Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 30, 2013 Dinner -Grilled Halibut, Asparagus and cottage fried potatoes.

March 30, 2013 Dinner -Grilled Halibut, Asparagus and cottage fried potatoes.

We went to Costco at 10:00 so Suzette could shop for the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery and Santa Rosa.  While we were walking around shopping, we saw there was a Seafood Festival, so we bought a fresh halibut steak for dinner ($9.99/lb.) and a Dungeness crab ($6.99/lb.) for Sunday brunch.  
After we rode to Rio Bravo and back on the tandem, at around 7:00 Suzette salt and peppered the halibut and made incisions and stuck pads of butter into them and squeezed lemon on it and grilled it while we steamed asparagus and sautéed cubed PPI baked potatoes, chopped onion, garlic, capers and sundried tomatoes in a skillet with 2-3 Tbsps. of butter.

When the fish was finished grilling we plated the halibut, asparagus and potatoes on plates and poured glasses of PPI La Ferme Julien Blanc.

The fish was incredibly fresh and delicious with a squeeze of lemon on it.  It was hard to decide which was a better combination: the sundried tomato with the steamed asparagus or the halibut and pieces of fried potato. I could not help remembering the Fish and Chips I ate at Tofino, B.C. with Willy a couple of years ago at a restaurant overlooking the fishing harbor watching boats coming through the fog into harbor with their freshly caught halibut.

Bon Appétit

March 29, 2013 Fish, Fish and Fish

March 29, 2013 Fish, Fish and Fish

Breakfast was PPI Seafood Noodle soup with salmon and scallops.
For Lunch, Willy and I went to Azuma.  Willy ordered Spicy Teppan Grilled Beef and I had my usual Chirashi Donburi with 4 pieces of yellowtail, and 2 pieces each of salmon, octopus, Super White Tuna and Ahi Tuna (Maguro), plus daikon pickles and omelet and a shrimp and sushi rice.  I takes me an hour to eat it all, so after Willy finished his plate of meat and fried rice, he took the Prius to be washed

Friday night we decided to fix the lobster claws and salmon in a Homard American manner, so I picked the meat out of the claws and then Suzette, boiled them in water to make a stock.  Then she sautéed onions and garlic in pan with butter and olive oil and added the  fish and lobster and cooked it with a bit of white wine and then laid a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach on it.  
In another pan she made a Béchamel sauce with the lobster stock grated Swiss Gruyere cheese and she boiled a pot of water and cooked spaghetti.



Then when we were ready to eat she drained and put the spaghetti in a bowl and than spooned pasta into a pasta bowl and spooned some lobster and salmon sauté on the pasta and then doused the top with the mornay sauce.
 We drank a bottle of 2011 La Ferme Julien Blanc ($5.99 at Trader Joe’s) Appellation Luberon Contrôlée from the Rhone Valley which combines Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ugri Blanc and Roussane grapes.  It was a little flat but drinkabale, though not up to the standard set by our simplified Homard American.

Actually, I think we forgot to add cognac to the lobster dish and fire it, so it lacked a bit of zip also.
A good meal with a heated piece of Bosque Bakery’s baguette and lots of PPIs. 

This was the first time I saw fresh lobster claws at Costco ($9.99/lb.) and I liked the product.
Bon Appétit


Friday, March 29, 2013

March 28, 2013 Breakfast - Chicken Liver Omelet; Lunch - Seafood Noodle Soup

March 28, 2013 Breakfast - Chicken Liver Omelet;   Lunch - Seafood Noodle Soup
Breakfast - I wanted to use the reserved chicken liver from the chicken we roasted the other night to see if I could replicate my mother’s recipe for chicken liver omelet.  I cut up a shallot and five or six small white mushrooms and 1 clove of garlic and added a healthy dash of dried chervil and sautéed those ingredients in a medium sized skillet with 1 1/2 Tbsp. of butter and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Then I rough cut the large chicken liver to get it into bite sized pieces and put it in the skillet with about 2 Tbsp. of Amontillado sherry.  I then stirred three eggs and poured them over the mixture in the skillet.  The egg filled and covered the mixture to the edge of the skillet; perfecto.
After a few minutes of cooking I flipped one-half of the egg pancake onto the other side of egg to make an omelet and realized that I had forgotten to put slices of cheese in the middle of the omelet, so I sliced four slices of Swiss Gruyere and laid them on top of the omelet and covered the skillet with another skillet to steam and melt the cheese slices.
In another three of four minutes the omelet was done.  Although, the cheese was not entirely melted, I served it anyway.  I liked it very much except it did not have the strong sherry flavor that Mother’s had and it was drier.  I think next time I need to add more sherry so it will be looser and lighter and tastier.  Also, I think mother added sliced onion, which would give it a sweeter flavor and hold the moisture.
I was working to finish the research for my client’s brief for the Court of Appeals and I finished around 2:00 pm, so I celebrated with a bowl of noodle soup.  We had PPI scallops and the salmon I thawed out yesterday, so I decided to make a seafood soup.  I put 2-3 quarts of water in a 4 quart sauce pan and added 1 tsp. of instant dashi soup mix.  Then I minced 1 medium shallot (about 1 Tbsp.) and two medium portabella mushrooms and put them in.  Then I cut up 1 ½ scallops and a 1 inch by five inch wide strip of fresh salmon into cubes and put them in.  Then I removed a 14 oz. cube of tofu from the water in the plastic tub and  cut a ½ inch thick slice of tofu off the top of the 14 oz. block and cubed it into ¼ by ½ inch cubes and put that in also.  I got a large tablespoon full of white miso and stirred that in and added one wrapped bunch of soba noodles and one nested bunch of imitation egg noodles and a little more water to cover them to the pot.  Then I went to the vegetable crisper in the fridge and got out the last stalk of celery, green onions, and went to the fridge in the garage to fetch the new bag of spinach and sliced two green onions and the celery and de-stemmed and chopped a large handful of spinach and put those in with a 1 Tbsp. of rice cooking wine and a dash of sesame oil.
The traditional Miso soup recipe in my Japanese cookbook calls for dashi, trefoil, tofu and red miso, so the substitution of celery and spinach is perfect.  I usually like to use seaweed and green onion in my miso soup, because that is the recipe that is commonly used in Japanese restaurants, but today’s soup was hefty enough without the added seaweed.  
After a few more minutes to let the mushrooms and noodles soften, I was ready to eat.  I fetched cilantro and Shirachi and Hoisin sauces from the fridge and cut a lime in half and squeezed lime into the soup and served it in a large bowl with fresh cilantro leaves and a squirt of Hoisin and Shirachi to taste.
I make many variations of noodle soup depending upon the available ingredients and usually eat it one or two times a week.  It is easy to make while I am talking on the phone with clients, so fits comfortably into my work day schedule.
The basics are a soup flavoring, some miso, some meats, noodles, and some vegetables, and green onion.
Cilantro, lime and the sauces are usually added for a Vietnamese finish but I can go toward Japanese with tofu and seaweed or stir in ham and an egg for a more Chinese approach.  It just depends upon the ingredients.
At 6:00 I drove to Jack Ferrell’s house in Placitas for my monthly Last Thursday Book Club meeting and arrived at 6:45 p.m., just in time to watch the sun set over Mount Taylor.  To say Jack’s home has wonderful views is an understatement.  It is on the northern edge of a hillside off Tunnel Springs Road with a dramatic view of the near vertical Sandias on its south and a expanse of glass on its north side with a panoramic view from Mount Taylor on the west to the Jemez Mountains and all the stacked mesas that form their foothills on the Santa Ana Pueblo on the east.  Jack served light snacks that included: Cabot Cheddar cheese and a boutique Ohio Swiss (Jack is originally from Ohio) and Washington and Oregon wines and beers, since the book selection, Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, was set in Bonner’s Creek in the Idaho Panhandle.
After the discussion there is always a dessert served and Jack and his wife had made an apple crisp with fresh Yakima apples that was truly delicious; not a lot of sugar or liquid, so the apples were particularly toothsome. I loved it.
I am beginning to become more comfortable with technology and realizing that I have a camera with me at all times in my I Phone, so I intend to take more pictures to illustrate more of the ingredients and techniques.  So bear with me if you are longing for more pictures.
 Bon Appétit

