Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Barrel Wine and Tapas Bar

The Barrel Wine and Tapas Bar, located at 15201 S. Padre Island Dr. Ste. 110 (361-949-4813) on the Island, sits right next door to Black Sheep Bistro, and as a matter of fact, is part of Black Sheep. Any dish that Black Sheep Bistro is serving can be had at the Barrel, but they also have their own menu of wonderful tapas and sushi. Now, when I think of a wine bar, I think sleek elegance with light jazz playing in the background. Not this wine bar - not to say it's not nice, it is, but it's a much more relaxed and comforting atmosphere, fitting right in with the Island lifestyle, with warm colors and casual seating.

We arrived just before 5 p.m. and were immediately greeted by Angela. It was obvious, from the chairs turned onto their seats on the tables, that she and the crew were just setting up for service. Angela assured us that, "if the door is open we are ready to serve." She helped us choose from a wide variety of wines and even poured samples of a couple of them for us to try.

Once our wine choices were made we talked menu. Angela suggested we try the Lamb Dunk, a fondue dish featuring three perfect medium rare lamb chops atop roasted broccoli and butternut squash and toasted bread. The fondue consisted of Jack, Cheddar, and Gruyere cheeses. All components were nicely seasoned. The cheese mixture was creamy, and not as rich as expected. It worked equally well with the lamb, vegetables, and bread. Our only complaint was that there should be an even number of chops on the plate to make it easier to share. Angela promised to pass the suggestion along.

While we waited for the Lamb Dunk, which Angela had told us would take a little while, we asked about the sushi. She told us that Carlos, the sushi chef, came there from the Sushi Bar. His creation for that evening was panko fried shrimp and spicy crab, rolled in rice and topped with escolar, tangerine, avocado, and a sweet chili sauce, with pickled ginger and wasabi on the side, and garnished with fresh cantaloupe. The great thing about this roll, other than the delicious blend of flavors, was the textures, particularly the little bit of crunch around the shrimp. Very nice.

Having eaten so light there was still room for dessert. Angela ran down the dessert menu with a list of luscious confections, but I lost my adventurer's spirit when she mentioned the brownie and vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream and nuts, then drizzled with a rich caramel sauce. The brownie was dense and chewy, not dry or crumbly, which allowed it to hold up well to stacking the elements on a spoon. A truly rich and satisfying dessert that finished the meal perfectly.

We are happy to have found the Barrel, and recommend you give it a try. We promised them that we would certainly be back. Friendly staff, good food, what more could you ask for? Visit their Facebook page at:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Geronimo -- Santa Fe, NM

Geronimo (724 Canyon Road, Phone: 505.982.1500) is located at the upper end of Canyon Road in Santa Fe. If you're not familiar with Canyon Road, about a mile long swatch is lined on both sides with art galleries, with a few artsy boutiques, tea houses and restaurants mixed in. Geronimo offers the finest dining experience of any restaurant we've enjoyed.

To play it safe we made our reservations before leaving Corpus Christi, almost a week before our visit, and we had been saving up, because we knew this would be an expensive meal. Plan to go into the triple digits. But, as I stated, we saved and went prepared for the extravagance -- having checked out their menu online first. We were not disappointed. This is a gourmet experience, after all, not just a meal.

We walked into sheer elegance. We were seated at a booth type table. The bench seat was padded with pillows scattered around it. The fully set table was smoothly pulled away by the hostess to allow us to be seated without having to scoot around the bench, then pushed back into place once we were seated comfortably. We were greeted almost immediately by our waiter, Steve. Geronimo is not a restaurant where you feel comfortable pulling out your cell phone and taking pictures, and their menu changes seasonally, so you'll have to bear with me as I did not take pictures of the menu, and I'm sure I'll not be accurate with the names of the dishes.

Now, on to our meal. Our shared appetizer was a beautiful Fried Lobster Salad. Here's where the class comes in. We told Steve, that we would be sharing the appetizer. Rather than bring it on one plate, it was split for us and we were served small individual salads, dressed and perfectly arranged on the plates as though we were having full portions. The nuggets of lobster were beautifully fried, cut in half and seated upon a nicely corralled mound of mixed greens. Three red dots of vinaigrette decorated the plate. Just enough to enhance the natural flavors of the salad. The lobster was tender and sweet beneath the crunch of its crust.

