“Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing– for a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.” Anyone who’s read Shakespeare’s Macbeth will recognize this incantation by three witches as they stir a boiling cauldron replete with the ingredients needed to conjure ghosts into their world so they can manipulate Macbeth, the future king. Even among those of us who may have been required to memorize this famous stanza, the ingredients seem so malevolent. Little did we know that most of those ingredients were actually rather innocuous. Eye of newt, for example, was actually (depending upon which herbalist you consult) a daylily or mustard seed.
Most of the ingredients imbued with magical properties which we ascribe to witchcraft are also used by chefs to conjure delicious aromas and flavors in their kitchens. Among the most magical of those ingredients is rosemary, an incredibly versatile herb for which a very popular Duke City restaurant is named. A sprig of rosemary hangs over the restaurant’s name like an accent mark used to emphasize the three words subtitling the name “Rosemary” on the restaurant’s website: “Clean, Fresh, Vibrant.” Framed drawings hang on the restaurant’s walls depicting the distinctively fragrant shrub whose aromatic essence was described by food scientist Harold McGee as a combination of “florals, pine, wood, eucalyptus, and clove.”
Aromas emanating from the kitchen at Rosemary might be even more enticing than those of the fragrant green-grey leaves used in cooking and in perfumery. Those aromas greet you at the door like a warm embrace, hastening your hankering for their delicious sources. More than at most restaurants, Rosemary is a dining destination where it would behoove you to study the menu beforehand so those aromas don’t leave you so ravenous that you rush your decision…not that everything won’t be delicious. When my friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” Silver and I visited, my heart was set on farro risotto with roasted mushrooms, but the sizzle and bouquet of ground chuck on the grill beckoned like a siren’s call.
True to its name, Rosemary is an “urban casual, plant-forward restaurant.” Plant-forward defines a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them. Meat may be included but it’s usually not the main feature of the meal. Rosemary features “ingredients free of growth hormones, antibiotics and high fructose corn syrup, crafted into creative menu items that appeal to both carnivores , vegetarians and vegans alike.” Much as these concepts are to be admired, what drew me to Rosemary is the proud declaration on its website’s home page that “Rosemary is a local, NM, Female US Army Veteran owned, small business.” As an Air Force retiree, veterans of the armed services hold a very special place in my heart.
The veteran owner referenced is retired Major Linda Zamora, who proudly served her country for 28-year and still works at Kirtland Air Force Base. Co-owner Bryan Thompson is a veteran of another sorts, having excelled at corporate restaurant sales for nearly a quarter-century before being coaxed by Linda among others to launch a restaurant. Bryan formulated the plant-forward concept and designed a menu with broad appeal for vegans, vegetarians, carnivores and omnivores. That menu is constantly being updated to accommodate local, special, and seasonal dishes. It’s a platform for Bryan’s talents in the kitchen.
Perhaps the term most often used to describe Rosemary’s setting is “intimate” though “serene and unfussy” as used by the Albuquerque Journal will work, too. For the entirety of our meal, Sr. Plata and I were the only males in an estrogen sea, not that we minded one bit. It did make me wonder, however, if Rosemary was maybe “too civilized” for those of us blessed (cursed?) with the XY-chromosome pairing. There are certainly a lot of menu items sure to appeal to those of us of the sterner gender. That includes bountiful burgers, sizeable sandwiches and such comfort food favorites as green chile mac and cheese, grilled lamb chops and Rosemary roasted chicken.
While you might know Sr. Plata as the architect of a Chicken Fried Steak Trail named for him, lately he’s been eschewing artery-clogging eats in favor of more healthful options. There are certainly plenty of those on Rosemary’s menu. Our server praised the crispy Spanish cauliflower florets (lightly battered florets tossed in honey-Sriracha sauce and served with a Romesco dipping sauce) most lavishly. As with the life-altering cauliflower at Need A Pita, its proof on a plate that cauliflower doesn’t need to be heavily battered and slathered with gooey, melted cheese to be delectable. Sadly, the Romesco sauce (tomato, almond, red peppers, ancho chile, garlic and panko) was served seemingly out-of-the-fridge cold. Not that the cauliflower needed any amelioration. It is a terrific introduction to the Rosemary concept.
One of the dishes in which rosemary (the herb) is showcased is the rosemary chicken (a half-chicken prepared with honey, lemon and rosemary pan jus) with two sides. Its flavor profile is well balanced so that no one ingredient obfuscates the flavors of the other. Instead the honey, lemon and rosemary complement each other very well. As with most roasted half-chicken dishes (breast, thigh, leg, wing) we’ve encountered lately, the rosemary chicken is roasted intact and delivered to your table as one piece. it’s pretty easy to find the joints and break them apart to separate the half chicken into its component parts, but it can also be rather messy. Sr. Plata ordered the half-chicken with a side of roasted mushrooms with thyme and garlic. His second side was a small mixed greens salad with blue cheese dressing which didn’t have the blue cheese crumbles he loves.
Despite being a vegetarian herself, our server gave a two thumbs-up endorsement to the “Naked Relleno” Green Chile Bacon Cheeseburger (chile relleno, chopped green chile, melted cheese, bacon, green chile mayo on a lightly toasted cream ale bun). Her recommendation, of course, was based on rave reviews she’s received from very happy diners. Those rave reviews are well deserved. This is a magnificent burger! Green chile in three forms (unbreaded relleno, chopped and mayo) is the primary reason, but not the only one. Another is the chile which has a bite–a very pleasing, tongue-tingling piquancy–even fire-eating New Mexicans will respect. Crispy bacon strips extend far beyond the buns. You won’t find fries on the menu, but you will find baby carrots with a maple-veg glaze. With carrots this good who needs fries.
Rosemary joins a number of hidden gem restaurants (Saigon Restaurant, Delicias Cafe, Mariscos La Playa and Siam Cafe come to mind) ensconced among the ubiquitous chains on San Mateo north of Montgomery. If you hadn’t already thought of this area as a dining destination, the presence of Rosemary certainly makes it one.
4565 San Mateo Blvd., Suite A
Albuquerque, New Mexico
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LATEST VISIT: 19 February 2020
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: “Naked Relleno” Green Chile Bacon Cheeseburger, Rosemary Roasted Chicken, Crispy Spanish Cauliflower Florets