Toltec Brewing Co. – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Toltec Brewing Co. on Albuquerque’s Burgeoning West Side

Vincent: And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Vincent: No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn’t know what the #%*&! a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules: What’d they call it?
Vincent: They call it Royale with cheese.
Jules: Royale with Cheese. What’d they call a Big Mac?
Vincent: Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.
~Pulp Fiction

265 “f-bombs,” copious racist slurs, torrents of extreme language and some of the most weighty dialogue ever spoken in an American movie. That was Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 apotheosis Pulp Fiction, a low-brow pastiche the cognoscenti consider one of the most quotable movies ever made. The clever banter and witty repartee between hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is particularly memorable. It was their dialogue which introduced this review. It was what immediately came to mind when I espied the “Royale” on the “Breaking Bread” section of Toltec Brewing Co.’s menu.

The James Beard Award-Winning Royale

While no self-respecting gastronome would ever order a Quarter Pounder…er, Royale with cheese in Paris (or anywhere else, but especially not in Paris), Toltec’s Royale is an entirely different matter. Constructed from a patty weighing in at a whopping half-pound of blended brisket and crimini mushrooms, it’s the proverbial muscle-bound beach bully kicking sand in the face of the four-ounce weakling Quarter Pounder. Toltec’s Royale was first brought to my attention in June, 2018 by a well-meaning colleague who asked me if I had ever tried Albuquerque’s James Beard award-winning burger. He must have had the gift of prophecy.

As of June, 2018, the Royale had not won a James Beard award of any kind, but Duke City voters helped change that. The Royale was one of literally hundreds of burgers entered in the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project national project. Some of the other burgers entered in the competition were actually constructed by actual James Beard award-winning chefs so this was one formidable food melee. Voters were able to cast their ballots once a day through 31 July 2018.  After the ballots were tallied, the Royale was one of the top twenty vote-getters.  Those top twenty burgers were then evaluated by a panel of judges (including television personality Andrew Zimmern) to determine which five would be showcased at the James Beard House in the Blended Burger Bun’anza.  The five winners included Albuquerque Chef David Ruiz of Toltec Brewing and that fabulous Royale.

Local Cheese Plate

7 June 2018: The James Beard House loved the 1/2 Pound brisket and crimini mushroom patty with ancho and herb mayo, Young Guns green chile, aged white Cheddar, bacon, local-fried egg and heirloom tomato. This is a burger that delivers on its campaign promises! Take it from at least two constituents, photographer extraordinaire Bruce Terzes and your gangling gastronome, the Royale will win you over. Not since the green chile cheeseburger at Alamogordo’s Rockin’ BZ Burgers has such a fantastic burger crossed my lips. It made such a tremendous first impression on the Thursday of my inaugural visit to Toltec that I had to have another one the next day. Quite simply, it’s one of the very best burgers in the Duke City.  In three visits to Toltec, I’ve had three Royales.  It doesn’t happen often that I don’t explore other items on any menu.

So, what makes it a burger for the people (at least the non–vegan people among us)? Well, it delivers on what was promised about Wendy’s burgers by 1970s commercials. Wendy’s spokesperson Clara Peller, for example, often asked “where’s the beef.” That question doesn’t apply with the Royale. There’s a whole half-pound of brisket blended with crimini mushrooms. The combination is hot and juicy, another Wendy’s promise of yore. It’s a multi-napkin affair with moistness sure to run down your arms and make a glistening mess of your face. The fried egg is over-medium which means the yolk is only slightly runny (like the Rio Grande). The bacon is crisp and plentiful, the aged Cheddar sharp and complex, but it’s the green chile from Young Guns which brings it all together. The green chile actually bites back, increasingly a rarity in the Land of Enchilement. Though the buns are formidable, they’re no match for the juiciness of this fabulous burger. Bravo, Toltec!

Side Salad with Blue Cheese

It may surprise some that Toltec, a west side brewery which launched in May, 2018, would serve such a superb burger though the surprise quickly evaporates when informed the genius responsible for this chef d’oeuvre was David Ruiz (who has since moved on to other opportunities). Albuquerque knows David from his days as executive chef at Pueblo Harvest, a gig that earned him a 2017 appearance on the Food Network show “Guy Fieri’s Family Road Trip.” It wasn’t the chef’s only appearance on the Food Network. In 2016, he competed on the network’s popular cooking show “Chopped.” In 2017, David won the “Duke it Out” challenge, earning both people’s choice and critics’ choice for best entree. David was the co-founder of 505 Food Fights, a grassroots chef competition intended to fonder community in Albuquerque’s culinary industry.  His worthy successor is Chef Emma Gibson who worked alongside Chef Ruiz since its launch.  Look for Chef Gibson to imprint her own touches to the menu.

