United Slurps of America: New Mexico

Every state in the US produces wine. Why not taste them? For 50 weeks We will do just that…welcome to the United Slurps of America. Week eight: it’s the land of enchantment, New Mexico.

Our search for a local co-blogger was more difficult than We anticipated. We put the word out on Twitter and Facebook:

We got a response from our Facebook “fan” Peg Lawrence. (Although the powers that be at Facebook just changed fans to “like”…well, We liked it better when they were fans–but happy to have people follow Us on Facebook either way.Thank you!) Peg lives in Texas, not New Mexico, but went to high school there. Close enough. Tex-Mex, err, Tex-NewMex. New Texican. Either way, we are very happy to have Peg along:

“I have a lot of fine memories in the “Land of Enchantment” having gone to high school there, my mother, stepdad, and grandmother moved back there, and also visiting frequently as it is my sales territory. My brother also lived there on 2 different stints so I thought since we share a food and wine blog, and that history, who better to do this with me than him. So to prepare for the tasting we talked about all things New Mexico as we knew or remembered them…I think now after all this reminiscing we are ready to open our sparklers.”

Note to New Mexicans who like wine: Start a wine blog, there’s a hole in the market.

Brut Methode Champenoise, Gruet NV ($14.99)

She said: On the nose the wine smells like fresh baked bread and mild yeast, similar to a light beer or pear cider. The bubbles are not obtrusively large, but not fine either. Citrus flavors, vanilla, mellow allspice, baked apple. Wish the sparkler was fresher and had more finesse, but enjoy the pear cider, pineapple elements. Also sense lychee syrup–there is a definite sweetness, reminiscent of Prosecco. A fine, casual wine to enjoy with friends as an aperitif to dinner or by the pool on a beautiful spring day.

He said: Even though I feel like I have tasted plenty of Champagne/sparkling Wine, it’s difficult for me to articulate. This one is so crisp that it’s hard for me to say much more than that. There is apple fritter in both the nose and mouth along with bread. Smells and tastes like a French Bakery, a boulangerie up in my domepiece. How do you like that? Getting both French and hip-hop languages in a wine review. I’m a highly cultured gentleman. Umm, yeasty, dry, hints of tropical fruit. I really dig it.

Peg said: Brilliant tiny, fine little bubbles, aromas of citrus and green apple bloom up on the nose. There is a faint mild buttery crust/toast, creamy taste with an extended pleasurable finish of citrus and apple that wraps around the mouth, very nice. This would be a great one to have on hand for the every event! Dale said: This one had a nice balanced flavor, and although I do not normally like Champagnes or sparkling wines, this had an enjoyable taste. The taste was balanced with hints of a citrus and green apple taste, but not overwhelming. The flavors swirled around the entire mouth and was filled with tiny bubbles.

Brut Rosé Methode Champenoise, Gruet NV ($14.99)

She said: The color is deep strawberry and smoked salmon pink with largish bubbles. The nose is much more mild and restrained than the Brut. Thinking We probably should have tasted this one first. On the nose: citrus, strawberry, green pear. The wine is fresh and lively with a nice crisp, Granny Smith apple finish. Prefer this one over the Brut for its zest and zing. Imagine it would go quite well with a variety of foods, given the acid and crispness. Very nice.

He said: In my memory, which does seem to scale inversely with age, I have never had a sparkling rosé. Consistently bubbling beautiful pink color with strawberry and apple on the nose. In the mouth it is crisp with quite a bit and flavors of sour apple. The next afternoon garden party We host I will recommend We serve this. Very, very nice. I am not likely to forget this one. 

Peg said: Great color with a bright nose, blooming with a strawberry and cream and wildflowers scent. In the mouth it is dry with crisp cherry, strawberry and green apple. Starts out fruity and finishes tart, but still very good and zesty. Would suggest this one would be more suitable for drinking with cheese and possibly a smoked salmon. Dale said: Nice strawberry color with a fruity aroma. Initially, it hit the palate with hints of green apple and cherry like flavors, then becomes like a tart cranberry like finish. I tested it with a few medium to sharp cheeses and it blended well.

