Thursday, June 3, 2010

Santa Fe Report: May 2010

Hi everyone, sorry for the long delay between postings but we took a break from eating out, mostly, while Michael was creating his spectacular room at the DC Design Show House (which took up a lot of April and May).

However, we are just back from a trip to the Southwest including 3 glorious days in Santa Fe, our spiritual second home, so I am happy to report on the restaurant scene there as we experienced it, even though the reviews themselves are uneven.

1. La Boca: This was touted by our friend and real estate guru Todd Davis as one of the hip new places in town. It is in a small cozy space downtown just a couple of blocks from the Plaza, and is clearly quite popular. It is a tapas restaurant which allowed us to try a number of dishes. Of these, the boquerones (small sardines) and cucumber/avocado soup were standouts. The roasted asparagus and the Mediterranean salad were good, although the figs and honey-laced vinaigrette of the latter made it quite sweet. The flatbread with chorizo and cheese was not...kind of a thick doughy pizza with very muted flavors.

With a couple of glasses of wine each, the bill came to about $150. Service was provided by a slender young man with spiked hair and plenty of attitude, who was efficient but not particularly welcoming.

I supposed if you lived in Santa Fe and were anxious for a change of scene, we might drop in on La Boca every once in a while, but as casual visitors, we would not put it very high on our list for a return visit. We can get tapas at home, better than this.

2. Bumblebee's: Dropped in here for lunch after a morning exploring downtown. Good as ever. Michael had the usual taco sampler, while I, having learned that the shrimp tacos are the best, concentrated on those. Good, quick, cheerful. Always a winner. We were glad to see it hadn't gone downhill since our last visit.

3. La Choza: We had had a great traditional New Mexican meal on our first visit and were anxious to get back. After an evening strolling the galleries on Canyon Road, we showed up at about 8 to find a waiting room of people and an estimated half hour wait. Fortunately, two seats opened up at the bar and we sat almost immediately.

Unable to choose from among our favorites, we both opted for combination plates: I went for an enchilada, carne adovado, and chile relleno. Michael's was, I think, similar, but it was hard to tell. All of the food was excellent without being fancy in any way. The meal came with a small amount of rice and a nice helping of pozole. We also had some green chile stew (we shared) to start. Plenty of food. Unlike most similar places, La Choza charges for chips and salsa ($3.75) and they were not worth it...hard and oily. Salsa was good, but not outstanding. Guacamole is even more. The sopaipillas that came with dinner also were not up to the old standard, but otherwise the food was excellent. We drank two rounds of killer margaritas whipped up at the bar, and weaved our way home.

3. Tune-up Cafe. This had been one of our favorite little unpretentious SF places on two previous visits but it has really gone downhill in our experience. For lunch Sunday we were both craving green chile cheeseburgers. I ordered mine medium rare with cheddar, while Michael's was medium with jack. Well, surprise, they mixed up the orders. They also forgot the green chile, which we didn't notice until we were halfway done. The counter person, who had messed up the order, seemed rather unfazed...she did put in an order for extra green chile but after waiting 10 minutes for it we gave up and finished our chili-less burgers. The fries were crispy but not hot. Big disappointment. We went back for breakfast on Monday and also had a disappointing experience: my burrito was filled mostly with potato and Michael's basic breakfast was, well, basic. Based on these two lackluster meals, I'm sorry to say that we can't recommend this place any more, although we will give it one more chance.

4. Cafe Pasqual's: We saved this for our last dinner and it was as outstanding as we remembered. Michael started with a simple arugula and grapefruit salad -- similar to what we make at home -- while I had a special appetizer of skewered dates wrapped in prosciutto with some cheese. Very tasty, but a little skimpy (two skewers, one date each). However, we'd had some cocktail snacks at home so it was just as well. For the main course Michael had enchiladas with mole sauce, which he couldn't stop raving about. Being a sampler by nature, I opted for the Plato Supremo which offered a chile relleno, taco barbacoa, and one of the chicken mole enchiladas (so Michael didn't have to share), all of which were excellent. We shared a chef's sampler platter for dessert which was excessive with a slice of very good chocolate budino cake, banana cream pie, coconut cake, and some sort of vanilla-y ice cream. Oh, and chocolate mint bark scattered around the plate, as if the above wasn't enough. With dinner Michael had a couple of glasses of viognier and I had some Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir from New Zealand, which tasted much better than it did at the winery back in October!

We had very professional and very friendly service. One particularly nice thing is that any available waiter seems to be willing to serve any given table, which makes things much more efficient. Pasqual's has some of the best food in Santa Fe. It is decidedly not fancy, and not the place to linger (despite our full menu, we were in and out in a bit over an hour). So it doesn't necessarily appeal to someone wanting an "occasion" meal, but we love it.

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