8 June 2018: Toltec is by no means a one-trick pony when it comes to dining. Its menu might be small, but it’s mighty. Save for “Green Eggs and Ham,” Toltec’s name for deviled eggs (with spinach and agave glazed pork belly), the “Beer Bites” section of the menu is pretty uninteresting. That doesn’t mean it’s not good. Take, for example, the Local Cheese Plate (local cheese, cured meat, flat bread, local honey and candied pepitas). It’s a turophile’s dream, celebrating Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory‘s fantastic fromage: (wonderful wedges of green chile and aged Cheddar and charcuterie meats (prosciutto, salami, capicola). The greater surprise, however, were the candied pepitas and the local honey from a bee-keeper of the chef’s acquaintance.

Sausage and Peppers

8 June 2018: With every burger or sandwich on the “Breaking Bread” menu, you have your choice of seasoned fries, cinnamon fries, cinnamon sweet potato fries, tortilla chips or side salad. The side salad (mixed field greens, candied pepitas, fresh apple slices, white cheddar and sweet red onions) is superb, pairing magnificently with the blue cheese dressing with its plenitude of cheese crumbles. This is a salad constructed of complementary ingredients; they all go well together.

8 June 2018: For my Kim, sausage and peppers evokes memories of Italian restaurants throughout the Chicago area where that combination is part and parcel of one of the best sandwiches you’ll find in the Windy City (and that’s saying something). Sausage and Peppers at Toltec is something entirely different: house-made lemon capellini topped with turkey, lemon and thyme sausage, a trio of bell peppers, roasted marinara and Parmesan. The capellini, a thin pasta whose name translates to “little hairs” is perfectly al dente. Strands of this light pasta wrap around red, yellow and green peppers, a coarse sausage and lots of red sauce. The dish was recommended by two servers, both of whom indicated it was the best thing on the menu. If there’s one aspect of this dish that would have made this dish more “Chicago authentic,” it would be using a fennel-kissed sausage instead of the thyme sausage. Thyme has a bitter, almost piney flavor profile that sometimes overpowers other aspects of a dish.

Wings

5 November 2019:  According to the National Chicken Council, nearly four of every five Americans eat chicken wings.  57% of respondents to a Council survey indicated they enjoy their wings with Ranch dressing.  43% enjoy them with barbecue sauce, 38% with hot sauce and 34% with blue cheese.  You probably noticed that the numbers don’t add up to 100%.  That’s because most of us like our chicken wings with a variety of sauces and dips.  Heck, 34% of Americans like their wings with celery and 21% like them with carrots…or maybe they invite their vegan and vegetarian friends to eat the celery and carrots while the carnivores among us devour the wings. 

Toltec offers an eight count of wings served with Cactus Warrior BBQ sauce, classic hot, naked or garlic Parmesan and they’re served with carrots and celery along with your choice of Ranch or blue cheese dressing.  We ordered two of each so as to try them all.  The wings appear to be double-fried, a process which gives them a crispy exterior coating while sealing in moistness and juiciness.  My Kim enjoyed the BBQ sauce most while my favorite was the Buffalo style classic hot. 

The Burque

5 November 2019: There are four pizzas on the menu, ranging from the classic Margherita to three inventive avant-garde pies.  They’re slightly larger than the personal pies served at many pizzerias, about twelve inches around.  My Kim may be the only person in Albuquerque who does not consider “char” to be a flavor so she asked that her pie be extricated from the oven just as the char is starting to build.  It was a great decision.  She also asked for crispy pork belly instead of pepperoni on “The Burque” (Mozzarella-Provolone blend, marinara, green chile, pepperoni).  Another great choice!  This was a surprisingly good pizza, one of those rarities in which the cornicione (an Italian term for the “lip” or puffy outer edge of the pizza) tastes like very good baked bread.  A generous portion of smoky pork belly with sweet undertones also stood out.

