The Chocolate Cartel/Van Rixel Brothers – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: November 12, 2010

Chocolate.  Even the word itself fills me with the warm fuzzies of my childhood.  I think that is the reason Halloween is my favorite holiday.  The thought of dressing up in an elaborate costume for the sake of getting gobs and gobs of sweet, delicious and rich chocolate made all those caramels, chews, and sweet tarts extraordinarily disappointing.  Don’t get me wrong, when I was a kid, sweets were sweets, but chocolate has always been chocolate.

Years have past, and though my affinity for dressing up on the best day of the years has not changed, my taste in chocolate has.  No longer is it about the sugar rush or the caffeine high, it’s about the flavor, the texture, the aroma.

ChocolateCartel

There used to be a Gelato place in town that had the absolute best gelato I have ever had.  I waited for the place to open, then went there every week to get my fix.  Then it got cold and I stopped going, but as the warmer months approached, I decided it was time for my ritual to start anew.  It was closed.  No warning, no notifications, just a sign on the door saying goodbye.  I was distraught, where in the world was I supposed to get my gelato fix?

SignThat is when I found it, Van Rixel Bros Gelato and Sorbeto.  Or is it The Chocolate Cartel?  I don’t really care, I have to try it.

In the corner of what appears to be a warehouse is a tiny shop, easily missed by the average passerby, including myself.  I have driven by this place a hundred times before and not once did I see the word chocolate OR gelato.

When I entered this unusual location the inside was far different than the outside.  Cases of chocolate, chocolate on the wall, shelves full of the stuff.  I was in heaven.

chocolatesWhat to try first?  Well that was decided very shortly by the owner, or one of Van Rixel Bros anyway.  “Here, try this truffle base, this is what we use in all our truffles.”  It was smooth and creamy, such a simple thing elevated to heights I had not previously known.  Super rich chocolate flavor, not too sweet, not too dark, just intense and smooth.  I had to try as many of them as I could.

With flavors like Vanilla Lavender and Wildflower, I wasn’t sure this was going to be my kind of place after all. Worry not, they also have a dark chocolate, blood orange, cinnamon, smoked chile and Sea Salt Caramel.  Their flavors change regularly, there is always something new to try when I go in.  All of their truffles are beautifully designed and hand crafted.

chocolates2I nearly tried one of each the first time I went and let me just say, they were ALL awesome.  The smoked chile seemed very mild at first, then the heat kicked in.  The Blood Orange had a nice strong citrus flavor without being overpowering, peppermint, butterscotch!  The chocolate has a very crisp bit to it on the outside, but the truffle inside is soft and rich and decadent.

For all you nut lovers out there, you have not been forgotten.  Caramel, Giandujas (nut pastes) and fruits also fill their perfectly tempered chocolate.

A must when getting a box of sweets, is the sea salt caramel.  The salt is like a punch in the mouth, taking all of the chocolate and caramel and turning the flavor knob to 11.  There is just something about that salty/sweet mix that really puts a smile on my face.  Shelf

This store has more than just truffles too.  Toffee, chocolate covered almonds, cocoa powder, drink mixes, even chocolate covered parmesan cheese!  A treat I attempted to get a friend of mine to taste, but he chickened out.  Pfft, some parmesan lover HE is.

I got the cocoa powder too and it’s intensely rich and made some of the best brownies I’ve ever had.  I also used it to make a Cocoa Syrup per Alton Brown, which makes the perfect accompaniment to any bowl of ice cream, or gelato.

Another bit of the chocolate that you can buy is in bar form.  Most of which have a light dusting of toppings like cocoa nips, espresso beans, toffee, puffed rice, salt, and Bacon.

This list and combinations just seem to go on and on.  I will give you one warning though, if you see on a package, the label: El Diabo, that means it’s really stupid hot!  Or maybe I just wasn’t expecting it to be as hot as it was, but you have been warned.  Their chocolate, as with anything in the store is phenomenal.  The perfect snap, the salted chocolates and the cocoa nibs are my favorites, I’m still debating on the bacon.