I had the Grilled Salmon. We both decided to allow the chef to determine the doneness of our dishes. For my salmon he choose to serve it on the rare side. I normally would not have asked for my salmon rare, but it was delectable. It was grilled beautifully and served over a sweet pea Israeli couscous prepared in the style of risotto, meaning it contained plenty of Parmesan cheese; so creamy and delicious! The peas were cooked perfectly and their sweetness came through. I could have been satisfied with just a bowl of the couscous, seriously. But to top everything was a pineapple chutney that just tied the whole dish together. It was simply amazing.

Rob had the Peppery Elk Tenderloin and Apple-wood Smoked Bacon. I was allowed a bite. The elk was also on the rare side and melt in your mouth succulent. It was served over garlic mashed potatoes and sugar snap peas that were fresh and wonderful, with a savory brandied mushroom sauce, another delicious layer of flavor. Where my dish was sweet and delicate, this one was full of bold flavors, harmoniously combined. There are just not enough adjectives.

Geronimo's dessert menu offers a choice of sweet dishes or an assortment of ice creams and sorbets that are served in a trio of your choosing. Well, Chocolate Cake was on the menu, so you know that's what I had to have, but I was looking at the ice creams as well. We asked Steve if we could customize the dessert and have our choices served together on one plate. He very politely explained that the ice creams/sorbets are served in small, individual bowls, so problem solved. Wanting to share our desserts we chose Mocha, Coconut, and Vanilla Bean ice creams, flavors that play very well with chocolate. We also ordered a divine Tawny Port that paired perfectly with the dessert.

A little aside here. Rob left the table to visit the men's room, while we waited for dessert, and it seems that if any waiter spots a napkin on a table where a guest is absent, he or she will stop and fold said napkin while asking if everything is too your liking. Pure class.

Dessert arrived beautifully presented. The cake was about a three inch round stack of three layers of chocolate cake with a chocolate mousse in between, all encased in a coating of ganache. The ice creams were served, a small scoop of each in three tiny bowls, lined up on a rectangular plate. The presentations and the flavors were rich. We scooped a small amount of ice cream onto the ends of our forks and dug into the cake mixing the flavors in different combinations with each bite. Our taste buds were delighted!

We thoroughly enjoyed Geronimo. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Every penny. Do we spend money like this often? Absolutely not! There is no way we could afford to, yet we would save up to do it again. For a truly elegant, gourmet quality experience, we highly recommend Geronimo's.

For sample menu and pictures of the restaurant and food, visit or their facebook page at

The Feasting Place - Ohkay Owingeh, NM

Today, Rob and I got to play with our food. We spent the morning with Norma Naranjo, owner and instructor of The Feasting Place (Ohkay Owingeh, NM, Phone:505-927-0456). The Feasting Place is actually located in Norma's beautiful home and it is a cooking class featuring the method of baking in an horno, or adobe oven, that was used traditionally by the ancestral Native Americans of Ohkay Owingeh, from whom Norma is descended  Norma's husband, Hutch, builds hornos, and Rob got to spend some time with him learning just how that happens.

Norma mixing the empanada crust
When we arrived at The Feasting Place, we were greeted by Norma, who offered us coffee and chatted with us while we waited for the others to arrive. When Norma found out that Rob is an architect, she told us that she is contacted by many architects who are interested in the construction of the horno. We met her husband and he and Rob were out the door to discuss how one is built. Soon, the others arrived. Three lovely ladies, Melody, Dominica and Beth, who were on a road-trip together. We all introduced ourselves and then it was time to get down to business. (I have verbal permission to post everyone's pictures.)