5 November 2019:  There are only two desserts on the menu, but the one which called out loudest to us was an apple upside down cake.  That’s apple upside down cake, not pineapple upside down cake.  It was a surprising revelation to us that a classic American baking technique could be done with something other than pineapple.  Shame on us.  As with the pineapple upside down cake, a single circular apple slice sits atop a dense, moist cake seasoned with traditional apple pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice).  Caramelized edges provided a wonderful textural contrast.

Apple Upside Down Cake

Service at Toltec  is terrific. Make sure to ask for Nate, an ambassador for the restaurant’s menu who’s on-the-spot with whatever you need, whether it be a refill or an answer to a question about the menu. Toltec’s dog-friendly patio is only about fifteen feet away from a heavily trafficked and often noisy street, but it’s well-shaded (except right before sunset) and relatively cool. Were Vincent and Jules to ever visit Toltec, the ensuing dialogue would probably be laced with colorful epithets, all complimentary. They would love Toltec’s version of the Royale with cheese.

Toltec Brewing Co.
10250 Cottonwood Park, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 890-1455
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 5 November 2019
1st VISIT: 8 June 2018
# OF VISITS: 3
RATING: 22
COST: $$
BEST BET: The Royale, Local Cheese Plate, Sausage & Peppers, Side Salad, The Burque (Pizza), Apple Upside Down Cake, Chicken Wings
REVIEW #1045

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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45 Comments on “Toltec Brewing Co. – Albuquerque, New Mexico”

  1. Becky, knowing you are a habitual researcher, if you ever need any stat on the craft beer industry, the go-to organization is Brewers Asscociation (BA). https://www.brewersassociation.org/
    It covers the craft segment.

    Bart Watson is their Chief Economist and generates all the industry stat reports. Good guy. More than willing to answer any of your questions by email.

  2. Becky, I did try some beer, mainly to wash down a bear’s bite of Ćevapi (the national dish of skinless sausage sandwich served with chopped raw onions, avar (relish from red peppers) on flatbread.

    Like so many countries in the world, mainstream beer is made and distributed by an oligarchic covey of very few players. Think Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. But craft beer is starting to wiggle its way into the scene, especially in Zagreb. I had some pretty darn good IPAs there! Are you into craft beer at all, Becky?

    1. Tom, I’m afraid that I typically drink Miller Lite beer – I’m just a cheap date. But I am fascinated by the craft beer scene which has grown by leaps and bounds in so many places. There are some really excellent ones in my area and I really need to get off the dime and try more of them. I also like the craft ciders, especially those made with pear.

      I got to try the Rogue Creamery “Smokey Blue” – it was $23.49 per pound at my store. I’m not a big fan of smoked cheese but this was certainly good enough to confirm that un-smoked Rogue Blue would be absolutely wonderful. I’ll keep watching for it.

  3. Becky, to the best of my knowledge, no, I didn’t have Livanjski cheese. My focus in Herzegovina was wine visits and interviews. My trip was mostly in Croatia. Have you heard of Pag cheese? Wiki: “Pag cheese or Pag Island cheese is a Croatian variety of hard, distinctively flavored sheep milk cheese originating from the Adriatic island of Pag. It is generally regarded as the most famous of all artisan cheeses made in the country and can be found in many markets outside Croatia.”

    I had it several times and it is wonderful, albeit I am a “salty, sheep’s milk” freak. Have you ever been to Croatia?

    1. Tom, I never heard of it but it sounds interesting. I’ve never been to Croatia but I’ve seen plenty of photos and film footage and it looks beautiful. I know you’re partial to wine (an understatement) but did you try the beer? I’ve heard that’s good, too?

