Leave it to the wonderfully irascible and irreverent comedian George Carlin to put things in perspective in his retort to a popular English idiom. “When people say, ‘Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it too.’ What good is a cake you can’t eat? What should I eat, someone else’s cake instead?“.
The idiom “to have one’s cake and eat it, too or simply have one’s cake and eat it” actually means wanting more than one can handle or deserves, or to trying to have two incompatible things. Still, Carlin makes a sage point.
In Albuquerque’s Far North Valley, Albuquerque diners can have their cake and they can eat it, too. They can also have and eat delicious sandwiches, salads, cupcakes, empanadas, pies and other wonderful breakfast and lunch treats.
This is all courtesy of the Have Your Cake Bakery & Cafe which opened in December, 2007 in a hundred year old adobe building just south of the capacious El Pinto New Mexican restaurant.
The bakery/cafe is owned by Kathy Medero, an Albuquerque native who trained at the French Culinary Institute of New York. The century plus old building previously housed other restaurants as well as a motorcycle repair shop and a church. Its transformation was nearly a two-year labor of love.
Kathy’s restaurant is spotless and has a bright, sunny feeling to it. Glass block on both sides of the front door along with several north-facing windows bring in plenty of light while the off white walls and tan tiles help disburse it.
Walls are nicely appointed with framed pastels, mostly of flowers and nature scenes. Alongside the north walls of the main dining room is a banco, an ochre colored bench that expands seating capacity for this relatively tiny cafe.
When you walk in, you’re immediately drawn in to the side-by-side glass display cases which showcase wondrous pastries and other baked goods. The cases display muffins, cupcakes, brownies and other delectable treats. It’s a wonder there aren’t drool trails running down the cases.
The lunch menu is inscribed on chalk boards just above the pastry case. The left board features the cafe’s hot sandwiches while the one on the right lists the cold sandwiches. It’s an impressive array of sandwiches the likes of which few restaurants can match.
The sandwiches are made the way you might make a sandwich for yourself. You wouldn’t scrimp on ingredients and neither does Have Your Cake. You wouldn’t haphazardly toss tomatoes and lettuce on your sandwich; you’d position them carefully so they complement your sandwich. That’s the way this bakery makes them. These are excellent sandwiches–among the very best in Albuquerque!
Have Your Cake sandwiches are made with fresh and innovative ingredients in combinations you don’t see at many restaurants. There are several vegetarian friendly sandwiches on the menu, too. With the exception of one sandwich, you also won’t see these sandwiches called by some annoying “cutesy” name.
The one sandwich called by other than its number on the menu is Have Your Cake’s Dagwood, a mountain high creation with turkey, roast beef, ham, Cheddar cheese, Swiss, Muenster, green chile, mayo and Dijon piled triple-decker on white bread.
Dagwood Bumstead would be proud. It’s likely not even the sandwich worshipping character in the comic strip Blondie could put this eponymous, thick, multi-layered creation into that exaggeratedly expansive mouth of his. There are so many ingredients in this sandwich that you can’t even compress it down to a smaller size.
Enormity aside, this is an excellent sandwich–very flavorful with no one ingredient dominating, but all contributing to the deliciousness of a true work of art. The bread is housemade and sturdy enough to keep it all together (although most people will have to “deconstruct” the sandwich in order to eat it all).
Note: For an appreciation of just how big this sandwich is, visit my Albuquerque Dining page where you’ll find a picture of my friend Bill Resnik trying to bite into the Dagwood.
The hot sandwich area superstar (and Kathy’s favorite) is a sandwich constructed of housemade lamb sausage, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and harissa (you might call this North African salsa; it’s a spice mixture containing chiles, olive oil, cumin, garlic, coriander and other ingredients) on a grilled baguette.
Wow! There is a lot going on in this sandwich with respect to the various ingredients and their unique contributions. The lamb sausage has no discernable gaminess or filler–and unlike most sausage, no sinew. It is an excellent sausage. The roasted potatoes taste like out-of-the-oven, lightly seasoned potatoes while the sweet potatoes lend a bit of sweetness and texture. The harissa brings it all together with sweet, savory and just a hint of piquancy flavors.
Another wonderful hot sandwich (again, no name) is made with oven roasted chipotle, chicken breast, roasted red peppers and onion marmalade on a grilled baguette. It’s a heart-healthy sandwich with palate pleasing properties.
All sandwiches are served with a choice of one daily side. That side could be coleslaw or one of the best bowtie pasta salads I’ve ever had. The pasta is flecked with olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes and other nuanced ingredients. It is worthy accompaniment to any sandwich.
Although the sandwiches are formidable, you can’t leave Have Your Cake without having (or taking out) one of the decadent dessert treats. You’ll be tempted to order them all.
The pumpkin cream cheese muffin (pictured at right) is a terrific option. It’s an oversized muffin with a large top (remember the Seinfeld episode introducing us to the “top of the muffin”). It’s got a spiced pumpkin pie flavor with a muffin texture. The cream cheese adds even more sweetness.
Have Your cake has a cold case of sodas (including Diet 7Up) and is reputed to serve very good coffee.
The next time somebody uses the tired cliché about not being able to have your cake and eating it, too, tell them about Have Your Cake, a wonderful cafe in which you can have it all.
Have Your Cake Bakery & Cafe
10420 4th Street, N.W.
LATEST VISIT: 20 September 2008
# OF VISITS: 3
BEST BET: Have Your Cake Dagwood Sandwich, Pasta Salad, Pumpkin Cream, Lamb Sausage Sandwich, Chipotle Chicken Breast Sandwich