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 27, 2013 Lunch – La Salita, Dinner- PPI Lamb Chop, Eggplant Provencal and leek kopia

March 27, 2013 Lunch – La Salita, Dinner- PPI Lamb Chop, Eggplant Provencal and leek kopia

Mike is back in town and I had a hankering for Mexican food so I called him and met him for lunch at La Salita.  I now have perfected my order: a Lite Bites (being one instead of the regular order with two) chili relleno stuffed and topped with Swiss cheese, dipped in batter and deep fried with double beans, stewed turkey meat (like ropa vieja),and a lettuce and tomato garnish and onions laid on a puddle of green chili.  Voila.
Mike has a favorite dish also, a turkey meat stuffed sopapilla with green chili.
La Salita makes great sopapillas that I just love. The combination of the best chili relleno and the best sopapilla makes La Salita my favorite Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque. The Shed’s No. 5, blue corn enchiladas with beef and posole is my all-time favorite New Mexican dish.
Since this was the first time I was out of the house in a week, after lunch Mike and I went to Costco, where I bought a few basics: spinach, asparagus, lobster claws, and Brussel sprouts, Pecorino Romano and Goat cheese and olive oil, and Mike bought 2 DVDs; The Life of Pi and the Hobbit.

On the way home I also stopped at Trader Joe's to buy artichokes, which they did not have, but where I bought a bottle of cognac ($19.99), three bottles of La Granja ($4.99), a bottle of 2012 La Finca Mendoza Malbec ($3.99), a bottle of chianti reserva ($5.99) and a bottle of La Ferme Julien Blanc ($5.99) and a fresh locally baked baguette ($2.99).  This is part of the basic replenishing of the larder, necessary to have a selection of ingredients.  
I returned from meditating at 8:30 p.m. and found the container of PPIs that Cynthia had sent us home with from Sunday night’s dinner open on the counter with a lamb chop, two slices of eggplant Provencal and a small piece of leek kopia Suzette had left me for dinner, beside one of the bottles of La Granja (50% Tempranillo and 50% Grenache from the Rioja). 

I heated up Cynthia’s PPIs and took my first glass of wine while it was heating in the microwave.  I loved dinner tonight almost as much as Sunday’s, save for the scintillating presence of friends and conversation.  PPI’s are not as good as fresh, perhaps due in part to the lack of communal effort of cooking, but much easier to prepare.  After dinner I smeared some Boursin herb and garlic cheese spread on a piece of baguette with a second glass of La Granja., my current favorite inexpensive wine, and then a handful of chocolate coated raisins (Sprouts, $1.99/lb. special).

After a day of favorites, I went to bed very satisfied at around 9:30 p.m.
Bon Appétit

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26, 2013, Dinner - Sautéed Scallops with fresh garden greens and pasta with pesto

March 26, 2013, Dinner - Sautéed Scallops with fresh garden greens and pasta with pesto

I thawed out 1/2 lb. of scallops and a jar of pesto from the freezer.  When Suzette came home we decided to see what greens were usable in our garden.  We picked about 2 cups of kale and beet tops and arugula leaves.  I rough cut the greens and Suzette started the pasta water boiling.  When the pasta water came to a boil, she added the pasta.
Then Suzette put 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and 1 Tbsp. of butter in a skillet with about four or five cloves of minced garlic.  After the skillet heated she added the scallops and then some white wine and after a minute, added the greens and covered the skillet with a lid so the greens would steam.

When the pasta was fully cooked Suzette drained it and stirred in about 3 Tbsp. of pesto.  Then Suzette scooped pasta into a pasta bowl and topped it with scallops and greens with their wine and garlic sauce.
I fetched a bottle of 2010 Lacheteau Vouvray from the Loire Valley (Trader Joe’s $7.99) from the basement and poured it.  I would guess it has about 5% residual sugar to volume; the bottle says it is semi-dry and 12% BV (by volume).  That 12% BV provides a little clue that the sugars were not fully fermented into alcohol, because if they had been the alcohol percentage would probably have been closer to 13.5 to 14% BV.  There is more information of interest on the label of the bottle, "mis en bouteille par Lacheteau Negotiant, Mouzillon, France"  This tells me that the wine was bottled in Vouvray for a wine wholesaler/distributor in Mouzillon, which tells me it was not good enough to put one's own name and vineyard on it or was wine made by one or more small producers and bottled in bulk. This is like the Cameron Hughes wines we see at Costco.  They are often an aggregation of wines from a region mixed together and bottled for a large American Wine distributor (Negociant), without much information about their origin.  The wine was a little sweet without that crisp fruitiness and minerality one gets in the better Chenin Blancs (although arguably worth the $7.99 it cost at Trader Joe's), but fine with the rich scallops and slightly bitter greens.

Bon Appétit

March 25, 2013 Dinner – Lemon and Tarragon Roasted Chicken with sugar snap peas and baked potato

March 25, 2013 Dinner – Lemon and Tarragon Roasted Chicken with sugar snap peas and baked potato

I worked late, so Suzette stuffed a whole chicken with lemon wedges and a handful of fresh tarragon picked in our garden.
She impaled it and cooked it on a Spandex frame in a roasting pan at 425˚ for 15 minutes with a bit of water in the bottom of the pan and then reduced the temperature to 375˚ and cooked for about 45 more minutes. 
I washed four russet potatoes and poked holes in them with a fork and then put them into the oven for 45 minutes also.

Suzette then de-stemmed and steamed the sugar snap peas and fetched the cranberry sauce she made last Christmas from the fridge and it was still good, so we plated up the leg quarter with 1/2 potato garnished with pads of butter and minced chives, the sugar snap peas and cranberry sauce.