  4. Alas, per the lively as well as informative discussion about apparently an exquisite cheese we’re  missing being common here, and Comments not landing sequentially, this Comment relates to possibly a couple of comments RE pizza as may relate to Hawaiian toppings like pineapple and ham as nouveau several years ago. First, RE Becky and corniciones, aka “Bones”, being covered. As a youth, my FAV Mom/Pop non chain for pizza was Tony n Ann’s walk-up stand*, just beyond North Chelmsford, MA. As we didn’t ask as teens, someone in later life confirmed my suspicion that some Pizzariaz ‘painted’ an egg-wash on their bones which gave a subtle, added eggy flavoring to one’s bones/piece O pizza. (Whoa…As I watch the news, Blessings to Becky (an admitted ‘pizza snob’) for being a Stalwart holdout by remaining in Buffalo…for an only God/gawd knows reason to buck the off “the Lake-Effect” snow storms in this new age of Global Warming!) Anyway, RE pineapple/ham on pizza. I never dared have it. However, per the Hawaiian flare, I’m surprised no one praised nor vilified the SPAM versions which includes pineapple….https://www.spam.com/recipes/spam-hawaiian-pizza   Ke aloha! (aka Cheers!)
    *Whoa! I’ve never watched the Simpsons (LOL) and so I was shocked just now of it’s relation to T&A’s and Skip’s Diner http://www.gatogato.com/images/tonyandanns.html for being places ya took your date to munch after the movie, record hop, etc., of my youth!

    1. Hi Bob: Greetings from Global Warming Central. Sometimes, I really don’t know why I continue to endure the weather here. Not only was it 17 degrees but the power went out leaving us with no heat for more than two hours. Anyway, about Spam: I’ll happily take on the task of vilifying it. In my opinion, it’s absolutely abominable and it certainly has no place on (my) pizza. My father used to eat it occasionally – I guess he had a nostalgic craving for it because it was doled out to the troops during World War II. For sure, whenever I was in Hawaii I noted it was beloved by folks there (they have an annual Spam Jam Festival) and it clearly has a following both domestically and internationally.

  5. Becky, the latter $22.49/lb you reference is Rogue’s year-around blue and I got that too for $25/lb the same time I got the Rogue River Blue award-winner. The year-around blue is of course very good but the $40/lb award-winner is outstanding. The difference is similar to what a high-extract, low-yielding Reserve wine is in a winery’s portfolio. But this is an interesting story I found on Rogue’s website describing its River Blue:

    >So what makes this cheese so good? Let’s start at the beginning. Rogue River Blue is only made between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice because the cheese makers see a change in the milk during this time. This high-quality milk is sourced from a nearby dairy farmer whose Brown Swiss and Holstein cows graze in 1250 foot elevation pastures bordering the Rogue River. They eat a variety of pasture and native grasses, hop clover, wild herbs, Himalayan blackberries and wild flowers, supplemented with grass hay, alfalfa and grain off the ranch. The milk is transformed by cheese makers passionate about quality and committed to the artisan tradition of small, handmade batches and careful aging. To top it off, this special cheese is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves hand harvested from the local Carpenter Hill Vineyard and macerated in pear brandy made in the county. I would call Rogue River Blue cheese “super local” — the care for every aspect of this cheese makes it one of my all-time picks.<

    "Rogue River Blue is only made between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice because the cheese makers see a change in the milk during this time. "

    Now that's special! Never knew milk quality has calendar variance. Not unlike Steiner biodynamic farming, actually. Rogue is taking pre-arrival orders for 2020 on its website now.

    1. Tom, I did see that Rogue is taking pre-orders for 2020 and I’m still considering it. That River Blue sounds just wonderful.

      I did sort of know that milk changes seasonally. My grandfather had a dairy farm so there was always “fresh”, as in not pasteurized, milk. I hated milk, especially in the spring when the cows were eating nice fresh grass. That grass flavor was quite pronounced.

      I’ve been meaning to ask if you had the opportunity to taste the Bosnian version of Gruyere called “Livanjski sir” during your recent trip. I’ve never had it and I didn’t even know about it until I was recently trying to jog my mind about the Gruyere I always bought in Switzerland and I saw a reference to that Bosnian version.

  6. Having just spewed out a litany of disparaging comments regarding Ranch Dressing I just tried my mother-in-law’s Olive Garden bottled version. It’s pretty damn good! I think it’s the “Parmesan cheese” and “garlic oil” that does it. Separately, I had the Rogue Creamery blue cheese with a Balsamic reduction sauce on a hamburger and I can most assuredly say, without fear of contradiction, this would be in my top ten requests for a last meal in the hoosegow.

