Drinking too much impairs your judgment—long before you do something so lethally stupid as getting behind the wheel of a car. For example, your no-smoking regime? Worked great until beer No. 2; by beer No. 4 you were bumming from the bartender. Remember that time you rode your bike home drunk, crashed and broke your two front teeth out? Oh God. Or the time you went home with that drummer, the one you promised yourself you wouldn't go home with because you'd already slept with the bass player and two guys in one band is one too many? Booze can wreck your waistline, too, and not just because it's full of empty calories. One-and-a-half margaritas can be all it takes for you to give up on your diet completely. One Malibu and Diet Coke makes chips and salsa look really good. Two Vanilla Stoli and sodas make an order of chicken strips sound like a great idea. After several rounds of birthday (or bachelor, breakup, baby, whatever) B-52s (or blowjobs, car bombs, whatever) and you're demanding the designated driver take you through the Whataburger drive-through for a Whatacatch with onion rings and a side of cream gravy. Noooooo! What a nightmare. I'd rather wake up between the drummer and bass player than with the hazy recollection of a Whatadrivethru binge.
All the News That's Fit to Eat
Mexican food moves into Rio Rancho. Federico Cardenas is a San Diego native who grew up in a restaurant family—his parents are from Michoacan and have been in the business 30 years—and finally saved up enough money to move away and open his own place. Offhandedly, I asked him why he chose to move to Albuquerque. He told me he chose not Albuquerque, but Rio Rancho, specifically because it was a city with very few Mexican restaurants. “It's paying off so much!” he told me with a level of enthusiasm and satisfaction that is unusual for the owner of a brand-new business. Adding to the attraction of this big fish in a little pond is the fact that Federico's Mexican Food (1590 Deborah SE, near Kmart, 891-7218) is open 24 hours. To the best of Fred's knowledge, Taco Bell is the only other all-night restaurant in the area. No wonder he's got folks lining up for full-pound burritos at 2 a.m.! Oh, did I forget to mention? Federico's specialty is burritos that he uses 14-inch tortillas and stuffs them until they weigh a pound. Even the breakfast burritos weigh a pound. He's also got flautas (fried rolled tacos, sometimes called taquitos), menudo (Saturdays and Sundays), and churros. The churros are the only menu items that aren't made from scratch. One thing he doesn't have: sopaipillas. “My distributor said, ’Oh, I can sell you sopaipillas,' but if I don't know how to make them, then I'm just not going to serve them.”
Chewing the Fat
Crêpe Cart Chow
A few words with Richard Agee, the guy behind La Crêperie Roulante
So you're a hot dog guy now, huh?
Yeah, right [snarls menacingly].
Seriously, you make beautiful crêpes and yet all the drunk people stumbling out of the bars ask you for hot dogs. Does that bother you?
Naw, that's why I got hot dogs, cuz there's guys who pull their last two dollars out and I'm happy to take 'em. But I do use Alpine Sausage House Vienna sausages for my hot dogs. I use Alpine for all my sausages.
What other sausages?
I got Polish, Italian, and then I rotate between knockwurst, bratwurst and turkey green chile brats. I doctor up my sauerkraut by soaking it to get the brine out, then cooking it again with white wine and caraway seeds. That's an old German method. They brine the kraut to preserve it, but that doesn't mean that's how you're supposed to eat it.
Livin' it Up at El Viva Mexico
South of the border flavor north of the freeway
El Viva Mexico is brimming with life and the authentic sabor of Mexico. From the moment I turned off Wyoming into the crowded dirt parking lot, it felt somehow like I was south of the border. Once inside, it could have been Juarez, with murals of sunny Mexican vistas on every wall, lots of candy vending machines and knickknacks here and there. A steady stream of families with lots of kids kept tables filled, while a television set emoted Mexican soap operas from a high corner. Mariachi music streamed from the kitchen. A small display case with authentic Mexican candies and other sweet treats reminded me of bygone days and penny candy stores.