8 down, 42 to go…

Summary

Peg said: I had done a show at the Gruet tasting room in Albuquerque years ago but did not get to partake of the wines, so I thank Swirl Smell Slurp for giving us the opportunity. You can find further musings from my brother and I at Foodie Fitness. New Mexico is a beautiful state, if you haven’t driven around in it you should. The places I would suggest you try and see to name a few would be Santa Fe, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Ruidoso, Sandia Mountains. While in Albuquerque I have had some great meals at Garduno’s, Dion’s, Blake’s and if you’re flying through the best chicken and green chile soup and breakfast burritos bigger than your head are at Comida Buena at Albuquerque International airport. You just can’t be in New Mexico without trying the green chile, it’s a food staple! And the last place I have yet to mention is Roswell, UFO Mecca. I never saw a UFO there but having driven at night across the state is a little eerie what with the ghosts of Pancho Villa, Billy the Kid, and countless other native lore said to be roaming in various towns and in the desert.

We said: Like Peg, We too, had a great time driving through the state of New Mexico. On Our month-long trip through the Southwest earlier this year, We had the delight of driving both the northern and southern routes of the state. We stopped at Gruet Winery, though we only used their restroom and didn’t taste any wine. Later, in the incredible city of Santa Fe We enjoyed a Gruet chardonnay with dinner at Cafe Pasqual’s. We visited Billy the Kid’s grave. We soaked, nakedly (and maybe even had sex, shh!) in the mineral waters in the very strange town of Truth or Consequences. We even took a 5 hour detour to drive through the snow-capped mountains. We loved every minute of it.

A big thanks to Peg and Dale for joining us in our New Mexico tasting, and to Facebook for facilitating this collaboration. Feel free to sell our profile information to anyone you please, you cute little corporate giant, you.

Previously on USA: Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington

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Field Trip Fridays: Restaurants of the Southwest

Here is a recollection of everywhere we ate on our road-trip to and from Texas. It’s long, I know, but we ate a lot. For lunch we usually ate sandwiches or fruit & veggies from the cooler in our backseat. We didn’t want to eat crappy road food on our long drives so we stocked up at Whole Foods. I really recommend this over eating gross fast food and gas station junk. And it was cute watching Her make us sandwiches in the front seat. At night we treated ourselves to a good dinner. Bon Apetit!

Butterfieds Stage Co Steak House.  Holbrook, Arizona.
This was our first stop for food, a steakhouse a block away from our wigwam. The decor is “heroes and villains of the Wild West” (which would be a perfect precursor to a few things we would see in subsequent days). A nice steak sounds great after a long day of driving, and so does a Maker’s Mark to warm us up, it’s 25º outside. She ordered a T-Bone with a baked potato and cole slaw and I had a Porterhouse with mashed potatoes and I don’t remember. The meal and service were just fine. The big problem in my head was that we had been listening to The Omnivore’s Dilemma on CD, and this really isn’t the kind of place to have “Niman Ranch” written on the menu. I am trying to eat only grass-fed beef, but let’s just say mostly instead of only. Butterfields is a little overpriced for what it is, I think we paid $75 for our 2 steaks and whiskey’s.

Café Pasqual’s. Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This place is why Yelp is such a good thing. Neither of us had any idea where to eat in Santa Fe, and went here purely because of the reviews on the site. We are very happy we did. We already wrote about our experience here in detail, so I won’t rehash  it. All I will say is that if you are in Santa Fe, go to Pasqual’s. But make a reservation, this place gets packed.

The Kettle. Childress,Texas.
We got into Childress at 8:30PM and noticed a few steakhouses and a lot of fast food chains. After checking into our hotel we decided to head to one of the steakhouses. Uh-oh, it’s 9PM and everything in Childress is closed, except for McDonald’s, Sonic and The Kettle. We chose the lesser of 3 evils and walked into the Kettle, filled with truckers and some rough looking locals. She ordered the Catfish and I got Biscuits & Gravy. The place was kind of dirty and gross, so we took our food to go and ate in our hotel room. My B&G were disgusting so I could only imagine how bad her Catfish was. Imagine my surprise when She proclaimed that She actually liked it. Get to Childress early, the town closes at 9.

Hannah’s. Denton, Texas.
I had eaten at Hannah’s about 8 or 9 years ago and remembered it as a very nice restaurant in a quaint little space on the square in Denton. Time has changed part of that; Hannah’s has moved into a very large space. Denton is a great town for music (2nd only to Austin as Texas’ musical epicenter) and home to 2 major universities. [Sidenote: If you haven't listened to Will Johnson & Centro-matic, check them out]. It’s nice to see a “fine dining” restaurant thrive in this little college town. After a long drive on remote roads, we sat outside (73º, but it would snow the next day) and She had a glass of Pine Ridge viognier/chenin blanc blend, while I had a glass of Château Bonnet Bordeaux blanc. We shared a few tasty small plates and ordered a bottle of the Château Bonnet.

