Sunday, February 28, 2010

That is a good friend.

Thursday a large box arrived from Cayce in California. The contents? A belated birthday present well worth waiting for: Meyer lemons!

I first met the Meyer lemon last March on a visit to the Bay Area. This winter, as our supplies of blueberry lemon jam and lemon marmalade dwindled and I opened the last jar of preserved lemons, I began to panic. How could I replenish my supply?

Cayce to the rescue! And her timing was perfect because this is our last weekend for kitchen recreation. Demolition begins next week and we'll be sans kitchen for the next 4-6 weeks. (I hope it's only that long.)

Yesterday, I put up 11 pints of preserved lemons. Most recipes that call for preserved lemons say to use only the rind, but I can never bring myself to throw away the salty, squishy pulp. It tastes too good to waste and makes the lemons last longer. We like them in salads, pasta, and tagines.

Now that I have 11 jars (or WILL have, they need to sit and fester for 3-4 weeks), I'm looking for new ways to use this delicacy. We'll savor every bite, making them last till this time next year, when I might (if I'm very very lucky) get another well-considered birthday present from sunny CA.

Friday, February 19, 2010

then the sun came out

I realize a sunny day may not seem like news, but this gardener's heart is counting the minutes of increasing daylight and enjoing every minute of sunshine she can get! Maybe because I'm teaching a gardening class right now, I'm chomping at the bit to start working outside again.

So even though it's cold and even though digging into the soil is months away (well maybe 6 weeks for pansies), I found the sunshine and the melting snow quite promising.

Central Park looks especially fetching in a mantle of white, don't you think? Enjoy it while you can! The days are getting steadily longer, and Spring cannot be far away!

Outside the Buckley School on E 74th Street (totally unrelated to gardening!) was the best snowman I've seen in the city. In light of the aforementioned sun and melting, I thought I'd better snap a shot while I could.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I am not in Lake Tahoe.

I was supposed to be in Lake Tahoe this weekend with Cayce. We had reservations up the wazoo: x-country ski lessons, deep tissue massage, snow shoeing, facials, salt scrubs with shea butter treatments. Instead, a little snow (didn't even qualify for blizzard status in NYC) caused American Airlines to cancel my flight. I tried to be understanding, and even managed a few moments of enjoyment as I walked through Central Park. But I wondered why my flight had been cancelled SO far in advance and I'm still not convinced it had anything to do with the storm in NYC. Call me paranoid. Or perhaps I've just been abused by the airlines one too many times.

So instead of posts on beautiful Lake Tahoe, here's the next in my series on Santa Fe eateries.

On Saturday, we tried two restaurants (at opposite ends of the price spectrum) suggested by friend Rita. The first was El Comal (3571 Cerrillos Rd., Santa Fe, NM, 505-471-3224), an almost invisible diner type place out on Cerrillos. Rita said it was pretty much locals only, which immediately made us want to go.

I could probably just let the pictures do the talking:

But I really do want to say a few things:
1) I've eaten a lot of green chile in my days.
2) I've eaten a lot of sopapillas, too.
3) I ate this green chile burrito with shredded chicken faster than I remember ever eating anything. It wasn't just that I was was so delicious I couldn't stop. I WANTED to slow down BUT I COULDN'T!
4) Sopapillas are often an extra little something on the table in case you're still hungry when the real meal is over. Not this time. I enjoyed every bite of the fluffy fry-bread, drizzled with honey.

If you want a fancy place, don't go to El Comal. It's formica tables, vinyl chairs, friendly service, hungry locals, and excellent food.

That evening we put on our good clothes (which in Santa Fe means clean jeans) and went to Ristra (548 Agua Fria, Santa Fe 87501, 505-982-8608). There's a very pretty bar with a bar menu, and if you choose to sit at the bar you can order from either the bar menu or the restaurant menu. We opted for the restaurant, but I'd be happy to sit in the bar anytime. (But not too close to the vase of lilies. People! Lilies are too fragrant to use around food!)

I started with the arugula, goat cheese, and fig salad and a glass of Prosecco. Superb. Michael's calamari were so lightly fried I didn't even feel guilty eating them and the spicy lime dipping sauce was a zippy accompaniment. He chose veal osso bucco with red chile polenta as his entree and it was terrific. Sadly, I was so engrossed in my own dinner that I forgot to photograph his.

My entree was heart-stoppingly delicious: elk steak, medium rare in a red wine reduction with sweet potato puree. I'd never eaten elk before, and being an adventurous carnivore I was tempted by the novelty. Tender, lean, deeply flavorful but not crazy, over-the-top rich, and hey, this is elk country! A glass of Pinot Noir was my beverage of choice.

For dessert I did something quite uncharacteristic: I bypassed the chocolate. (Who are you and what have you done with my wife?) Michael and I shared a Pineapple Hazelnut Napoléon with White Chocolate Mousse & Hot Fudge Sauce. Oh my god Oh my god Oh my god.

Because the elk was a special, you can't be sure to find it on the menu. But if it's offered I highly recommend it. In fact, if you eat exactly what I ate you should be very very happy and not so full that you want to lie down and die. (!) It was a splurge money-wise, and worth every $$$.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Jalapeño's Mexican Grill

Last week we were in Santa Fe, NM. We go twice a year for Michael's board meeting at St. John's least that's the excuse. Truth is, it's one of our favorite places, for the mountains, the air, the plants, and not least of all, the food. We have a long list of favorite restaurants we hit every visit.

This year, when we arrived at the Cloud Cliff Bakery for breakfast on Thursday morning, we were surprised to find it closed, and not just for the day. Fortunately we weren't starving and crabby, and within a few blocks we came across an inviting alternative (more on the Tree House Cafe in a later post). As we sat enjoying our pupusas (ok, only I had pupusas but I liked the sound of that phrase), I proposed a radical idea to Michael: Let's only eat at new places on this trip!

He had to think about it. It's not easy to bypass the carne adobada at Horseman's Haven. In the end we opted for a culinary adventure: every place we ate was new to us, and we ate very well indeed.

Most unlikely and truly wonderful was Jalapeño's, in the Albertson's shopping plaza at the intersection of Zia and St. Francis (3005 St. Francis, Plaza Entrada, Santa Fe, NM, 505-983-8431). We were staying at the nearby Santa Fe Suites and found a menu for Jalapeño's in our kitchenette. If it hadn't been for our resolution, we probably wouldn't have ventured in. That would have been sad.

Yes, Jalapeño's serves a killer breakfast burrito. The red chile sauce is handmade and homemade by owner Raul from chile negro, chile catarino, tomatillos, and tomatoes: the result is complex and rich. Like the best moles, it warms from the inside out and leaves you wanting more. Rich and addictive, the taste haunts you all day long. Even something as simple as the pico de gallo (often a throw-away in less skilled hands) is so fresh and tasty that it demands you pay attention.

What makes Jalapeño's truly outstanding is the quality of the food combined with the depth of its menu. The choices are varied and appealing: barbacoa of slow cooked lamb, pork belly with housemade chorizo, and slow cooked beef brisket. I could happily commit to working my way methodically and hungrily through the entire menu, which could keep me busy for a long time, since Raul changes it up every 6 weeks. And of course, then I'd weigh 1,000 pounds.

There's a special menu for "the little amigos", free wifi, and the prices are reasonable. Hours are 8-8. Run, do not walk. Then tell your friends.