Jolene Eats in Albuquerque
It is time to address one of my favorite parts of any trip: the food.
I don't like to think of myself as a picky eater, but I do have several food allergies with fairly severe long-term symptoms, making it difficult to eat certain kinds of foods. Even a small bite of something I'm allergic to can leave me with many internal ailments for up to a month. For instance, I have a tomato allergy, so I have to stay away from traditional pizza and pastas. In particular, this allergy worried me as I planned our trip to Albuquerque - most Mexican food is tomato-based. I think I had a narrow expectation of Albuquerque in general, so I anticipated Mexican food... and only Mexican food. It sounds utterly idiotic, but this is a prime example of why it's important to go to different places.
Our first meal on Friday was brunch at The Grove Cafe & Market. It's a counter-service restaurant with fresh fare and a pretty broad range of vegetarian options. They serve Intelligentsia coffee, cocktails, local spins on brunch favorites and freshly baked goods.
I ordered a soy cortado to start off my day (if you recall, we got in at 3AM). For those of you who are not well-versed in the language of the coffee universe, a cortado is an espresso drink that has espresso with an equal amount of milk. The drink itself is rather small but the espresso packs a mean punch. My cortado was good. Not the greatest espresso, but not bad.
For brunch, I ordered poached eggs with la quercia prosciutto, roasted asparagus and parmesan. If you know me, you know I am not only a coffee hound, but I am a complete sucker for a beautifully runny, glorious poached egg. To my disappointment, I did not find these eggs perfectly poached. The white was a little less done than I prefer; I like my yolk runny but not my whites. The rest of the dish was wonderfully curated, however. The prosciutto melted in my mouth, and the asparagus was absolutely perfect. I find that some asparagus is either under cooked or over cooked, shriveled up or too tough. This, however, was wonderful. The crown jewel? The fresh parmesan! I don't consider myself a cheese connoisseur by any means (I tend to gravitate towards safe, mild cheeses), but this fresh parmesan really made the dish. It was just strong enough, with large pieces that were obviously freshly shaved onto the eggs. A+ for parmesan!
Next we visited Rebel Donuts, a place I had come across on Pinterest. I know many people refer to to Pinterest for magical wedding photos and DIY instructions galore, but I've learned to use it for my travels. Rebel Donuts was listed on one of the "Must See Places in Albuquerque" lists I discovered. Having been to Voodoo Donuts in Austin, TX, I was hesitant to visit another "specialty" donut shop. It's easy to make a donut look desirable with bright colors and cheeky designs, but I believe the donut's flavor should be comparable to its decorations.
That being said, I was still full from brunch so I made the mistake of trying a red velvet donut and "saving the bacon pancake donut for later." In hindsight, I should have just over-eaten a bit and had that donut instead. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the red velvet flavor, even though the donut itself was cakey and not too greasy or heavy. I'd have to go back and try some of the more interesting flavors to provide a better review. I did enjoy the nitro cold brew they carried, and the no-frill, simple dineresque feel to their shop.
An honorable mention goes to my meal at Cracker Barrel. In my hometown of Long Beach, CA, I don't have access to a local Cracker Barrel, so I savor every opportunity to have a meal at one when I can. There's something comforting about the modest country decor and the idea of comfort food that has always charmed me. My go-to meal? Chicken and dumplins all the way.
I had made reservations for brunch on Saturday morning at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Farm. Only 12 minutes from our Downtown Albuquerque B&B, this farm is truly a diamond in the rough (not that I'm implying Albuquerque is rough. It's quite charming, actually). Even with the overcast skies, intermittent sleet and general anxiety we had been experiencing, this farm was a safehaven.
It took us a couple minutes to find the restaurant, but by even walking through the property I fell in love with the quiet serenity Los Poblanos offered. We definitely weren't the only people there, but there was a stillness about that place that felt very special. We walked through a corridor, past some beautiful Santa Fe architecture and made it to the restaurant. Due to the number of people who were attending that morning, the staff offered us seating in a private dining room, away from the boisterous, cozy main dining room.
We were walked over to the private dining room, decorated with vintage paintings and art depicting local culture. There was one large window that filled the room with natural light, and a fireplace in the corner.
First we began with the fresh pastry of the day - a citrus olive oil cake. It was nothing short of divine. The citrus was not overpowering, but it was fragrant enough to have a real presence in the cake. Needless to say, I was in love! The cake was the perfect accomplice to my locally roasted Villa Myriam coffee. Whatever blend I had was a nice dark roast without overpowering bitterness and enough full-bodied flavor. There was a definite earthiness to it that went well with the freshness of the cake.
