Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Year in Food: January, 2019

Philly Cheese Steak from Philly Steaks in Albuquerque

The Food Network’s television cameras just love Chef Marie Yniguez, the affable owner and face of Bocadillos, a slow-roasted sandwich shop in Albuquerque.  Marie has graced Food Network programming on three different shows.  Most recently, she and her equally personable daughter Ryan Duran competed on the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Family Tournament, a three-round elimination tournament for $30,000.  Marie and Ryan Duran surmounted a series of cooking challenges, ultimately making it to the semi-finals.  In a surf and turf competition, Marie and Ryan wowed the judges with a perfectly prepared filet and fried shrimp combination, but their ghee beurre blanc wasn’t as highly esteemed.  Throughout the competition, Marie and Ryan represented the 505 with style and grace, making all of us very proud.

Five star ratings are almost as rare as the Detroit Lions winning the Superbowl especially in Yelp where hard-grading raters tend to be brutally honest in their assessments.  In accomplishing this rare feat, Spicy Bite, a family-owned Indian restaurant in Milan became the very first restaurant in the Land of Enchantment to make Yelp’s “Top 100 Places to Eat in 2019” since Yelp began publishing the list in 2014.  Spicy Bite was ranked number 84 among “eateries from across the US that rank so highly in the Yelp community’s opinion” that they earned the status of “must try this year.”  Rankings were determined using an algorithm that considers the volume of reviews and their ratings. 

Desserts at the Roadrunner Food Bank’s Souper Bowl 2019: It’s Not Just Superb Soup

Was it Confucius who posited “Life is full of questions.  Cupcakes are the answer.”  Or was it Cathy Guisewite, creator of the popular Cathy comic strip.  Whoever it was is one smart cookie…er, make that cupcake.  Despite constantly being under attack by aspirants toward a more healthy lifestyle, cupcakes remain one of the most popular desserts across the fruited plain.  In 2012, nearly 700,000 cupcakes were consumed under the spacious skies.  What’s not to love?  “They’re fluffy, frosted, and beautiful in all shapes and sizes.”  So says The Daily Meal which compiled a list of the 101 Best Cupcakes in America.  Albuquerque’s Q’s Cakes and Sweets Boutique made the list, deservedly so.  Here’s what Daily Meal had to say, “Queneesha “Q” Meyers’ love for baking hatched after recreating a chocolate chip cookie recipe she found on a bag of flour when she was just 11 years old. Now, the pastry chef and U.S. Air Force veteran pours her heart and soul into every custom-made dessert made within the confines of her Albuquerque shop. There are tons of flavors on the menu, but make sure you try the red velvet!  Thank you Becky Mercuri  for sharing this great news.

Ever since the 2007 comedy The Bucket List, thousands of people have actually formalized their own lists of things to do and see before they kick the bucket. Among them is MSN Lifestyle which published The Bucket List Restaurant in Your State. Now, to make it onto a bucket list, a restaurant has got to be more than good.  It’s got to be life-altering.  MSN’s bucket list choice for the Land of Enchantment is Santa Fe’s legendary Geronimo, arguably the very best restaurant in New Mexico.  MSN described it thusly: It’s hard to do any better than the ambiance at Geronimo, housed in an adobe house that was built in the 1750s, complete with kiva fireplaces and wooden beams.  But reviewers say there’s so much more to dining here than its surroundings, and the restaurant’s globally-inspired menu, awarded with four-stars from Forbes and four diamonds from AAA, bears that out.” 

Chicken Fried Steak Breakfast from Mac’s La Sierra

Where would you eat if you were one of the wealthiest people on Earth and could eat anywhere and anything you wanted?  Four star, five diamond restaurants?  Fine dining emporiums?  Gourmet dishes?  When he wanted to relax and unwind, Paul Allen, who along with Bill Gates founded Microsoft in Albuquerque back in 1975, used to return to the Land of Enchantment.  His first stop was Duran’s Central Pharmacy in the Duke City.  Duran’s elicited feelings of nostalgia, reminding him of Microsoft’s formative days.  According to Forbes, “his go-to order was the Hatch green chili enchilada, a tamale with red chili sauce, a flour tortilla on the side.”   Those tortillas are legendary orbs charred pinto pony colors and slathered with butter.  Come to think of it, Duran’s is a perfect place to relax and get away from it all…and you don’t have to be a billionaire to enjoy it.  

