Valentine's Day is approaching and I'm charged with writing about all of the delightful dinners restaurants have planned to lure lovers. But all I can think about is Matt Brewer, who died last week, and how he once told me he hated to have Café Bodega open on a holiday. “Amateur night,” he grumbled over the phone, and I laughed. I could picture him shaking his head as he half-heartedly groused about all the unfamiliar faces filing into local restaurants on Valentine's, New Year's, Mother's Day. By amateurs, he meant people who don't usually eat at restaurants like his. They always wanted substitutions, the chef groused, and didn't tip well, which pissed off the wait staff. No, all in all it was a pain and he preferred not to do it. I think Brewer just got a lot of satisfaction from cooking for his regulars, the devoted folks who had followed him to Bodega from Café de las Placitas. This year he had planned on serving on Valentine's Day, even though it fell on a Monday, when the restaurant would normally be closed. He just wasn't going to advertise it, in hopes that the dining room would fill up with regulars.
Happy Chinese New Year! It's the year of the cock and I, for one, have decided it's high time we all started taking the Chinese zodiac a little more seriously. So forget Valentine's Day—I'll be eating kung pao chicken all weekend long, and I suggest you do the same. May you all have wealth and prosper.
Albuquerque lost one of its best chefs last week with the untimely death of Matt Brewer, owner of Café Bodega (4243 Montgomery NE). Matt grew up in Farmington, and used to joke that he was headed for a career as a professional bowler until he discovered food. After several years at various restaurant jobs in Albuquerque, where he worked his way up to become chef at Café Oceana, Scalo and Prairie Star, Brewer migrated west. After graduating from the California Culinary Institute, he was mentored by Chef Cory Schreibner at San Francisco's Cypress Club. Schreibner introduced him to the rigors of California's nouvelle cuisine, a movement which combined the freshest possible local produce and proteins with international ingredients, in uncommon combinations.
Nothing warms up a cold winter evening like a nice hot sausage
Every time we'd drive up to my grandparents' farm, my folks would make a point of stopping at Moore's general store. If you're picturing something out of a Country Time lemonade commercial, you've got just the right idea. It was a dusty old clapboard building, with squeaky floor boards, a slamming screen door and one of those big old Coca-Cola coolers with tall bottles and real ice inside. In the back, of the store, Mr. Moore could be found behind a big, white enameled meat case, with a motor that purred as softly as a diesel tractor. Mr. Moore made sausage, sweet (meaning mild) and hot Italian. We chose sweet, and bought enough for dinner at the farm, plus a few extra links to take back to the city with us. It was good stuff.