Making empanadas
The first thing we did was make empanadas. Norma demonstrated how to mix the dough. Using her hand as a scoop she extracted around four pounds of Crisco from a huge container and placed it in a large, well used, metal bowl. As she kneaded in the approximately eight cups of flour, she explained that she doesn't know how to make a small amount. She added the cold water, by feel, not measurement, mixed it well and broke off a piece. She rolled out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness, and with the lid to the Crisco container, cut out a perfect circle. She proceeded to fill the dough with the plum mixture that she prepared ahead of time, showed us how to fold over and seal the little pockets of goodness, cut small holes in the top, and sprinkle with a cinnamon sugar mixture.Then she handed each of us a hunk of dough and we got busy rolling, cutting, sealing and sprinkling ourselves. She's also had an apple filling.

Next Rob and Melody began spreading out prepared pizza dough and loading it up with an Italian sausage, some New Mexican chilies and mozzarella cheese. While they were busy with that, Norma showed the other two ladies and I how to put together an enchilada casserole using a chili sauce that was simmering on the stove. Dominica and Beth jumped in on that and I helped Norma load up pans of homemade bread, that had been rising since before we arrived, onto long boards to transport to the horno. When everything was assembled and ready to go into the horno we moved outside.
Everything into the horno!

Hutch removed the coals from the oven as Norma explained that the horno is heated up by building a fire inside and allowing it to burn for a couple of hours. For breads and dishes like the enchiladas, the coals are removed, but for meat dishes they are pushed to the back of the oven.

We loaded the horno with bread first. Norma pushed the pans of bread to the back of the oven. Then the empanadas went in, followed by the pizzas in the center and the enchiladas near the front and to the side. As these baked, Norma told us that the oven will hold up to 60 loaves of bread. Traditionally, the bread is placed directly onto the surface of the horno, but she uses aluminum pans, as her mother started doing when she was young, to avoid having ash on the bottom of the loaves.
Inside the horno

It wasn't long before we could see the cheese melting on the pizzas and the tops of the bread loaves beginning to brown. In about 15 minutes the pizzas were browned and ready to come out. We cut into them and started eating. This was our appetizer. Not long after, the enchiladas came out bubbling and the empanadas were ready. The bread took another 20 minutes or so (about 40 minutes total). We took turns passing around cameras and taking pictures by the horno,  while we waited. Norma informed us that we would be extracting the bread from the oven ourselves.
Perfect pizza

We could tell the bread was almost done by the yeasty aroma wafting from the horno. Finally, Norma proclaimed that the bread was ready. She showed us how to pull it out and handed me the peel. I was unable to get the peel under the pans, but because it had a hook shape on one side, I managed to pull a few pans of bread out by hooking and dragging them to the front opening. We took turns and Dominica was a natural because of her Italian heritage. Each loaf was dusted to remove ash and placed in a large tub, then taken inside and laid out on a white sheet placed across one end of the table, just as, Dominica said, her mother would do.
Removing bread from the horno

Rob and I take a turn
With everything out of the horno it was time to feast. And feast we did! Norma had prepared for us a chicken and garbanzo bean stew, tamales and a gorgeous salad with various garden greens, strawberries and nuts dressed in a homemade vinaigrette, served up with Norma's double-dimpled, ever present smile. We had all of that in addition to the enchiladas and bread. Everything was delicious and we were more than satisfied. So much so, that not one of us room left for the empanadas. That was not a problem, though. We got to take the leftovers with us!

Beth, Melody and Dominica
Norma bagged up a loaf of bread for each of us. She had us mark the empanadas as we made them so that we would know which ones were ours. Those we also bagged up. She sent the rest of the enchiladas and pizza home with us. The stew went home with the ladies.

Hugs were handed out and we left with exchanges of email addresses and promises to exchange pictures, and assurances from Norma that she would provide any of the recipes by email. We just needed to email her and let her know which recipes we wanted.

Norma and Hutch Naranjo
This was such a delightful way to learn about the Native American culture of the region. Norma and her husband are beautiful, gentle people who truly welcome people into their home. It was a joy spending the morning with them and getting to meet their grandson, who joined us as the bread was about to come out of the horno. He's a sweet and personable boy.