  7. Hey Foodie Star! OK, this is getting confusing because Gil’s Thrilling just ran out of reply buttons on the original string. Love the “lipstick on a pig” comparison. So, what do I think of fruit pizza? My thoughts on the matter are X-rated and not fit for publication on this fine food blog. Fruit pizza brings to mind “Hawaiian pizza” with ham or bacon and pineapple. I just read an article in the Washington Post that noted nearly 25% of Americans say pineapple is among their least favorite toppings. But here’s the part I like the best: “Those who live in the Northeast or are older than 55 hate pineapple toppings even more”. I’m not sure what that says about me but it’s a nice summary. I was happy to see that Toltec Brewing Company has the good sense to not include it on their menu.

  8. Your best bet might be a Whole Foods – ABQ or SF. Maybe La Montanita Co-Op? Doubt Sprouts. Try Natural Grocers, too. Specialty cheese merchant online? Call the Creamery and ask for its distribution list in NM. If you really like blue cheese the search is worth the effort. Good luck!

  9. Yes, I got my four ounces in Whole Foods Berkeley a few days ago. The cheese guy (very knowledgeable as I find most cheese workers in Whole Foods) said the store is on small allocations ever since Rogue garnered the award. That’s a pretty drive you took and I have done it many times. As a certified wino, I always get waylaid in the Willamette Valley for some of the best Pinot Noir on the planet.

    1. We have done that trip as well. The creamery in Central Point was a fun stop. Lot’s of tasty samples and very educational regarding the process! However – as one who does not have the “blue cheese” gene – I was much more interested in their other offerings.

  10. Whoa! At this point, not sure to whom to reply: Ergo:
    Well now…A Jolly Ho Ho, if Y’all will permit: My brain is too tired to get into the nuances of Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Bleu (despite  https://tinyurl.com/y4xmowe9) Cheese…all I remember is in the ’60s in LA when offering French, Bleu Cheese, or 1K Island to a restaurant Guest you could not agree with them saying “Ya, give me the Roquefort!” as it was Trademarked.
    However, my brain is not so fatigued to not reflect of/on a pairing, to wit: https://tinyurl.com/yfahovz2 i.e. the two on the far right, albeit I’d still prefer a PBR.

    Elsewise: On this Veterans Day: A Blessed and/or Appreciative ‘Thank you for your Service’ to any herein who have done so!

  11. Gil, I was happy to read that Toltec serves a good “Buffalo-style” wing. Given the choice of Ranch or blue cheese dressing, I’m curious which one you preferred? There’s no denying the popularity of Ranch Dressing. Originally created by a plumber in the 1950s, the brand was sold in 1972 to Clorox. It seems there’s a rather unsettling link somewhere…

    Anyway, various polls indicate that most people in the U.S. prefer Ranch, a fact that’s emphasized by the New York Times in a 2018 article titled “Ranch Nation”. It has become so ubiquitous that Ranch is served with just about anything and everything, including pizza.

    Here in the Tundra, AKA the home of the “wing” (because Buffalos don’t have wings…) , the mere mention of Ranch dressing with wings (or pizza) generally causes at least a minor flap if not an all-out skirmish. It started in 2018 when the Frank’s RedHot sauce company (the favored ingredient for wings) sent out this tweet on National Ranch Dressing Day: “Buffalo wings + Ranch = two peas in a pod”. And then, in 2019, the National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival made the “unappetizing” announcement that for the first time, Ranch Dressing would also be served. Amidst the squawking and howling on behalf of blue cheese that ensued, all but the hardiest of Buffalo’s Ranch fans ran for cover. I guess it’s kind of like New Mexico green chile versus Pueblo chile.

    1. Hi Becky

      Whether with a salad or with wings, I always ask our server to “bring me as much blue cheese as you can carry.” Invariably it’s never enough though with wings, I use it solely with the carrots and celery. As Arthur Bovino pointed out in Buffalo Everything, blue cheese dressing is what the fabled Anchor Bar served with its wings and it’s what Buffalo considers the “mother sauce.” Sadly, even in Buffalo, Bovino pointed out “probably 85 percent or higher don’t make their own.” Of course, pre-packaged “Buffalo Bleu Cheese” is iconic in The Queen City.

      Around here Ranch dressing tends to be doctored for local tastes. New Mexicans have been spoiled by Green Chile Ranch which may have supplanted blue cheese and all other dressings in terms of popularity. I have so wanted to ship some Green Chile Ranch to you, but it just wouldn’t hold up in transit.

