Blades’ Bistro in Placitas, New Mexico has one of the most beautiful patios around.
“Ask three Placitans what they like best about living in Placitas and…
one will say it is being so far from everything, another, being so close to everything–and both will be right.”
– The Placitas Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce not withstanding, the distance from Placitas to fabulous gourmet restaurants has spanned both great mileage and the healing passage of time for residents. When hungry, the mileage between Placitas and either Santa Fe or Albuquerque has seemed interminable. When fondly recalling a glorious meal within its doors, time has been the sole comforter for residents still missing their beloved Cafe De Las Placitas, a magnificent shooting star which faded away much too quickly but left an indelible afterglow. Most residents will agree the distance to fine restaurant dining is a small price to pay when you live in an idyllic haven back-dropped by the reddish Sandias and surrounded by panoramic views of hills dotted with dessert flora, weather-worn mesas and verdured mountains. Compared to its bustling, burgeoning, boisterous neighbors, Placitas is a serene harbor of refuge and respite.
Blades’ Bistro, which opened on March 19th, 2009, has greatly narrowed the distance to fine-dining for Placitas residents while rekindling fond memories of fabulous gourmet experiences at the long defunct Cafe De Las Placitas. For diners who frequent the former, comparisons to the latter will be inevitable–and they will be favorable. In fact, Blades’ Bistro has become a standard by which restaurant greatness is measured–not just in Placitas, but throughout northern New Mexico. It’s that good!
The Bladergroens: Chef Kevin and Anja, the first lady of Placitas
The village of Placitas (in Spanish, literally “small places”) was formed by the San Antonio de las Huertas (Saint Anthony of the Gardens) Spanish land grant in 1745. While many descendants of the original land-grant families still reside in Placitas, it has in recent years blossomed as an affluent bedroom community for residents employed in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Fewer than a dozen non-realty businesses call Placitas home, most of them ensconced in the Homestead Village shopping center, home of Blades’ Bistro.
Within a week after Blades’ opened, an excited Bruce Schor, a long-time friend of this blog, shared the news of its launch with me. “My first impression was I’m not in Placitas any more,” he related. “It has a sophisticated ambiance, very big city feel and the food is terrific.” Bruce’s glowing descriptions of what he ate were the inspired impetus for our first visit. Ive since had the great fortune to have met Bruce and his aptly named better half Grayce at Blades. It remains one of their very favorite restaurants.
Chef Kevin maintains one of the cleanest kitchens anywhere
Had it not been for Bruce, we might have thought the name “Blades” had to do with Rio Rancho’s multiplex arena by that name expanding into Placitas and into the restaurant business. Apparently several people have made that mistaken assumption. Blades’ Bistro is actually named for brothers Michael and Kevin Bladergroen. Their name is Dutch, while their restaurant is a veritable melting pot of European and American culinary influences.
An exhibition kitchen is the domain in which Kevin Bladergroen plies his chef trade as he has now for three and a half decades. After years of opening, working in and managing the kitchens of several restaurants in Europe and America, he has set down roots in Placitas. No stranger to New Mexico, he started his professional career in 1975 at Casa Vieja, a Corrales institution. He has also worked at the Prairie Star and before partnering with his brother and wife Anja to launch Blades’ Bistro, was executive chef at the innovative Standard Diner. Anja runs the front of the house. She is as charming and gracious a hostess as there is in New Mexico, the true first lady of Placitas.
Happy patrons enjoying their dinner on the patio in a mid-August day 2013
Chef Bladergroen is classically trained, having attended the prestigious “La Varenne” cooking school in Paris. His curriculum vitae also includes a unique professional odyssey by motor home. To broaden his culinary edification, he and Anja traveled across the country to work in several restaurants with chefs he admired. The journey included stops at a small coastal resort town in Maine; Aspen, Colorado, the glitzy playground for the rich and famous; and Pebble Beach, California, home of the national pro-am, one of golf’s most important events.
Chef Bladergroen’s menu is a culmination of his vast culinary training and experience. His cooking philosophy centers around using high quality ingredients to create a “melting pot of taste” with an innovative yet surprisingly unpretentious and simple menu influenced by the European and American culinary cultures from which he learned. Some facets–moderately priced culinary fare and pleasant service–of Blades’ are true to the Parisian bistro concept, however, it could be debated that the setting is not exactly casual. It’s very well appointed and stylish, certainly more upscale than your typical bistro (albeit without being overweening). It’s a restaurant in which you’ll feel right at home and have fun while being inspired to be on your best behavior.
