Brio Grille Restaurant – Radisson Hotel, Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
Categories: Bar, Restaurant Reviews
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Published on: September 27, 2010

Brio2

This weekend my brother’s family, my girlfriend and I went to the Water Park at the Radisson Hotel.  That’s right, a water park INSIDE of a hotel.  We spent several hours in the water, going on slides, the Lazy River, hot tub, pools and of course the FlowRider.  So this review starts, not with food, but with a story.  If you don’t care to read the story, then by all means, skip ahead.  The review will be marked as to where it begins, but I should tell you, this is the story of legend.

FlowriderMy brother and I decided to strut our way on over to the FlowRider and do some body boarding.  What is the FlowRider you ask?  It’s a Surf simulator that pumps 100,000 gallons of water per minute, 30MPH in a 3 inch sheet up a padded hill.   The picture is pull from their website.  Though they do have the flowboards, most of the people use the bodyboard, which is basically a boogie board.

The first thing you notice when walking in the room is the amount of water the thing shoots out the top, it’s intense!  The second thing is how much fun the life guards are having!  They love helping people and they have lots of practice, so they make it look easy.

My nephew went first and he did great, building my confidence in the process.  The lifeguards help you your first time out.  You lay down on the board and they slide you out onto the turbulent water and the fun begins!  Having seen several kids go before me and watched as each of them go flying over the back, I was less nervous about that when it was my turn as I weigh considerably more.  More enough in fact to feel my legs push through the water a few times and stick to the padded surface.

As long as I kept moving though, I had a good time.  swinging back and forth, I got up on me knees and started showing my previous years of experience being pulled behind my dad’s boat all summer on kneeboards, skis, inner tubes, and of course, the boogie board.  the lifeguard jumps out on her board and says, “Ok, now do a barrel roll!”  “Ah what?!”  “Here, watch.”  She proceeds to show me her months of experience and expertly pulls of a barrel roll, making it look as easy as can be.

Ok, so here it goes.  I swing back and forth, to make sure I’m not sticking again and getting ready to show the world my skills.  As I spin over on to my back, I feel this sinking sensation.  The sensation starts not with my heart, but with my pants, shortly followed by my stomach.  The great rush of water had grabbed a hold of my now, loosely fitting shorts and pulled them halfway down my thighs.  In a sequence I still have yet to understand, I managed to finish the roll, still hanging on to the board, pants halfway down my legs and thinking, what do I do if they come off completely?  Maybe the water will shoot me over the top of the rider and I’ll be hidden from view in the great wash as the water sinks back down through the grates at the top into the depths below.

No such luck, my substantial weight of course propels me back down the ramp toward the front, my pants hanging on my sheer force of will.  If I turn, they will come off completely exposing not only by very pale behind to the world, but the rest of which needs not to be seen.  I managed to grab hold of the shorts somehow, and slowly pull them against the great force of water, back to decency.

Ok, I think it’s time I exit this thing.  I pull off to the side, where the rather attractive female lifeguard who was so helpful earlier asks, “Are you ok?”  “Oh yeah, I’m fine, I’m good.”  At this point I was laughing my head off because really, what else are you supposed to do?  I laughed even harder though as I turned around and saw every single guy in line tightening the drawstrings on his shorts, including my brother.

I returned the next day, triumphant in having gone to the store and purchased new shorts, with a drawstring of sufficient tightness.  As I go through the routine, back and forth, up on to the knees and showing off my skill.  I prepare myself for a second attempt.  Will I brave the trick that depants me one day prior?  You bet your ass I will.  Or maybe I’m betting my ass I will.  As I prepared to lay back down and start the roll, the water suddenly stops and propels me toward the bottom.  Maybe the knew I would try again, maybe they decided, “you know, we just can’t risk it.”  I had my fun, time to let another step forward and claim his glory.  Maybe one day I will brave the 3” depths and try my skills again, but for now I sit defeated, having given a full moon to my family and a room full of strangers.

REVIEW TIME:

So after the eventful evening of sliding down slides, floating in the lazy river, losing my pants on the FlowRider, it was time for dinner. My mom not only paid for the rooms so we could go to the water park, but also gave us money for dinner.  Dinner was a given, Brio Grille Restaurant inside the Radisson.  She was told by a good friend that they had the best pizza in Albuquerque.  I’ve got to try it!  I’m a big fan of pizza and in my life I’ve had a LOT of it.  Best pizza in Albuquerque is a bold statement, but I have high hopes.

