So ... my birthday's coming up. Only, what, five months to go? And you're probably already wondering what to get me, right? Yeah. Well, get out your little Hello Kitty pen and scribble this down: Silver champagne straws—so I can sip out of my individual bottle of bub' in style. Wait, come to think of it, where the hell am I going to get one of those one-glass-sized bottles? The last time I saw them here was about four years ago on New Year's Eve. I had the flu and got stuck on the tarmac in Dallas flying back from Washington, D.C., then dropped into Burt's just in time for the countdown. I had one little bottle of Pop (from Pommery) and went home to bed. That sucked. Anyway, haven't seen personal Pop—or any other brand since. Damn you small market Albuquerque! Where are those ridiculous marketing trends when you need them? I mean, 99 percent of that crap (Bacardi-Gras? The Guinness Toast?) is lame, lame, lame. But why can't I cruise around the Universal on Thursday nights, sipping brut out of a silver straw? Fuck it. I'll use the silver straws to drink my Champagne of Beers. They're only $115 at www.vivre.com.
Pop quiz! How many Il Vicino restaurants are there? Give up? Eight. We have two in Albuquerque, and there are now locations in Santa Fe, Colorado Springs, Denver, St. Louis and Wichita. Yes, Wichita. Question number two: Did you know that Pranzo, the Italian restaurant in Santa Fe, was owned by the same guys who own Il Vicino and Scalo? Oh, ya didn't didja? Well, surely you read in this paper that those guys (Tom White, Rick Post and Greg Atkin) just sold Scalo to Steve Paternoster. Oh! Question number three: Who is the president of the New Mexico Restaurant Association? That's right, Steve Paternoster. Back to the story. Pranzo was just sold to Michael O'Reilly, and judging from a recent meal I had at O'Reilly's other restaurant, The O'Keeffe Café, Pranzo will be in good hands. The café, next to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, is shockingly underrated. The food is excellent, with a strong focus on local, organic ingredients; the wine list and service are superb. O'Reilly also bought all of Pranzo's recipes and intends to keep the restaurant mostly the same.
Yes, there really is a burrito lady! Her name is Consuelo Flores and she darts like a blur, whooshing between kitchen and cash register, cooking, serving food or making change, always with an ear to ear smile. Consider yourself lucky to find your way to her little corner of the world. To me, this place has become the high altar of home cooking in Albuquerque, largely because of the hands-on nature of the business.
As Easter approaches, many butchers will actually stock freshly cut lamb instead of those little hermetically sealed packets in the exotic-meat section. You say a $20 leg of lamb the size of a small toddler doesn't exactly fit your holiday dinner plans? No matter. Lamb chops are the perfect single-serving size. Plus, they're easy to find, speedy to cook and quite affordable, if you know what to look for.
Spring has sprung and Martha Stewart is on the lamb; so why not wing it with your own homemade Cadbury-style Easter eggs? Crafting your own is a lot easier than you think. Start with at least one pound of semisweet couverture chocolate—a top-shelf block with at least 32 percent cocoa butter (available at the Specialty Shop, 5823 Lomas NE, 266-1212). The more Euro the better, as the higher percentages of cocoa butter in Old World brands will give your eggs the best texture and taste. You'll also need plastic egg molds, a candy thermometer, a rubber spatula, some aluminum foil and a plastic sandwich bag. And if you're feeling fancy, cotton gloves, also available at the Specialty Shop, will keep your finished eggs smudge-free.