New Mexico’s Autumn air is perfumed with hazy smoke plumes wafting upward from giant rotating drums.  There’s no doubt the alluring aroma of green chile being roasted in those drums is the defining scent of our enchanted fall season.  Food Network celebrity chef Katie Lee contends “If summer had one defining scent, it’d definitely be the smell of barbecue.”  Who can argue?  If there’s one argument sure to evoke dissenting opinions, it’s the Food Network’s list of the best barbecue restaurants in the country.  Not that long ago, there wasn’t a single barbecue joint in New Mexico worthy of consideration.  Today there are dozens.  Food Network included only one–Santa Fe’s Whole Hog.  Here’s what the Food Network had to say: “Ask in-the-know locals where to find good ’cue and they’re likely to mention Whole Hog — no surprise, since this joint has been serving New Mexicans award-winning Memphis-style eats since 2006.” 

Chopped Caprese from Gigi Italian Bistro

Most pantheons on which America’s best food cities are singled out tend to include the same usual suspects: New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Charleston, San Francisco and a few other anointed paragons of dining excellence.  Every once in a while Santa Fe makes a “best of” list or two in a sort of Miss Congeniality spot.  Typically, Albuquerque is viewed by the culinary cognoscenti as one of those “up and coming” and “evolving” culinary destinations so it was a very pleasant surprise to see Time rate the Duke City as one of America’s best food cities.  Even more surprising–Albuquerque was rated number six.  Time noted: “The patron saint of this Southwestern city’s food scene has long been the fire-roasted green chili, which pops up on the local fry-bread tacos and cheeseburgers (like the classics at Monte Carlo Steakhouse and Liquor Store), or can be made into a sauce at your table at legendary spots like El Pinto.” 

Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader expressed his disdain for lists: “Top ten lists make me insane.  I just know they’re going to change daily.” Still, human beings are persistent list-makers.  We’re apparently genetically predisposed to do so.  Lists, particularly “best of” and “top this and top that” lists are good fodder for water cooler discussions.  Take Money, Inc’s list of the 10 best restaurants in Albuquerque.  Who could argue with some of the choices: Frontier, Antiquity Restaurant (one of these days, Bob), Monroe’s, Cocina Azul, Seared, El Patio, The Grill, Farm & Table and Two Fools Tavern.  On the other hand, the list also included Pappadeux Seafood Kitchen, a national chain.  Don’t settle it at the water cooler.  Visit these restaurant gems and decide for yourself.

Special Vietnamese Sandwich from Pho Kobe

Scintillating four time James Beard award-winning author Cheryl Jamison kicked off Eater’s guide to the Southwest with a Cheat Sheet to Southwestern Food in which she introduces “the chile-obsessed foodways of America’s sunbelt.”  She explains that “Southwestern cuisine has a number of key signifiers that separate it from the queso-smothered foods of the Lone Star State. She then lists  “a few ways to mark the venerable, deceptively complex foods of America’s Southwest” which includes Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.  Chief among them, of course, is chile–from “long green chiles, and their more mature, mellow counterpart, red chiles.”  Cheryl also provides a terrific list of where to enjoy traditional (classic) and modern Southwestern food.

Sorry, New Mexico: Pueblo peppers and their incarnations beat all of your chiles.”  These heretical words come from Gustavo Arellano, features writer at the Los Angeles Times and author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered Americas.  He arrived at that apostasy while taking a “palate-scorching Mexican hamburger- and adovada-fueled road trip up I-25 from Las Cruces” for Eater.  In a feature entitled The Great American Chile Highway, Arellano sampled endorphin rush-generating cuisine at 21 eateries in the Land of Enchantment and another 18 in Colorado, eating chile 38 different ways.  Though, he explained “Hispanos settled southern Colorado in the 1850s, and many manitos (the nickname their descendants go by) feel greater kinship with northern New Mexico than they do with Colorado,” their “food is as removed from New Mexican food as New Mexican is from Mexican.” 

Gobble This, a Fabulous New Restaurant in Old Town

Eater’s guide to the Southwest would not be complete without a tribute to the Wondrous Bread of The Pueblo Nations.  There are “19 different Pueblo nations in New Mexico, each with its own particular version of bread molded by generations-old family techniques, ingredients, and the flair of individual bakers.”  Writer Andi Murphy visited different bakers across the Pueblo Nations to see for herself “how varied the tradition of Pueblo bread-making could be — and why, after hundreds of years, the Pueblo people continue putting in the hard work to make it.”  She encapsulates her findings in a very compelling read that may just prompt you to start up your car and head to the nearest Pueblo for bread as good as it can possibly be baked.