Brio

They have 2 restaurants.  The first, as you walk into the Radisson is a bar, featuring Karaoke and a pool table.  The second entrance is a restaurant entirely, complete with excellent lighting, and an upscale feel that makes you want to change out of your wet swimsuit and flip flops to have a nice sit down dinner.

I’m slightly confused, it’s a Grill that serves pizza?  Ok, I’ll go with it.  The menu is pretty simple, having given one paper sheet to a table of 8, we all had to fight to take a glance and decide what we wanted.  Pizza, salads, breadsticks.  Well that makes it easy, let’s try them all!

They have a menu on their website, and I’m not sure if that menu has changed or if they have a separate option if you just want pizza.  So out first is the salad

Salad

Before I even have a chance to grab my fork, I’m struck immediately with the thought, “huh, my salad is frozen.”  I glance at my girlfriend’s dish, yep, the telltale signs of frozen lettuce are everywhere.  You can see it, plain as day.  When lettuce freezes, it turns slightly translucent.  My brother and sister-in-law dig in to theirs and retreat with a mouthful of ice.

We tell the server and they apologize profusely and offer new salads.  Mine was only mostly frozen, so I decide to just deal with it, but for the other 3, they brought out new dishes with fresh lettuce.  I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  I really want to be nice here and say, oh well they made a mistake and fixed it as soon as they found out, but I’m not going to do it.  I’m going to remain firm here and say when lettuce is frozen it changes appearance.  Any Chef, cook, server, person who eats salad, should be able to grab a handful of the stuff and say, wait a minute, something doesn’t feel right, something doesn’t look right.  Why would you serve poor quality food to your guests, knowing full well that there is something wrong?  I could see it before they had even set my bowl down, why couldn’t someone who get’s paid to prepare food for a living?

PizzaOn to the pizza.  When they set the pizzas down, my first impression was, there is something not right here.  We ordered pepperoni extra cheese, but the cheese seemed to be pulling away from the sauce in the middle. I’ve seen a pizza like this before, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  It looks pretty good, but something just didn’t quite feel right about it.

I grab a couple slices and on first examination, the dough is awfully thick, and a little too even.  The cheese looks like a mix of cheddar and maybe mozzarella, but it was hard to tell.  It’s all about the taste, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, they always say.  This is not the best pizza in Albuquerque.  There is a hint of yeast flavor in the dough, but the texture is very familiar.

It tastes like an over-sized, “self-rising” frozen pizza that you buy at the grocery store, you know the one, “It’s Not Delivery…”  I’m not going to say the pizza is bad, but if held to any standard of pizzeria where you see the guy at the counter tossing the dough in the air, making the ultimate thin and crispy crust, bubbly from a super hot oven with melty cheese and fresh toppings, this would probably be the worst pizza in town.  It’s completely even, doughy and I would be surprised if this didn’t come into the building pre-prepared and frozen. They do bake them in a hot oven, so they get crispy around the edges, but I’m in shock.  The kids loved the pizza, though I still wonder how they can call this extra cheese.

Pizza2

They screwed up my brother’s pizza as well.  Though looking at his, at least the green chile looked good.  He ordered half and half, which they mixed up and put half the toppings on the wrong half.  The sausage look like the frozen pellets you get from any fast food pizzamart.

Breadsticks

Let us not forget about the breadsticks.  Is there something here that they really excel at? No.

These are store bought breadsticks, frozen at some point, dry in the middle, hard on the outside, with crappy pre-shredded parmesan sprinkled over the top.  The “marinara” is more like salsa.  This chunky mess has a bitter tasted that not even the kids liked.  Just try dipping these hardened sticks that at one point used to be something resembling bread and get anything to stick.  The weight of each chunk is enough to drip every bit of “sauce” so all you are left is the clinging water left behind.  These are the worst breadsticks I have ever had.  Olive Garden uses the same type of breadsticks and they make them something you might ask for.  This place, takes the same thing, minus the flavor and makes you want to send them back.

