carbonated feel. Other adult beverages such as beer, wine and sake are also available.
Befitting the restaurant’s size, the menu is segmented into four sections: Starters & Lite Fare, Sandwiches & Mains, Desserts and Drinks with something for everyone. You could make a meal out of two or three starters and probably still have some to take home. Dr. Field Goods handmade onion rings won’t make it home with you. They’re too good not to devour at the table. Large onion rings sheathed in a thick, but light batter are perfectly prepared. They’re crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Order them smothered in cheese with red and green chile on the side. Chef Gerwin may not have been born and bred in New Mexico, but his chile was. Both red and green are delicious and neither shy away from piquancy.
While chips and salsa are practically de rigueur in New Mexico, too many are forgettable. At Dr. Field Goods, the Chips with Three Dips; chili (sic) con queso, fire-roasted salsa, dry fire salsa and fried-to-order corn tortilla chips are memorable. All three, including the con queso, bite back. The queso, an amalgam of cheeses, is wholly unlike the gloppy nacho cheese served by “less conscientious” restaurants. It’s perfectly salty, piquant and irresistibly delicious. The corn tortilla chips are still hot when then they arrive at your table so there’s no questioning their freshness. The chips are low-in-salt and formidable enough for Gil-sized scoops of salsa. Among the salsas, the fire-roasted salsa stands out.
One starter not to be missed at Dr. Field Goods is the roasted vegetable arancini featuring deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with roasted veggies and served with a housemade marinara sauce and torched, housemade mozzarella. Arancini, a versatile dish usually found only in high-end Italian restaurants, is not always made well. Chef Gerwin’s version is terrific. You’d be ecstatic to find spaghetti topped with the spirited marinara sauce while the torched mozzarella is chewy, rich and lightly salted. If all vegetable dishes were as good as this starter, kids of all ages would enjoy vegetables more.
Among the sandwiches and main dishes, one quickly approaching legendary status is the goat torta sandwich. Save for at Mexican restaurants, goat (cabrito) just isn’t very common in New Mexico. That’s a shame because goat has a unique flavor profile all its own, something akin to lamb with notes of beef. It’s neither too gamey nor too mild. Chef Gerwin butchers the goat he uses at his restaurant. He also makes the bread on which sandwiches are served. It’s the perfect canvas for the goat barbacoa, refried beans, fresh apple slices and habanero hot sauce with the housemade habanero goat cheese spread. Bite into the hard-crusted, crunchy bread and your taste buds are in for an adventure as complementary flavors coalesce into sumptuous sandwich deliciousness. The habanero hot sauce, by the way, is incendiary in an endorphin rush inducing way that makes you want to keep eating.
If it isn’t the official New Mexico state breakfast, the breakfast burrito should be. Still, you can almost always count on breakfast burritos to have a consistent “sameness” in flavor, texture and boldness. Enter Dr. Field Goods whose breakfast burrito is on steroids compared to its brethren, a collection of 98-pound weaklings. Not only is this behemoth burrito significantly larger and more overstuffed, it’s more eye-opening with a red chile you can respect. It’s got a Chile Caribe look and feel with a dark, rich red color that prefaces an earthy flavor with real piquancy. Shame on all the restaurants who don’t allow chile’s inherent heat to shine. Kudos to Chef Gerwin for not fearing the heat.
There are only two desserts on the menu. Because you’re likely to be so full, you won’t have room for dessert, you might feel like Robert Frost’s “road not taken” in contemplating which to share with your dining companion. On one hand you’ve got a truffle plate (spicy truffle and green chile truffle, each dipped in caramel with sea salt and roasted piñon nuts. On the other, you’ve got a sublime bread pudding (raisins, piñon nuts and caramel). Because we chose the bread pudding, it has made all the difference. This is one of the very best bread pudding desserts in the Land of Enchantment. The caramel is plentiful and it’s rich, decadent and gooey as it pools around the dense bread pudding.
Dr. Field Goods was one of four Santa Fe finalists for the 2013 Nature’s Plate Award presented by The Nature Conservancy. That’s quite a testament to a restaurant which scant months earlier existed only as a food truck. With Chef Gerwin at the helm, expect big things from this fantastic and fun restaurant with seriously good food.
Dr. Field Goods Kitchen
2860 Cerrillos Road, Suite A1
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 13 October 2013
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Bread Pudding, Handmade Onion Rings, Chips with Three Dips, Goat Torta Sandwich, Breakfast Burrito, Roasted Vegetable Arancini