Gil’s “Best of the Best” for 2014

Poblano Soup, my very favorite soup in the universe and beyond (Photo courtesy of Sandy Driscoll)

The advent of 2015 is nigh. It’s with great fondness and more than a little (blush) salivation that I bid adieu and auld lang syne to my most memorable dishes of 2014. These are the baker’s dozen dishes which are most indelibly imprinted on my memory engrams…the first dishes that come to mind when I close my eyes and reflect on the past year in eating.

This compilation will show that 2014 may have been the year of the horse in the Chinese calendar, but in this gastronome’s calendar, 2014 was resoundingly the year of soup. Yes, soup, the most comforting of comfort foods. If, as Beethoven postulated “only the pure in heart can make a good soup,” New Mexican chefs are pure-hearted geniuses.

Sweet Symphony: Avocado ice cream tinged with jalapeño, beet foam, ginger, piñon (Photo courtesy of Sandy Driscoll)
      • My restaurant of the year, chef of the year, meal of the year, dish of the year and dining experience of the year all emanate from one magical location in one of the most magical cities in the world. Situated within the fabulous confines of the Hillside Gallery in Santa Fe, Epazote is spectacular and it is stunning. The two best of the best dishes it was my pleasure to enjoy in 2014 were Epazote’s foodgasm-inducing Poblano Soup and Sweet Symphony, a transformative dessert.
      • Bocadillo’s Smoked Sweet Potato-Chipotle Soup is one of those rare elixirs which may make you swoon, embodying all the qualities of soup greatness: soul-satisfying deliciousness and soothing, addictive aromas that envelop you like a warm blanket on a cool day.
      • Just prior to my week-long culinary tour of Charleston, South Carolina in April, Joe’s Pasta House in Rio Rancho prepared a seafood bisque so good I compared every soup in the Palmetto State to it. Joe Guzzardi may not have the advantage of having the ocean in his backyard, but he prepares seafood soups just as fresh and delicious as you’ll find anywhere.
      • Now the third largest city in the Land of Enchantment, Rio Rancho is starting to develop a culinary identity that draws in visitors from throughout the Albuquerque metropolitan area and beyond. My favorite eye-opening one-two punch comes from Cafe Bella where the addictive (I’ve had more than 30 of them) red chili mocha and street tacos make this superb coffee shop worth a visit from anywhere in the Land of Enchantment.
      • Wolfgang Puck believes if you’re cooking for a woman, a good risotto, a salad and macaroons will win her over. Why cook when you can take her to Jennifer James 101 when the seasonal menu includes risotto punctuated with crispy pork jowl “chicharrones”, thinly sliced radishes and micro-herbs and served with a pork belly? It’s the way to any heart you want to win over!
      • If your idea of “ramen” starts and ends with microwavable noodles in a Styrofoam cup, it’s time to wake up and imbibe the addictive long-simmered Tonkotsu Spicy Miso at O Ramen. It will forever change your opinion of ramen, the kind for which foodies stand in line for hours in Tokyo.
      • Budai Gourmet Chinese is one of those rare restaurants that would be great anywhere, not just in Albuquerque. One of the many reasons we hold it in such high esteem is the Crispy Orange Peel Scallops which are nearly as picturesque to ogle as they are delightful to eat.
      • One of the greatest tragedies of 2014 was the fire which forced the closure of Back-Sass BBQ in Bernalillo. It precipitated a cold-turkey withdrawal from the delectable Smoked Turkey and Broccoli Soup. If I was meant to stop enjoying this great soup, it should be a weaning process over a period of fifty or sixty years, not a torturous instantaneous soup stoppage.
      • My Kim sometimes tells me my “man card” should be taken away for my indifference toward steak. If all steak was prepared as well as the ribeye at Bouche my carnivorous inclinations would certainly be heightened. Two inches thick and served under a smoky dome, it’s good enough to convert vegans.
      • The Southwest Tuna Croissant at the Roma Bakery & Deli is the very best tuna sandwich I’ve enjoyed in the Land of Enchantment. Finely chopped jalapeño peppers give the tuna its pleasantly piquant personality while the buttery, soft and flaky croissant serves as a wonderful canvas for the tantalizing tuna.
      • One of the most popular search types in geocaching is searching by latitude and longitude. At Latitude 33 in Truth or Consequences you’ll find treasure in the Shishito Peppers with Green Chili Ponzu Sauce. These mild Japanese peppers with the aroma of roasting green chile should be on more menus in 2015.
      • The Italian Charcuterie Board at M’Tucci’s Italian Market & Deli is all a meat-based charcuterie board should be and M’Tucci’s is the Italian deli Albuquerque had been missing for years. If you love Italian meats, cheeses, breads and pickled vegetables, a trek to Albuquerque’s West side is a must.