Dragonfly. Dallas, Texas.
I had read about the Dragonfly for a couple of years and when our free Trolley rolled by, I was excited to go in. Unfortunately, our experience here would foreshadow a spate of terrible service that would (mostly) haunt us for the rest of our trip. To put it bluntly, the bartender was an inattentive bitch. A note to all waiters and bartenders: you work on tips, and if I am (over)paying for food & wine, the least you can do is feign good hospitality. We thought our experience would improve when a second bartender arrived, but it didn’t. Combined with the very loud cursing drunk guy at the bar (it was like 4:30PM), I couldn’t wait to get out of this place. We drank our glasses of red wine as fast as we could and got the hell out of this place. I really hate complaining about service, but this was really, really bad. We left without eating. Suck it, Dragonfly.

The Idle Rich Pub. Dallas, Texas.
We walked a couple of blocks after leaving the Dragonfly and stumbled upon this place with a name we both loved and aspire to. We sat at the bar and were greeted by smiling, knowledgeable bartenders who had food and whiskey recommendations. She ordered a Mark West Pinot and I had a Redbreast Irish whiskey. Our early dinner was a smoked salmon salad for Her and truly great fish & chips for me. According to Yelp, this place gets filled with obnoxious fratboys on Friday and Saturday nights, but our experience was quiet and lovely. And they were playing Wilco.

Charlie Palmer at the Joule. Dallas, Texas.
Already went into detail about this place too. We totally enjoyed out time at The Joule, but by this point we may have to sell all of our belongings to pay for our food & wine adventures.

Churchill’s. McKinney, Texas.
I frequent this place when I stay in McKinney, a good place to get a drink, and shoot some darts and pool. It used to be called The Londoner, which I think is a far superior name, but oh well. The fish & chips are just fine, though nothing to blog home about. The highlight was having a cigarette out front in the snow when a drunk, limping cowboy joined us and told us a story: Two nights prior he had accidentally left his shotgun in his truck, and while drunkenly going to retrieve it he slipped on a patch of ice and shot a hole in his truck. Hence, the limp. A note to all the children out there: If you accidentally leave your shotgun in your truck while you are wasted, watch out for ice. A note to everyone else: watch out for drunk cowboys carrying guns in the suburbs.

Delaney’s. Mckinney, Texas.
Not much to say about this gigantic place in a strip mall in the suburbs. It’s exactly what you expect, but a damn good place to have a drink and watch football on the 14 large plasma screens throughout. Highlight: they are open on Christmas.

Big Tony’s. Mckinney, Texas.
My dad took us to this dive bar for pizza. The pizza is really good, thanks Dad.

Café Malaga. McKinney, Texas.
My mom took us here on our last day in Dallas. I had been in this space before (2 owners prior), and it is a great old building just off the square in McKinney. We ordered tapas for the table and a bottle of tempranillo. It was snowing hard outside, and the food and wine were both lovely. One complaint: server dude, learn how to open a bottle of wine. You must first cut the foil. Our bottle had an aluminum Bart Simpson haircut when he placed it on the table.

Uchi. Austin, Texas.
She had eaten here a couple of times before and raved about it. We sat at the bar and had very great, attentive sushi chefs taking care of us. We enjoyed 2 bottles of 2008 Huber ‘obere steigen’ grüner veltliner while we ate almost the entire menu, we must have had a whole bluefish tuna. By the time our dessert (jizake creme caramel with brown butter sorbet and ginger consomme) arrived we were both pretty drunk. That’s when I tried to steal the menu. It was a nicely designed corkboard book, and for whatever reason, I really wanted it. As I mentioned, we were sitting directly in front of 2 chefs, but also right by the service door to the kitchen; not exactly a dark corner. I thought I was being sly trying to stuff a large menu up my sweater. The waitress came by, gave me a strange look, and I removed the menu from my sweater with an embarrassed smile. She politely told me I could take the paper out of the book, but please leave the cover. Fair enough. Oh yeah, we loved this place, the best sushi we have ever had.

