December 14, 2013

Food Notes

Café Pasquals. An unheralded restaurant marvel, Pasqual’s has occupied the same small, heavily-touristed quarters since the beginning of time, and yet has managed to remain very good. We had a plate of grilled chiles with Maldon salt and lime; they were varied and variously delicious and perfectly cooked despite considerable variety of size and shape. The cochinita pibl was tasty, with perfect tostones and nifty marinated onions. It’s hard for a small restaurant to be good but it’s murder to get one to stay good, especially when awash in tourists.

La Cueva (Taos). A hole in the wall, touted by Trip Advisor and justly so. Delicious chiles rellenos.

SantaCafé. Still a wonderful space, wonderfully handled with Santa Fe’s special informal formality. The shiitake and cactus spring rolls are still delicious. Linda’s lamb was superb. My chicken was not very well handled: the braised thigh was under-seasoned. the pan-roasted breast was well seasoned but well over. It was fine, even tasty, but I was hoping for something in Zuni Cafe territory, and this wasn’t it.

Tecolote. A breakfast and lunch place on Cerillos Road, recommended for an impromptu seminar on chile. I had a sheepherder’s breakfast so I could compare the red and the green chile, and both repay study. The bread basket should be legendary, with fresh hot muffins and superb biscuits.

Geronimo. You can’t go home again, but if you want you can reprise the 2003 seared foie gras followed by the pan roasted elk that scored #9 in my list of all-time favorite meals when I first drew it up for these pages in 2008. I let Linda have the elk this time and greatly enjoyed the lamb. It’s still a great meal – and while I think the preparations have been updated and improved, the dishes remain. Linda says Geronimo has the best American service she’s seen, and after all she’s a maître d’s daughter.

Zia Diner. Perfect respite for a trans-generational crowd after seeing Richard II. Impressive and attractive beef brisket tacos.

Portage. Northwest side of Chicago, refuge after a ticketing bollix on the way home and a terrific place. American bistro comfort food, superbly done, with interesting and reasonable wines. Quay Tao was in front on a blustery December night and he really puts his stamp on the room. The kitchen is absolutely on the ball.