You must go eat at Pho #1. Both times I've been to this brand-new Vietnamese restaurant at San Pedro and Zuni (268-0488), it's been packed with a mix of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese patrons. What's all the fuss about? Well, the atmosphere is nothing remarkable, so it must be the fantastic food. Chef Day Nguyen previously had restaurants in Boston, Mass. and Arlington, Texas, but recently moved here for the pleasant climate. Pho #1 is owned by Nguyen's brother-in-law Hue Chung and their house specialty is the magnificent Seven Courses of Beef. Don't be intimidated by the confusing names of the dishes. Grill Hawaiian loaf leaf beef is absolutely scrumptious, for example; so is steamed beef paste/meatball mixed with glass noodles and spices. It sounds horrifying, I know, and the meatball isn't much to look at either, but I swear it's one of the best things I've eaten in recent memory. Whatever you do, don't miss the beef grilled on your table and served with a lemongrass sauce. It's to die for. Oh, and make sure you have time for a leisurely dinner. Service can be slow for a regular meal, but the seven courses of beef takes a pleasantly long time to get through as well.
New Mexico cheesemaker Nancy Coonridge and her team took home a handful of awards from the American Dairy Goat Association's recent cheese competition, which was held here in Albuquerque. Coonridge Dairy's organic cheeses are made from the milk of Alpine goats that roam freely in the mountainous terrain of the farm, located in an isolated, off-the-map part of New Mexico north of Pie Town (south of Grants and west of Socorro). Because Coonridge's product is flavored with organic herbs and spices, then packed in glass jars with organic sunflower and olive oil, it doesn't require refrigeration, though you will often find it in the refrigerated cheese case.
On the subject of olive oil, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved a health claim for olive oil. You can expect to start seeing it on labels soon. The approved wording reads, "Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about two tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day." Hmm, "limited and not conclusive" doesn't sound too persuasive, but how much of an excuse do you need to use olive oil instead of generic vegetable oil?
If you get invited to a potluck Thanksgiving and can barely boil water, try bringing a chocolate chile pecan pie from Patisserie C (Central and Edit, 247-3131). The pies are made with Amore chocolate chile pecans with Patisserie C pie crusts, and filling from Blue Plate Special.
Annapurna Chai House (Yale and Silver) is serving a vegan Thanksgiving dinner again this year. There will be two seatings on Thursday, Nov. 25, at 5:30 and 7:15 p.m. Both will include tofu pakoras, yellow split pea soup with pumpkin, baked acorn squash with basmati rice, stewed greens and beets; and pumpkin pie or cranberry rice pudding. Call 262-2424 for reservations.