Maiya’s. Marfa, Texas
The hotel attendant at the Thunderbird recommended Maiya’s and got us a reservation. We arrived early, assuming we could get a seat at the bar. As we walked in a couple were leaving the bar, and we were told that we could sit there and they would clear it for us right away. 10 minutes later the remnants of food on plates was still in front of us while we watched the bartender fumble and attend to everything, except the customers sitting at the bar. Seriously, change the paper in the POS system after you clear these plates and take our drink order (or ask the host who is just standing there to do it for you). More on this later. The space is great, minimalist (duh) and clean, the square wreath on the door was a nice, thoughtful touch. When we finally ordered our drinks we both had Hendrick’s on the rocks (hers with a splash of tonic). We started with the Antipasto Plate and Black-eyed Pea soup, a southern New Year’s good luck tradition, both were excellent. For dinner, She had the Grilled Rib Eye Steak with red skinned mashed potatoes and I had Pasta Bolognese. Our meal was unbelievably good, one of the best of our trip. I ate all of my pasta and probably half of Her delicious, tender, perfectly cooked steak. It’s just…this…damn bartender. Doing dishes while our glasses have been empty for minutes. Attending to his servers before his bar patrons; dude, we are tipping you more than they are, I guarantee it. We weren’t alone in our dismay, we could see it on other customers faces. And we watched as twice he delivered the wrong plates to the wrong people (there was no more than 8 of us at the bar). When he did come over to us, he would say that “it would just be a minute,” “they weren’t used to this rush,” and a million other excuses. There are not more than 50 seats in the restaurant, and they had 2 servers, a host, and a bartender. It wasn’t exceptionally busy, and the amount of time we were made to wait and the inane excuses are unacceptable. Luckily for Maiya’s their food is exceptionally good. We totally 100% recommend this place, but that bartender (and his dumb toddler tie) has to go.

Jett’s Grill. Marfa, Texas.
Conveniently located in the Paisano Hotel, our lodging for the night. We began with 2 glasses of “Marfa Red” while we perused the menu. The decor was strange, highlighting the fact that until a few years ago, this hotel was in disrepair. We started with a caesar salad. For dinner She ordered Shrimp Alfredo and (against my better judgment and lack of Tums) I ordered the Pistachio Fried Steak with Jalapeno Gravy, way too intriguing for me to pass up. After enjoying our “Marfa Reds” we ordered a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It did take a very long time for our food to come out, but we were happy and in no hurry, so no complaints. When it arrived, I was overwhelmed by how large the steak was and the fact that there were whole pistachios fried onto the steak, looking like little barnacles on a whale. It was actually quite tasty, but I could only eat about 1/3 of it. Her shrimp alfredo was fine, if a bit mediocre. After we finished, the waitress came over and apologized for taking an hour (was it really that long?!) for us to get our food and that the bottle of wine would be comped. That was very nice, and though we really had no complaints, that is the way you make up for poor service. She should speak to that bartender at Maiya’s.

Café BellaLuca. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Before our soak in the healing waters, we wanted to grab a bite in little T or C. All of our guidebooks and websites we read raved about this surprising little place. It is so great to find a spot like this in what is really the middle of nowhere. After all the fast food chains we passed, for there to be an alternative for the citizens and visitors alike, is refreshing. But, oh no, the server has already messed up our salads. There are a total of 8 customers in the restaurant right now. When it was corrected, our Capri Salad and our Arugula Salad were both fresh, vibrant and delicious. Tonight She ordered the White Calzone (roasted garlic sauce, three cheese blend, spinach) and this time I had the Shrimp Alfredo. Both of our meals were great. The shrimp were huge and meaty and the calzone (which I finished off) was better than any calzone I can remember (though, admittedly, I can’t really remember many calzones). With our meal, we drank a 2007 Sauvion Sancerre. Everything was delicious, but when we were finished we sat for 10 minutes before having to track down our server at the POS station to pay our bill. I’m tired of complaining about service, but the food was excellent.

