MARY & TITO’S CAFE – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Old-timers whose opinions I respect consistently rate Mary & Tito’s as Albuquerque’s best restaurant for New Mexican food, a restaurant that has been pleasing the most savvy and unindoctrinated palates alike since 1963. It takes a lot to impress some of those old-timers, none of whom see much substance in the flash and panache of the nouveau restaurants and their pristine veneer and effusive, over-the-top flamboyance. These guys and gals are impressed only by New Mexican food the way their…

EPAZOTE ON THE HILLSIDE – Santa Fe, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Epazote. That’s a word that can make an intrepid chef’s toque blanche resemble the white flag of surrender. If you’re a culinary savant and haven’t heard of epazote, it’s probably because the chefs at restaurants you frequent might just be afraid to use it. Would you want to use an ingredient also known as “skunkweed” and “wormseed”…a word derived from a Nahuatl term for an animal with a rank odor…an ingredient perhaps best known for reducing the after-effects of eating…

David Burke’s Primehouse – Chicago, Illinois

By day, my friend James Sorenham was an architect of his business group’s data warehouse and business intelligence strategies.  By night and on weekends, James was a gentleman farmer tending to a small herd at his Broke Again ranch outside Portland, Oregon.  James took immense pride in raising prized beef cattle and kept his colleagues apprised of their progress through his weekly status reports.  Alas, his writing skills weren’t in the same zip code as his data management skills so…

The Purple Pig – Chicago, Illinois

Poet Carl Sandburg bestowed the nickname “hog butcher for the world” upon the great city of Chicago at a time when the city was the epicenter for meatpacking in the United States. Companies such as Oscar Mayer, Swift and Armour operated large plants in the city, employing hundreds of residents. Unfortunately, Chicago’s streets became frequently overcrowded with pigs and cattle being herded through the streets to the plants. Ultimately the largest companies banded together in 1865 to build the Union…

Lotus of Siam – Las Vegas, Nevada

In the August, 2000 issue of Gourmet Magazine, multiple-time Pulitzer Prize award-winning writer Jonathan Gold called the Lotus of Siam restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada “the single best Thai restaurant in North America.”  Not a disparaging word was heard or a dissenting opinion offered among the cognoscenti save for those who argued that the word “Thai” should be removed from from Gold’s audacious proclamation.  Lotus of Siam is THAT good! In the decade plus since Gold’s assertion, every reputable critic…

Il Mulino of New York – Las Vegas, Nevada

While it may seem that Las Vegas is one perpetual bachelor party with hundreds of drunken frat boys expressing themselves loudly through expletives while leaving a hazy trail of smoke in their wake as they converge upon casino after casino, Sin City does have its pockets of civility.  One such refuge is Il Mulino during the lunch hour when it’s a veritable island of isolation and paragon of propriety despite being mere feet from the maddening throngs.  Perhaps it’s that…

The Hamilton Chop House – Durango, Colorado (CLOSED)

The Land of Enchantment with its 121,356 square miles of deserts, mesas, rivers, mountains, forests, cities and villages is the fifth largest state in the country.  In 2007, Albuquerque’s KOAT television station began a recurring series in which the station treated its viewers to an aerial perspective of many of the communities in its viewing area.  That unique bird’s eye view perspective was captured from Sky 7, the station’s news helicopter. In 2008, the station expanded its coverage, sending news anchor and New Mexico native…

Rosemary’s Restaurant – Las Vegas, Nevada (CLOSED)

You might think that a chef and proprietor whose restaurant has garnered almost every conceivable accolade might be almost unapproachable, perhaps even haughty and aloof…that being among the gastronomic glitterati, he wouldn’t make time for admirers of his culinary craft. We learned during a June, 2006 visit that THE Michael Jordan (the other one was a pretty fair basketball player) is one of the nicest, most unassuming and genuinely endearing celebrity chefs we’ve ever met. We had the great fortune…

Ristorante B&B – Las Vegas, Nevada

A pair of trademarked orange Crocs on the reception kiosk was as close to Mario Batali as we got. It’s as close as some of the wait staff has gotten in the months since Ristorante B&B launched. We had expected no less. Batali has parlayed his celebrity chef status into a veritable empire of highly acclaimed restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Like many restaurant impresarios, the “Great One” is intimately involved in the development of…