I opened a bottle of 2007 Wellington Roussane, which perfectly complemented the roasted chicken.  We also slathered our potatoes with sour cream.

I had sliced about ½ lb. of strawberries and poured into them the last of a pint of blueberries and added 1 ½ Tbsp. of Cointreau, and 1 Tbsp. of cognac and 1 ½ Tbsp. of golden brown sugar and hour before dinner and set it in the fridge.

After dinner I put several scoops of Neapolitan ice cream in a pasta bowl and scooped some of the brandied fruit over it and we ate that with relish.
Bon Appétit

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 24, 2013 Greek Dinner Party, Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Festival and Breakfast - French toast and Bacon

March 24, 2013 Greek Dinner Party, Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Festival and Breakfast - French toast and Bacon

Suzette left early to remodel the restaurant at the Center for Ageless Living.  After watching the morning news shows, I made French toast and a rasher of bacon for brunch.

Then when Suzette returned we went to the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Festival at the State Fair Manuel Lujan Building to support Armando Martinez, the pastry Chef for the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery in the cookie and candy competition.  We arrived just before the competition and after saying hello to Armando I saw that most of the seats in front of the stage were taken so I took a seat on the far end of the front row and waited about twenty minutes for the judging to start.  Suzette had bought a small child’s play safe and some gold wrapped chocolate coins and Armando had made a pile of decadent fudge bars and brushed them with gold leaf powder to make them look like they were gold. 
The competition was sponsored by the Southwest Milk Association limited to 20 entrants.  As I learned later from Betty? Chavez, the baker for Tecolote and a teacher at Santa Fe Community College, who had won the cake category last year, there was also a cake category with twenty entrants.  

Sitting on the front row turned out to be a blessing because after the presentation of entries to the judges the remaining cookies and candies were passed around the audience and we were sitting on the front row and were served the cookies and candy first in many cases.  Many of the entries were very good.  These were people who knew something about baking.  I did not try all entries, but my favorite cookie was a chocolate chip cookie with pistachio nuts and dried cherries, because the cherries held the cookie together in a gooey sort of way.  The only real competition for Armando in the candy competition was the Troy’s wife of Joliesse’s Chocolates, the French trained chocolatier, who made a fabulous thin tempered chocolate bar dipped in a fruit glaze and filled with a soft fondant filling (Joliesse's entry is just in front of Armando's in the picture above partially hidden by Suzette's arm). Their shop next to Vernon’s Steakhouse on 4th street will be a wonderful new addition to the chocolate shops in Albuquerque.  After the judging we walked around and said hi to Debbie at the Candy Lady, who gave me a white chocolate covered slice of candied orange.  Finally after lots of coffee and candy and cookies we left and went home.
At 5:00 we gathered up the lamb chops, a bottle of Hungarian Furmint Tokaj, eggplant, Swiss Gruyere cheese, panko and Roma tomatoes and asparagus and went to Cynthia and Ricardo’s to cook and eat a Greek Dinner.  

When we arrived Mike had already arrived and the three were eating shrimp in caper sauce with fresh Tzatziki (yogurt and olive oil and dill sauce) and olives with French champagne.  We immediately sat down and joined them.  When the champagne was finished we opened the furmint and kept eating, while Cynthia rubbed the lamb chops with paprika and I constructed the eggplants Provencal.  The Furmint had a steely grey taste.  It was like a dry Riesling that has had all the sugar fermented out of it.  It would have been a little better if it had had a bit of residual sugar to balance the vinegar in the capers, but it had a compelling flavor that was very welcome.  Ricardo loved it and I liked it.
Eggplant Provencal

I sliced two American black eggplants into about 3/4 inch thick slices.
I then brushed each side of the eggplant slices with olive oil (Sleman’s from Chile given to us by Ed and Michele last Christmas) and laid the eggplant slices on the baking pan

I then sliced four Roma tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and put them on the eggplant.
Then I sliced Swiss Gruyere cheese and covered each slice of tomato with slices of cheese. 

Cynthia put some dried oregano into a small freezer bag and I put about three or four handfuls of panko into the bag and shuck up the bag and crushed the panko a bit to make the crumbs fin and then sprinkled bread crumbs on the top of the cheese.
After drizzling a small amount of olive oil on the top of each of the eggplant slices, we put the baking pan with the constructed eggplant Provencal into a 375˚ oven for about thirty five minutes or until the eggplant slices were soft to the touch and the cheese melted.

Cynthia had made a lovely fresh spinach, red onion cucumber salad and a wonderful baking dish filled with a kopia made with phyllo parboiled leeks and eggs. 
While Mike and Ricardo were grilling the lamb chops, Cynthia snapped the asparagus and put them in a skillet with some water and we heated the skillet to a high heat and covered it to steam the asparagus.  I asked Cynthia if she wanted to flavor the asparagus with an herb and she suggested that she had some fresh dill she had left over from the Tzatziki.  So we de-stemmed the dill and I chopped up the dill and when the asparagus were soft, Cynthia drained the asparagus and I sautéed the asparagus with a drizzle of Sleman’s Olive Oil and the dill.  The Sleman’s olive oil is so clean it does not add any flavor of olive oil to the food.  It is unique in the fact that is so pure and clean that it has no inherent flavor of its own, just a hint of texture and its constituent elements, like a very fresh oyster or Dom Pérignon Champagne.  Good olive oil provides a cooking medium without adding any extra oily taste, so the asparagus tasted like freshly cooked asparagus glistening with olive oil and the eggplant Provencal tasted like a beautifully baked little cake of eggplant, cheese, tomato and bread crumbs.  It is there but it is not.

We put the food on the table and after a couple more minutes I fetched the eggplants and plated them and served one or two to each person.  Mike brought a bottle of Campo Viejo Reserva Rioja red wine and a bottle of Antinori super Tuscan red that were both excellent red wines and delicious with the meal.  We enjoyed a lively and often hilarious conversation about how we each got along with our ex-spouses and Cynthia’s trip to Greece, where she obviously obtained a love for Greek food.

Then Cynthia brought a bowl of fresh sliced strawberries to the table with a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream and a pint of Haagen  Dazs raspberry sherbet with a bag of Pepperidge Farm Verona cookies filled with raspberry and apricot jam and Ricardo fetched a bottle of Zonin Prosecco and poured each of us a glass.  After dessert Cynthia fetched a bottle of Taos Distillery Bourbon, which I had never had before and we had shots of it (it was a delicious sipping whiskey)
After a fun evening of Greek food and wine and sharing ex-spouse stories, we went home at around 9:30 p.m. and fell asleep immediately.  Days of exceptional food are always wonderful and hectic.

