“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.” Sound of Music fans will recognize that these are a few of Julie Andrews favorite things. It’s with great fondness and more than a little (blush) salivation that I bid adieu and auld lang syne to my my favorite things–the dishes I enjoyed most across the Land of Enchantment in 2017. These are the baker’s dozen plus 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. As with previous yearly compilations, every item on this list was heretofore unknown to my palate before 2017. Every dish was a delicious discovery. In chronological order, my “best of the best” are:
- Singapore Noodles may be a Cantonese (Chinese) dish, but no one (except perhaps the May Cafe) prepares them as well as Pho Linh, one of the Duke City’s very best Vietnamese restaurants. Sweet, savory, pungent and absolutely delicious, it’s a dish with which every new year should start.
- The three meat platter from Danny’s Place in Carlsbad is my favorite threesome of 2017, a terrific triumvirate of ham, pulled pork and turkey along with some of the best sides to be found at any barbecue joint anywhere. Is it any wonder Thrillist named this bodacious bastion of barbecue the best in New Mexico each of the past two years?
- It wouldn’t be a great year if at least one green chile cheeseburger didn’t make my “best of” list. This year, my best find came from Alamogordo where Rockin’ BZ Burgers absolutely blew me away–just as it did the esteemed judges at the 2012 New Mexico State Fair.
- Not even the sagacious Solomon would be able to single out just one “best” dish from Forghedaboudit in Deming. The pepperoni and sausage pizza was rated fourth best in the world during the 2017 International Pizza Expo. The maple bacon chicken wings earned gold at Wingfest 2017. The carbonara was featured in Pizza Today. As absolutely outstanding as these transformative dishes may be, my favorite Forghedaboudit dish may have been the meatballs. Go figure.
- Never mind trying to pronounce Yam Nuea Nam Tok correctly. Just point to it on the menu or ask for the grilled beef salad at the Pad Thai Cafe in Albuquerque. Its actual translation is waterfall beef or beef waterfall, but by any name it’s one of the most delicious Thai dishes you’ve never tried if your benchmark for Thai dishes is pad thai (the dish, not this fabulous restaurant).
- Mobile food kitchens (that’s food truck to you, Bob) continue to garner accolades and win over skeptics. It’s no wonder with such deliciousness as the BBQ Beef Tacos from Soo Bak Foods in Albuquerque. With a grilled flavor reminiscent of Mexican carbon cooking and a smokiness that will bring a smile to your face, these exemplars of New Mexico meets Korea are addictive.
- Perhaps the very best reason to head downtown is the Roasted Mushroom Manicotti from Zullo’s Bistro in Albuquerque. The green chile marinara elevates an already fabulous dish to rarefied air as one of the city’s best Italian dishes.
- In November, Purewow named Fresh Bistro as New Mexico’s best Italian restaurant. That’s quite an honor considering Fresh doesn’t bill itself as an Italian restaurant. Chef Jon Young’s cuisine is so good, it defies categorization–or you can just place it in the category of “among New Mexico’s best.” Try the Green Chile Chicken Frenchiladas and Housemade Red Chile Barbecue Pulled Pork and you’ll agree.
- Another Chef whose cooking defies categorization is Dennis Apodaca who saw the closure of the legendary flagship Eli’s Place in 2017 just as he was opening Maya. On the Burrito Ahogado, Dennis unleashes the unfettered deliciousness of collard greens and corn swimming in a spicy tomato broth with a garnish of pickled carrots and red onions and a sprinkling of cobija cheese. Montezuma would have loved it!
- It may not be listed as a green chile cheeseburger on the menu, but that’s easily remedied–or you can enjoy the Counter Culture Burger from Culture Culture in Santa Fe without chile. A burger sans chile! That’s almost sacrilege in New Mexico, but this is one burger which can stand alone. It’s quite simply one of the very best burgers anywhere.
- When we need an escape from the rigors of our stress-filled workdays, my friend Elaine and I head to El Cotorro where you’ll find the very best ice cream in New Mexico. Other purveyors of frozen treats may win all the awards, but El Cotorro is better than all of them. Because you can’t single out just one, the chocolate banana ice cream and the apple pie ice cream on biscochito cones are my favorites, but that’ll likely change the next time Elaine and I visit El Cotorro.
- Only a handful of chefs have earned my trust to the extent that I’ll be happy with anything they create for me. At M’Tucci’s Market & Pizzeria all you ever need to order is “Chef Roulette” and place yourself in the hands of uber-chefs Cory Gray and Shawn Cronin and they’ll do the rest. The Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin was just one of three Roulette dishes which could have made this year’s list.
- The second mobile food kitchen to earn “best of the best” distinction–and one of the highest ratings accorded any restaurant in New Mexico is the fabulous Malagueña’s Latin Tapas. The Lomo Burrito and Choripan are just two of the outstanding dishes, any of which could have made this list. We’ve never had a bad bite at this five star quality kitchen in a mobile conveyance.
- If Teofilo’s Restaurante in Los Lunas was any closer, I might live there. Not in Los Lunas, but in Teofilo’s dining room. Teofilo’s is simply one of the three or four best New Mexican restaurants in the Land of Enchantment with such tempting delicacies as enchiladas stuffed with quelites (lambs quarters) and smothered in mushroom green chile.
Please share your own “best of the best” New Mexico dining choices for 2017 by commenting to this post. Who knows? Maybe next year they’ll make it to my list, too.