      Gil

      1. I 100% agree that blue cheese is best with Buffalo Wings. The tangy, vinegary hot sauce and blue cheese just play well together. However, if I do a mango habanero, or some other “sweet” laced wing flavor, I feel the blue cheese does not mix well and ranch does a fine job of filling the gap.

        Just my $0.02.

    2. “I’m gonna go ahead and spoil this for you that Blue Cheese is the correct answer, Ranch is symbolic of everything that is wrong with our world, and you should feel bad for even thinking this is a debate. It’s not. Blue Cheese goes with wings because it tastes better, it enhances the flavor of the wings. Ranch is, at best, lightly seasoned mayonnaise. It does nothing. It just sits there like a glob killing any and all flavor in the wing,” so says a southerner radio DJ.

    3. By the way, you quote-source from Wikipedia that a “plumber developed ranch dressing” in the 50s. Can you cite other sources confirming this creation story other than a quick Wikipedia lift? Or is Wikipedia gospel?

      1. Tom, I’m assuming that I’m the “you” referenced in your commentary relating to the development of Ranch dressing. While I do find that Wikipedia is generally reliable, I tend to check multiple sources. There are dozens of articles on line that support the story that Steve Henson, the creator, was working as a construction plumber in Alaska when he came up with the formula for Ranch dressing. In the interest of brevity, I’ll list just a few links:

        https://www.hungryhowies.com/blog/origins-ranch-everything
        https://www.omaha.com/entertainment/the-story-of-the-nebraska-cowboy-who-invented-ranch-dressing/article_8f2d023e-5cf7-521f-aeda-55c59729583f.html
        https://www.independent.com/2015/11/25/ranch-dressing-originated-santa-barbaras-mountains/
        https://delishably.com/sauces-preserves/Exploring-Ranch-Dressing
        https://www.bunkhistory.org/resources/3133

        By the way, I agree that blue cheese is the correct answer when it comes to the best dressing served with wings. That’s the way they were originally served here in Western New York at Buffalo’s Anchor Bar and it’s still preferred by the majority of folks in this area.

        1. Agree with Blue Cheese dressing. I simply don’t see what all the fuss with Ranch dressing is. There is just not a lot going on with Ranch. It is the plain vanilla ice cream of the salad dressing world. My guess is that Steve Henson was making this great new salad dressing and he got distracted before he had added about half the ingredients, forgot where he was in the process, and just went with what he had. BTW, most Ranch dressing smells like Elmer’s Glue to me. Still, I would take Ranch Dressing to “Miracle Whip Salad Dressing” any day! Sweet mayo!

          1. Foodie Star, love the the analogy of Elmer’s Glue. Here’s another bane of my existence in any salad dressing: Xanthan Gum. I think it’s Elmer’s Glue in suspended animation?

          2. To me, Ranch dressing has a chemical taste that’s difficult to ignore but yes – it beats Miracle Whip hands down. I haven’t eaten the latter since I was old enough to say no. This is a bit off-topic but in addition to consuming Ranch with wings, it’s amazing how many people like Ranch dressing on their pizza. Apparently, it’s considered an absolute necessity when eating a pizza that has a generous cornicione which seldom tastes like the “very good baked bread” as Gil describes above. Because I’m a pizza snob, my remedy for that is to patronize pizzerias where they have the good sense to generously cover a pie with toppings right to the edge and pull it out of the oven when slightly charred all around. Just my two cents – I’m sure lots of people would disagree with me and that’s OK.

            1. Agree with you 100% on pizza. I’ve had a few lately that had a soggy crust. I prefer a thin fully done crust (but not crispy like a cracker. As far as Ranch on pizza, I’ve tried it. If it’s bad pizza, ranch is just “lipstick on a pig.” I like to dip mine in buffalo wing sauce and even a nice hot habanero sauce (as long as it’s not sweet.)
              Also, I don’t care for pineapple on a pizza. What are your thoughts on fruity pizza?

        2. Becky, I’m writing this from California as I slather on Rogue Valley Blue Cheese voted the best Blue Cheese in America on Bruschetta.

          https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/01/dining/best-cheese-rogue-river-blue.html?action=click&module=Features&pgtype=Homepage

          It’s forty dollars a pound. But I bought maybe four ounces? I can’t imagine this not elevating any dish, specifically Wings. I am so in awe of well-made cheese, an affliction that Gil would label me a turophile. Don’t know if Rogue River is available where you live but if not I would suggest you hop in the car right now and drive until you reach availability.