Bon Appétit

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 23, 2013 Dinner –Natural Veal and Beef Stew

March 23, 2013 Dinner –Natural Veal and Beef Stew

                Before Suzette went to work we went by to pick up my new Chuck Close portrait poster of Obama at El Mirador and driving back home we decided to make a veal stew because I had bought a parsnip and four rutabagas last Friday at Sprouts and because we had potatoes and onions ($.99 for 10 lbs. and onions for $.99 for 4 lbs.) from Pro’s Ranch Market. 
When we got home and hung the Obama poster, Suzette looked through the freezer and found a bag with about ½ lb. of veal stew meat and I thawed it.
The thing I like the best about the new Obama portrait is the Mona Lisa pose, with Obama’s face facing right and his eyes appearing to look leftward.  I have taken a picture of the portrait from the left to accentuate that leftward look.

I went to the Law Library around noon and stopped at Lowe’s for a 1 lb. bag of carrots ($.89) and two turnips ($1.25/lb.).  I like Lowe’s newly remodeled store and it new commitment to good quality fresh produce and to meeting the competition at least half way on its pricing.
Around 3:30 p.m. I started the dish by cubing two onions and 4/5 lb. of rib eye steak ($5.99/lb. at Sprouts) and chopping five or six cloves of garlic and braising them with the cubed ½ lb. of veal stew meat in a Le Creuset enameled casserole with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter until they took on color (note-I did not flour the meat, because I wanted to see how the stew would taste un-thickened.  I guess you could call this a lazy or simple or natural approach.)  Then I added the two cubed potatoes, the cubed parsnip, two cubed rutabagas, three carrots and the two turnips, four bay leaves, about 1 1/2 quarts of beef stock made with 1 beef bouillon cube (enough stock to fill the casserole to almost the top) and about 1 Tbsp. of sea salt and started cooking the stew covered at a low enough heat to keep a lightly rolling boil.

I went to the garden and picked a handful of garlic plants, five or six leaves of kale and a handful of sage and chopped them up and put them into the pot.
At 5:30 p.m. I lay down and went to sleep until 7:00 p.m. when Suzette arrived and when I tasted the stew.  It was a bit flavorless, so I added four cubed portabella mushrooms (Sprouts $3.99/lb.) and a few sprigs of dried tarragon, about 1 cup of PPI red wine and more salt and cooked this for an additional 30 to 45 minutes while I went to the basement for a bottle of 2007 Reserva Vina Equía from Elciego, Rioja, Spain and put the baguette we bought at Bosque Bakery in the oven to warm. 

When Suzette was ready to eat, we each ladled stew into large pasta bowls and poured the wine and tore hunks of baguette pieces and ate.  I must say that the stew tasted better than the kind one makes with flour because it tasted more natural, not being encumbered by processed flour; perfect for a cold spring night.
After dinner I fetched the new wheel of French Brie from Costco and we finished the wine with slices of buttered warm baguette slathered with brie cheese.

I great, simple and delicious meal.
Bon Appétit

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 22, 2013 Dinner-Torinos’@Home

March 22, 2013 Dinner-Torinos’@Home

We joined Debbie and Jeff and Annie and Harry for dinner tonight at Torinos’@Home.
Torinos’ is currently my favorite Italian restaurant in New Mexico.  It is in the location that used to be one of my favorite French restaurants, Viola, in Jefferson Plaza.

I love going to CLE seminars at the Law Center so I can walk across the narrow gully that separates the restaurant from the Law Center for lunch.
We were seated by the door and saw everyone who walked in.  Shortly after we were seated Robert Reck and Jesse Doyle walked in for dinner.  I said hello and then we got down to some serious eating.  I was sitting by Annie and we both liked the concept of sharing a foie gras and smoked duck breast appetizer ($25.00).  Suzette ordered the Baccalao. 

We had a good waiter who brought us whatever we requested.  To begin with we were trying to decide upon a red wine and the waiter served our table two small tastes of each of three wines.  We finally settled on the Villa Ponzi Cabernet Sauvignon from Sicily ($25.00, the least expensive) because Harry likes cabernets.  Debbie took a house salad and a carafe of chardonnay.  I ordered a glass of Vermouth for the foie gras and asked the waiter to split it so Annie and I could share the glass and he brought a generous pour to each of us in short cocktail glasses with ice.  I then asked the waiter to show us the bottle, which he brought and we saw that the vermouth was named Tribuno and was from Turin (Torino).  It had a delicious slightly sweet, heavily herbed flavor and complemented the foie gras nicely.  The foie gras was baked in a roll with the duck fat, it appeared to be made from a whole duck liver perhaps with some mousse.

Suzette’s Baccalao was flaky with flakes of re-hydrated dried cod and yet smooth with whipped potatoes and garlic cream.  I have never tasted better and have no idea how it is made.  I will definitely put baccalao on my to-do list of recipes.  Here is the description from the menu.

Baccalao 14

Salted cod fish and Yukon gold potato mashed together with sweet confit garlic cream, crostini and tapenade, sundried tomato.

                The sundried tomato coulis served with the baccalao was superb and complemented the cod and potatoes beautifully.
                Suzette ordered Stuffed calamari for her entrée.  The dish was three about three inch long squid stuffed with a guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig's jowl or cheeks, cheese and bread stuffing and closed with a toothpick and sautéed, then drizzled with a light tomato sauce.

Stuffed calamari 18

Stuffed with bread, ricotta, guanciale, onion and garlic, served with pomodoro and grated pecorino Romano

  A really interesting dish although one I would probably not order myself.
Jeff and I ordered the Grouper.  It was stuffed with the chard stems and wrapped in a light flour wrapper and sautéed and served on a mound of boiled and then pan fried Swiss chard. The fish and chard were served in a pasta bowl surrounded by three steamed clams and three steamed mussels that were drizzled with the light tomato sauce (Pomodoro).  I loved it and it was very filling.

Grouper al cartoccio 24

Grouper filet baked in a crispy wrap with Swiss chard, mussels and clams 

            Debbie and Annie ordered

Agnolotti al spezzatino 15

Our fresh beef brisket ravioli

that seemed to be stuffed with the same Guanciale stuffing that was used to stuff the calamari.  The ravioli were served on a bed of beef brisket in brown sauce or perhaps it was just the cooking juices from the slow cooking of the brisket because it had several small sliced carrots.

Suzette and I had suggested that Torinos’ beef brisket was really good, so Harry ordered the
Gnocchi spezzatino 16    Beef brisket braised 6 hours served with potato “dumplings”

Harry’s family was originally from Austria and he loved the potato dumplings in the light meat sauce with big chunks of braised brisket.  Again the sauce and meat appeared to be the same as used for the ravioli, just more of it with more meat, and wonderful.
We ordered a second bottle of the Cabernet to help finish off the food and were so full that we could not eat any of the lovely desserts.

A very pleasant meal.  This was Friday night so it is probably the best night of the week.  We were pleasantly surprised to see that the restaurant was full and there folks being seated in the wine bar and Daniella, the wife.manager/owner, was bringing in additional tables.  It seemed like a real Italian trattorria with all the musical tables and chairs.    By the way, there was a guitarist who played and sang during the meal.
We all agreed that it was a good evening of food and wine.

