If you’re on any kind of schedule, you should probably avoid Ben Michael’s restaurant on even a half-busy evening. The slow-moving spectacle that often passes for service will be frustrating if there’s some other place you need to be. But if you aren’t in a hurry, that same chaos could pass as entertainment. And if you show up during a quiet lunch hour and you’re the only one there, expect to be treated like royalty.
A food truck, like a restaurant, is a logical vehicle for a farmer to add value to his or her product. It seems like an obvious idea, but until the Skarsgard Farms’ Harvest Truck got on the road, no area farms had stepped up to that plate. Now a month into this endeavor, farm/truck owner Monte Skarsgard has a contract with UNM to sell food at the Duck Pond five days a week starting in August. He says he already has plans for a fleet of trucks.
I’ve wanted to visit Silver City since a serious foodie told me about Rob Connoley and the Curious Kumquat two years ago. The nearly six-hour drive—if you turn west from I-25 onto Highway 152 through Hillsboro—is a swath of New Mexico wilderness brimming with hawk sightings, spectacular rises and valleys, and an overlook of the Santa Rita copper mine east of town.
The appeal of Tía Betty Blue’s might seem skin-deep at first. The paint is fresh. The food comes fast enough to service a drive-thru window. A collection of bottled soda pops is so vast, it could be a gimmick. And the image of a raven-haired hottie—Tía Betty Blue, presumably—stares you down from the sign, the walls, the menu. But despite its candy-coated veneer, Tía B’s means business. The food is simple but thoughtful, and it’s different. And as long as food is the priority, who cares how cute the servers are?
More and more, hamburgers are treated as high art. And Holy Cow is among Albuquerque’s vanguard of upscale burger parlors. The outdoor patio—on Central where Bob’s Fish and Chips used to be—is protected by a corrugated roof. Inside, you can dine on hamburgers at a table or the bar. The feeling is rowdy and friendly. A portrait of a single word, “burgers,” hangs from an otherwise bare wall.
The “farm to table” movement—or “field to fork,” or “farm to plate,” and so on—has been gaining traction in every corner of the country, and Albuquerque’s newest member of this growing club didn’t mince words when deciding on its name. After a long winter of teasing us via its Facebook page, Farm & Table finally opened on Fourth Street between Paseo and Alameda. The setting is gorgeous, inside and out. The food walks the walk and is reasonably priced for what you get. And the chef, Ka’ainoa Ravey, is a freaking genius.
Restaurants that advertise their use of local ingredients are becoming more commonplace. But for whatever reason, they rarely seem to appear in strip malls near major freeway exchanges. Bliss Sandwich Spot-N-More stands alone in that regard (it’s one of the storefronts at The Pavilions at San Mateo, right off of I-40) and in many other ways, most of them charming.
Like many culinary school graduates (Seattle Culinary Institute, class of ’99), Chef Kimberley Calvo wanted her own restaurant. But Calvo realized it was a bad idea. “The more I looked into what it entails in terms of money and financial backing, it wasn’t feasible in this economy,” she says.
Being a generalist might be a good thing if you’re, say, a Renaissance man or a contestant on “Jeopardy!” With food, though, I prefer my chefs to focus on one area of expertise. But that doesn’t apply to Pasión Latin Fusion.
King’s bastilla has to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever eaten. A specialty at Kasbah, it looked like a flying saucer constructed out of phyllo dough. It was stuffed with a mix of chicken, almonds, cinnamon and eggs, then was dusted with sugar and splashed with rosewater. The flavors took off in so many ways at once I could hardly keep track of them all. I didn’t even know if I liked it, but I kept eating it.
The Tune-Up Café is where the cool people in Santa Fe go. Not the ones who honk their horns while almost running me over by the Plaza, but the kinds of folks who look like they would be my friends if I lived there. That’s a good thing. Because when the small adobe restaurant is packed—as it often is—you’re usually within three feet of multiple strangers, some of whom might be sharing your table.
Chez Bob is a little bit elegant or a little bit awkward, depending on your perspective. Mine changed dramatically between my first visit, two years ago, and my recent return. After writing the place off, I was drawn back by rumors of major improvements in both service and food.