Nancy’s Silver Café. Silver City, New Mexico.
There aren’t a lot of choices in this weird little place (Vicki’s is out of business, and 1zero6 isn’t open for lunch). We stumbled upon Nancy’s because it was the first place we saw open. The service was prompt, but a strange and a little mean even; a lot of grunting and throwing plates down. We both had a combination plate of enchiladas, a taco, and the best chile relleno I have ever had. This is really just a hole in the wall place, but they serve excellent traditional mexican food. A highlight was introducing her to the sopaipilla, which She had never heard of and I ate tons of as a child. I used to love these little honey-filled fried pastries, and they are still tasty, I just try to eat a little healthier these days. As we were walking away I said to Her, “I don’t think they liked us very much.” A couple of days later when we got home, I read some reviews of Nancy’s that said the staff is “racist” and “gringos not welcome.” I really don’t think it was a race thing, there were plenty of white locals chatting and laughing it up with the staff. I think maybe Nancy’s dislikes tourists. I don’t know, but the food was good and I have enough friends.

Kazimierz. Scottsdale, Arizona.
She writes about it in depth here. This place has the craziest wine list I’ve ever seen. 3200 wines! Perusing the list is like trying to read Homer in the dark, but, you know, fun. Aside from the wine, Margo Reed was the highlight here. What a singing voice on a little woman with a somewhat froggy speaking voice. My favorite is when she talks to the audience she ends with “Okie Dokie? (beat) Okie Dokie Fine.” We had a really nice night here.

Amapola Café. Blythe, California.
Our final stop before we get home. Amapola is situated in front of a dilapidated motel on the main street in Blythe. The sign out front reads “Since 1950.” Wow. She had another sort of combo plate and I had a chimichanga, both paired with Diet Cokes. I am so tired of writing this very long post that I will cut to the chase: the food ain’t bad and it’s a nice stop between Phoenix and LA.

And the winner is….. Uchi. Hands down, the place we both enjoyed the most. Amazing Sushi, great service. If you are in Austin don’t miss it. Oh, and sorry about trying to steal the menu, it won’t happen again. I really hope I’m not banned.

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Here Comes Santa Claus Fe

The only bad thing about our stay in Santa Fe (the second night of our road trip) was the Cherry Vodka Lemonade She had at a sports bar.

After our disappointing experience at Gruet, we decided to drive north to Santa Fe for the night. Looking through the guide book we came across an inexpensive but recommended motel on a “seedy stretch” three minutes from downtown that was conveniently located across from the town’s only strip club: Cheeks. Gotta love that name.

We were immediately charmed by Silver Saddle Motel’s Western kitsch and super friendly manager. No need to be put off by the supposedly “seedy” stretch. This place is close to downtown, comfortable, and, umm, $40 a night. Seriously. We were given #8, the Billy the Kid room, as commemorated by a plaque and a picture of Emilo Estevez above the bed.

We ventured into the quaint downtown that looked just how the Holidays should: all sparkles and snow and full of good cheer. It was super cold and the air was thin. We huffed and puffed and shivered and then stopped at the Catamount Bar before dinner (cherry vodka is terrible, Maker’s Mark is not).

The restaurant we had Yelp’d opened at 5:30 and we got there as soon as the doors opened–along with forty other people. We knew nothing about the place other than the 95 positive reviews and the James Beard Award hanging in the window. Café Pasqual’s was awesome. We got the last two seats available at the communal table next to a blowhard and his hippy wife from Georgia and a large (aka big boned) blue blood family from Houston.

At some point He and the blowhard struck up a conversation and it was revealed that the blowhard is an architect. I said “me too”, and then the big boned wife from Houston said “me too”. And then the blowhards wife says that she too has a degree in architecture. Weird. 4 of the 6 adults from different places in the US at a communal table in Santa Fe, NM have degrees in architecture. But, like most architects, they were all kind of annoying–especially the blowhard (the downside of the communal table).

We scooted our chairs closer to each other and ordered and ate a fantastic meal. All produce and meats are organic and with a Southwestern flavor. Deciding we had maybe been a bit harsh on the Gruet people we decided to try a bottle of Chardonnay. It was both creamy and crisp and matched well with Her spicy Chicken Mole Enchiladas and His Plato Supremo (Chile Relleno and Chicken Mole Enchilada, and a Taco Barbacoa, and Fresh Corn Torte with Cilantro Rice).

We skipped dessert and had a glass of Côte de Perrin “Nature” Côte de Rhône 2007 instead.

It was still early, but we were tuckered out. We decided to head back to the Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid room and rest for a bit and then hit the town’s one punk bar and Cheeks, of course. It was very cold by now, so we cuddled up in the bed with the heat on and the next thing we knew it was 9AM.

We really want to go back to Santa Fe, so much so that we are re-thinking our route home. Maybe another stop in Santa Fe after Marfa. See you at the Silver Saddle.

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