Bon Appétit

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 21, 2013 Edible Santa Fe Launch Reception, Dinner- Grilled Salmon Cesar Salad

March 21, 2013 Edible Santa Fe Launch Reception, Dinner- Grilled Salmon Cesar Salad
We went to Edible Santa Fe’s Magazine Launch Reception for its new quarterly issue at Zinc at 5:30 p.m.  The issue features a travel section.  We said hello to Editor Sarah Fisher and publishers Walt and Sheila who encouraged me to submit their form to write for the magazine.
I talked Jan Brooks, one of Amy’s oldest and dearest friends from Fort Worth, who also now lives in Santa Fe and has written three articles for Edible SF.  What a small world!
I met lots of other interesting people like Troy, whose wife, Grace Lapsys ( is making real tempered chocolates in the French style with lots of interesting ingredients such as mango.  I tried one with a whole hazelnut on the top and a dark chocolate coating with two layers of soft hazelnut flavored chocolate inside, one dark and the other milk chocolate.
Zinc’s appetizers were interesting also.  Best was a small duck confit eggroll with a sweet chili and ginger dipping sauce.  There were also puff pastries with a little twist of creamed cheese, Chorizo quiches, grilled portabella rolls, a ham sandwich and several others.  Lovely food.
After the reception, we went to Costco so Suzette could pick up a few things for the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery in Los Lunas.
We finally arrived home around 8:00.  On the way home we discussed dinner.  Although we did not want to cook a big meal, we decided that we needed to cook the salmon steak I had bought at Sprouts on Tuesday and I suggested that we eat it on a little Cesar salad.  When we arrived at home, I took the jar of Cesar salad dressing from the fridge and added a little Kirtland’s extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and a beaten egg to give the dressing a little more body and to freshen its flavor and correct its texture.  When I made the dressing the other day I only had one egg and I usually put in two eggs when I make it with a cup of oil.
We discussed how to season the salmon and finally we decided to sprinkle it with dried dill weed and to sprinkle it with some of the paprika salt Suzette made at Christmas with the salt we bought at Guerande, France last August and a drizzle of lemon juice.
Suzette put the salmon on the grill for a few minutes while I worked on the dressing and chopped up a head of Romaine lettuce and washed and spun it.  Soon Suzette came in and said the grill’s fire had gone out due to lack of gas, so she put the partially cooked salmon on a plate and dolloped it with a couple of pads of butter and put it in the microwave for about 4 minutes to cook it to medium rare.  Suzette cooked the salmon perfectly; no redness in the center and moist with a juicy flesh that flaked off easily.
I had heated a PPI wild rice and basmati mixture and threw some rice into my pasta bowl with some lettuce.  Suzette did not want rice so just salad in her bowl.  I then grated Parmesan cheese onto the lettuce and threw on a few croutons and drizzled the salad with some dressing.  Suzette cut the salmon steak in half and put a steak on the rice in my bowl and beside the salad in her bowl.  I went to the basement and fetched the Kudos 2011 Willamette Valley, Oregon Pinot Gris and we were ready to eat.  The Pinot Gris was a lovely pale yellow color and fruity with that wonderful minerality.  We liked it a lot and its slightly tart flavor complemented the grilled salmon and salad.  One of the reasons for making dressings with lemon juice instead of vinegar is that lemon juice complements wine while vinegar clashes with it.  I never drink wine with a vinegar salad dressing, but enjoyed the Pinot Gris with the Cesar Salad. Pinot Gris may be our new favorite wine grape of 2013, just like Chenin Blanc was last year.
Bon Appétit

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 17, 2013 Dinner - Sautéed Corvina with Palm hearts, Sundried tomatoes, onions, garlic and red bell peppers and couscous and asparagus

March 17, 2013 Dinner - Sautéed Corvina with Palm hearts, Sundried tomatoes, onions, garlic and red bell peppers and couscous and asparagus

Alan and Kim Leszinke had a memorial reception for Sam Hassan at 11:00 on Saturday, which included the gastronomic or hedonistic high point of the weekend and celebration of St. Patrick's Day, because they opened a bottle of Royal Salute gifted to them by Sam a few years ago.  I have never drunk Royal Salute; a special bottling by Chivas Regal of their best 21 year old Scotch in honor of the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, so the scotch is presently 81 years old.  Bottle is not exactly the correct word because the scotch was bottled in a brown glazed ceramic crock bottle.  Needless to say I have never tasted a better scotch.  It was smooth and yet assertive and got better the longer we talked and let it sit open during the 30 minute eulogy and toasts to Sam.  Needless to say it was the best scotch I have ever tasted.  Kim had also baked a lovely carrot cake that I enjoyed with cups of Celestial Seasonings' Toffee flavored tea.
After the memorial/wake and a Polish dog at Costco I headed to Sprouts to buy more corvina, mushrooms and eggplant and Nantucket Shoals to buy a 1 lb. bag of frozen crawfish for $14.95.
Sunday evening when I returned from the Law Library, we decided to cook the corvina in a Spanish and Panamanian manner with palm hearts and sundried tomatoes (Costco) and slices of red bell pepper and onion and garlic.
So I sliced about 3 Tbsp. of onion and we crushed and rough cut six small cloves of garlic and Suzette cut up some sundried tomatoes and 2 palm hearts and a red bell pepper while I snapped 12 stalks of asparagus and put them in the steamer with water on the stove, ready for Suzette to heat when ready.
Suzette sautéed the corvine, bell pepper, onion, garlic and palm hearts in butter and olive oil and then added about ½ cup of white wine to the skillet.  While she was sautéing the corvina I asked, what she thought we should drink and she said, “This is a Spanish style dish so I think a light red would be good", so I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of Spanish La Granja (50% grenache/50% tempranillo from Trader Joe’s $5.99) and opened it.

It only took about ten minutes to cook the corvina and sliced ingredients and steam the asparagus and heat the couscous, so almost as soon as I poured the wine Suzette was plating the fish and sautéed ingredients on a pile of couscous and we turned off the heat under the asparagus and plated them for a totally wonderful meal.  After diner we watched a funny Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sadler movie and I ate a few bites of blue cheese with more of the wine. Then later I fetched the fruit cake from the basement and had a couple of slices of it with a cognac and Courvoisier.  So at 3:00 a.m. I awoke with a throbbing head and took Tylenol and drank a couple of glasses of water.
Saturday evening we ate PPIs for dinner.  Suzette ate the cabbage and corned beef she had brought home from the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery and I ate the last of the French Onion Soup.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 15, 2013 Grilled Lamb Chops, Red Bell Peppers, and Asparagus with Eggplant Provencal

March 15, 2013 Grilled Lamb Chops, Red Bell Peppers, and Asparagus with Eggplant Provencal and Spinach Couscous

Ricardo Chaves took me to Artichoke today for lunch.  I ordered Pumpkin Ravioli from their N.M. Restaurant Week 2013 Lunch Menu.  It was very pleasant but the most interesting thing about it was the micro cut rectangles of butternut squash accompanying the spinach and ricotta cheese filling.  Each of the six raviolis was topped with its own little dollop of sage butter sauce and the dish was garnished with organic salad, beautiful large hazelnuts some squares of Roma tomato and grated pecorino cheese.