Barsa

Ok ok ok, so what about the Gelato?  They don’t have a case for the Gelato, it’s all sold pre packaged.  The good thing though, they have a 4 oz pack, as well as Pints and Quarts.

They didn’t have the standard Gelato flavors that I was accustom to.  What they DO have are ever changing.  Chocolate and Sea Salt appear to stay on the menu, but the seasonal changes make for a very tough decision.  I also got the smores and for my girlfriend a Lemoncello.

The Lemoncello was such a tart gelato, it took me by surprise.  With that said, it’s very clean and refreshing.  Like drinking a lemonade, freshly squeezed, on a hot summer day.  The orange was a bit sweeter, but just as refreshing.

Gelatoa

Give me a scoop of smores, chocolate and sea salt and I’m a happy camper.  As with all gelato, the flavors are intense and a little goes a long way.

If you’ve never had gelato, it’s denser than regular ice cream, containing only about 20%-35% air, compared to ice creams which can have up to 50% air.

Each flavor was unique in texture as well as flavor.  The sea salt almost tasted like butterscotch.  The chocolate was rich and  decadent.

The flavors may be closer to ice cream than gelato, but this is definitely gelato at it’s finest.  You can also find the pints at Whole Foods, but I prefer to go to the source as that is the only place you can find the chocolates, at least here in Albuquerque.  There is nothing about this store that I do not like.  The chocolate is amazing, the gelato, the guys running the place.  With an emphasis on quality, you are assured to have a very happy Halloween, though these are treats you will want to keep for yourself.

Van Rixel Bros. Gelato & Sorbet on Urbanspoon The Chocolate Cartel on Urbanspoon
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Little Red Hamburger Hut – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: July 25, 2010

My girlfriend and I often have a difficult time figuring out what we want to eat on the weekends, one of the reasons I created this site.  This weekend was no different, so I looked to my good friend, Nexus One.  There is an app called Urbanspoon, you shake the phone, it gives you a random selection.  Saturday’s random selection is the Little Red Hamburger Hut.  Having had burgers the day before, we weren’t really interested, but “for the sake of the site”, I said.

Front

It’s off the beaten path, so to speak.  Act as if you were going to head down to the Melting Pot and then drive right on past.  The parking lot is next door, not paved and gives you the impending impression that this may not be the place you want to take a date on prom night.  Door

Let me help you out with the small amount of confusion as to which door to head through.  On the left,  is a Salon.  It’s not something I expected as the entire building appears to be full of nothing but this little burger joint, I was wrong.  On the right side is a very colorfully painted door, with a giant pepper and the name “Little Reds.”  Perhaps the name of the place would be a better description, but at least now you know.  The building has been there a while, you can tell, but the place I believe is fairly new, only having been there a few years.

Having never been there before, I’m very interested in their menu, burgers, taco burgers, tortilla burgers, “Little Reds,” Fries, Frito Pie and that’s about it.  If you aren’t a fan of the hamburger, then walk away.  A small burger will give you what seems to be basically a slider at 1/8 lbs, med at 1/4 and a large at 1/2.  I go for the medium as I want to try the Frito Pie too.

The person that took my order, seemed to be someone who had a vested interested in the place, likely the owner.  He apologized as he explained a busy week left them with no fountain drinks.  He made up for it by a fresh supply of canned ones, all you can drink, very nice man.  Signs on the menu and the wall free state, “Satisfaction Guaranteed!!!” I’m not entirely sure what exactly they mean by that, but they certainly do seem willing to please.  Chile and cheese are free on the burger, so feel free to load up.

Here is the food:Burger

Looks good doesn’t it?  Well let me tell you, it was VERY good.  A simple burger, cooked extremely well.  The meat was full of flavor, though the American cheese is not my favorite, it did not detract from the burger at all.  Slightly salty, very meaty, slightly crispy toasted bun, but soft.  All around an amazing burger.  Sadly they were out of green chile that day, “2nd time in 3 and a half years” the man P1010761says, which goes along with the comment from earlier, “we’ve had a busy week.”  Instead of green chile, I got red, which I didn’t eat on my burger as I have Frito Pie!.   Fresh toppings, the Frito’s are the real deal, I was assured and they were also nice and crispy.