Over the years Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has become a community in which readers freely share their opinions. I invite all my dear readers to share your own “best of the best” restaurants for 2014 by replying to this email.

Gil’s “Best of the Best”: 2018 |2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 |

About Gil Garduno

Since 2008, the tagline on Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blog has invited you to “Follow the Culinary Ruminations of New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.” To date, nearly 1 million visitors have trusted (or at least visited) my recommendations on nearly 1,100 restaurant reviews. Please take a few minutes to tell me what you think. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I'd love to hear about it.

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16 Comments on “Gil’s “Best of the Best” for 2014”

  1. One thing, Bobo, that’s worse than shilling for Wal-Mart is shilling for Rachel Ray stuff made in China.
    Shame.
    By the was LBNL = Last But Not Least.
    You’re welcome.

  2. Gil, I am so stunned and pleased to find that I am not the only person of the male persuasion on this planet to be totally disinterested in the prospect of eating a thick juicy steak. My Child Bride always points out that her brother in law would eat a T-bone this big (holding her arms out to a size which could only have been produced by the Great Blue Ox Babe). I like the little steaks which seem ubiquitous throughout Quebec (they also have a few monsters) or the tiny Wagyu steaks in Japan. I also occasionally pan fry a petite sirloin.

    I guess I will try the Bouche Ribeye if they can make it 2 thick and the diameter of a silver dollar. I also agree with your assessment of the Tonkotsu Spicy Miso at ORamen. Now to get my tail up to Epezote.

    1. My indifference toward steak is best described in my review of Omira Bar & Grill (https://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=29799).

      We should take comfort in knowing there are people out there who are worse off than we are. They not only dislike steak, they have a fear of all meat (http://www.phobiasource.com/carnophobia-fear-of-meat/). These folks are called carnophobic.

      By extension, my inlaws would be categorized as carnophiles. They subscribe to the philosophy that if God did not intend for us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat.

  3. Whoa Thanks FGFABQ for noting several missed categories!

    ~ Indeed, anyplace that “still” provides the civility of a cloth napkin must be admired. Geez, if ya take a 100 home and do ’em in your own home washing machine shows a real customer orientation!!! Paperwise, if anyone does Origami with paper napkins, they’d be most respected/appreciated!!!

    ~ “Best Beav look alike server, male or female”?
    OMG, I’ve not had the pleasure yet. HOWEVER, let me direct you to another “server” of the public or community who I fawn over as also recognized by the prestigious firm of Fidelity Investments in a full page ad in the ABQ J’s Business Outlook per: “Griegos Elementary School physical education teacher Amy Suman develops relationships with her students to ensure they are successful in school, whatever healthy activity they choose. She provides positive feedback to encourage each student’s efforts and abilities, not just those students who are gifted athletically. Her sunny attitude motivates the entire school community, said a parent in Suman’s nomination.”
    OMG, indeed, in person she is as warmly vivacious as can be found for a Doppleganger for the Linda: http://tinyurl.com/njrcvmx ABQ school kids (and her Viejo) are so “lucky” to have this gal for a teacher (given financially she could readily stay at home and shrivel!)
    ~ Re your: “Best oil for dipping, EVOO or real good olive oil.”
    Oh come on FGFABQ, you just want to think you can embarrass me per knowing I’ll point out http://tinyurl.com/krwx47c
    ~ “Best sugar packet” OMG, you have not been paying attention as Kassie of Joe’s will readily fill you in on the wonders of “Stevia”!!!!
    ~ “Best use for red or green chile not for eating purposes” Introducing Gringas/Gavachos/Easterners to “Why would you not want to live in New Mexico!!!???”
    ~ “And LBNL: Most convoluted food blogger” Sorry, I’m having a brain freeze re what LBNL means. Be that as it may, the answer for everything is BOTVOLR!!!!