All in all, the food was less than appealing.  The Dr. Pepper was the highlight of the meal for me.  The pizza came in a distant second and I would rather have been slapped in the face than served the rest.  Perhaps they have something else on the menu besides pizza, if you go, try something else.  Let me know how it was.  I would love to find out they actually do something right, but for now, I’d rather buy a bake at home pizza than spend 4 times as much eating the same thing here.

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El Pinto – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: May 1, 2010

El PintoThe other nights asthma inducing windstorm reminded me of a night a couple of weeks ago.  My girlfriend’s mother had come to town and it has become a tradition.  She invites my parents out to dinner and where do we go?  El Pinto.   It’s not that she is a big fan of Mexican food as she is from Montana, a place not really thought about when you think of good Mexican food.  And before you start yelling at me stating El Pinto isn’t Mexican food, it’s NEW Mexican food, for the sake of having a few less words to write, I will just leave it as Mexican food and you can make the change in your head.  Deal?  Ok.

It had been a gorgeous day, though it was supposed to be a big ball a crap.  We were very lucky having gone to the zoo earlier that day, but the weather loomed on the horizon.  On to the food. 

Picking a favorite Mexican food place is like picking your favorite team.  When it comes down to it, they are all basically the same, a few variations here and there, and sometimes, even when you know they are crap, you still support them and are your favorite.  On the flip side, they can be really really good, but just something about them rubs you raw, you just don’t like them. 

ChipsandsalsaEl Pinto is what I think of when I think of Mexican food.  The atmosphere is fantastic, the place is  enormous and the food is generally quite good.  They make some of my favorite Salsa, though the stuff you buy at the store in the jar isn’t quite as good as the stuff at El Pinto.  It’s nice and hot without being mind blowing (though that can be debated if you talk to my girlfriend’s mother, or my girlfriend, but take that as you will, they are from Montana and aren’t such the huge fans of hot).  I’ve had hotter salsa before, but that’s not what this is about.  This is about the flavor.  And it’s free, and they refill the basket too, a fact that most Mexican food places leave out, first one is free, then you have to pay?  Not here, if you can eat it, they will bring it.  Oh yeah, and the chips are homemade too.  Crispy, fresh, hot, it’s a good way to start the meal.  Just make sure you save a little bit of salsa for the tacos, assuming you get tacos.  They also have quesadillas, and burgers, both of which would benefit from a nice scoop of the red stuff.

Speaking of Red stuff, I always order the #2, red and hot.  Oh, THAT’s descriptive, mmm…that sounds good, let’s all get a number 2 (sarcasm at myself).  Tamale, cheese enchilada and 2 rolled tacos.  Not being such a big fan of beans, I get the papitas…potatoes for you and me.  Dinnerplate

I usually order a side of Red chile as I smother my whole plate, but since my girlfriend always gets her’s on the side, even though it’s mild, I’ll just use that.  Start with the papitas, soft inside, crispy outside, cooked with onions and peppers, dipped in a little of the red chile, now these are a good way to start  a meal.  The tacos, dipped in what is left of the salsa are super crispy and hot, covered in melty and slightly crispy cheese, they come in chicken and beef (though I always get beef, they are flavorful cigars of taconess.  Tamales aren’t typically covered in red chile, but mine are.  A soft masa, also covered in cheese, though I think it’s just because they were a bit judicious on my tacos.  The spicy pork inside is shredded and tender and I think a great ration between meet and masa.  I’m a huge fan of cheese enchiladas.  You can get a little extra heat from the sauce and still have it cooled off a little by the cheese.  The flavor is intense, garlicy and as much flavor as spice.

Let’s talk about the heat for a second.  Now this is all very subjective, what one person finds about as spicy as a bell pepper, could be link drinking a can of sterno and striking up a match.  I like my spice flavorful and I have a reasonable tolerance.  I like medium taco sauce at Del Taco and Taco Bell because I find the hot just too hot for the flavor.  I like medium salsa, because as much as I like to have that little sweat across the forehead, I want to taste the rest of my dinner when I am done. 

