August 23, 2017

Dear friends,

I finally had to spell it out for Tony: I travel to places in order to eat. I will not just blow through New Mexico so we can dawdle up Route 9 in Colorado, keeping an eye out for elk and deer. I would rather dawdle in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, searching out green chile burritos and sopapillas stuffed with carne adovada.

At my insistence, we spent three days in New Mexico on our way to see Tony’s son, Nico, in Colorado. The route change was last-minute, after I explained I could not face another interminable drive through Iowa and Kansas, and certainly not Nebraska, which Tony thought might be worth a detour. What, you’ve never seen corn before?

We made a quick stop in Albuquerque for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Sadie’s, which was a tad disappointing. The New Mexican food is still good, but it is not transcendent, as it was in the days before Sadie’s grew to three restaurants.

Santa Fe the city disappointed me, too. What happened to that charming village square I remember from the 1980s? It is now crowded, kind of dirty, and basically Disney with howling coyote trinkets.

New Mexican food, built on corn meal and green chiles, is unstoppable, though. Turns out one of the best meals we had was at a modern little cafe on a winding route known as the Turquoise Trail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The clientele at Cafe Fina appeared to be old hippies with a sprinkling of tourists. The food was handmade and the welcome was warm.

Customers order at a counter, pour their own coffee, grab some tableware and take a seat. The food is delivered to the table. I had a simple Southwestern breakfast of migas — eggs soft-scrambled with chiles, salsa and tortilla chips. The tortilla chips, homemade at Cafe Fina, soften in the salsa, leaving bits of crisp edges for crunch.

I shared bites with Tony as we read the local newspaper and sipped coffee. I think he’s beginning to understand the idea of food as a travel destination.

When I make the following recipe at home, I buy good, fresh corn tortillas at a Mexican grocery and cut them into sixths, like a pie, with scissors. Then I spray the triangles with olive oil or vegetable oil spray and bake at 400 degrees until crisp.

MIGAS

 

Image
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp. powdered cumin
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 6 green onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 Nu-Mex or Anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups tortilla chips (preferably homemade from corn tortillas)
  • 3/4 cup green or red salsa
  • Salt, pepper
  • Sour cream
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
Beat eggs with cumin and basil. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Sauté onions and peppers until softened. Over medium heat, add egg mixture and begin to stir. When eggs begin to set, stir in cheese and tortilla chips. When cheese is about half melted, stir in salsa. Continue to stir until mixture is warm, cheese is melted and eggs are set. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scoop onto plates and top with a dollop of sour cream and a couple of slices of avocado. Serves 4.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Ratatouille, microwaved sweet potatoes.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
A hamburger on a toasted bun with mustard, pickle, lettuce and onion and a hamburger with chlii sauce and cheese (lunch and dinner), chili-cheese fries from Vicco’s Charcoalburger Drive In (“Since 1953”) in Glenwood Springs, Colo.; huevos rancheros with two crisp tortillas, over-easy eggs, green chile sauce and sour cream at the Grand Ave Grill in Eagle, Colo.; Salvadoran pork-stuffed pupusa and a chicken empanada at Sal-Mex Restaurant in Glenwood Springs; stir-fried shredded pork and cabbage, beef teriyaki and coconut rice at the Ekahi Grill (Hawaiian food) in Gypsum, Colo.; bacon, eggs and pancakes at Village Inn in Glenwood Springs; chili dog and incredible batter-dipped onion rings at Vicco’s Drive In.

Note: Vicco’s Drive In was a find. The burger patties were 1/2-inch thick, imbued with smoke, and served on buttered, charcoal-grilled buns. The modest, mid-century modern building (actually a hut with flying buttresses) is showing its age with vintage drive-up order speakers and sliding walk-up windows that appear to have been constructed during the Eisenhower administration. The place is always busy, but the wait for food shouldn’t be more than 10 minutes. If you go try the elk burger.

THE MAILBAG

From O.R.:
I’ve been having a hard time finding pappardelle pasta at area grocers.. Do you or your readers know of any stores that carry it? Either fresh or dried is fine. Additionally, if it’s on the menu at any Italian eateries around here, I’d love to know about that as well. Thank you.

Dear O.R.: The wide pasta noodles are available both dried and frozen at DeVitis Italian Market in the North Hill area of Akron. The dried varieties are Delverde and De Cecco and the fresh-frozen, Pastasa. The store is one of my favorite food destinations in Akron. While you’re there, snag a loaf of fresh (sometimes still warm) Massoli’s Italian bread, a homemade Italian sub for lunch, and house-made lasagne for the freezer.

If not on the menu, I’ve certainly seen pappardelle in specials at Russo’s Restaurant near Peninsula, Papa Joe’s in the Merriman Valley and Vaccaro’s Trattoria in Bath.

You could easily make your own, you know. In a food processor combine 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 egg and a pinch of salt. Pulse several times. With the motor running, pour water in a very thin stream through the feed tube just until the dough clumps together to form a ball. After the dough rests for 20 minutes, knead it in a hand-crank pasta machine to make very thin sheets about 1 foot long each. Alternatively, knead it by hand for several minutes, then roll out until thin enough to see your hand through.

Dust sheets of pasta with flour. Roll up like cigars. Cut 1-inch wide pieces and unroll. Cook in boiling, salted water until noodles float to the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Okay, maybe it would be easier to buy it.

Winner of two James Beard Awards for food writing.

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