Hollow Spirits Distillery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Hollow Spirits Distillery on 1st Street

The winner is the chef who takes the same ingredients as
everyone else and produces the best results.”
~Edward De Bono

The Land of Enchantment boasts of some 3,500 restaurants, more than 1,000 of which are members of the New Mexico Restaurant Association (NMRA).  Keen competition from among hundreds of outstanding chefs throughout the Land of Enchantment makes being named the NMRA’s Chef of the Year quite an honor.  Read the resume of 2020 Chef of the Year recipient Tristin Rogers  and you just might conclude he didn’t just deserve Chef of the Year honors; he’s worthy of “person of the year” recognition, too.  He doesn’t just transform great ingredients into great meals.  He’s transforming lives and bettering the community.

Awards and recognition are nothing new for Chef Rogers, who was at the helm as executive chef when The Crown Room at the Downs Racetrack and Casino twice earned “Best Casino Restaurant” in Albuquerque The Magazine’s annual “Best of the City” voting.  To say he’s talented is an understatement, but it also took hard work and dedication to perfecting his craft that’s led to his success.  Over a career spanning more than 21 years in increasingly demanding positions–starting off as a dishwasher and now owning and running his own restaurant–he’s not one to rest on his laurels. 

A Very Busy, Very Happy Place

During his time off, Chef Rogers researches food trends, exploring gastronomic techniques, pairings and presentations to achieve his goal of providing remarkable dining experiences for his guests.  At Hollow Spirits Distillery, he’s “reprogramming” diners minds about what constitutes a fine New Mexican dining experience in which he blends traditional New Mexican food with gastronomy techniques that emphasize local, fresh ingredients.  The result he aims for is beautiful food you can taste with your eyes and enjoy with your soul.

As impressive as his culinary curriculum vitae is, it’s in community involvement that he may be having an even greater impact.  Noticing that people in his inner circle and beyond were falling into depression and coping with alcohol, drugs and other addictions, Chef Rogers  created Project Mis En Place that builds on a curriculum that  teaches people about being aware of mental health.  The altruistic chef also serves as a mentor to young culinary students and has brought other chefs together for fundraising efforts in support of many causes.

Unique Chilaquiles

On Sundays from 11AM to 2PM brunch is the featured fare at Hollow Spirits.  Five items are available.  If you arrive early as we did, consider having a brunch item as an “appetizer” while you wait for the seasonal menu to be available.  Our appetizer-slash-brunch-item was the chilaquiles rojo (housemade chips, red chile, pickled red onions, Cotija cheese, sunny egg, avocado lime crema), a rather unique take on chilaquiles.  Virtually every version of chilaquiles we’ve had has been a melange dominated by chile.  Rather than douse the chips with the fiery red, Hollow Spirits is rather penurious with its chile, spooning it lightly onto the chips.  The effect is a dish not dominated by chile, but one in which every ingredient is discernible and one in which the composite can be appreciated because each individual component works so well.

“From the Garden” is what Hollow Spirits calls its two-item salad menu.  Tuna Nicoise, always an excellent choice, is one of the two.  The other is a grilled watermelon and arugula salad (feta, arugula, watermelon, candied walnuts, wild berry Balsamic drizzle) to which you can add chicken or shrimp for a pittance more.  Watermelon experiences significant changes when grilled.  Its distinct granular texture becomes more chewy.  Its taste becomes less sweet and inherits just a bit of smokiness.  This is a very good salad, but make sure to ask for a second drizzle of the wild berry Balsamic which really offsets some of the pepperiness of the arugula.

Grilled Watermelon & Arugula Salad

The “Finer Things” section of the seasonal menu may be most reflective of Chef Rogers’ passion for gastronomic techniques, pairings, and presentations.  Three items on the menu shone the spotlight on seafood, always a courageous thing to serve in landlocked New Mexico.  My Kim and I split the landlubber’s choice, a twelve-ounce pork chop served with pickled red onions, haricot verts, shallot and chive boursin pomme puree and a small pan of red chile.

There’s an art to grilling a double thick cut pork chop to perfection.   Because of the pork chop’s thickness,  it needs a little special care to get it cooked through the middle without burning the surface.  Only at a fine chophouse will you find a pork chop prepared as well as the Hollow Spirits kitchen prepared this bone-in beauty.  Seasoned to perfection and grilled to a golden hue, it’s a showstopper.  What surprised me most was that it wasn’t served with apple compound butter or some other ameliorant restaurants sometimes use to take the emphasis away from the chop itself.  This was all about the chop and it was outstanding.  Also a huge hit were the chive boursin pomme puree, essentially elevated mashed potatoes.  