We decided to grill tonight.  I had bought lots of new ingredients at Sprouts on Wednesday with a view to grilling and we decided tonight was the night. 
I fetched the two lamb shoulder chops, the red bell peppers, asparagus and eggplant from the fridge.

Suzette heated up the grill and seasoned the lamb and tossed the asparagus in olive oil and salt in a large freezer bag and de-seeded and quartered two red bell peppers and put them on the grill while I constructed the:

Eggplant Provencal

I sliced one American black eggplant into about 2/3 inch thick slices.
I then brushed a baking pan with olive oil and laid the eggplant slices on the baking pan and brushed their tops with more olive oil (Trader Joe’s California, $5.99 for 1 liter). 

I then sliced two Roma tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and put them on the eggplant.

Then I sliced Manchego cheese and covered each slice of tomato with slices of cheese. 
Suzette crushed about ½ cup of croutons to make bread crumbs and she sprinkled bread crumbs on the top of the cheese.

We put the baking pan with the constructed eggplant Provencal into a 350˚ oven for about twenty minutes or until the eggplant slices were soft to the touch and the cheese melted.
I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of Wellington Vineyards 2007 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Franc ( and opened it and heated the PPI Spinach couscous in the microwave and voila, we were ready to eat.

Suzette fetched the items from the grill and laid one chop, a few asparagus and a couple of pieces of grilled red pepper on each plate and we removed the eggplant from the oven and tried to fit one or two slices of eggplant onto our plates.
Suzette did not like the shoulder lamb chop cut because it had pockets of fat and lots of tendons. She suggested braising it and slow cooking it in a stew with lots of root vegetables, which I think is an excellent idea.  I, on the other hand, loved mine and ate it hardily with bits of grilled vegetables and eggplant and sips of wine ant then sucked the marrow out of the bone and swallowed it with another large sip of wine (heaven).

Wellington Cabernet Franc is an excellent wine ($30.00).  Cabernet Franc is a French wine that is associated with the Loire Valley and Bordeaux.  It is considered a fine mixing wine and usually found in Bordeaux blends.  Chinon is its most famous growing region according to one of my wine buddies, so I have another reason to return to the vineyards of the Loire.
Cab Franc is assertive and yet has a strong fruity flavor (sort of like grapefruit) but with no harsh tannin aftertaste, which I am sure is due, in part, to being a very good wine and being cellar aged for about three or four years.

I ate green grapes for dessert.
Spring has officially started with the first big grilled dinner tonight and last night’s first dinner on the patio.

The temperature actually reached 80 degrees today, which I think is a record.  I rode to Montano very quickly and realized why when I turned around and faced a strong 15 m.p.h. warm headwind coming home.   But even facing the warm headwind was a nice change from the last month’s blustery bitterly cold gusts of wind.
Bon Appétit

March 14, 2013 Duck Salad

March 14, 2013 Duck Salad

We decided that we needed to eat the PPI roasted duck quarters in the fridge and because the weather is warming, we would eat outside for the first time this year.
So after a ride to Rio Bravo on the tandem at around 6:00, Suzette fetched the organic greens and I fetched the duck quarters and Suzette assembled the salad, while I made a dressing

Shallot Dijonnaise Dressing Recipe

I added to a mixing bowl a bit less than ¼ cup of white wine vinegar, 2 cloves of mash garlic, 1 tsp. of Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard.  Then I start adding slowly while stirring the mixture with a whisk, about 1 cup of mixed olive oil and grape seed oil, a dash of herbs de Provence and salt and pepper.  Then I minced a large shallot and some sundried tomatoes and put them into the dressing and let it sit for five to ten minutes to mix the flavors. 
I do not use specific measurements for dressings because I determine the balance of ingredients by taste but 3-4 parts oil to 1 part vinegar is a good ratio.  I try to get the mixture to the point that it does not have a sharply bitter vinegar aftertaste when I taste the dressing.  Sometimes it helps to let the dressing sit for a minute to blend the flavors and then I re-taste it to see if the vinegar has begun to dominate again.  When the vinegar taste is just slightly discernible, but not bitter, the dressing is in balance for me.

Suzette sliced Roma tomatoes, and chopped a large Mexican green onion and heated the duck in the microwave and then sliced each quarter and assembled them on the salads.  Then I returned to the Kitchen and fetched and sliced of Manchego cheese and cut the slices into bite sized pieces and sprinkled them onto the salad.  We then added a few croutons and I dressed the salads and we were ready to eat.
Suzette set the patio table and I fetched and opened a bottle of 2007 Cellier du Rhone Cotes du Rhône red from the basement and we took our salads and glasses of wine to the patio for a lovely dinner

Bon Appétit

March 12, 2013 Dinner – French Onion Soup

March 12, 2013 Dinner – French Onion Soup

I did not have to meditate tonight, so when Davida Simon, no relation, called and needed to come by, I said sure.
I was cooking a stock with ½ lb. PPI beef steak and a mirepoix made by dicing 1/2onion, 1 stalk of celery and 1 carrot in a 4 quart pot filled with water with 2 beef bouillon cubes.
I used the recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1.

I quartered each onion, then made an incision to almost the root and sliced 5 cups of thin slices of onions.  I then sautéed the onions in three Tbsp. of the fresh butter Suzette’s kitchen at the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery made with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil (Trader Joe’s California extra virgin, $5.99) covered for 15 minutes and uncovered for 30 minutes.  Then I transferred the onions to a heavy enameled pot and added 1 tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. sugar and then stirred in 3 Tbsp. of flour and cooked that for about 3 minutes to cook the flour.
Davida assisted (the picture is of her stirring the onions and flour mixture) and we talked and cooked.  Davida said she always throws everything into the soup, so after straining the vegetables and removing the bones and pouring the stock into the sautéed onions I threw all of the cooked vegetables back into the soup.
After adding the stock, which seemed to be about 2 quarts, I added ½ cup of white wine and a dash of white vermouth and bit of French sea salt and dash of ground white pepper and then diced the two slices of PPI tenderloin from Monday evening's meal at Zinc and put that into the soup.

While the soup was simmering for the 30 to 40 minutes the recipe called for Suzette arrived, which was great because she usually assembles the soup.  She said to get the brown ceramic French soup crocks.  Then I grated about 2 cups of Mexican cheese and sliced 8 slices of French sourdough whole wheat bread made by Bosque Bakery and given to me because it was a day old.  I put the bread on a cookie sheet and brushed the bread with more of the Trader Joe’s olive oil and Suzette put the bread into a 400˚ oven for about ten to 15 minutes until they became hardened to make the Croûtes shown in the first suggested garnish.