Most of the diners on a beautiful Sunday morning were enjoying brunch on the patio instead of in the dining room.
Although the bistro doesn’t have a formal “chef’s table” per se, you can still feel like like a VIP by sitting in an area directly adjacent to the exhibition kitchen. Only a plexiglass sneeze guard and an extended countertop separate you from the kitchen. You’ll be close enough to converse with the chef, an amicable gentleman with a quick wit. Chef Bladergroen is very well organized and purposeful in every motion. He is a treat to watch.
As enlightening and inspiring as sitting in close proximity to the kitchen might be, even better are the intoxicating aromas emanating from the panoply of pots and pans perpetually sitting atop high flames. Watching every appetizer and entree in every phase of its preparation, unfortunately doesn’t make it any easier to decide what you want to eat. Everything looks and smells absolutely fabulous. My advice–let the chef pick something for you. Don’t even let him tell you what it is so you can be surprised when it arrives at your table. That’s what I’m happy to have done.
Baked Mushrooms (escargot style) / white wine, garlic herb butter, fresh parmesan
31 March 2009: Blades’ array of appetizers is impressive, but not because of sheer numbers. Including daily specials there are only about a half dozen appetizers available, but if our inaugural choices are any indication, they are of four-star quality. Fans of fleshy and fabulous fungi will fawn over baked mushrooms served escargot style. Blanketed by a light, flaky puff pastry, rich, mellow mushrooms are baked in a light white wine broth with garlic herb butter and parmesan. Mushrooms, it turns out, are the ideal vehicle for soaking up all the buttery goodness (which even Gourmet magazine believes is the best best part of escargot).
It’s not easy to sop up any remaining broth with the hard-crusted crostini which accompanies the mushroom dish, but the crostini is lightly toasted and provides a nice counterpoint to the starring attraction’s richness. As do several of the best fine dining restaurants in the Duke City area, Blades’ Bistro acquires its staff of life offerings from Albuquerque’s Fano Bakery which specializes in artisan-style rustic and specialty breads. Characteristics of baguettes from Fano, a hard-crust complements a soft, airy texture on other breads served during meals at Blades’.
Roasted Fresh Beets
21 August 2016: Beauteous, blood-red beets and gorgeous golden beets roasted so they retain a soft inside and a firm exterior are the center point of a second appetizer, roasted red beets with toasted goat cheese and a Balsamic glaze drizzle on a bed of Arugula and Radicchio. The fresh red beets are moist and tangy, a flavor complement to the smooth, creamy texture and mild flavor of the goat cheese and both are a perfect counterbalance to the savory salt and pepper flavors of the Arugula and Radicchio salad. The golden beets, grown locally, are not quite as earthy as their red siblings, but have a comparatively mellow quality and maybe a tad more sweetness. Beets are unique for their high levels of anti-carcinogens and their very high carotenoid content. It’s also heartening that they’re so delicious especially at the hands of a skilled chef.
16 August 2013: Before even having a real opportunity to peruse the menu, Anja walked by and whispered two words “Caprese salad.” That was good enough for us. Chef Kevin’s takes some liberties with the traditional Caprese salad. As made in the Isle of Capri, this simple salad is made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt, and olive oil. Blades’ rendition replaces tomatoes with fresh, sliced peaches and adds mint, an edible flower and a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar to the plate. Vive la difference! This is one lively salad with invigorating greens complementing the fresh, sweet-tangy peaches. The creamy mozzarella is the perfect foil, tempering all the bold flavors with its subtle qualities.
Cajun style fried oysters with Remoulade sauce
16 August 2013: Hearing that one of the specials of the night was Cajun style oysters led to some trepidation. Oysters, after all, have one of nature’s most unique flavors (albeit one that doesn’t appeal to all diners). A heavy hand with Cajun seasoning–or worse, blackening techniques–could bring ruin to those flavors. Thankfully Chef Kevin knows oysters are to be treated with utmost subtlety and delicateness. The oysters are lightly seasoned which allows their natural brininess to shine. The zingy, but certainly not overwhelming, Cajun personality comes from the accompanying Remoulade sauce. During our visit, the oysters shared the plate with a cold, peanuty noodle salad, likely Thai inspired.