  4. Here are some of my choices for 2014
    GCCB at Laguna Burgers.
    Crispy Fish at Budai.
    Tomato Bisque soup at Torino’s @ Home
    Chef’s Salad with figs and burrata at Blade’s Bistro
    The wet brisket at Rudy’s.
    The Spicy Tuna on Crispy rice and the Honey Hand Roll at Izaka-ya (Manhattan Beach’ CA)
    Anything on the menu at Jose Andres’ The Bazaar in Los Angeles
    The Pasta with shaved truffles at Trattoria Tomasso in Castelnuovo de Berardegna, Italy.
    Thanksgiving Dinner with our family including our 1st granddaughter in Manhattan Beach, CA.
    Happy New Year to all.

  5. Bo Tai Chanh (lime beef) – Cafe Da Lat

    Divine Intervention (burger) Rustic Food Truck

    Fish n’ Chips – Turtle Mountain

  6. Bobo,
    You missed important categories like
    Best folded napkin, either paper or fabric.
    Best oil for dipping, EVOO or real good olive oil.
    Best Beav look alike server, male or female
    Best sugar packet
    Best use for red or green chile not for eating purposes
    And LBNL: Most convoluted food blogger

  7. A day without an ultra-verbose Comment by BOTVOLR is like a day without hearing the word “Aaahsum!” uttered, which I hope never to hear by a waitstaff in 2015!!! along with “OooEEEE, my Fav!!!”; “Aaaah, we’re outta that!”; “No Problemaah!”; or “I’ll have that right out!!!”

    More importantly however, a day with an astute Comment by Shy Lure is like “WOW!”

    2014’s Best? With due regard for casual/down-home-eats and those of Dining, mine are pretty predictable except I’d add some newbies, e.g.:

    BESTEZ….
    …Advocate for “Local, Restauranteurs as Small Businesses” (as well as being civicly involved): Steve Paternoster (of Scalo’s)