CleanPlateAnd what do you do when you clean your plate?  You sit around and talk for a while because you are far too full for dessert.  It may not look like a lot of food at first, but it’s enough.  My brother could probably plow through two plates as he is a big fan of food and has an insatiable appetite.  With that, there is still a basket Sopapillaof Sopapillas on the table and there is no way we can let those go to waste.  I highly suggest you start your meal with them because after they have been sitting there for half an hour, they aren’t nearly as tasty if they were freshly plucked from the fryer.   You may want to ask your bringer of food to hold off on the Sopapillas until the meal comes to an end.  Do yourself a favor and heed my warning as you will be far happier with a nice crispy, hot, fresh and steamy sopa than if you were to let them sit.  They are quite good even still.  Bite off the corner, fill the thing with honey (make sure you have your plate still) and devour. 

RistraAs we left the wind had picked up, I could tell because my asthma was killing me.   The Ristras violently thrashing around made it difficult to get a picture, but it’s very much a big part of who they are.  The pictures line the wall of all the celebs and presidents who have walked under these red chile pods and enjoyed a meal at this local landmark.  It’s not because it has a pretty entrance, it’s not because the building is huge or has a nice bar.  It is because the food is good, damn good.  If you have your favorite place nailed down and you compare every salsa to the bowl they bring you when you sit down, it doesn’t matter what I say here.  But if you are looking for some all around good Mexican food, a variety choices and a fantastic atmosphere, give it a go. 

Oh yeah, and don’t let the lingering smell of Horse manure scare you away as you are walking in, the smell stops at the door. 


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The County Line – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
Categories: Bar, BBQ, Chain, Restaurant Reviews
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Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: April 28, 2010

When I was a kid, I remember going to the County Line with my family.  It was always a wonderful time, all the food I could eat, and as a growing young man who didn’t care for vegetables, this was the perfect solution.  An all you can eat buffet of Chicken, Beef and Pork Ribs, Brisket, Sausage and Turkey.  We didn’t have any Turkey because my Mom has never quite been the fan. 

It was a great deal for my parents too, with three boys who could eat mountains of roast beast, we frequented ‘All you can eat’ places.  It wasn’t often, but this was one of our favorites. 

So tonight a friend of mine sends a text, County Line it’s decided, we’ll just eat at the bar.  It’s amazing the number of bars I frequent for someone who doesn’t drink.  To start with, the location is amazing.  Maybe not the most amazing place to get to, but the view is spectacular.  Make sure you sit on one side of the building or the other, mountains, or city. 

Front

So I grow up, eventually it’s time for me to buy my own dinner.  It’s not just all you can eat, any combination in any amount of meat is available.  And YES, there are vegetarian options, though I imagine they are grilled on the same grill as the rest of the meat, so how vegetarian is it REALLY?  You’ll have to ask the Chefs.

The first thing I noticed when I sat down, which having never sat in the bar before, the tables.  They are made for drinking, not eating, just a little more than the size of dinner plate.  Two glasses of water the size of small buckets, 2 pairs of glasses, a phone and a napkin, the table is completely full.  It will be interesting to fit 5 people on 2 itty bitty tables. 

CheeseballsThe menu hasn’t change in 20 years, except for the things that have changed, like the garlic mashed potatoes and Fried Pepper Jack Cheese Bites.  I’m a big fan of Pepper Jack, so of COURSE I’m going to try those.  They are pretty good, bite size, slightly spicy, but not overly so.  Golden brown and crispy on the outside, melty gooey on the inside, the texture of the cheese was a little strange, but not so much that I wouldn’t order them again and again.  

Plate one comes, my girlfriends Salmon and there you go, more than half the table is now full.  We somehow manage to pack on the cheese bits, a salad and my wonderful plate of deliciousness, the combo platter.  Two meats and two sides.  Peppered turkey, sausage, garlic mashed potatoes and today’s veggie of the day, corn on the cob.  As with almost all turkey, it’s a little on the dry side, but packed with an amount of flavor that would never be possible in a home kitchen.  How?  How do they do that?  That is not for me to know, just for me to enjoy.  Sausage was alright, the casing a little tougher than I’d like, but tender on the inside and a good touch of spice. 

Food2 Now the reason I go in the first place, garlic mashed potatoes.  They’ve changed over the years, but I’m happy to say the flavor is back to what I remember.  Chunkier than once before, but that’s a good thing.  It’s like the grew up with me.  As a kid lumpy mashed potatoes would have been completely offensive. 

Overall the service was a bit lacking.  If you want dinner, don’t sit at the bar.  The food may not be the best out there, but it’s good and if you get the right seat, you can’t beat the view. 