Veal Sweetbreads: pan-seared with apples and finished with Calvados Brandy Sauce
23 February 2012: There are entrees a plenty for landlubbers, too, including some not attempted by other restaurants in the Duke City area. The seasonal menu for winter 2012 included two such rarities, veal sweetbreads and rabbit (if Anja has her way, these two stick around longer, especially the rabbit, her absolute favorite). Sweetbreads are one of those words which demonstrate English is a crazy language. They’re neither sweet nor bread. They’re in the offal (animal entrails and internal organs) family, though many would spell it “awful.” They’re also an acquired taste and one of the most misunderstood entrees–being mistaken for everything from bull’s testicles to liver–on any restaurant’s menu. Sweetbreads come from two organs–the thymus (sometimes called the throat sweetbread) and the pancreas (sometimes called the stomach sweetbread). Of all offal meat, sweetbreads are the most prized thanks to their mild flavor and color and their velvety, rich texture. Veal sweetbreads are the most popular.
My friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate, is a sweetbread savant, enjoying them so much he once had them every other week for six straight months at Chicago’s La Grenouille. When he compared Blades’ version to the one he enjoyed so much in the Windy City, I knew I had to try them, gout be damned (purine rich sweetbreads top the list of things gout sufferers should avoid). What’s a little joint pain and threat of kidney stones compared to the decadent deliciousness of great sweetbreads. Blades’ sweetbreads are outstanding–pan-seared, fork-tender veal sweetbreads in a rich, creamy Calvados brandy sauce perfumed ever so slightly with sweet, delicate apples. Texturally they’re absolutely perfect and flavor-wise, they’re incomparable. The sweetbreads are served with mashed potatoes and a salad of julienned carrots and red cabbage, a good counterpoint to the richness of the sweetbreads.
Rib Eye Steak with Cremini Mushroom Demiglace
23 February 2012: Another entree any carnivorous landlubber will lust after is a ten- to twelve-ounce rib eye steak which can be prepared with either a green chile or a crimini mushroom demiglace. The steak is prepared to your exacting specifications and arrives at your table surrounded by a rich, glossy pool of pure deliciousness. Unadorned it’s an excellent steak. The crimini mushroom demiglace with its discernible red wine influence elevates it to another level. Served with asparagus spears and one grilled tomato, it’s a terrific entree.
Green Chile Cheeseburger
9 August 2013: You’re also well advised to heed any culinary recommendation from Bruce Schor, a bon vivant who rates Blades’ Rustique Bistro green chile cheeseburger as among the very best he’s had in the Land of Enchantment. What distinguishes this burger from so many others is the Angus reserved beef from which it’s made. Angus reserve beef is consistently tender, juicy and rich with flavor. With the Bistro burger, you might swear you’re eating a fine steak nestled between a hardy Brioche bun. The green chile, splayed generously beneath melted Cheddar, is of medium piquancy with a nice roasted flavor. If you top the burger with the red onions, ripe tomatoes and lettuce provided, you’ll have to open wide to bite down. The beef itself is easily eight to ten ounces. It’s a very thick slab of beefy deliciousness, extending slightly beyond the bun. If burgers are truly about beef, this is one burger which emphasizes beef. It’s an outstanding burger, now in my hallowed list of New Mexico’s best burgers.
9 August 2013: My Chicago born-and-bred Kim, raised on a typical 1960s Midwest meat-and-potatoes diet, has consistently found much better steak at Blades’ Bistro than at any Duke City steakhouse. She’ll also tell you that Blades’ prepares a better steak frites entry than any French restaurant in Albuquerque. The steak is a grilled New York strip topped with herbed butter and served with French fries which don’t have that all-too-famiiar and insipid out-of-a-bag taste. The steak is prepared to your exacting specifications and is an exemplar of beefy perfection at just under medium. The herbed butter pools with the juices of the steak to form an addictive flavor combination. The fries are crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside with just the right amount of salt. This is a classic French meat and potatoes entree no one does better than Chef Kevin.
London Steak with scalloped potatoes and roasted vegetables
16 August 2013: Just when my Kim thinks she’s had the very best steak on Blades’ menu, Chef Kevin introduces another, even more delectable slab of perfectly prepared steak. Called a London Steak, it is indeed reminiscent of the steaks we enjoyed so much at The Mermaid in picturesque Burford, England. The London steak is a pan-seared top round filet topped with bleu cheese and a port wine demi sauce. Because top round is one of the most lean cuts of beef you can find and has very little fat, it’s a perfect vehicle for demi sauces or Bourguignon. The Blades’ cut is topped with a port demi sauce as well as a pungent, sharp bleu cheese. The sauce is thick and it is magnificent with sweet and beef stock elements. With nary a hint of fat or sinew, this steak somehow manages to be tender and moist even without the sauce.
