Rachael Ray may be the most reviled celebrity cook or chef on network and cable television. While adoring fans admire her perkiness and down-to-earth approachability, it’s those traits grumpy detractors (including other celebrity chefs and food writers) seem to find most offensive. Well, that and the way she punctuates sentences with one of her many trademark catchphrases. Entire blogs are dedicated to disparaging her use of “Rachael Rayisms” with heated discussions revolving around the most annoying of her cutesy (or not so very much, depending on your perspective) catchphrases.
It’s a true testament to her popularity that one of those catchphrases was selected for inclusion on the 2007 edition of the Oxford American College Dictionary. Thanks largely to the effervescent phenom, EVOO (short for extra-virgin olive oil) is now officially part of the American lexicon. In a list of the seven most annoying Rachael Rayisms compiled by the Huffington Post, EVOO ranked only seventh for “annoyingness.” At the top of the list as the most cringe-worthy catchphrase was “yummo” (which has been used on this blog three times and no, I’m not a Rachael Ray clone).
When Mary Ann Spencer, a long-time friend of this blog, told me about a new restaurant named Delish on Albuquerque’s burgeoning northwest quadrant, my first thought was “hey, wasn’t “delish” one of the seven most annoying of Rachael Ray’s catchphrases?” Sure enough, “delish” was number six on the list, just above EVOO. The Huffington Post writer declared “Okay, Rachael Ray may have not been the first person to coin ‘delish.’ But she is definitely the person that has made people everywhere think it’s an acceptable thing to say. It’s not.”
Whether or not “delish” is “an acceptable thing to say,” it’s been part of the English lexicon since the 1920s. Delish is obviously a colloquial diminutive for the word “delicious” and has been trademarked several times. While most dictionaries still recognize it as a diminutive of “delicious,” the term “delish” is often used in a declarative or exclamatory manner. It’s as a diminutive of the adjective “delicious” for which the Duke City’s Delish is named.
Before there was a Delish, however, there was The Sassy Apron, a pre-prepared dinner and catering business operating out of a small space within the Cottonwood Corners Shopping Center. The Sassy Apron’s success convinced owners Rachael and Ian Broglie that they could expand their business to include a full-service restaurant. When a previous tenant vacated the space next door to The Sassy Apron, Delish was born.
Today Delish occupies a 3,200-square-foot space which seats 60 guests, including as many as 18 on a single community table in the middle of the dining room. From a physical, historical and proximal standpoint Delish remains connected to The Sassy Apron. Not only will they share a kitchen, they will serve some of the same dishes. Not being restricted to freezable meals, Delish is able to expand the kitchen’s repertoire, offering a very enticing array of creative American dishes.
Delish is currently open Monday through Thursday from 11AM to 6PM and on Friday and Saturday from 11AM to 10PM. The only commonalities between the lunch and dinner (Friday and Saturday after 5PM) menu are in the salads and dessert sections of the menu. Otherwise, lunch and dinner menus are distinctive, offering a different experience altogether. For lunch you can order from among several specialty sandwiches, grilled sandwiches and burgers, vegetarian sandwiches and salads. The dinner menu offers appetizers (not available for lunch), salads and entrees which range from chicken pot pie to sirloin tender steak. The motto at Delish is “dare to indulge” which will certainly heighten your expectations. Delish delivers!
Before you peruse the menu, take a gander at the unique milieu in which you’ll be dining. It’s safe to say there is no restaurant quite like Delish. Where any other restaurant would have a back wall, Delish has an array of multi-hued doors reminiscent of the doors on the animated hit Monsters, Inc. (having slept through the movie, my Kim apprised me of this fact). The repurposed doors are of varying sizes and styles, but what will really catch your eye is how they’re positioned. Seating is attractive, but more functional than it is comfortable.
Because the lunch menu doesn’t offer appetizers gives you a good excuse (not that one is needed) to have a salad. You might think that with only three salads on the lunch menu, it would be easy to make a quick selection. Alas, all three are so beautifully described, it’s impossible to make a quick decision. The Candied Walnut Salad (mixed greens, blue cheese, dried cranberries, candied walnuts served with raspberry vinaigrette) is an outstanding choice. There’s something especially delicious about the contrasting flavors of sharp, feted blue cheese and tangy raspberry vinaigrette melding with the complementary flavors of sweet-savory candied walnuts and dried sweet cranberries. The mixed greens are fresh and crispy on a beautifully plated curvilinear bowl. Chicken can be added to any of them for a pittance more.
The menu offers two burgers–a green chile cheeseburger and a fried avocado burger. It’s not often, I’ll eschew a green chile cheeseburger, but the concept of fried avocado proved too much to resist. With a mouth-watering ingredient profile (six-ounce ground chuck patty topped with provolone cheese, fried tempura avocado, tomato, bib lettuce, red onion served with a smoky chipotle sauce on a toasted pretzel bun served with house made potato chips) sure to appeal to all burgerphiles, who can resist? Alas, because there are so many assertive ingredients, the relatively mild creaminess of avocado sheathed in a tempura batter isn’t easily discerned, but the ingredient combinations do come together in a most delicious way. In fact, the only way this burger could be made any better is with green chile (yeah, I’m incorrigible) .
One of the more interesting sandwiches on the menu comes from the vegetarian sandwiches menu. It’s a Crisp Cheese Filled Eggplant Panini (panko breaded fried eggplant topped with a basil goat cheese and provolone spread on a flatbread and drizzled with pomegranate molasses and balsamic reduction) served with a mini Caprese salad (mozzarella, basil, tomatoes). Eggplant is one of those “either you love it or hate it” vegetables and lovers and haters are rarely converted. This panini probably won’t convert any haters, but eggplant lovers will enjoy it very much. The notion of a flatbread panini is reason enough to try this, but it’s the eggplant that’ll ultimately win or lose your affections. The eggplant, sheathed in panko, is excellent, complemented by the lively pomegranate molasses and balsamic reduction. The goat cheese, alas, was lost among the other flavors.
There are six desserts on the menu. A couple of them are so uniquely named you’ll have to ask just what they are. Have you, for example, ever heard of Xango? Contrary to images the name may conjure, it’s not an exotic African fruit of any sort. Xango is a layered pastry stuffed with cheesecake filling and deep fried like a chimichanga then drizzled with brown sugar. It’s a lively dessert with interesting textural and flavor contrasts. Another unique sweet offering is Delish’s take on Smores, the traditional night time campfire treat made with roasted marshmallows and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between Graham crackers. Instead of Graham crackers, the roasted marshmallow sits atop a Graham cracker cookie and is topped by sliced strawberries and a trail of chocolate sauce. It’s an adult Smores children of all ages will love.
Delish may be a diminutive version of the word “delicious,” but there’s no shortchanging exciting flavors and options at a West side restaurant sure to draw in diners from throughout the city.
3705 Ellison Road, N.W., #A
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 28 July 2014
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Candied Walnut Salad, Crisp Cheese Filled Eggplant Panini, Fried Avocado Burger, Xango, Smores