If you ever find yourself in New Mexico anywhere near the Espanola area, check with Norma and see if she has a class coming up. Classes are $75 per person and well worth it. You'll have a great time, learn so much and you'll leave feeling like you've made real friends. It was such a great experience. To learn more or get in on a class, go to or email Norma at   

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rickshaw Stop Food Truck -- San Antonio, TX

If you watch much food television, you know that Austin has become known for a plethora of unique food trucks. San Antonio is so close to Austin that it was only a matter of time before the food trucks began popping up there as well. As a matter of fact, San Antonio has it's very own food truck park, Boardwalk on Bulverde, ( located at 14732 Bulverde Rd., right next to Cruising Kitchens, which appears to be a shop that has something to do with the manufacturing or customizing of food trucks. The park is large with a playground, plenty of tables and loud music.

We were there on a Saturday around 12:30 p.m. and there were three other people in the park. That gave us pause until we began to realize that the area is mostly business oriented. I would imagine (hope) that the place is buzzing at lunch during the week. We looked around at the trucks and most seemed to sell what you'd expect -- hot dogs, burgers, tacos, cupcakes, etc. Wanting something a little more unique, we settled for Rickshaw Stop (210-902-9308/, which claimed authentic Pakistani street food. Now, I don't know a thing about Pakistani food, so I cannot tell you whether their food is authentic or not. What I can tell you is that it was really quite tasty.

Rob and I were in San Antonio for our anniversary and had reservations for that evening. We didn't want to spoil our appetite, so we didn't order much. We had the beef kebab and two samosas, one beef and one chicken. The kebab is served on a flatbread like a taco and the samosas are pastry wrapped around ground meat and herbs in a triangle shape, then fried. We were given three small cups of sauce with our order. The first was for the samosas. It was a sweet sauce made with honey. The other two were for the kebab. One was herbs in oil and the other was creamy. The flatbread was light with thin layers, similar to a tortilla, but not. It was a little oily, but not greasy. The kebab meat had a great smoky flavor and was very tender, and the samosas were rich and spicy.

We enjoyed our snack at Rickshaw Stop and would recommend it. I would say it was worth finding. Some of the other trucks that were there that day include: Society Bakery, which has been featured on Food Network (cupcakes, pastries), Dirty Dawgs (gourmet hotdogs), Crazy Carls (burgers/smoked meats), and Red King (tacos). These trucks and others are pictured on the webpage and they all can be followed on facebook and twitter.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Havana Club/Bleu Bistro -- Corpus Christi, TX

Today's post is a little bit of a journey, so stay with us. Rob had recently expressed a desire for me to plan a date night. I agreed to, and had been trying to come up with something special -- someplace we hadn't been before, something new and exciting. A good friend of mine suggested that Rob and I try the Havana Club (500 N. Water St., 361-882-5552). "Friday night is Salsa Night," she said. We have never been to the Havana Club, so I looked it up online. I wasn't able to find a website, but I did find several reviews and descriptions that spanned the last few years. One of the descriptions reported that they offered tapas. "Perfect!" I thought. Rob likes latin inspired music, and with a romantic atmosphere and tapas, what could go wrong?

We walked into this eclectic, part rustic, part elegant room carved out of an old bank vault. There was no one at the hostess station to seat us, and it quickly became apparent that this was really a bar, but no worries. Bars sometimes serve food, too. We started toward a booth, but found they were large enough to seat eight people comfortably. We chose a table, and realized that the only staff was a lone bartender, so we moved to the bar. We ordered wine and asked for a menu. The bartender, Cade, informed us that they didn't serve tapas anymore, though they were in the process of bringing them back.

Date night was not shaping up as I had envisioned. We discussed what our options were. Should we just go elsewhere, or go next door to Bleu Bistro? Bleu is the new version of 500 Bistro that I had reviewed in March of last year. During a recent visit to the bar at Bleu Bistro we learned that ownership had changed, but the same chef was preparing what appeared to be mostly the same menu. If you read that review of 500 Bistro, you would know that I was not really excited about having dinner next door. Cade informed us that the previous chef of Bleu recently quit. This is the reason their tapas menu of Cuban inspired foods had been delayed, but there is a new chef at Bleu who is working on it. He offered us the appetizer menu for their sister restaurant, and told us we could take our wine with us if we wanted to move next door to eat. We decided that we would give the new chef a chance. Cade suggested the tenderloin and the lamb.