Roasted Prime Rib
24 January 2014: One of the most popular of “cold weather dishes” on the Blades’ menu is roasted prime rib served with au jus and horseradish sauce. The prime rib, as with all meats we’ve enjoyed at Blades’ is outstanding: rosy colored and bursting with copious juices flowing at medium rare, devoid of excess fat though nicely marbled and with a nice concentration of deep fresh-roasted flavors. At about twelve ounces it’s “right-sized” slab of beauteous beef, one of the very best we’ve had in New Mexico. The prime rib is served with garlicky mashed potatoes, sauteed vegetables and a sweet, tart and sour red German cabbage as good as you’ll find at any German restaurant.
31 March 2009: The entree chef Bladergroen prepared for me during our inaugural visit is a dish he started preparing while serving as chef in a Fort Pierce, Florida restaurant overlooking an Atlantic waterfront. It’s Shrimp Milanaise, an entree named for the Italian city of Milan. For the most part I’ve equated breaded shrimp with disdained restaurant chains that tend to serve them in all-you-can-choke-down quantities. I had also assumed initially that the breading would be similar to the breading used on steak Milanesa, a Mexican favorite. Blades’ Bistro has forever changed those conceptions.
The breading is light and very well seasoned, adhering like a second skin to the perfectly prepared, sweet and succulent shrimp without dominating their native sea born flavors. Appropriately–being this entree is prepared by a chef of Dutch heritage–the shrimp are served with dollops of smooth and creamy Hollandaise sauce which imparts a rich, buttery flavor with a mild tang. Also served with the dish are rice and carrots, green beans and fennel served al dente. There are only two things wrong with the entree: it doesn’t come with a dozen or more of the crusty crustaceans and it’s not on the daily menu.
Con Frutti de Mar
31 March 2009: Seafood lovers in land-locked New Mexico have rarely had the quality of succulent shellfish and mollusks available in one dish–Blades’ Bistro’s Con Frutti de Mar, literally fruit of the sea. This entree features shrimp, scallops and lobster with a white wine garlic sauce over linguini. It’s an inspired entree in which the richness of the sauce is a concordant marriage for the sweetness of the seafood. It will not only sate your lust for protein and carbs, it may leaving you swooning in appreciation. In its annual food and wine issue for 2011, Albuquerque The Magazine awarded the Frutti de Mar entree a “Hot Plate Award” as the hot entree Albuquerque diners can’t do without.
Black Cod with a Miso Glaze and Assorted Vegetables
9 August 2013: When Anja recommends a dish, you’re well advised to heed her advice especially when it’s the special of the night. Special often means spectacular at Blades’ Bistro. Such was the case when the featured special was the black cod with a miso glaze. It’s an amazing dish Chef Kevin was taught to prepare by restaurant impresario and celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, founder of Hawaiian fusion cuisine. Black cod, also known as “sablefish” is a delicate, flaky fish with a rich, buttery flavor and silky sweet and rich overtones. The miso glaze lends a savory-sweet element that pairs magnificently with the fish. It’s one of the very best fish entrees I’ve had in New Mexico, a luscious dish which will make grown men swoon in appreciation. Though I wasn’t bright enough to heed Anja’s recommendation, cousin Susie did and she was nice enough to share her bounty.
16 August 2013: Just how good is the black cod with a miso glaze? It’s good enough to inspire a return visit one week later and this time, I had all six ounces of deliciousness all too myself. It was just as wonderful the second time around. This superb entree made my “best of the best for 2013,” a tribute to the very best dishes I had the pleasure of consuming during the year. I also paid much more attention to the sides: scalloped potatoes and roasted vegetables (carrots, asparagus, zucchini, beets and a single tomato. All were prepared to perfection. The scalloped potatoes had the right blend of cheese and creaminess to appeal to diners of all ages.
24 January 2014: The mark of a truly outstanding chef is often the ability to take what outwardly appears to be a simple dish and execute it perfectly. At its bare essence, Sole Meunière is simply sole dredged in flour, prepared in a hot skillet then doused with a pan sauce of butter, lemon and parsley. Though this dish has relatively few ingredients, it’s a daunting dish to prepare because any mistakes or flavor imbalances are glaring. Whether from years of practice or deft skill, Chef Bladergroen prepares this dish perfectly. The pan-fried sole is imbued with a very light golden blond crust. A press of a fork reveals sweet, creamy meat. The sauce is rich: a revelation in nutty butter, fragrant parsley and the tartness of lemon, all in perfect proportion.