    …Chicken Salad Sandwich: Chick-fil-A (aka Chica Filet!)
    … Pierogi (when fried with buttery onions/bacon by Mark or at home) & Kielbasa (Hungarian): Red Rock Deli
    … Nakedly Buttered Spaghetti: Joe’s Pasta House di Kassie
    … Not overly stuffy, but attentive Staff: Joe’s……
    … Deep Fried Chicken Wings: Powdrell’s BBQ (or great small beef sand out the back door)
    … Orvietto: Nicky V’s Neighborhood Pizzeria
    … Fuji Salad: Ditto
    … Reuben: California Pastrami (for Newbies who missed what one is: http://tinyurl.com/ms44qea)
    … Fish (n Chips): Fat Squirrel
    … Wellington & French Onion in a Closed restaurant: Chez Bob
    ….Old Time Romantico: Antiquity
    ….On-the-go sandwich: an Original Schlotsky’s
    … Sweet n Sour Pork: PF Chang’s (Sorry, it most closely resembles what I grew up with in a one person or family owned Chinese restaurants with an immigrant Hx in the 1800s in my MA hometown.)
    … Visiting Santa: FoodieStar
    … Shrimp Tempura: Mr. Tokyo
    … Craig: Two Fools
    …. NOT pizza: Dion’s
    …. Smokey Hot Links/tater salad with Exquisite Blue Grass Jammin Wed @6: Rub n Wood
    ….1/2 rack of Red Chile Ribs: El Pinto
    …. New Fast Food Ketchup disbursement product: Dip and Squeeze packets by (aw geez) Heinz
    …. Economical Plates I get: Kids Claws-Red Lobstaah; Kids Ribs: Outback.
    …. Nibbler: Bite Size Payday with slurps of Pepsi
    …. Fried (strip) Clams (i.e. sans bellies): No place
    …. Lobstaah Rolls: the 2 minis at Red Lobstaah if they ever “Special” feature them again!
    …. Best Barmen of food/drink servers cuz they’ve been here several years
    providing a good “Cheer’s Experience”: Red Lobstaah @ Cottonwood
    …. Old Time Dining elegance: Luna Mansion
    …. Old Time Roadhouse eating: Monte Carlo
    …. #1/2/3 Patios: El Pinto’s Fiesta; Casa de Benavidez; Church St. Cafe
    …. #1/2 Ft. Long (NM Red) Chile Cheese Dog: Oh come on-The Dog House; Bob’s Burgers
    …. Close by, get-away dining: Blade’s Bistro (Placitas)
    …. Best keeping me up-to-date on weekend Specials: Anja-Blade’s
    …. Ole time, long serving Italian in The Downtown: Capo’s
    …. Funky New Mexican in The Downtown: Cecilia’s
    …. Stuffed Sopapilla with Chicharonnes con beans & Red: Casa de Benavidez (including its back door)
    …. Workingman’s Chimichanga: The Fiesta Lounge (in the bar)
    …. Filet (con cambozola cheese, mushroom risotto, nebbiolo wine sauce): Scalo’s
    …. Political movida or screwup…LOL….Ok, OK!…except for a Tip of the Tam to Officer Ramos & Officer Liu & NM State Patrolman Rosenbloom
    ….and without meaning to egg Anyone on, I just better stop here!!!!
    to say: Prospero Ano Nuevo a Todos!!! and Gracias to All who gave it their best shot in this tough, “public service” sorta speak, business!
    (Dang it! I hate the feeling I’m missing a Bestie of mine!!!! Am sooo sorry!)

  8. Eh…a day without a ultraverbose Comment is a day without BOTVOLR!!! (Blush!)

    Be that as it may…and more importantly….a day with a spoofy Comment by The Shylure is….whatever!!! E.g. AaahSum (hopefully tho, that expression will never be used again by any ABQ waitstaff in ’15!!! along with “You got it!”; “I’ll have that right out!”; “OMG, That’s my FAV!!!”; “Uuuuh…we’re outta that!”)

    2014? With due regard for casual/down-home-eats and those of dining, mine are pretty predictable except I’d add some newbies, e.g.:

    BESTEZ….
    …Advocate for “Local, Restauranteurs as Small Businesses” (as well as being civicly involved): Steve Paternoster (of Scalo’s)