Famadillo, an online site purporting to “cover what a parent wants to know” visited Santa Fe and “learned it can be quite a culinary paradise.”   Its compilation of the Top Eleven Restaurants in Santa Fe included high-end and fine-dining gems such as Geronimo and Radish and Rye, but mostly it listed affordable family favorites such as The Pantry, Cowgirl BBQ, Plaza Cafe and Tune-Up.  Parents and their children alike will certainly enjoy these terrific choices. 

The fun, artsy ambiance at The Kosmos

Every year on Saturday of the week preceding some ballyhooed professional football game, the Roadrunner Food Bank hosts its largest fund-raising event, the Souper Bowl.  More than 1,000 guests visited the sprawling warehouse to enjoy scrumptious soups and delectable desserts from nearly 40 Albuquerque area restaurants.  Awards for the best soups and desserts were given in two categories: Critic’s Choice and People’s Choice.  

People’s Choice Winners – Soup
1st Place and Souper Bowl ChampionSlate Street Billiards
2nd Place: El Bruno’s Restaurant
3rd Place: Ohana Hut

People Choice Winners – Vegetarian Soup
1st Place: Artichoke Cafe
2nd Place: Pho 505
3rd Place: Ohana Hut

People Choice Winners – Desserts
1st Place: Nothing Bundt Cakes
2nd Place: Theobroma Chocolatier
3rd Place: Special Touch Catering

Best Booth Award: Poki Poblanos Fusion Lounge

The Critic’s Choice Awards were chosen by a panel of six judges who rated each soup based on appearance, aroma, texture, spice blend, flavor and overall impression in a blind sample.

Critic’s Choice Award Winners
1st Place: The Crown Room
2nd Place:  Sage Dining Services
3rd Place: Ohana Hut

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.

View all posts by Gil Garduno →

5 Comments on “Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Year in Food: January, 2019”

  1. ~ Alas, lest there may be another like myself who, while admiring the creativity of today’s cup cake makers, shies away from cupcakes per they’re awkward to eat…”How can ya eat one while being dainty and keeping one’s Macho mystique?” Alas, there’s a site for that !
    ~ While it is wise to keep this Blog apolitical, I hope this wont be misperceived as being over the rim/or pushing a bias, but simply presenting a reflection related to the focus of the Blog, i.e. as an issue about which restaurant owners and servers are expressing concern in contrast to other workers. I share it as I know many Folks…admittedly only in my Bubble….no longer subscribe to the ABQ Journal and presume that might be the case herein.
    Please consider reading: and and lastly, in the 2/1 AJ, Committee OKs wage bill despite tip outcry As Folks have concerns about the Minimum Wage for other reasons, please consider expressing your own preferences to your Legislators and not here as I’m not trying to start a Food Fight!

    1. Thanks. I just called Mike Baker, owner of the food truck The Smoke Shack, and indeed he does do rib tips but not always. We discussed rib tips and he agreed “no one in New Mexico does rib tips. That’s more of a southern thing.” Which explains why I found it in Tupelo, Mississippi. He said the next day he’s cooking is this Wednesday, parked in the lot between Discount Tires and the White Swan Building, in Santa Fe.

      He took my phone number and said he’d call me if he can get rib tips from his supplier (Sam’s) and smoke ’em good. Stay tuned. I will post if he calls me. Isn’t this exciting? I feel like it’s a drug deal. Which, when you consider BBQ addicts such as me, it kind of is.

  2. In the legal field, a pleading is a formal presentation to the court of a complaint by a party. Here, I’m pleading Whole Hog and every other ABQ establishment known to engage in smoking meats for profit to please put rib tips on your menu.

    The rib tip is a triangular, cartilage-dotted slab of meat attached to the lower end of the sparerib. The rib tip takes flavor to a whole other gustatory level by combining the meat goodness of spareribs with the fatty richness of pork belly, which rests nearby.

    Has anybody on this blog been served rib tips in the Duke City? If so, please post. If not, please join me in forming a class action pleading to the court.

    1. The ribs at Golden Pride have the rib tips attached. While not exactly what you’re talking about, they are probably my favorite part of those ribs…

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