Dover Sole En Papillote
24 January 2014: Yet another way in which Blades’ showcases sole, a flat fish member of the extended flounder family, is as Dover Sole En Papillote, a classic marriage of British and French cuisine. “En Papillote” is a method of baking fish within sealed parchment paper which creates a self contained mini “oven” in which the flavors blend and infuse the dish. Because the parchment paper is porous, it allows steam to escape so the fish is baked rather than steamed. The British contribution to this dish is the Dover sole itself. Found in the waters below the Cliffs of Dover, this sole is sometimes considered the “Porterhouse of fish” and is one of the most delicious fish, cherished and beloved by gourmets who love fish. Chef Bladergroen’s rendition of Dover Sole is as good as we remember the Dover Sole we enjoyed in England.
French Onion Soup
23 February 2012: The only sane reason for which you should forgo an appetizer is if you’re going to luxuriate in one of the chef’s wondrous soups. The French onion soup is among the most aesthetically appealing and delicious of its genre in New Mexico. Served in a traditional two-tone soup crock, it arrives at your table steaming hot with the cheese brown and bubbling over the top of the crock. The aroma of onions is intoxicating and the broth is thicker than most French onion soups. The onions are cut larger, too, imparting the wonderful sweet flavor of perfectly prepared onions. You’ll risk the molten cheese and sacrifice the roof of your mouth to dig into this soup right away.
23 February 2012: Ask any New England transplant to New Mexico what soup they miss most and invariably the answer will be clam chowder (chowdah to Bob of the Village People), the thick, hearty, soul-warming favorite of folks from Maine to Connecticut. Expats will also lament the absence of good clam chowder in the Land of Enchantment. Blades’ rendition is the best we’ve had since vacationing in Massachusetts in 2009. It’s creamy and thick, but not overly so. The potatoes are perfectly prepared and the clams are plentiful –a nice ratio of potatoes to clams. Best, they were neither tough nor chewy. It would have been interesting to see Chef Bladergroen attempt oyster crackers.
Borscht, one of several soups on the winter soup rotation
06 February 2011: If the soup du jour gracing the menu is Borscht, contemplate the rest of the starters menu no further (unless it’s to have Borscht and another starter). The Borscht, one of several soups on the chef’s winter soup rotation, is excellent. Deep reddish-purple in color courtesy of beetroot, it is redolent with tomato, potatoes, beef, sour cream, garlic and dill. Borscht, a veritable culinary treasure in Eastern and Central Europe, is one of those dishes for which there is no one universal recipe. Cultural differences (Russian, Jewish, Ukrainian, etc.) account for variations in ingredients and preparation. There are also seasonal variations that include serving it as a cold soup or a hot soup. Blades’ version is served steaming hot and it’s terrific!
24 January 2014: In January, 2014, Blades Bistro debuted the soup it would enter in the Roadrunner Food Bank’s annual Souper Bowl. It’s called a tortilla soup, but it’s much more complex than its simple name would imply. Among its components are red chili (sic), roasted corn, avocado and melted shredded cheese, all seasoned with rosemary, oregano, nutmeg, cinnamon and more. Its diversity of ingredients imbue it with a very interesting and delicious flavor profile. If you enjoy the adventure of ingredient discernment, this is a soup you will love.
In 2010, Blades’ Bistro began serving brunch on Sundays from 10AM through 2PM. Brunch is the best of two worlds–not quite breakfast and not quite lunch, but the very best of both. It’s a leisurely weekend repast which makes you feel you’re getting away with something, almost as if you’re defying your mom’s mandate not to have dessert before your main entree. Brunch in Placitas has the additional feel of going out-of-town, away from the maddening traffic and crowds to a more sedate and tranquil paced haven.
21 August 2016: Had Normal Rockwell visited Placitas on a leisurely late summer Sunday morning for brunch at Blades’, he might have been inspired to paint the event. Thematically his portfolio of small-town American scenes for The Saturday Evening Post often depicted happy events shared by friends and neighbors. That’s precisely what brunch at Blades’ is. No sooner had we stepped into the outdoor patio than we ran into our friend Bruce Schor and his affectionate four-legged child Chloe who were finishing a splendid repast. We lost ourselves in conversation for nearly an hour, our visit punctuated occasionally by dog lovers stopping to greet Chloe. Almost everywhere else the waitstaff might rushed us, but Blades’ isn’t like other restaurants. It’s a second home for residents of Placitas and a welcoming milieu from visitors like us.