We finished our wine and walked next door. We decided to sit at the bar because, in most cases, you get to have interaction with staff that you aren't able to have at a table. This bartender was not as personable as Cade. Oh well, he was efficient. We looked at the menu and decided that the prices made our decision a little risky. Yes, there is a new chef, but he's preparing the same dishes as the old chef, and what if the recipes are the problem? There wasn't exactly a huge crowd in the place, so we thought we'd just finish our wine and walk across the street to the sushi bar. As we're working on the wine and noshing on a fancy plate of bar chips, Cade comes up from behind, and sets between us an appetizer plate of two large seared scallops on little pillows of whipped potatoes. He says, "I asked the chef if he'd prepare something for you to try, this is on us." Okay, we were definitely not expecting that! Nor were we expecting the flavors and textures that hit our mouths. The scallops were beautifully prepared, seared and topped with tiny, tender bits of bacon with a citrus sauce drizzled over top. Just a hint of garlic teased our tongues as we savored the perfect texture of the scallops. Yeah, we asked for the menu back.
Oysters on the Half Shell

We ordered oysters on the half shell and the Seared Salmon to share. The six oysters were large and briney. Our bartender had set us up with horseradish, saltines, lemon wedges and Tabasco. I love it when staff anticipates all that a customer will need for a dish. At most places we have to request the horseradish and Tabasco. We dressed up our oysters to our liking and slurped away.

The Seared Salmon arrived sitting atop whipped potatoes and accompanied by haricot verts (fancy french words for green string beans). The salmon was lightly seasoned with a blend of spice and herbs then seared to give it a nice, delicately crisp crust. My first bite was just a flake off of the top and seemed a little salty, but when I sliced through the full thickness of the fish I found the flavors to be in delicious balance. In my previous review of 500 Bistro, I stated that the potatoes tasted as if they could have been made from processed flakes. Well, the potatoes I enjoyed last night were real and they were creamy and they just melted in my mouth. The beans were equally enjoyable. They were dark green in color, cooked well with just enough crunch left in them.

After dinner we happily sauntered back over to the Havana Club, where the night's band was setting up and tuning for later in the evening. There was none of the happy hour crowd left, so we had Cade all to ourselves. We thanked him for the scallops and reported that we had just decided to go elsewhere when he brought them to us, and how that dish had changed our minds. It was at this point that he told us that when the previous chef left he suggested his friend, Chef David Graham, for the position, clarifying why he went to the trouble of having the chef prepare something for us. He told us, too, that Havana Club should be serving tapas (from the same kitchen as Bleu) in about a month. The menus, he said, are at the printers. I can hardly wait to try the plantain dishes he described!

What looked to be a poorly planned date night turned into an evening of pleasant surprises. We are looking forward to returning to the Havana Club to try the new tapas menu, and we happily recommend Bleu Bistro as a great date night destination. Bleu Bistro is a bit pricey, but the food is now worth paying a little more. Thanks, Cristina, for your date night suggestion!

(I wish I had been able to include more pictures, but as you can see from the picture of the oysters,  the lighting didn't lend itself to taking pictures with an iphone.)

FYI: I've changed the settings to make commenting on our posts easier.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dragonfly Restaurant & Curacao Blues -- Corpus Christi, TX

The Dragonfly Restaurant, located across the JFK bridge on Padre Island, at 14701 S Padre Island Dr,(361-949-2224) has been a favorite of ours for some time. Not to say that they don't have their off days, but those are rare. This particular night they were spot on. We like to eat early -- to avoid traffic and crowds -- so we arrived just a few minutes after 5:00 p.m., which is opening time for dinner. Of course, we were seated promptly.