Let me take a moment to talk about their red sauce.  I’m very particular about my red chile.  I’ve had Frito Pie with Red Chile before (not Texas chile) and it’s awesome.  This, I have to admit, I wasn’t not a huge fan.  The chile was hot, not overly so, but a good kick in the mouth.  It seemed to be lacking something, which I would highly lean toward garlic.  It had a slight sweetness to it, which caught me off guard, but in a good way.  The other thing, it has ground beef in it.  Not a lot, just a few specks here and there.  Just enough for you to think maybe was an accident, but it’s there for a reason, they said so before I even ordered it.

Last, but not least, the fries.  Fries are not an easy thing to get right.  I’ve tried to make them several times at home and I simply cannot do it.  This is the reason most places buy fries pre-cut and par-cooked in a plastic lined paper sack, frozen and shipped across the country.  I cannot make any Wimpypromises here as I didn’t get an invite into the kitchen, but these fries seem to be the real deal.  If not, I want to find out where they get them because they are certainly some of the best fries I’ve ever had.  Super crispy on the outside, hot, soft and oh so fluffy on the inside.  Lightly salted, I could easily eat a basket or 12 of these.

One last little comment here before I wrap things up.  The sign outside calls this place a Wimpy’s.  I’m not sure what their association with Wimpy is, as they have a wonderful painting of the Patron St of the Hamburger on their wall.  If this was the burger the little chubby man with the funny hat ate, when he asked for a burger, I can certainly understand his obsession.  This place, however, does not appear to have any association with the ACTUAL Wimpy Burger of UK fame, or anywhere else for that matter.  This is a one of a kind and unique burger place hidden on the back streets of downtown Albuquerque.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a burger and fries this good.  The patty is not pre-formed, it’s smashed right onto the grill, the way they used to do it.  The food comes out hot and fresh and in exactly the right proportions.  With basically one thing on the menu, they HAVE to do it right, and do it right they do.  It’s out of the way, but worth the short trek to get there.  Stop by the museum on your way and get in some culture to feed your soul because this burger will fill your stomach and please your taste buds.

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Fastino’s by Saggio’s – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: June 27, 2010

A while back a friend of mine and I were driving down Juan Tabo, an unusual event as, at the time, neither one of us lived near that part of town anymore.  Much to our surprise we drove past what I can only call an eyesore of a building which used to be Popeye’s Chicken.  Being a minor fan of Popeye’s and now having one less opportunity to drive by and think, nah, not in the mood today, I was appalled by the brightly colored and tacky paint job on the building.  Only one solution, I took that moment to refuse to ever enter and/or support the business, with a name like “Fastino’s,” I’m not going to miss anything.

Then the other day, my mom asked me, “Hey, have you heard of that Fastino’s place?  They are ALWAYS busy every time I drive by, are you going to review it?”  So this afternoon I went to Fastino’s for dinner.

Front

The mural on the wall looked familiar, then I noticed something on the sign I hadn’t noticed before, “Fastino’s by Saggio’s.”  Saggio’s?  Really?  I like Saggio’s.  Ok, there is hope.  Their menu is interesting, pizza of course, but also Cajun Lobster Ravioli, Veal Saltimboca, salads and wrapped breakfast sandwiches.  A list of desserts and I’ve completely forgotten about the tacky exterior, or I would have if not for the tacky interior, but lets not judge a restaurant by it’s painter (a little late, but I am back-tracking here).

Pizza and pastaPizza at a pizza place, it’s got to be good.  I’m a fan of Saggio’s, so I order the pizza and sure enough, if you remember Nunzios or have been to Saggios down by UNM, and liked it, you will like this place.  The price is certainly right, at a slice of pizza, Tuscano Pasta Salad and a large soda for 6 bucks, you could easily get two meals out of it.   The crust on the pizza is soft on the inside, but nice and crispy on the outside, a little doughy, a little crunchy, the pizza that I think of when I think of pizza.