Fettuccini alla Carbonara
06 February 2011: Perhaps the most sinfully rich brunch entree (on a menu which includes a Croque Monsieur made with Gruyere cheese topped with a cheese bechamel sauce) is the Fettuccini alla Carbonara, pasta tossed with cream, eggs, bacon and Parmesan. This version is more cheesy than it is creamy and it’s thicker (though not clumpy and sticky) than some Carbonara dishes. Carbonara, an Italian pasta dish with its genesis in Rome, is best made with al dente pasta and while Blades’ rendition is certainly not al dente, it’s so good and so rich you won’t–you can’t–stop eating it. Besides that, every spoonful includes bacon and you can’t go wrong with that. This dish is so rich, it should be served with a side of angioplasty.
Mongolian Ribs with Sweet Potato Fries and Coleslaw
6 February 2011: During our inaugural brunch visit, we lucked upon a special-of-the-day offering called Mongolian Ribs, a veritable tower of meaty ribs glazed with a ginger-sesame sauce. The plating of the ribs is tower-like, indeed. At least six ribs are stacked atop one another, buttressed by a mound of coleslaw and a phalanx of sweet potato fries. The ginger-sesame sauce is practically shellacked onto the ribs, but if that description leaves you dubious based on similarly described Chinese rib dishes, fear not. Unlike some Chinese ribs, these are not candied meat lollipops. The ginger-sesame sauce complements the beef ribs; it does not overwhelm them. Did I mention these ribs are meaty? Though they’re not quite Flintstonian in size, they will appease any a carnivore. The accompanying coleslaw is tangy and delicious, made with Fuji apples and julienne carrots on a bed of greens.
Tenderloin Sate with Thai Peanut Sauce
21 August 2016: Perhaps stemming from time immemorial when meats were first prepared over a flame, human beings seem genetically predisposed to enjoy meat on a stick. Whether it be shish kabobs from the Middle East, barbecue skewers from Texas or satay from Southeast Asia, we love the primal feeling of gnawing meats right off the stick before slowly, carefully extricating the meat from its host. Some of the Duke City’s best skewers of meat can be found in Thai restaurants where satay, a popular street food meat “Popsicle” is served, typically with a peanut sauce. With apologies to so many Thai restaurants we love, Chef Kevin’s beef sate (skewered and grilled beef tenderloin topped with an Indonesian peanut sauce served with an Asian salad) is better than your satay. The main reason is the superior cut of meat he uses—a perfectly grilled beef tenderloin that tastes like a premium steak. Then there’s the peanut sauce which doesn’t have the cloying, almost peanut-candy-like flavor of peanut sauce at some Thai restaurants. You’d have to beat me with a stick to make me loosen my grip on the three meat stick skewers.
21 August 2016: American poet Carl Sandburg defined poetry as “the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits,” two of life’s enduring passions. The purplish bloom of the Russian sage encircling Blades’ patio reminded us of hyacinths, so to complete the synthesis we had to order biscuits. Served with high-quality marmalade (orange and strawberry), the biscuits are dense yet delicate, light but not flaky. They’re also as delicious as biscuits can be made, particularly if you slather on the marmalade. With biscuits this good, we’re inspired to try Blades’ version of biscuits and gravy during an upcoming brunch visit.
21 August 2016: In the late 1970s, a television sitcom named Alice introduced the catchphrase “kiss my grits” into the American vernacular. From the moment the catchphrase was first uttered by Flo, a man-hungry Southern belle who worked at a roadside diner in a Phoenix diner, it garnered widespread popularity. We weren’t at all happy to kiss grits good bye when we left Mississippi in 1995, figuring we’d never again enjoy a transformative version of this Deep South staple. Two decades later, it seems almost heretical to declare that the three best grits dishes we’ve ever enjoyed have been in New Mexico, served in chronological order–from earliest to most recent–at The Hollar in Madrid, The Point Grill in Rio Rancho and Blades’ Bistro in Placitas. The Cajun Style Shrimp and Grits (sautéed shrimp with a zesty Cajun sauce, green onions, red pepper and bacon served over creamy cheese grits) are the best of the best. It’s the version you’d serve to someone who’s never had grits or even better, to someone who’s never had good grits. These are great grits, a mélange of flavors and textures that play off one another like a well-tuned orchestra.