Our waiter, Romeo, introduced himself and recited the special, which sounded wonderful -- Grilled Tuna Steak with a Garlic Potato Flash. We ordered our wine, and kept the special in mind as we looked through the menu. The dinner menu is divided in two sections -- World Tour by Land which features beef, pork, lamb and chicken dishes of various countries, and World Tour by Sea, featuring, you guessed it, seafood dishes from around the world. We opted for our favorite menu items. For Rob, the Shrimp Skewer with Coconut Sambal Sauce (Malaysia -- $19.95), and I ordered the Crab Cake with Remoulade (USA -- $18.95)
Curacao Blues, the bar, as you enter Dragonfly
Rob's shrimp were tender, smoky and flavorful. Topped with a spicy Coconut Sambal Sauce, the one bite I got of these plump, juicy critters made my mouth very happy. The Coconut Peanut rice contrasts the shrimp with a light, delicate, but distinct coconut infusion with bits of peanuts scattered throughout. The Sweet Potato Plantain cake rounded out the dish. It is deep fried creating a not quite crispy shell around a creamy sweet center. And, as if that's not enough, a healthy salad of mixed greens, dressed with a Soy Honey Sauce creates a beautiful bed on which to display the shrimp. Delicious!

My plate held two 6 oz. Crab Cakes with the remoulade on the side. The crab cakes at Dragonfly are made a little differently than what I've had in other places. First you don't get lumps of crab mixed with filler. It seems as though the crab is blended with  the spices and accompaning flavors, then pan fried. They have a more creamy consistancy than most crab cakes I've had. Now, if someone said to me, "try this crab cake, it has a creamy consistancy," I probably would have turned them down, but trust me on this, they are so good! Crab is the main flavor you get with the other flavors complimenting and submiting to the crab in a most pleasant way. The romoulade is tangy nice, but little goes a long way and could easily overpower the crab cakes. Maybe that's why it's served on the side.  And as good as the crab cakes are, they are served resting on a bed of the best french fries that I have ever tasted. These fries are so good that I refuse to ruin them by putting ketchup on them! I literally told the waiter, "no," when he offered it. These fries aren't flavored or exotic in any way. They are normal fries from normal potatoes fried, in I don't know what kind of oil, to perfection. They are not greasy, yet crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, seasoned with just enough salt. Think original McDonalds fries, but oh so much better. (I would make the trip to Dragonfly just for the fries!) I also had a salad of mixed greens, but mine was dressed with a Garlic Vinaigrette, which was similar to a Caesar dressing, but with a little more punch. Great meal!

Spicy Jalapeno Martini
While we waited for our food to arrive, Rob noticed the signature drink menu and the Spicy Jalapeno Martini caught his eye. So, rather than have dessert, we ordered one of those. This is a tequila drink that is a little bit reminiscent of a margarita without the salt. It's sweet and spicy, but not too spicy, with a slice of pickled jalapeno in the bottom. Of course the closer you get to the bottom, the spicier it gets! We thought it was a great end to our dinner.

As I've mentioned, Dragonfly is a favorite, and although the food is consistantly good, this night's dinner was better than usual. We always recommend Dragonfly. It's worth the drive out to the Island. You can view their menu and even order online at Several items, such as their soups, wing sauces and salad dressings are packaged and available for sale.

Oh, and so sorry there are no pictures of our plates. We dove in before we thought about pictures. It was that good, but you can find plenty of pictures on the website gallery, and yes, the food really looks like that!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

El Ferol -- Santa Fe, NM

We felt it would have been a wasted trip not to visit the Canyon Road art galleries while in Santa Fe. Among the galleries sits a wonderful restaurant called El Ferol, at 808 Canyon Road (, 505-983-9912). While we strolled through the artwork, we kept our eyes out for this place, as we had it on good authority that they served great tapas, and since we knew we'd have a large dinner later, that was just what we wanted. We found it at the opposite end of Canyon Road from where we started, which was perfect.

We arrived there just after noon and tables were plentiful. There are not a lot of people out art gazing mid-day, in the middle of the week during the off season, forunately for us. Felicia , our server, brought us a generous basket of bread, and took our drink order as we settled into the tapas menu. All tapas are $7.75 each or 5 for $38. We knew we couldn't hold five so we decided on three to nosh on. We ordered Ceviche De Atun, Puerco Asado, and Roasted Red Bell Pepper with feta cheese.

As we waited on our choices we nibbled on the bread. Each table is set with small plates, a bottle of olive oil and a pepper grinder. We poured olive oil onto plates, ground some fresh pepper into it and thoroughly enjoyed this firm and chewy country style bread.

