El Chamo Arabe – Albuquerque, New Mexico

According to the New York Post, the beleaguered South American nation of Venezuela may be the easiest place on Planet Earth in which to become a millionaire.  Of course, a million Bolivars in the inflation-ridden nation is worth only about fifty-three cents.  In 2018, Venezuela’s Central Bank actually began printing $1,000,000 bills.  Years of hyperinflation devours the income of Venezuelans, leaving them hungry and struggling to buy food and medicine.  Many Venezuelans scour through garbage to find food while millions of others fled the country to build new lives across South America and beyond.   You wouldn’t know life in Venezuela is so difficult if you speak with Maria Laura, a perpetually smiling server at El Chamo Arabe. Maria Laura…

Jerusalem – Taste of the Holy Land – Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are inextricably tied to the ancient city of Jerusalem, the epicenter of sacred sites both unique and common to all three religions.  One of the oldest cities in the world as well as Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem has a prominent role in both the Old and New Testament.  According to Bible Study Tools, “the name “Jerusalem” occurs 806 times in the Bible, 660 times in the Old Testament and 146 times in the New Testament; additional references to the city occur as synonyms.” Surprisingly, Jerusalem is not directly mentioned by name in the Qur’an, even in its Arabic translation of Al Quds. As a lifelong Catholic (with the bad knees to show for it), the significance…

Europa Food. Farm. Festival – Los Lunas, New Mexico

“I realized very early the power of food to evoke memory, to bring people together, to transport you to other places, and I wanted to be a part of that.” ~Chef-Humanitarian Jose Andres During the dark days of the Cabrona virus, trying our hands at preparing recipes (most culled from edge-worn and tattered cookbooks) of the world  became one of the few ways to escape mandated restrictions.  Food became one of the few remaining ways to connect us to other cultures and travel to destinations we couldn’t otherwise enjoy.  Whether in bad times or in good, food–enticing aromas, delicious flavors and the experience of sharing them with loved ones–has that unique power to transport us back to many of our…

Haji Baba – Tempe, Arizona

Visiting Haji Baba one day before the end of Ramadan in 2022, I pondered the Muslim observation of the month-long period  when the faithful are encouraged to give to charity, strengthen their relationship with God and show kindness and patience. Observed during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar by Muslims worldwide, Ramadan is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.  It dawned on me, a life-long Catholic, that not all “Papists” like me have the spiritual and physical stamina to refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset for an entire month.  I probably don’t.   That these thoughts came to mind when we were about to enjoy an exquisite repast wasn’t lost on me.  I thought…

Mediterranean Kitchen – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

A few years ago if you told some of us we should follow a Mediterranean diet, we probably would have salivated at the prospect of having pizza and wine every day though we would have wondered how we could possibly lose weight on such an indulgent diet.  Today, the Mediterranean diet is widely recognized by dieticians as one of the most heart-healthy ways to eat.  Moreover, studies consistently show that a diet adhering to the principles of the traditional Mediterranean diet is one associated with longevity. In truth there is no one standard Mediterranean diet.  In fact, the term is rather generic and is based on the traditional eating habits of the sixteen or so countries which border the Mediterranean…

Tikka Hut – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

The cynosure of Tikka Hut, an Indian Fusion restaurant on First Street, is a colorful mural that pays tribute to the extraordinary and constantly evolving history of Mexican cuisine.   The mural depicts the mesmerizing countenance of a beautiful indigenous maiden, maybe even the infamous Malinche herself.  Immediately below the maiden is a Muslim Dhow sailing the azure waters of the ancient world.  The mural was commissioned when the name on the restaurant’s marquee read “Urban Taqueria.”   It’s an evocative spray-painted masterpiece that should inspire contemplation and discussion. It certainly will if you ask owner Hanif Mohamed about it.   Hanif is not only a restaurant impresario who’s owned an extraordinary portfolio of diverse restaurants, he’s quite a culinary historian. …

Mama Zahira Foodies – Albuquerque, New Mexico

It’s so easy to be judgmental, to take things at face value…to assume.  As my friend Bruce “Sr. Plata” Silver and I approached Mama Zahira Foodies’ order window, we espied the self-deprecating term “The Wacky Iraqi in Albuquerque” scrawled by the vehicle’s rear wheel well.  The term “wacky” made us wary.  It’s just not a term we associate with great food.  No sooner had we reached the window when we were greeted by Riadh Seheem, a thickly accented, very gregarious gentleman who couldn’t wait to tell us about his food truck.  Talking a mile a minute with the unfettered enthusiasm of a child at Christmas, he raved about his truck’s menu.  Yes, it would have been far too easy to…

Kabab House – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Unlike New York City, Albuquerque might not ever truly be mistaken for “a cultural melting pot.”  Though numerous ethnicities are scattered throughout the city’s 189.5 square miles, some of their culinary cultures are vastly underrepresented (if at all represented) among the city’s restaurants. Not even in the International District–where you might feel as if you’re jumping from continent to continent as you take in mutually incomprehensible languages–will you find restaurants representing some of the world’s great culinary cultures.  As we’ve espied people draped in the traditional attire of their homelands assiduously scouring Talin Market’s shelves, we’ve often contemplated the dearth of such restaurants.  For gastronomes, one of the pleasures of eating out is experiencing unfamiliar foods and new flavors.  We…