I then finished the soup by adding about 3 Tbsp. of cognac and fetched a bottle of Valreas Cotes du Rhone from the basement and opened it.

Suzette then placed the bowls on a cookie sheet and filled the bowls with soup and laid a croute (baked piece of bread) on each, except Davida’s who is not eating bread, and garnished each bowl with cheese and we slid the bowls into the 350˚ oven.

In about fifteen minutes the cheese started to brown on the edges and Suzette said the dish was ready so I called Willy and we all ate a light but surprisingly filling dinner of French Onion Soup.
Bon Appétit

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 13, 2013 Shopping –Sprouts; Dinner – Corvina Sauteed in garlic butter and onions with Spinach Couscous

March 13, 2013 Shopping –Sprouts; Dinner – Corvina Sauteed in garlic butter and onions with Spinach Couscous
I went to Sprouts today and bought over $33.00 of stuff, including organic Green cabbage for $.19/lb., a 1 lb. filet of fresh corvina (Sea Bass) for $7.99/lb., Tofu for $.99/14 oz., beautiful fresh crop asparagus for $1.99/lb., four red bell peppers for $.33/lb., a large eggplant for $1.25, green seedless grapes for $.99/lb., two lamb chops for $3.99/lb. and four freshly made pork sausages for $2.99/lb.
When Suzette arrived home we went for a ride on the tandem to Rio Bravo.  While I was showering she must have looked through the fridge, because when I returned to the TV room at around 5:15 she said, “There is lots of new food.”
I said, “Yes, did you see the fresh corvina?” We discussed the different items and possible dishes and tried to remember how the corvina was served on the beach in Panama City two years ago.  Finally, we decided to make a fruit salsa and sauté the fish in garlic butter with onions and prepare a spinach couscous.

So I sliced open four avocados and they were all badly blackened and looked diseased, so we threw them out, as we did the last of a papaya that had gone moldy.  That left us with kiwi berries and mangos and I made a salsa using two of each and the juice of one Mexican lime.  Suzette judged the darkened PPI mango and avocado salsa from dinner two nights ago inedible, so we left it out.
I then sliced a quarter onion and two cloves of garlic into thin slices for the fish.  

Prep and dinner was interrupted several times to take calls from Willy who started driving to Vancouver this morning to be the guest of honor at a party for him this weekend.  Suzette and he discussed possible motel choices in different cities, as he drove and she scanned the internet.
When the salsa was ready, I went to the kitchen to make the couscous.  I heated 1 ½ cups of water in a 4 quart pot and added 1 minced shallot and 1 Tbsp. of butter and ¼ tsp. of salt and brought it to a boil.  When the liquid came to a boil I added 1 cup of chopped spinach and 1 cup of couscous and reduced the heat and simmered it for five minutes covered.

When I pulled the cousous off the heat Suzette took over the cooking of the corvina and I went to the basement fridge and fetched a bottle of Muscadet and a bottle of Sancerre and offered them to Suzette to decide which to drink with dinner.  She chose the 2011 Laurent Reverdy Sancerre (Appellation Sancerre Contrólle from Verdigny, $12.99 at Trader Joe’s)  We had decided that it would only take about two minutes to cook the 1 lb. corvina filet, so as soon as I had uncorked the Sancerre and poured it, dinner was ready to plate up.  Suzette served the corvina with its garlic and onion butter sauce over a pile of couscous and we each added scoops of salsa at the table for a very fresh and tropical dinner.  The corvina was cooked to perfection.  It was tender and juicy with the garlic and onion butter mixing with its flaky slightly oily fresh texture, which moistened the slightly dry couscous.
The Sancerre was superb also, elegantly clean with a slightly grassy flavor and bouquet, reminiscent of a sunny late summer field of tall grass; clearly the best thirteen dollar bottle of wine I have bought at Trader Joe’s.

 I thought but did not say that the wine was a little austere for the heavy oily fish dish.  I would have liked the wine better with a more elegant dish, like crab or shrimp in a garlic cream or newburg sauce.
I ate some of the green seedless grapes for dessert but they had an odd chemical taste and were not sweet.

We then left the table to watch the last of “Innerspace”, a 1987 movie directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Martin Short, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan (who were all perky and young, as we all were 25 years ago) and at Suzette’s request I went to fetch a bottle of cognac and poured us a glass and ate a few chocolate wafer cookies and chocolate covered raisins to get the chemical taste out of my mouth.
Bon Appétit

March 11, 2013 Lunch – Taj Mahal; Dinner – Zinc’s Restaurant Week tasting menu

March 11, 2013 Lunch – Taj Mahal; Dinner – Zinc Restaurant Week tasting menu

Willy and I went to Taj Mahal for lunch around 1:00 p.m.  We found a table easily and I had my usual; beef meat balls, tandoori chicken, dhal (garam beans), and saag (greens, usually spinach, with cilantro, garlic and chili) covered with riata (yogurt sauce with onions and potatoes) and fresh onion.

It was great as usual.  Shamez came by and we talked a few minutes.  His brother works as the director of fueling at the Vancouver Airport, so he was very familiar with Vancouver.  As Shamez said, “Very rainy”.

I rode a fast ten miles to Montano and back at around 3:30 p.m. and really stretched out my legs in the warming weather and steady 15 mph wind at my back coming home.  I think I know what Michael Phelps means when he says he just tries to concentrate on stretching out his body when he swims.

At 5:15 Suzette came home and we drove over to the UNM Art Museum for the lecture but we got the date wrong, it is March 18, so when I suggested that it was Restaurant Week, we started googling the restaurants we thought might be on the list of those sponsoring three course dinners.  We looked at Scalo, la Provence, Artichoke, and Zinc and decided that Zinc had the best offerings, so we drove the five blocks to Zinc.  We checked out Buffalo Traders and then went next door to Zinc.  The restaurant was relatively crowded for a Monday evening, about half full.  We had our choice of tables and took a. table between two other couples in the banquette area. 

The way Restaurant Week works usually is that each restaurant that participates, and according to Suzette each participating restaurant must pay $350.00 to participate offers a select three course tasting menu for $30.00.  In the case of Zinc, when we were given the Albuquerque Restaurant Week 2013 Tasting Menu we discovered that “Zinc offers a $30 three course Tasting Menu year round!”

I flipped the page of the Tasting Menu and found that Zinc also had a wine menu with specials for Restaurant Week.

An oriental couple sitting at the next table seemed to be eating the Tasting menu, so l said hello and asked if his dish was good when I noticed that the man was eating the appetizer that I wanted, the clams and mussels in a chorizo broth, and he responded favorably. 

When our waiter, Jesse, came to our table to take our drink order, we said we were ready to order. We discussed with Jesse the wine menu and we decided that the best option was the Restaurant Week Wine Flight with three half glasses of wine for $15.50, one of which was a Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon that was priced at $8.00 for a ½ glass on the regular wine menu, plus two other wines that looked fine also, a Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux (France, sparkling) and a Loius Latour Pouilly Fuissé (France, Chardonnay).