    …Chicken Salad Sandwich: Chick-fil-A (aka Chica Filet!)
    … Pierogi (when fried with buttery onions/bacon bits); Kielbasa (Hungarian): Red Rock Deli
    … Nakedly Buttered Spaghetti by otherwise “chic” servers: Joe’s Pasta House di Kassie
    … Deep Fried Chicken Wings: Powdrell’s BBQ (which also serves a great
    BBQ Beef Sand out the back door.)
    … Orvietto: Nicky V’s Neighborhood Pizzeria
    … Fuji Salad: Ditto
    … Reuben: California Pastrami (for Newbies who missed what one is: http://tinyurl.com/ms44qea)
    … Fish (n Chips): Fat Squirrel
    … Wellington & French Onion in a Closed restaurant!: Chez Bob
    ….Old Time Romantico: Antiquity
    ….On-the-go sandwich: an Original Schlotsky’s
    … Sweet n Sour Pork: PF Chang’s (Sorry, it most closely resembles what I grew up with in a one or family owned Chinese restaurants with an immigrant Hx in the 1800s in my MA hometown.)
    … Visiting Santa: FoodieStar
    … Shrimp Tempura: Mr. Tokyo
    … Craig: Two Fools
    …. Not pizza: Dion’s
    …. Smokey Hot Links/tater salad with Exquisite Blue Grass Jammin on Wed @ 6: Rub n Wood
    …. 1/2 rack of Red Chile Ribs: El Pinto
    …. New Fast Food Ketchup disbursement product: Dip and Squeeze packets by (aw geez) Heinz
    …. Economical Plates I get: Kids Claws-Red Lobstah; Kids Ribs: Outback.
    …. Nibbler: A Bite Size Payday with slurps of Pepsi
    …. Fried (strip) Clams (i.e. sans bellies): NO place
    …. Lobstah Rolls: the 2 minis at Red Lobstah if they ever “Special” feature them again!
    …. Barfolk food/drink servers: Red Lobstah Cottonwood! (Geesh they’ve
    been there for several years thus making it a “Cheers experience”.
    …. Old Time Dining elegance: Luna Mansion
    …. Old Time “Roadhouse” eating: Monte Carlo
    …. #1/2/3 Patios: El Pinto’s Fiesta; Casa de Benavidez; Church St.Cafe
    …. #1/2 Ft. Long (NM Red) Chile Cheese Dog: Oh come on-The Dog House; Bob’s Burgers
    …. Close by, get-away dining: Blade’s Bistro (Placitas)
    …. Ole time, long serving Italian in The Downtown: Capo’s
    …. Funky New Mexican in The Downtown: Cecilia’s
    …. Stuffed Sopapilla with Chicharonnes con beans & Red: Casa de Benavidez (ala its back door)
    …. Workingman’s Chimichanga: The Fiesta Lounge (in the bar)
    …. Filet (con cambozola cheese, mushroom risotto, nebbiolo wine sauce): Scalo’s
    …. Political movida or screwup…LOL….Ok, OK!…except for a Tip of the Tam to Officer Ramos & Officer Liu
    along with NM State Patrolman Rosenblum….and WITHOUT meaning to egg Anyone on, I just better stop here!!!!
    to say: Prospero Ano Nuevo a Todos!!!
    …. and Adieu to those who gave it their best shot in this tough business.

  9. Once again, Gil, I find myself thanking you for introducing me to truly splendid food! As you know, after my lunch with you and Kim at Epazote, I returned twice more! Having driven to Santa Fe from my home in LA, I just knew I was not going to find better food there than at Epazote, so literally spent half of my allotted week dining there. I was not sorry, and am thinking about those two dishes you spotlighted even as I write this. I hope more of your readers try Chef Olea’s food. He is truly one of our country’s best chefs and Santa Fe is fortunate to have him!

  10. You just made my mouth water uncontrollably. Love, love, love Cafe Bella Coffee’s Street Tacos (I am a double shot, dry cappuccino gal myself & they make it perfect)! I have never tried the Crispy Orange Peel Scallops at Budai; but I will be sure to try this dish on our next visit. In fact, there are several dishes & restaurants you have recommended that I would like to try… now if I can only get Mr. Guzzardi out of the restaurant; at a time that works with my schedule & the other restaurant’s operating hours, I may just be able to enjoy one or two! Kim is so funny, please give her our best & a very happy, blessed New Year to you both.

  11. I agree with that charcuterie plate at M’Tucci. But their Italian sausage was the worst I’ve ever tasted and the linguica was flavorless.

  12. Happy Belated Festivus, the day to tell others how they have disappointed you in the past year. Suzie Queue, you disappointed me by not reviewing the McRib at McDonald’s. Surely it’s at least as good as the BBQ Rib Sandwich from Burger King that you love so much. Without your expert analysis, how are we to know for sure?

    Suzie, because you’re such an adventurous diner with a palate unlike anyone else’s, here are some dishes that should be on your dining radar this year:

    Fetidchini from the MTushi’s Cochina

    Baking Dunnit from Rebol Dognuts

    Girled Cheese Sandwish from Hairy’s Rodehouse in Santa Fe

    Hatched Green Chilly from Cochina Azool

    Pumpedkin Lottay from Café Bella

    Whore’s ovaries (there like apitizers in Frans) from Petits Lewie

    Anus beef burger with carmulized onioms from Lotaburgur

    Deer-battered frys from the Stoned Face Taburn

    Chickin Catchatorri from Fartelli Bistrow

    Auntchilladas from Frontears

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