Pork Chop

For two small towns–one in Ohio, one in Pennsylvania–the biggest (and most controversial) claim to fame is the invention of the banana split.  Denizens of both towns agree that the genesis of that enduring symbol of the fruited plain’s soda-fountain of yore transpired more than one-hundred years ago.  Ohio’s claimant insists the banana split was invented in 1907 while Pennsylvania’s contender asserts it was invented three years before that.  Most of the evidence for both claims is anecdotal.   While its origin may be debatable, there’s no debating that the banana split remains a favorite dessert.

Hollow Spirit’s bourbon split (caramelized banana, vanilla ice cream, creme fouette, sea salt caramel, fresh berries, dyno bite crumble and a shot of Hollow Spirits Red 96 bourbon) is a unique, “adult” version of the banana split.  It may well be the best we’ve ever had.  Every component asserted itself, but not at the expense of others.  The interplay of flavor profiles–from sweet to savory to sour–worked magnificently, providing a balance so rare in desserts.  Counterbalancing the firm bananas caramelized to a golden amber was a sea salt caramel with just enough saltiness to provide a nice contrast.  Not quite lip-pursing, the berries provided a tangy offset to the vanilla ice cream.  Our biggest surprise, however, was the Fruity Pebbles-like “dyno bite crumble” which provided much more than color to a superb dessert.  We didn’t know what to do with the bourbon and left it “unappreciated.”

Hollow Spirits Bourbon Split

For Chef Tristin Rogers the path to success as a chef has been fraught with one challenge after another.  He’s surmounted them all to lead a kitchen that offers creative and affordable fine-dining fare, all the while helping make Albuquerque a better and healthier place in which to live and work.

Hollow Spirits
134 1st Street, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 433-2766
Website | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 11 July 2021
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET:  Pork Chop, Grilled Watermelon & Arugula Salad, Chilaquiles, Hollow Spirits Bourbon Split
REVIEW #1224

7 thoughts on “Hollow Spirits Distillery – Albuquerque, New Mexico

  1. Gil, I was a bit disconcerted after reading your description of the Hollow Spirits Bourbon Split. You’re normally what I’d call an urbane diner who knows his way around a menu so I’m thinking that your abstention from the enjoyment of alcoholic delights was the cause of your confusion when you state that you “didn’t know what to do with the bourbon so left it unappreciated.” YIKES! I’m not a big fan of bourbon but that was a sinful waste of what sounds like a well crafted libation. And Hollow Spirits is, after all, a distillery.

    When it comes to elevated dining, alcoholic dessert pairings are rather common these days. The purpose is to enhance the dessert while cutting its sweetness. When liquor is served separately, it’s meant to be poured over or around the dessert in an amount commensurate with the diner’s individual taste. In some cases, it’s more appropriately sipped as one consumes the dessert. I would think that your server could have addressed any question as to how best to enjoy it. Anyway, given that you probably wouldn’t have relished the bourbon in the first place, you may wish to consider ordering the “virgin” version of the “Bourbon Split” next time. It’ll save you $6.00 off the $16.00 price.

    1. My dear Betty

      While there’s no end to my intrepidity when it comes to culinary fare, adult beverages (nothing stronger than root beer) rarely crosses my lips–and it never will when I’m driving. At the risk of climbing on my soap box, New Mexico has a serious DUI problem. The Land of Enchantment doesn’t need another impaired motorist placing other drivers at risk. Because my metabolism has no tolerance for alcohol, a mere whiff is all it would take to knock me on my butt.


            1. Well Betty Mercury…Welcome as a Newbie! Indeed, the name shows several interesting finds on the internet. Be that as it may…in response to your query RE a PBR Sippy: I must note that is appreciated as I hadn’t thought of that! Elsewise, I confess to a preference for my PBR to be prepped by immersion in iced water (for at least a half-three quarters of an hour) and then poured, in halves, into a chilled glass.
              – If I may anticipate: No, I’ve not yet tried rimming such a glass with Tajin as apparently is being done across the fruity plain with margaritas. I have however, recently “experimented” with sprinkling some Tajin on a couple of spoonfuls of HD Coffee ice cream. No biggy…maybe the coffee flavor is wrong, but might be an interesting change of pace from time to time!

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