Having decided on the wines, we proceeded to order our three tasting menu items.  I ordered the Beer Steamed Mussels and Clams and Suzette ordered the Spanish Tapas Board for her appetizer.  We both must have been ready for some Spanish food.

We had more trouble with the Main Courses, so we looked at the extensive description of the accompanying vegetables and starches listed with each item and Suzette ordered the Talus Wind Lamb Strip Loin because she wanted to try the house made gnocchi and gorgonzola cream and try the Rhone red-thyme jus.

I was attracted to the Truffled Taleggio Scalloped potatoes and bordelaise sauce finished with marrow butter served with the Sliced Herb Crusted Tenderloin of Beef, but I mentioned to Jesse that I did not like a lot of black pepper. 

Dessert was easy. There were only two choices so I ordered the Deep Dish Chocolate Cream Pie and Suzette ordered the Wild Flower Hone and Pear Tarte Tartin.

In a few minutes Jesse brought each of us our three glasses of wine in our flights.  We both grabbed the sparkling Cremant and toasted our brilliance remembering and choosing to enjoy Restaurant Week.  The Cremant was slightly sweet, I would judge it to be between a Brut and a demi-sec but with some minerality.  I went to the Gerard Bertrand website and found out that the wine is 70% Chardonnay, 10% Mauzac and 20% Chenin Blanc.  It is the Chenin Blanc that provides the pleasant minerality.  Gerard Bertrand is a large producer located in Narbonne in southern France, near the Pyrennes Mountains.  The Limoux wine district is in the mountain valley of Aude above Carcassonne.  I have tried a number of Gerard Bertrand wines and find them to be a bit uneven, but the Cremant was delicious and had elegant fine bubbles and was made in the method traditionnelle.

Soon a service person brought our appetizers.  Suzette’s tapa board was served on a thick wooden board.  It contained two slices of grilled rustic bread with garlic oil, two slices of Serrano ham served in the long thin slices like in Spain, warm olives, two slices of Montalban cheese, two “Paella” croquettes and a ramekin of lightly cooked diced tomato soffrito and pimiento flavored spreading sauce that was delicious. Suzette graciously shared her appetizers with me.  I loved the Serrano ham on buttered a piece of naan that came with my soup appetizer.  The paella croquette was very loose and so soft that it fell apart in my hand as I tried to put some tomato sauce on it and bite into it which I liked very much with its hint of saffron.  Suzette said to try the ham on buttered bread with the cheese and a bit of the tomato dipping sauce, sort of a Dagwood sandwich tapa.  I did and I loved it. 

The broth of my soup was really the beer and clam and mussel cooking medium flavored with the spoonful of sautéed chorizo that garnished the clams and mussels.  The chef flipped one of the clam shells so it made a small bowl and he or she dropped a dollop of chorizo flakes into the shell and around it in the soup; basic but very pleasant.  We both loved our appetizers although my soup had some black pepper in it. 

Jesse came back in a few minutes and said that the chef said the beef had black pepper in the herbs it was rolled in and that the chef could prepare me a separate dish without pepper, if I wanted.  I told him that if the herbs were cooked that I could usually am unaffected by the pepper.  He said the herbs were slow roasted and were fully cooked.  I thanked Jesse for his and the kitchen’s concern and told him to just serve me the regular preparations.

I tried the Pouilly Fuissé with the appetizer.  It was lovely also, not much minerality, but a pleasant un-oaked French Chardonnay.

Soon the Main Courses came and they were lovely and tasty and perfectly classical in their construction My dish included three slices of tenderloin rolled in a mixture of herbs and slow cooked to perfect rare tenderness drizzled with a fabulous Bordelaise sauce with a deep concentrated demi-glace richness from concentrated stock and mushrooms.  Sitting beside the steak was a square of the thinnest sliced potatoes I have ever seen interspersed with thyme leaves and covered and baked with tallegio cheese and truffle oil.  Also, there was a mélange of fresh lightly sautéed vegetables, some miniature.  The sauce was so good I asked for more and Jesse brought a small dish filled with sauce and topped with some more of the marrow butter.  Voila. 
I enjoyed it immensely but could not finish it and do justice to the dessert so I ate half and asked Jesse to box the remaining half.  He soon brought a lovely box sealed with a Zinc sticker, very elegant.

Suzette’s Main course was just as good as mine.  It included slices of lamb loin also slow cooked to rare drizzled with the most intense Rhone red au jus demi-glace sauce I have tasted in a long time, plated with house made gnocchi with a light gorgonzola sauce, probably using milk as the emulsifier and lightly sautéed vegetables.  We decided that the vegetable cook was into raw food, but we ate all of her dish.

To make a long story shorter, we loved dessert. There is surely a trained pastry chef on board.  My dessert was ingenious, a take on tradition deep dish Chocolate cream pie but with two layers on the bottom.  Instead of just the chocolate gelatin, Zinc laid a dark chocolate gelatin base on a crushed ‘nilla wafer crust and then a milk chocolate mousse filling on top of it and then a layer of white chocolate mousse instead of the meringue. Fabulous. 
Suzette’s dessert was a very classical tarte tartin made with thinly slice pears instead of apples, topped with a house made cardamom ice cream and laid on a drizzleof caramel sauce (very French!).

The total bill was $91.00.  $30.00 for each tasting three course meal and $15.50 for the flights of three half glasses of wine.  We deemed it cheaper and better quality of food ingredients and preparation than the delicious meal we ate t Paco’s on Saturday evening in all respects, except service at both restaurants was outstanding.

Let’s talk a bit about strategy.  And compare Saturday evening’s meal to tonight’s meal.  The interesting comparison is that the prices and total meal costs for both Zinc and Paco’s restaurants were almost identical; 3 glasses of wine at each and three entrees and two desserts at Paco’s versus two tasting menus with two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts at Zinc and a total bill at Paco’s of $82.50 versus $91.00 at Zinc.  Yet the combination of quality of ingredients, and technical expertise in preparation and commitment to classical food combinations and sauces at Zinc equals or exceeds any other Albuquerque restaurant I have eaten at lately.  Zinc offers a superior food experience in every respect, including price, and I highly recommend it to any serious food lover.  The big difference in my mind is that Paco’s scores high on the Southwestern funk factor, like use of chili in creative ways in dishes, while Zinc is arguably the most classically French restaurant in town.  I love Zinc’s devotion to perfection of classical French cooking techniques and find it rarely; so my vote goes to Zinc.
In fact, Zinc will stand up well against any good restaurant in its price range anywhere, including France. I loved it and am ready to go back and eat the same meal or any other meal cooked by the same kitchen staff, any time.

As we left Zinc, we walked into a beautiful sunset.  A perfect end to our meal.

Bon Appétit