The pasta salad is not your standard pasta salad and I am happy about that.  Perfectly al dente penne coated in a mix of olive oil, garlic, parmesan and herbs.  Cold and tossed with ripe tomatoes and broccoli and this is a bowl of flavor and texture that I can be completely happy with.

This was not the only thing on the menu I ordered.  I had to try the meatball baguette as well.  Most of the sandwiches are more of a Meatball2breakfast type loaf of bread with a stuffing in the middle.  This one has meatballs and mozzarella, baked inside a baguette type loaf and served with a side of sauce.   The flavor was good, though slightly undercooked, the dough was a little raw on the inside edges.  I only ate half so I could bring the rest home and solve the problem in my own oven.  The sauce is a a nice smooth marinara with a strong tomato flavor, just of enough spice.

The place is locally owned and operated.  A wide selection of options means you will be able to find something, even if you are a picky eater, like myself.  A list of desserts from Canoli to cheesecake will also satisfy the sweettooth.  Mine was solved earlier at a different place, but that review is coming next week.  Ziti

Oh yeah, the portions are quite large too.  My GF had the baked ziti, again perfectly cooked pasta mixed with a sauce made of marinara and a ricotta mixture was quite good, if you like ricotta.

This place advertises itself as a fast food Italian place and the description fits.  This is an order at the counter kinda place and certainly has a fast food vibe.  With the prices and the good quality of the food, it’s a little easier to ignore the decor and is certainly a good choice for a good slice of pizza.

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Dakine Hawaiian Ice – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: June 16, 2010

StoreIt’s summer time in New Mexico and it is HOT!  With temperatures approaching (and reaching) 100  degrees out there, it’s time to find a way to beat the heat.  Towards the end of last summer, I kept passing by a roadside circle of promise advertising Hawaiian Ice.  At first appearance, it seemed closed as there was no one inside the booth, but further examination shows that it’s just an advertisement.  A trick to bring back memories of your childhood, walking up and getting a snow cone in one of those tiny cone shaped cups.  This is no small cup, and no snow cone. 

Let’s talk about the snow cones we had as a kid.  The big dome on a small cup, saturating the crystals of crushed ice which allowed all the goodness sink to the bottom of the cup and leave a disappointing layer of flavorless white cubes on top, all the while the ice below is melting, diluting all the flavoring.  This is not what I had this weekend at DaKine.

Menu2With a huge list of flavorings, you have your pick, surely something for everyone.  Twenty six flavors  and when I say they have something for everyone, I mean they also have sugar-free, so even the dieters out there can partake in thus summertime cooldown. 

The combos are also unlimited, with another surf board of suggestions, some of which I would never have thought of, but look good just the same. 

The surf boards are not just a clever way of showing their plethora of options, but the theme of the entire place.  You can even buy leis made of candy, and if you have a special event coming up, order a real lei or two.  FrogInaBlender

One combo, Frog in a Blender, combines lime and cherry.  The lime was a bit overpowering for the cherry, but it was nice having the choice going back and forth between the two.  Though you get a small amount of drift as the flavoring settles, you’d have to fight to get a bite with no syrup. 

The texture is like fresh snow.  To make a cup, which I typically order the Big Kahuna, a brain freeze inducing large container making sure that you get your fill, they shave big blocks of ice to the finest powder that would make any snowboarder happy.  I’m a huge fan of vanilla, so I ordered the Black Jack, a combo of Black Cherry and Vanilla.  Don’t let the picture fool you, inside what looks like a standard snow cone texture is the finest, smoothest snow-like ice, you’d swear they scooped it straight from the mountain top in the dead of winter. 

BlackJack

PurifyThey filter their own water, so the taste is smooth and clean.   You can even buy your own water there.  Not only that, but if you have yourself a big gathering, you can order custom labels.  With a outward facing 5 gallon filling station, you can have fresh clean water anytime, day or night.  The building is small, but a big windows shows their whole reverse osmosis setup.  A little piece of Hawaii in Albuquerque, surfboards and all, do not feel in the slightest tacky. 