First to arrive was the Ceviche De Atun which is described as "mango citrus cured seafood." There was a lot of flavor in this little bowl of scallops, shrimp and fish marinating in mango, lime and jalapenos, garnished with cilantro and avocado. So beautiful and fresh, we dug right in and it was half gone before we thought to take a picture. My apologies.

Then the Puerco Asado, pork tenderloin with figs, port and Idiazabal cheese, and the Roasted Red Peppers with feta arrived. The Asada was so rich and savory and communed well with the sweetness of the figs. The cheese was its crowning glory, hard and slightly sharp. The red peppers, I thought, also worked well as a side to the pork. Rob was not so fond of the peppers and feta, but he is not fond of anything that has any real tang to it. That worked in my favor.

We enjoyed our time at El Ferol and will visit again if we find ourselves in Santa Fe. They serve tapas, lunch, and dinner. You may dine inside or out, and they have live entertainment in the evenings (Wednesday thru Sunday). It's a little pricey, as are all of the restaurants in the area, but in the art district the food is expected to rise above the normal restaurant fare and what we had at El Farol certainly does.

Tune-up Cafe -- Santa Fe, NM

Tune-Up Cafe
Tune-up Cafe, ( at 1115 Hickox St. (505-982-7060) restored our faith in the Food Network program, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. That is, once we found it! The building was not marked by address or name. We drove by it twice and seeing that it was the only restaurant on the block, decided it must be the place. Then we had to find a place to park. Drive-by number three.

Once parked, we walked the short distance to the restaurant and found it packed. It's a tiny place with as many tables squeezed in as possible, one long narrow table in the entry and a wood counter along the front windows. There were no tables available, so after ordering at the register, we sat at the counter along the windows where childrens books sat in the pockets that are formed in the places where the windows dipped down behind the counter. So, I was entertained while waiting for my food!

Basic Breakfast
Oh yeah, the food! You order and pay for your food at the register and peruse the menus while waiting in line. Rob, wanted a basic breakfast so he ordered the Basic Breakfast, which includes 2 eggs, homefries, toast or tortilla ($6.50) he added a side of bacon ($2) and green salsa on the side. I couldn't make up my mind, so I asked the girl behind the counter for a suggestion. First she suggested the Chile Relleno, but my stomach wasn't ready for that so early in the morning. Then she said that I should go with the Huevos El Salvadorenos ($8.25). Scrambled eggs with scallions and tomatoes, with refried beans, pan-fried bananas, crema and Alicia's corn tortilla. So, I did.

Huevos El Salvadorenos
We waited about ten minutes for our food, which we didn't mind because the place was fairly busy and I had the books to read. When our food did arrive it was freshly made -- no sitting around waiting for someone to get it to the table. It was hot and it was good! Rob's eggs were cooked the way he likes them and the potatoes were nicely seasoned. The salsa was mild, and we were thankful that they provided enough for both of us. My eggs were yummy! The scallion and tomatoes were mixed in at the last couple of moments before the eggs were set, so they still had a fresh taste to them. Now, I've never had pan-fried bananas and I don't know if I would ever have thought to pair them with scrambled eggs and refried beans, but this combination was amazing, especially when you add in the crema! The bananas were carmelized on the edges and added a sweetness to the meal that rounded it out nicely.

We really enjoyed Tune-Up Cafe and would definitely recommend it. There are more tables on a small patio area where we would have sat, had the temperature been a little higher. I just wish we had had more time to go back to try out their lunch menu. After watching the clip from Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives on their website, I'm looking forward to the next time we are in Santa Fe.

