New Mexico Sojourn
The famous saying “Life is Short, so Live it to the Fullest” is the best truism there is in these times of politic, economic and worldwide uneasiness. Travel is always a good way to experience and learn, not necessarily only to the larger cities of our country or world, but to some of the smaller locales too. Places like New Mexico always seem to be glossed over when thinking about visiting and dining places to go and explore.
Albuquerque has a nice collection of well-established restaurants and a few newcomers to visit too. Seasons Rotisserie & Grill has been around for a while and is now part of a small collection of area restaurants in the town. They offer straightforward American Cuisine and before “Farm to Table” was a catch phrase, they supported and served local products. Crazy Fish has been in business for over a decade and currently has a Thai chef who likes to work his magic with the flavors of his country, but you have to ask. As long as he has the ingredients, he will make anything for you, such as Green Curry Glaze on Shrimp Tempura Vegetable Roll. The Monte Carlo Steakhouse, or should I say ‘Liquor Store’, since the restaurant is tucked behind the establishment; this is for sure a throwback restaurant, with extremely fair price on steaks, burgers and local specialties. There is also Il Vicino, originally a local restaurant that has now expanded to Santa Fe, Colorado and Wichita. They are certainly not the inventors of the new pizza craze, but could be credited with establishing a niche in that market, with salads, pizzas, calzones, some pastas and a few great desserts, coupled with great service.
It’s very fair to say the all of the above restaurants would most likely be accepted by an opinionated and discerning clientele in any major metropolitan area, but this is Albuquerque, and unfortunately not on too many foodies’ radar screens. Besides the great food experience is most importantly the feeling of genuine hospitality exuded by the staff at each restaurant - as one would say “Priceless”.
Santa Fe has no equal when it comes to art, tranquility and diversity, especially in who lives there. There are the old and established stalwarts of the restaurant landscape, along with some new and independent startups. Plus, a visit to the Farmer’s Market at the Railway Yards which is available twice a week, is like going to a great food banquet. Choices abound from great hearth baked breads from Cloud Cliff Bakery to Homemade Raspberry Ginger & Chili preserves. Ohori’s Coffee Company is a mainstay of the town, and has been roasting coffee for over 30 years, along with a welcoming smile and a great place to just meet local folks. La Boca is one of the great simple places in Santa Fe to have a great selection of Tapas and small plates and some of the best food in the town. Chef James Campbell Caruso, an eight times nominated James Beard Award Chef seems always to be there, not only cooking but welcoming and talking to guests.
Sweet Water Harvest Kitchen is tough to find, but for Breakfast & Lunch certainly hard to beat for great food, hospitality and local natural & organic ingredients. The new kid in town is the return of prodigal son John Sedlar with his homage to his grandmother at Eloisa located at the new Drury Hotel. The menu features the best of Southwestern Cuisine and ingredients, and offers diners a glimpse of the past with wonderful gustatory leaps to the future. The restaurant is watched over by local veteran Jack Shaab who certainly knows his way around the Santa Fe dining arena and is easing the restaurant into being a local jewel for its guests.
All of the restaurants share a simple, but sorry to say not common enough goal or experience; they are approachable, warm, friendly and extremely hospitable too. Too many times restaurants forget that guests are coming for a good time and experience, and want to feel the comfort of being in a favorite place. The dictionary defines Hospitality as, “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Now, just think if more places and restaurants learned from New Mexico hospitality - what an idea!