Bacon, Green Chile and Cheddar Quiche
21 August 2016: If real men don’t eat quiche (a best-selling book published in 1982 satirizing masculine stereotypes), it’s a sad indictment of my gender. Quiche, after all, is made from ingredients men love—things such as cheese, meat and seafood. Those manly ingredients are added to a custard made from eggs and milk then poured into a pie crust (something else we love). Blades’ brunch menu features a quiche of the day, but if you’re not careful the quiche du jour may have sold out. Such was the case during our August, 2016 visit. Because the salmon and goat cheese quiche had sold out quickly, we “settled” (a poor word choice) for a quiche filled with Cheddar, green chile and bacon, a tasty (and manly) triumvirate if ever there was one. We made quick work of the quiche, relishing every bite. The quiche is served with fruit and some of the best roasted potatoes you’ll find anywhere. If you’re of the XY-chromosome persuasion and refuse to order quiche because of some tongue-in-cheek 1980s book, ask your wife to order it, but by any means just make sure Blades’ fabulous quiche graces your table.
31 March 2009: What many will love most is dessert and Blades’ Bistro doesn’t disappoint here either. An outstanding option sure to please one and all is the tiramisu. Blades’ rendition is served in a large goblet but the cake’s component parts are certainly present: ladyfinger biscuits dipped in espresso layered in a whipped mixture of mascarpone, sugar, egg yolks topped with cocoa. The distinct addition of a liqueur is also discernible. It is a phenomenal dessert and that’s selling it short. Along with the incomparable offering at Torinos @ Home, this rendition is at the top of my list of my very favorite tiramisu desserts in New Mexico, a Tuscan treat so good I’d eschew my other favorite (if it was on the menu) dessert–bread pudding.
17 December 2011: In the June, 2010 edition of New Mexico Magazine celebrating “New Mexico’s Best Eats,” a three person panel of culinary experts of which I was a part, selected as the Land of Enchantment’s best uptown dessert, the red chile soup at La Casa Sena. Studded with Chimayo chile that enlivens the chocolate, it is one of my favorite desserts. In the Chocolate Chili Pot, Blades’ Bistro may have one-upped La Casa Sena. The chocolate chili (sic) pot is a ramekin brimming with dark chocolate pots du creme with toasted Chimayo chili. Its consistency is reminiscent of a very thick frosting served cold, but it certainly doesn’t taste like the topping for a cake. The adult chocolate is made even more flavorful with the infusion of Chimayo chile (better, by the way, than Hatch chile). It’s topped with whipped cream studded with blueberries.
Chocolate Chili Pot: Dark chocolate Pots du Creme with toasted Chimayo chili
23 February 2012: Even in winter, savvy restaurateurs will serve cold dishes, perhaps figuring that frozen desserts are good any time of year. That’s certainly the case with Blades’ trio of sorbets, a refreshing, teeth-chattering bowl of flavor explosions. This housemade triumvirate is as good a chilly dessert as there is in the Land of Enchantment. As with all excellent sorbets, each truly captures the essence of the flavors they represent. The pear sorbet tastes like fresh-picked pears (only served ice cold). The pineapple-mint sorbet blends two distinctive flavors into a composite of what’s good about both. The blackberry-cantaloupe sorbet is similarly fruity and delicious.
A trio of Sorbet: Pineapple-Mint, Blackberry-Cantaloupe and Pear
23 February 2012: Besides sweetbreads, another addiction my friend Larry McGoldrick and I share is for bread pudding. It’s our catnip and kryptonite–practically bringing us to our knees in gratitude to the bread pudding gods when it’s made right. Blades’ bread pudding made Larry’s Bread Pudding Hall of Fame, an indication of its rarefied greatness. It’s at or near the top of my list, too. Unlike the soggy, custard-like bread pudding that relies on cloying sauces for flavor, this is a firm yet spongy bread pudding with a texture that’s absolutely spot-on. In terms of taste, it’s an eye-opener with the pronounced flavor of banana and rum, the latter cutting the sweetness of the former. It’s a winning combination.
Banana Rum Bread Pudding
9 August 2013: There’s only one thing wrong with the dessert menu at Blades’ It’s that every single dessert item with which you fall in love doesn’t always grace the menu. Desserts, as with entrees and appetizers, rotate with seasonal regularity. Perhaps the most perfect of summer sweets is Key Lime Pie, the official state pie of the state of Florida. The key lime pie at Blades is terrific with a pronounced key lime flavor (key lime juice, by the way, is yellow not green the way faux key lime pies are presented) tempered with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Kenney Chesney once sang about the perfect key lime pie, describing it as “not too tart, not too sweet.” That’s the perfect description for the key lime pie at Blades’ Bistro.