Zia Diner -- Santa Fe, NM

Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives has been in Santa Fe, NM so many times that we felt we had to try a couple of the establishments that they visited. Our first was Zia Diner ( at 326 S. Guadalupe Street (505-988-7008). It looked a bit more upscale than you would expect. I would not describe it as a diner, drive-in or a dive.  It was a beautiful day and we opted to sit out on the patio.
Buffalo Burger

Fallan, our waitress, was prompt and helpful. Since it was lunch time, we decided to go for burgers. I ordered the Buffalo Burger ($12.95) and Rob ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($10.75). Both are served on a Brioche bun with carmelized onions, chipotle mayo and sweet potato fries. Fallan asked me how I wanted the burger cooked. I don't know anything about how buffalo is best cooked, so I asked her to advise me. She asked how I liked my steaks and guided me to go a little more rare on the buffalo. We settled on Medium rare -- pink middle.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich
The plates arrived and the food smelled wonderful. The sandwiches are served open faced with lettuce and tomato so you can build your own as you like it. I kept adding more chipotle mayo to mine, I just could not get enough of it. It was flavorful without having too much bite. Rob and I built our burgers and cut them in half, trading a half with each other. The buffalo was good, but overcooked. It was not pink in the middle, which left it a little dry. As far as flavor is concerned it didn't taste much different than a pretty decent hamburger. Rob did not agree with me on this point. He liked it. In my opinion, the chicken was better. It was cooked nicely, remaining moist. The real show stealer was the sweet potato fries. They were slim cut, but not so small that you lose the flavor. Fried perfectly, so that they were crunchy and non-greasy. They were beautiful.

We liked Zia, though I left wondering why it deserved to be on a national food show. Maybe it was an off day, maybe I didn't choose the best dish. Would I eat there again? I probably would, it was nice, the food was good, the prices affordable, but I doubt I'd do the Buffalo Burger again.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cafe Pasqual's -- Santa Fe, NM

Cafe Pasquals
This was the place I was most looking forward to visiting when we hit Santa Fe. We ate at Pasquals (, located a couple of blocks off of the Plaza, the last time we were in Santa Fe, about twelve years ago. It's a small place with about ten tables, that seat two to four, and one large community table in the middle of the restaurant that seats, I believe, eight. They serve only organic foods in this festive place, that has just celebrated its 33 year in business. During the peak tourist season you could wait an hour or two for a seat, which should give you some idea of the quality of their food.

We have only had breakfast at Pasquals, and had it twice this trip. Mayte waited on us the first visit. She was very friendly and helpful. This first visit was more relaxed and we had no wait time since it was in the middle of the week. Rob ordered the Breakfast Quesadilla which is scrambled eggs, guacamole, and Monterrey Jack cheese wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and grilled. It is served with a Red Chile Salsa ($9). He added the Applewood -- Smoked Bacon ($4). I ordered the Huevos Rancheros ($13). This is what I'd had before and loved. It was served in a shallow bowl this time, rather than a plate. I thought the plate was a better presentation, but it's the flavor that matters. It features two eggs over easy served over black beans resting on a blue corn tortilla and melted Jack with choice of sauces. I, of course, went with "Christmas." How else are you going to know which sauce is the best?
Huevos Rancheros

My dish, although not as pretty as the last time I'd had it, was just as good as I remembered. The various textures involved, corn tortilla, cheese, beans, egg, and flavors come together in a very harmonious way. The sauces are like icing on the cake. Neither too hot, but both equally good! Rob's quesadilla, though, was even better. He had had enough of spicy chili dishes, by this time, and wanted something simple but not bland. This was the perfect balance for his desire. I would have never thought that guacamole and eggs would be so wonderful together, but it was like the perfect little breakfast. The salsa is served on the side, so you can control how much you want, if any. The whole wheat tortilla is light and crispy and the cheese nice and stringy.

Breakfast Quesadilla
The quesadilla was so good that, on our second visit, I ordered it. Rob ordered the Two Large Eggs Any Style ($8). It comes with home fries, english muffin or whole wheat flax toast. He went with the toast and a side of the bacon and a little strawberry jelly. His eggs were cooked properly and he really liked that the home fries were made with red skinned potatoes. I also need to mention that the coffee at Pasquals is really great.

This second trip was on Friday, so there were  more people roaming the Plaza area. We had to wait about ten minutes for a table, although we had the option of being seated right away at the community table. This being our last day in Santa Fe, we opted to wait. As we were waiting two more parties came in behind us. It was fairly early, so I'm sure it was a busy day at Pasquals.

You've probably guessed that Pasquals is a place we would recommend and you'd be right. Just know that there is always the possibility that you may have a wait, and in peak season, that wait could be a while.

Really Great Coffee