For our late breakfast, I chose the blue corn pancakes with bacon and a side of eggs, over medium. The first thing I noticed was the thickness of the pancakes. They were about twice as thick as what I was used to, and much less sweet than a traditional pancake. I wasn't bothered though, since the flavor was quite unique. The blue corn wasn't overpowering, but I was definitely reminded of a light corn muffin. Despite their rich, savory flavor, they weren't too heavy. I thoroughly enjoyed them and recommend them as a New Mexico favorite.
While Albuquerque is not a city that brings "independent coffee shop" to mind, I tried my best to find at least one shop for a good cup of joe. While planning the trip, I saw Piñon Coffee come up several times. Story time: Back in 2013, I visited Chile for the first time and was exposed to piñones, pine nuts, but not in the way I was used to eating them. They were large and considerably more meaty (at least in South America). I hadn't seen them since, and when I found out they were used in coffee... Well, of course I was excited.
I ordered a traditional piñon coffee, just plain black. It was strong, extremely nutty, and had quite a sharp taste. Normally I enjoy drinking my coffee black when it is great quality, but there was something that didn't allow me to do so with this cup. I went to the condiment bar and added 2 pumps of simple syrup. My coffee was then perfect! I'm not sure if I am just not accustomed to the sharpness of the flavor or maybe that batch of beans was a little over-roasted, but I needed the addition of a slight sweetness to be able to enjoy the coffee.
For the first time since we had arrived, we got to have breakfast at our B&B. I read on their website that they change up their menu, but when we had breakfast, we were served lemon waffles, bacon and quiche with a fried tomato crust and a couple different kinds of cheeses. Overall it was a light breakfast, and I enjoyed meeting the other people staying in the other B&B houses.
For lunch, we went to Old Town Albuquerque. I was quite excited to finally make my way there, since our eating tour on Friday had been cancelled. Because I didn't have a chance to make plans ahead of time, we decided to play it by ear when it came to lunch. My mom asked a local shop employee where she recommended, and we ended up at the Backstreet Grill.
When asked, I normally profess my lack of enthusiasm for Mexican food, solely because when I am asked, the implication is tacos, burritos, etc. I do not particularly consider those to be the homemade Mexican food that I enjoy, like molé and posole. So you can imagine that I wasn't completely thrilled when I discovered this restaurant was Mexican, because I wasn't sure if I'd be in for some lame tacos or something.
To my delight, I was treated to life-changing guacamole, Mexican cream soda and duck tacos. Initially, I wanted to try the prickly pear cream soda but our waiter let us know the raspberry cream soda was the most popular. I wasn't in love with it - it was pretty sweet. I understand sodas are sweet, but this felt a little too sugary. My mom and aunt like guacamole more than I do, so they wanted to order the guacamole made table-side. I sort of reluctantly agreed (how can you argue with 2/3 of the party?), and it was literally the best guac I've ever had. Ever.
There were so many ingredients - mango salsa, salt, pepper, cotija cheese and even some cumin. I'm not sure what the proportions were, but they surely worked. I can't say enough about this guac - it was refreshing, savory but sweet, balanced and perfectly addictive. I think I filled up on chips and guac before I even got my meal!
For our actual entrees, I ordered some duck tacos. I know what you're thinking. I spent an earlier part of this post hating on tacos. I know. I do like good tacos, and I have to admit, I felt a little bit of obligation to eat something ~Mexican. Well, the duck tacos, to me, were a great mix of traditional tacos and innovative toppings. They included red chile braised duck legs topped with corn and black bean relish, mango mole sauce, cotija cheese, cilantro, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Sadly my tired eyes glazed over the red chile part, so I had quite a bit of difficulty eating the tacos even though they were delicious.
An honorable mention also goes to the insane pork chop my mom ordered. It was MASSIVE, and one of the most delicious I've ever had. She urged me to try a piece, and there was some kind of sweet dipping sauce that came with it. I mildly regretted my entree choice after I'd tasted that pork chop. I definitely recommend it if you're into pork chops in general!
The last delicious food item I enjoyed in Albuquerque was a wonderful rose mocha at Velvet Coffeehouse. We didn't actually sit in, but I grabbed the mocha to go after I'd seen a sign listing it as a daily special. It was such a unique drink, something I've never had. I would also highly recommend this coffee spot especially since it's tucked away in a quiet corner of Old Town.
So there you have it, the food I enjoyed during our quick trip to Albuquerque!
Until next time,