On a hot summer day, this beats ice cream hands down.  Though if you want that little bit of cream, they have a bottle to add that touch just across the top.  Full of flavor and deep on chill, this is the perfect summer stop. 


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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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Pizza 9 – 4000 Louisiana BLVD NE Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: March 31, 2010

There are dozens of Pizza places in Albuquerque, so how do you pick which place to go?  Come on over to Food Tasted and I’ll let you know which places deserve your well earned cash!  Today we start with Pizza 9, a local franchise that specializes in “Chicago Style Pizza.”  

StorefrontI’ve never been to Chicago so I can’t claim to be an expert.  I have, however, ordered pizza from Lou Malnati’s before and Pizza 9 is no Lou Malnati’s.  There are several places that serve this kind of “deep dish” pizza, which is just to say a special thick crust cooked in a heavy layer of oil, including Pizza the Hut.  That may not sound the most appetizing, but it’s actually quite good and makes a very crispy bottom, fluffy bready interior.  Don’t go there thinking Chicago Deep Dish, just go thinking, pretty damn good pizza and you won’t be disappointed. 

My mom loves the sausage, which, having been to Chicago before, I have to take her word that the sausage keeps up the tradition of a true Chicago native.  Today, I didn’t get a pizza, I got a pizza roll.  9” of their finest deep dish dough, covered in toppings, in my case pepperoni, and then rolled up like a burrito.  Coated in a sprinkle black sesame seed topping, and baked until GBD (Gold Brown and Delicious).  Flavor flavor flavor.  From the bread to the pepperoni, you damn near can taste the sound of the crunch. 

Pizza RollThe roll comes with a side of ranch and even if you don’t dip your pizza in ranch normally (I’m a dipper), it really makes a huge difference.  The cheese is melty and hot, even after the drive home and round of pictures to make sure I get just the right image for you, my loyal readers. 

The pizza roll is loaded with tons of flavor, even it it’s not entirely a traditional pizza flavor.  The tomato sauce is simple and tasty. The last time I ordered a pizza from this place, I ate half the thing on the way home, while driving.  It helps that I was STARVING, but it’s a pretty damn good pizza. 

CheesecakeNot in the mood for a rolled up pizza? Not in the mood for “Chicago-Style” deep dish pizza? Fear not my friends, you are in luck!  They have thin crust, calzones, gourmet pizzas, sandwiches, spaghetti and more.  One offering which I was advised to try, but have yet to head is the Combo, a Beef and Sausage pizza with Au Jus, maybe next time.  The desserts are pretty standard for a pizza place, chocolate cake is usually on the menu as is Tiramisu and Cheesecake.  It’s a nice soft style cheesecake, but certainly not made in store, still good though.  

All in all, I am happy to have this local Pizza place nearby.  This is not your high end pizza, but especially for the price, the pizza roll hits the craving every single time.  Though it may not be the best pizza in Albuquerque, but a great takeout option that beats most of the chain stores any day.  (this location has no seating, other than the picnic tables outside, shown above). 


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5 Star Burgers – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
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Published on: March 26, 2010

Building2

So tell me this Albuquerque, why have I never had deep fried green chile before?  More on that in a moment.  Today’s adventure was the new 5 Star Burgers Next to Whole Foods at Academy and Wyoming.  What’s with all the 5 names all of a sudden?

