By Laura Marrich
Two Blackbirds and a Pearl--The old home of Pearl's Dive is getting a new lease on life, thanks to four young entrepreneurs with a passion for the Downtown neighborhood. Joey Gonzales is already a co-owner of Atomic Cantina and, in his free time, the drummer for The Dirty Novels. But when he and his bandmates discovered they all secretly dreamed of opening a bar-restaurant, they decided to collaborate on a new project somewhere Downtown. 509 Central NW, formerly Pearl's Dive, was a natural fit. They're calling it Blackbird Buvette.
Joey says "buvette" is a loose French translation for "refreshment bar," similar to a tavern. Their plan is to foster a cool, lounge-type environment that caters to the late-night crowd, and also serves good, basic lunches and dinners. Some menu ideas include vegetarian-friendly bar fare like portobello burgers, plus shrimp kabob appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads and daily entrée specials. Joey, Paul, Dandee and Brian have spent the past several weeks refinishing the future home of Blackbird Buvette, and they say they should be open for lunch by spring.
Meanwhile, a 10-minute bus ride up Central to Carlisle will plant you square in front of the old Jamaica Jamaica restaurant. This week at the Nob Hill Shop and Stroll, however, it will re-emerge as Blk Bird Pies. "I thought initials looked more posh," explains owner Raven Gale Ann Rutherford-West, laughing with a musically muddled U.K. accent. "The uptown crowd has initials on everything."
Raven first opened Blk Bird Pies in 1995 out of Los Angeles. After losing her first husband and taking some time away from the pie business, she moved to Texas to be closer to her family. She eventually reopened Blk Bird Pies there and met her current husband, a truck driver by trade.
They traveled the country together for six months in his 18-wheeler, and, after breaking down on three separate passes through New Mexico, they figured they must have some business to do here. They settled in Albuquerque two and a half years ago.
Raven began leasing a commercial kitchen in June and has been selling her baked goods at the Caravan East and Nob Hill growers' markets and ever since. "They're always challenging me with their ingredients," she says. Like when one farmer presented her with a squash and intructions to turn it into a pie. She tried her hand at banana-squash pie. "I really have to admit, it was delicious."
If baking comes naturally to her, it's only because she comes from a family of pie-making women. When she was only 7 years old she became the third generation to take on the lifelong craft of baking. "I never thought I'd be doing this, but pie is my absolute passion--I think I'm a dough baby."
The menu at Blk Bird Pies is divvied up into cobblers, large and small pies, breads, cookies, and cakes. The 7-Up pound cake, for example, is an heirloom recipe that uses 7-Up as a leavener, and her mother's Waldorf "Estoria" Red Velvet cake eschews the traditional cream cheese frosting for a center layer of pastry creme. Raven's pastries will take center stage, but she'll also offer a "really fierce menu" of breakfast and lunch dishes. "I'm bringing back poached eggs and popovers," she laughs. Raven says she wants to create a hip place where people can taste made-from-scratch foods made collaboratively with local growers.
She's hoping to start a dinner service next year, and is in the process of getting accreditation for teaching culinary courses out of the space. In the meantime, she'll keep bakers' hours, opening very early in the morning and closing at around 3 p.m. each day.
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