View 

Ok, best for last, dessert.  Me and my sweet tooth have to tell you about the ice cream.  I love ice cream, I also love vanilla and I think this is the place that started it.  As with everything else the ice cream has changed, but the vanilla bean ice cream is still the best.  It’s woody like a vanilla bean, with a deep earthy flavor.  If you thought vanilla only came in a bottle and measured by the ounce, then you’ve never tried true vanilla.  This has the flavor you are used to as well though, a LOT of it.  It’s almost like they instead of a teaspoon, they used a quarter cup.  This is the best ice cream ever, I’ve yet to find another with as much flavor.  And yes, when it comes to vanilla, I really do what to be slapped in the face with it’s potency.  You can almost never have too much. 

So where is the picture?  Well, I ate it before I had a chance.  After I took a bite, I just couldn’t stop.  I highly suggest you go get a bowl of your own.  Maybe you can take a picture for me and send it to me to post. 


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Boston’s Gourmet Pizza – I-25 and Jefferson Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: March 27, 2010

Storefront

A short while back a good friend of mine was talking about a dessert she had recently discovered, and made the claim it was the best dessert she’s ever had.  Having been invited by her to a different place for lunch, I sat there appalled and disappointed that there was no dessert waiting for me at the end that day.  Fortunately, today had a different outcome, we decided to go to Boston’s. 

Located just North of I-25 and Jefferson, it’s convenient for anyone passing through town, and familiar spot as this chain is located all over the country. 

The place is filled with jars like the ones they often make in magazines, for a cheap gift to give a friend around Christmas.   I wonder if the jars were at any point edible because I am sure they are long past that point.  I do enjoy the food related decor, rather than the random unrelated junk most places have.  jars

Dessert time.  I order this thing called the Boston’s Hot Brandy Cream Pie.  Ok, so this just isn’t fair to begin with, Boston Cream Pie is one of my favorite desserts, OF COURSE I have to give this a try.  The picture is eloquent, perfectly drizzled with a stream of chocolate, the slice of cake sitting on it’s side and perfectly clean.  That’s not what I got, but I am glad for what I got.   

DessertFirst off, it looks like twice the normal portion I was supposed to be given.  I’m Ok with that.  Not being on it’s side, the chocolate on top is what got slightly carmelized and oozy goozy.  I’m Ok with that too.  You can’t see it in the picture, but on the back side of the cake, the chocolate that had melted and oozed behind turned into this thick fudgy syrup.  The butter brandy sauce in the front, is, in a word, amazing.  I could get a glass full of this stuff and it still wouldn’t be enough.  The cake around the edge is slightly dry and crispy from being put through the oven, so it soaks up the sauce like a thirsty fish.  I’m sad to say that sauce disappeared WAY too quickly.  I was about halfway through by the time it was gone, and I had realized it was going fast so I was going easy on it.  So I guess maybe with a normal sized piece it might have lasted.

This cake didn’t last.  I was down to the last few bites when the thought ran through my head, maybe I should order another one?  Yes, it’s THAT good.  I don’t want to know how many calories it contains and I highly suggest you don’t look it up either.  Go to the gym and just stay there for a few hours, it will all work itself out in the end. 

As I was going through the pictures I had taken, I saw one that I completely forgot about. Oh, that’s right,  I ordered lunch before I had dessert.   That dessert pushed all thoughts of this underwhelming Fooddish out of my mind.  It was off of their Healthy menu, except for the sweet potato fries, I was supposed to get rice, but seriously, which would YOU choose?  If you are trying to lose weight, like I am supposed to be, don’t bother with Boston’s.  Their Pizza (which I didn’t have today) is good, especially their Ultimate Pepperoni.  But the healthy side, the veggies were undercooked (I like them crunchy, just not THAT crunchy), the sweet potato fries are good, but like most places, their sweet potatoes grow in a frozen brown paper bag.  The chicken was dry and though it did have a grilled flavor, that was about all it had. 

If you are going to go to Boston’s, get the pizza or pasta.  With a TON of excellent choices on their menu, the Healthy choices offered on the last page.  All in all, you don’t pick this place for the heart healthy tastes.  They also have a bar, so if you just want to go have a drink, hang out with friends and maybe snack on some great bar food, they’ll have something for everyone, well, almost everyone. 


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