I don’t know when they opened, and I’m not sure where people are finding out about this place, but it was packed, like really really packed.  The tiny table in the corner was available, so we sat down immediately, good thing too as another rush of people shortly followed.  This, my friends, is a good sign.  5star

The Contemporary design is clean and simple, screaming of an elegant upscale gourmet froo froo place that specializes in stuff like miso-glazed sea bass with asparagus, or grilled lam chops with curried couscous and zucchini raita.  So here comes the standard red and white menu, designed to Menumake the stomach grumble and what do my eyes spy?  Burgers.  Ok, they aren’t just burgers, they are gourmet burgers with Gorganzola cheese and carmelized onions or crispy green chile and BBQ sauce.  You can substitute chicken and they also offer lamb and turkey burgers.  Salmon, steak and salads, fish sliders, is your mouth watering yet?  It’s not a standard burger place, and seems to be designed for the picky LA Producer coming to Abq for their next film.  Don’t worry my fellow New Mexicans, not only is the place local (based in Taos), but they have some great things for a more simple taste.  

The take great pride in their all natural beef, no trans fats, recycled materials and the green friendly options.  Wonder if they’re going to be staring a biodiesel station out back?

The staff all moved with a sense of urgency and still had that new restaurant smell to go along with the new restaurant attitude.  “The burgers are awesome” our waiter said with an friendly and honest tone.  Sign me up!  You can’t go to a burger place and not get a burger!  Especially the first time. 

So let’s start with my girlfriend’s meal of choice, the grilled cheese.  Now this isn’t mom’s grill rainbow bread with Velveeta.  This is a upscale fancied up grilled cheese on sourdough with cheddar, swiss (or in her case pepper jack), provolone, bacon and a Tomato Marmalade.  She gave me a bit and my first thought, “Woah that is sweet!”  The Tomato Marmalade is very sweet, but delicious in it’s own right.  Slow the bacon kicks in and salt takes over the sweet.  The bread is perfectly toasted with just the right amount of butter and cheese.  Grilled Cheese The marmalade is a little sweet for my taste, but maybe as for it easy on tomato (or a fresh tomato) and it’s quite nice, if you like a grilled cheese.  The coleslaw on the side is also quite good, slightly different taste that I can’t quite pick out.  Fries

They serve fries and sweet potato fries, which any self proclaimed burger aficionado would claim as a requirement to go along with any decent burger, gourmet or not.  I like the presentation, served in a mini deep fry basket with parchment paper and a side of ketchup and mayonnaise and green chile mayonnaise.  Wait, don’t you mean aioli?  This is a gourmet place after all, shouldn’t they be serving Aioli?  NO, it’s mayo damnit and thanks for noticing!  Oh and let me tell you, green chili mayo, makes everything they offer taste better. Fries, burger, napkin, salt shaker, the stuff is amazing.  The fries themselves however leave a little to be longing for.  They look feel and taste like fries sliced, frozen and bagged, shipped across the country.  They aren’t bad, but nothing to get excited about. 

Now the burger, let’s start with the picture shall we? 

BurgerI almost want to just leave it at that, but as a picture says  a thousand words, words say words too, so a talking I go.  I ordered the Taos Burger, crispy green chile, bbq sauce and cheddar.  I added bacon, as you are I am sure learning, bacon makes every burger in my opinion.  So that fried stuff under the bun, that’s the deep fried “crispy green chile” and it just makes sense.  The bacon is crispy, the green chile is crispy, the bun is lightly toasted and soft, the patty, which sadly you cannot see, is thick, perfectly cooked and juicy.  Perfectly cooked for me is Medium well, get over it.  Medium well, by the way, is not easy to cook to correctly and they did. 

Ask for napkins, because when I say the burger is juice, I mean dripping down to your elbows.  The only real problem I had is by the time I got to the end of the burger, the bread was falling apart.  Juicy burger, bbq sauce ( and a touch of ketchup), green chile mayo, I mean the bread really doesn’t stand a chance. 

A beautiful view out the window brings a wonderful ambiance to the place, even with the storm clouds a brewing.  view It’s a good burger place and with plenty of options to get as fancy as you’d like (as long as you are not looking for fois gras).   Still reasonably priced, especially for the quality of food you are getting.  Just make sure you get the green chile mayo, it will add a nice little kick to anything you pick.  www.5starburgers.com


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Orchid Thai Cuisine – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
Categories: Local, Restaurant Reviews, Thai
Tags: No Tags
Comments: 3 Comments
Published on: March 22, 2010

A couple of years back, while I was working in the film industry, I was on a show for a short stint, just a couple of weeks.  I am not sure how it came up, but my boss told me about this dish called Luad Na.  Broccoli and wide rice noodles in this Thai gravy, delicious!  Ok, so I had to try it, which I did, but that’s really what this post is about.  I don’t want to blog about some long lost memory of my first experience there, that doesn’t really do anyone any good.  The good news though is I went there tonight, so I can talk about it all I want. 