          1. Tom, I envy your stellar blue cheese snack. Somehow I knew about Rogue Valley winning the best blue cheese award which is not surprising since they’ve been racking up accolades for a while now. Because I’m not up for a run down to Manhattan at this time, I thought I’d order some directly but I’m late to the party. They’re sold out for now.

            I actually visited Rogue Valley a number of years ago when driving from San Francisco to Seattle. They had really wonderful cheese and it was a great stop along the way. I also visited Tillamook so I had gotten a great “cheese fix” by the time I reached Seattle.

  12. As you have probably noticed Soozi and I are enthusiastic supporters of Toltec Brewing.

    This week they introduced their fall menu that we were eagerly looking forward to since it was announced. I have to say the results of that visit have inspired me to comment positively on a welcome addition to that menu – the Short Rib Melt.

    It’s a simple sandwich and here’s their menu description:

    “Braised in our award winning shaman stout, mushroom, swiss, (and) malt vinegar mayo on toasted baguette.”

    It’s difficult for me to describe the flavors other than if your a fan of braised short ribs you’ve got try this sandwich! The best I can do is tell you that the main ingredient, the short ribs, are moist and flavorful and probably the best braised short ribs I’ve ever tasted.

    I could never make them this good at home (and believe me I have tried).

    The toasted baguette compliments the flavors of the meat with a crispy softness (not sure that’s a real thing) that accentuates the meat by absorbing the juices without getting soggy.

    The mushroom, mayo and swiss components are barely noticeable, but I am sure they are working hard together behind the scenes to add to the complexity of flavors that does not distract from the main event.

    Honestly Gil, my reaction to this sandwich was much the same as yours (and mine) was to their James Beard winning “Royale” burger: I must go back soon to see if it really is as good as I remember it!

    A side note – It was Taco Tuesday the night of our visit and we started out with a sampling of their taco “special” of the week which was red chile short rib.

    These tacos were excellent as well and influenced our decision to keep to the short rib theme for the night and order the sandwich (split) to complete our meal. Next time we will not be sharing!

    Another note: based on customer feedback Toltec has also recently improved their always tasty taco offerings by incorporating a larger tortilla and more filling!

    1. Thank you, Bruce. You are truly an ambassador for Toltec.

      Last year (2018) when I served as judge at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown in Santa Fe, one of the first burgers (full-sized) brought to the judging table was the Royale. With my first bite, the egg exploded all over my shirt. It was a royale mess! I’m sure the other judges were impressed.

    2. Gee Bruce, you make that braised short rib sandwich sound very delicious. Funny, I go to the Home Depot that’s across from Toltec and I dismissed the place every time I drive by, thinking it’s another also-ran craft brewery with uninspired beers and pedestrian pub food. I will have to stop in for the rib sandwich the next time I go to Home Depot for a toilet plunger.

  13. I tried the Royale this past weekend. Wow! What a burger! This is probably the best burger I’ve had in a long time, right up there with Santa Fe Bite. I lamented the closings of Santa Fe Bite and The Buckhorn within a couple of months of each other, but Gil’s right. With places like Toltec, we’ll be just fine. Speaking of which, I hope they do not change a single thing about this burger with Chef Ruiz gone. You can’t improve perfection so don’t even try!!!

  14. From the Toltec Facebook Page:

    This Friday, March 1st, come by Toltec around 5pm to celebrate our appreciation for Chef David! Chef has been such an integral part of this team since before we even opened our doors! Chef built his kitchen, built our menu, built our Kitchen team and our reputation for having amazing food! We are all very excited for his new adventure! Though he is off soon to his new project he, as well as all of us, are confident in the foundation in which he has built and the team he has created! He will always be part of Team Toltec! The special that night will be ribeye steaks and Chef will be here to say goodbye and thank you to all the awesome patrons who have supported him and Toltec! There will be more details to come, especially in regard to our new Executive Chef, we are all very excited for this new chapter and are extremely confident that the integrity and quality of the food will remain and excel.

    Sorry to see David go but will wish him success in his new venture!

    1. Thanks for letting us know, Bruce. I scoured Toltec’s Facebook page for information as to what Chef Ruiz’s next adventure will entail, but didn’t find anything definitive. Do you know if he’ll be remaining in New Mexico?