Key Lime Pie with Graham Cracker-Coconut Crust
16 August 2013:Could there possibly be a more appropriate name for a triumvirate of chocolate decadence than chocolate decadence trio? It’s a no brainer. If you’re a bonafide chocoholic, having this dessert is also a no brainer. Quite simply, it lives up to its name. The chili (SIC) lime chocolate pot’s du creme has the type of heat which hits the back of your throat coupled with the rich, adult chocolate to generate an endorphin rush. A sole peanut butter truffle, the coupling of two great tastes (chocolate and peanut butter) that taste great together will have you wishing for a bowlful. The flourless chocolate torte with strikes of raspberry sauce is dense and intensely flavored with adult chocolate notes. This is the type of chocolate dessert that provides the same “high” as falling in love. You’ll certainly fall in love with this dessert
Chocolate Decadence Trio
24 January 2014: Blades certainly knows how to capture my heart, offering a bread pudding du jour that proves the diversity and deliciousness of my favorite dessert, even managing to make a great bread pudding out of an ingredient I don’t like. That ingredient is white chocolate (which is technically not chocolate at all even though it contains cocoa butter), perhaps the only item bearing the name “chocolate” I don’t like. Blades’ white chocolate and macadamia bread pudding topped with a housemade brandy sauce is so good, it might even make Larry McGoldrick’s Bread Pudding Hall of Fame. The macadamia nuts cut the sweetness and richness of the white chocolate while the housemade brandy sauce lends its own richness. Make sure you order this bread pudding a la mode because the housemade ice cream is rich and delicious.
White Chocolate Macadamia Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream
21 August 2016: Just when you think salted caramel has run its course, you find a dish that reels you back in and reminds you why salted caramel became a culinary obsession in 2008. Though there’s virtually no surcease to the number and type of desserts which can be transformed from merely good to addictively delicious with the addition of salted caramel, it just seems sweet caramel seasoned with fancy salt has been tried on everything. As a result, some of us have started to take it for granted. That’s where we were until our first spoonful of the salted caramel cheesecake at Blades’. In optimal proportions of each flavor profile, the salty-sweet combination is a perfect counterbalance to the a light, creamy cheesecake. It was so good, it justified my decision to forego bread pudding.
Salted Caramel Cheesecake
21 August 2016: Anja is justifiably proud of the verdant flowers and dense shrubbery which grace the patio. Some, such as the Lavender de Provence and Rosemary have more than esthetic value and are actually used in the kitchen by the superbly talented Chef Kevin. The pairing of Rosemary with its highly aromatic-peppery-woodsy flavor notes and watermelon with its sweet, most flavor was our favorite of three wonderful sorbets, but it was close. The cucumber-lime marriage is no mere Miss Congeniality. It’s a superb pairing of flavors who share little more than a shade of green, but which combine magnificently. The third in a tasty triumvirate was blood orange, always a palate pleaser. Computer dating services should be as good at match-making as Blades’ is at pairing flavor combinations.
Sorbet Trio: Cucumber Lime, Rosemary Watermelon, Blood Orange
Placitas has become a dining destination frequented not only by local loyalists, but by diners from throughout the state and beyond. In 2011, Blades’ Bistro was selected by readers of Local IQ as the Duke City area’s best romantic restaurant, best fine-dining restaurant and for having the area’s best bartender. The operative term here is “best,” a term that has become synonymous with this stand-out restaurant and with its superbly talented chef and of course, the first lady of Placitas.
221 Highway 165 Suite L
Placitas, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 21 August 2016
1st VISIT: 31 March 2009
# OF VISITS:7
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Baked Mushrooms (escargot style), Roasted Fresh Beets with toasted Goat Cheese @ Balsamic Glace Drizzle, Con Frutti de Mar, Shrimp Melanaise, Tiramisu, Trio of Sorbets, Chocolate Chili Pot, Mongolian Ribs, Borscht, Fettuccinni alla Carbonara, Banana Rum Bread Pudding, Veal Sweetbreads, Rib Eye with Mushroom Demiglace, Steak Frites, Green Chile Cheeseburger, Black Cod with Miso Glaze, Key Lime Pie, London Steak, Chocolate Decadence Trio, White Chocolate Macadamia Bread Pudding, Roasted Prime Rib, Sole Meunière, Dover Sole En Papillote, Tortilla Soup, Dutch Style Mussels, Cajun Grits, Quiche, Salted Caramel Cheesecake, Biscuits