This place is downtown, just on the edge of Nob Hill.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the giant murals on the side. 

orchidsidewall

The door is in the back and it feels a little seedy, but as they say, don’t judge a restaurant by it’s surroundings.  The first thing you notice when you walk in, the wonderful aroma, a mixed bag of all different kinds of Thai deliciousness.  If you could only judge a place on it’s smell, this would get top marks. 

You are given a few minutes to look around at the pictures posted on the wall, the murals on the inside and all the Thai inspired trinkets set to make you think, oooh they must be from Thailand.  And they might be, but somehow I don’t think this is how they decorate restaurants in Thailand.  I may never know.

Let me preface this by saying I am American, I enjoy American food.  I am very much a burger and fries kinda guy, so I may not always be so comfortable in such a foreign choice of food. 

When finally we were given our seats, the waitress gave us the time to look over our menu completely before checking if we were ready to order.  This may be due to the fact that at 8 on a Sunday night, the place was packed.  Though we didn’t wait for a table to sit, shortly after we did, several others had to wait.  On a Sunday?! Thai Iced Tea

We picked our meal from the complicated and strange words found on many a Thai menus.  Dumplings (hey something I recognize), Guay Teow Luad Na (can’t go there without the reason I went there in the first place), Sweet and Sour Pork (hey, something else I recognize!), and Thai Iced Tea.  Oooh Thai iced tea, it’s like drinking a big glass of Sweetened Condensed Milk, but better.  The seahorse is a nice touch too.  It’s pretty standard for what it is, but delicious all the same.  So sweet (make sure to get a glass of water too), just a hint of tea-ness, the perfect drink to go with dinner. 

 

Out come the dumplings.  I’m not sure what was in the sauce, but it’s got a slight tang, salty, just a hint of sweet in the background.  The Dumplings are your standard chicken based dumplings.  Fried until crispy and gone faster than you think they should be.   Dumplings

Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the Luad Na.  Mmmm… Luad Na.  Wide Rice noodles are hidden deep under a pile of Broccoli and Chicken.  Everything coated in this brown gravy.  I hate to call it gravy because gravy is what you put on turkey at Thanksgiving when mom overcooked it again.  This is a strange sauce, a mixture of sweet and salty, a hint of burnt sugar, but in a good way.  Give Guay Teow Luad Name the “gravy” in a bowl and something to dip in it!  I’m not sure what would be good to dip in in, but give it to me in a bowl anyway and I’ll just drink the stuff.  Yeah, it’s good.  

There is certainly no lack of sauce there either, as you can see, but somehow, when you finish off the broccoli, chicken and scrape up the last bit of noodles to get to that sauce, you find it’s all gone?  Did someone come by and lick the plate clean when I wasn’t looking? Oh wait, that was me. 

Broccoli is cooked to perfection.  A lot of places love serving mushy broccoli WAY more than I enjoy eating it.  This stuff has a bit of a crunch to it still, which is OK by me.  Chicken taste like sauce, noodles taste like sauce, it’s really all a vehicle for the sauce. 

Sweet and Sour Pork time!  Man that stuff is violently red, the picture doesn’t quite do it justice.   Are you noticing a theme here?  They put an Orchid on everything!  I take a bit of pork, it’s crispy even though it’s covered in the sweet and sour sauce.  It tastes so familiar!  As Sweet and Sour Pork2the question runs through my head, “I wonder what makes the sauce so red?” The answer comes to me…Maraschino Cherry juice.  It’s not sweet and sour sauce at all!  It’s just an empty bottle of Maraschino cherries that they couldn’t figure out what to do with.  Add some corn start, pineapple, red bell pepper, onion and carrots and you have a Thai sweet and sour?  Alright, I’ll go for it.  As strange as it sounds, it’s pretty damn good none the less.  May have to use Maraschino cherry juice as a glaze on my next grilled pineapple. 