        1. Gil, Spoke briefly with David on Friday to wish him well. No immediate plans other than to continue consulting and spend more time with his young son.

  15. Toltec brewing has initiated a “Craft Course Wednesday” featuring a 3 Course fixed price Food and Beer Collaboration dinner every week. Soozi and I were there for the inauguration last week and enjoyed it so much we returned last night for a repeat performance. I’m pleased to say that Chef David and Head Brewer Kaylynn did not disappoint!

    Last weeks offering started with a butternut squash bisque with candied pepitas paired with a Rye Lager. The 2nd course entree was Buttermilk soaked fried chicken 2 generous pieces served on garlicmashed potatoes with candied Brussels sprouts and a hearty Stout Gravy paired with their Altbier. The desert course was an excellent tiramisu creme brûlée paired with a their Dunkelweizen.

    The pepitas were a nice crunchy surprise on the flavorful bisque. The entree course was an excellent fried chicken, crisp on the outside – tender and moist within. The garlic mashed potatoes were tasty with a good garlic flavor, though they could have arrived a bit warmer on the plate. The hot and tasty gravy (made using their oatmeal stout) saved the day with respect to temperature. Desert was a delightful combination of all the great flavor and texture of tiramisu and a creme brûlée.

    This weeks menu included poached pear salad with blue cheese, sweet onion and candied papitas paired with their Agave Wheat. The main attraction was beet tagliatelle (a first for us), buffalo ragout, winter greens and fine herbs paired with (one of our favorites) an Altbier. Note that Toltec also offer vegan and vegetarian options on request. Desert was a delicious and creative blackberry crisp with vanilla bean ice cream paired with an oatmeal stout (my personal favorite from the beer menu). All three courses were excellent!

    With respect to the beer pairings – they were well thought out and as these events should – the beer and food complemented each other well.

    Toltec starts serving the Craft Courses at 5pm. We arrived before 5:30 on our first visit. Not knowing what to expect, Toltec planned for 16 servings. We were fortunate to order ours just in time. This week they doubled their expectations.

    Priced reasonably at $20, the Toltec Craft Course Wednesday offerings are a welcome addition to the local brew pub scene. We have attended similar events at other local venues which were priced at the $30 – $40 level and even higher in some cases. Chef David Ruiz serves up a delicious, satisfying and budget friendly alternative and I think you should give it a try!

  16. Congratulations to Toltec Brewing and Executive Chef David!

    From the Toltec Facebook Page:

    “On May 28th, just 3 weeks after our grand opening, our Executive Chef, along with family and friends began asking all of you for your support in voting for the Royale Burger in the James Beard Blended Burger Project! This competition was nationwide and had more than 600 plus participants! Thanks to all of your votes we placed in the top 20! Five winners were then determined by a panel of food experts selected by the James Beard Foundation, including Andrew Zimmerman! Out of hundreds of entries we are beyond ecstatic to announce our Executive Chef and his creation, The Royale, have won this Competition! We now have a James Beard award winning burger on our menu! So, if you haven’t tried it yet, we’ll see you all soon! Thank you again to everyone who voted and has supported and or been to our new brewery! Congratulations to Chef David! The Toltec team promises, that we still have so much more to show! Stay tuned!”

    1. Thank you, Bruce. That is fantastic news! On Thursday, October 18, 2018 at 6:30PM, the top five burgers in the competition will be presented at the James Beard House in an event called Blended Burger Bun’anza.

      New Mexico was very well represented in this prestigious competition with two of the Land of Enchantment’s best finishing in the top twenty, the other one being Rio Rancho’s The Point Grill.

    2. There is a very well known professor of German History named Andrew Zimmerman & a Chef @ Sepia in Chicago. However the Press Release by the James Beard Foundation lists the following judges:
      NEW YORK – As the James Beard Foundation’s annual Blended Burger Project™ grows in restaurant participation, the Foundation has named a prestigious panel of judges to help select this years’ top mushroom + meat* blended burgers:

      Antoinette Bruno, CEO and Editor in Chief, StarChefs.com.
      Susan Westmoreland, Culinary Director, Good Housekeeping.
      Andrew Zimmern, TV personality, chef, writer and teacher.

      Zimmern is very accustomed to being misnamed. I had the name wrong for years.

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