All in all, the place is delicious. If you want some good food, Thai or not, they have a very large menu, and for us lazy Americans, who don’t want to take the time to learn what we are ordering, they are ok with pointing and saying, “I want that one.” 

With the overdone decor, a bit slow on the service, they make up for it with great food.  When a place does not have an empty table in the house on a Sunday at 8, they are obviously pleasing the masses, and I certainly consider myself pleased. 


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Lumpy’s – Albuquerque, NM

by Nick
Tags: No Tags
Comments: 8 Comments
Published on: March 21, 2010

Last week a friend of mine walks up to me and asks if I’ve ever had an ‘In and Out’ Burger.  Having worked in the film industry for 2 years, I am very familiar with the place, even though I have never been there.  So of course my response, no.  “Well, do you like Burgers?”  Considering I eat at least probably 3 burgers a week, that was an easy answer.  “Well there is this place, up on Central near Coors…”

The place is Lumpy’s, the style is a fast food type burger.  Before you stop reading at Fast Food, trust me, keep reading.   Lumpys

When first I drove up, I wasn’t sure what to think.  It’s a little shack on the edge of a parking lot.  Almost looks like an old style drive in, but the line was huge, so they must be doing something right.  Off to the side is another bunch of people writing on little brown Bags, a quick look at the menu explains the unusual ordering process.

The bags have the menu in the form of checkboxes.  Next to the bags, a stack of crayons. First, pick your burger, 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4,  you want lettuce Tomatoes and Onions?  Check the boxes.  Wait… no bacon?!  Seriously?  Ok, for the moment we’ll overlook this little oversight.   Lumpys Bag

Next, what kind of cut to your potato?  You’ve got Chunky, Skinny or Skrewy.  I got the skrewy fries, which are more like the spiral cut potato chips like you get at the fair. Mini Corn dogs, chicken strips, and your choice of soda or tea rounds out the menu.  Wait, what’?  That’s it?  Seriously, it’s only burgers and a couple choices for the “young at heart” crowd.

Ok, so bag filled out, standing in line and you could tell who has been there before because there was a stand of baskets.  In these baskets are the potatoes that you pick from.  Yeah, that’s right, you pick your own potato.  Make sure to grab a nice big potato because you’ll probably be standing in line a while anyway.  Oh yeah, and they have sweet potatoes too.  It took close to an hour from the point we got in line, to when we got our food.

It was worth it. The sweet potato fries, skrewy, amazing.  They break up more than the idaho potatoes, but so sweet and crispy.  The regular potatoes were less cooked, but strangely good.  Some parts nice and crispy, other parts soft, just a little salty, I’ll have to go back and try the other cuts.

Ok, so the burger.  I got cheese, lettuce, green chile, ketchup and ranch.  They also have this Cali sauce, which is similar to Thousand island, but smoother and creamier, slightly tangy, slightly sweet.

The 1/2 lbs consists of 2 1/4lbs patties.  The never frozen meat is cooked on a super hot griddle giving a nice brown crust on the meat.  The buttered and toasted kaiser is soft on the outside, crispy on the inside.  The cheese is ridiculous, it’s what I call a CHEESEburger.  It’s a fast food burger, it’s greasy, gooey, very large and thin and in every way damn good!  The closest thing I could relate it to is Blakes, but better (which is saying something because I like Blakes, but that’s another show).  The only thing missing, is bacon, that burger would have blown my mind, if it had bacon.  Lumpys Menu

It’s fresh, it’s local, and it’s certainly worth the drive, not only for the experience, but for the food as well.  It’s not gourmet, but it’s not supposed to be, just a damn good simple burger with an unusual experience.  Go forth and comment.�

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