Bistro Piattini

Chef Peter Lukes has a new, sure-fire winner here

Third visit: May 15, 2014
First visit: April 25, 2014

pamorama

If you are not familiar with Peter Likes’ earlier restaurant offerings (Terra American Bistro and Terra Bistro Italiano on Alameda), then you missed something special. At both incarnations, Pete would often provide a wing-pairing dinners, which were great. I sure hope he brings such wine pairings to Piattini. Please?

Paeter Lukes, Chef and

Peter Lukes, Chef

The Chase Gang, headed by Bob (a friend of 42 years), and completed  by his wife, the lovely Linda (lp) and Barbie, his pulchritudinous sister and I often rove the city looking for outstanding new places in which to eat. We knew and loved Pete’s earlier offerings, and Bistro Piattini was a natural for our latest episode. 

Good choice. Phenomenal. 

Bistro Piattini is the leading candidate for my prestigious Best Newcomer of 20154 award.  

The Food 

The menu is loosely separated into Piattini “Little Plates” and Grandi Piatti “Large Plates.”
We started with little pates for the Chasr Gang, but I wanted a large plate for the Pescatore. Good choices. If you don’t see a wine on the wine list that will complement your dinner selections, have your server ask Pete for an unpublished wine that he keeps around for this purpose. We did, and he did. It was Antinori Santa Cristina Bianco, medium dry with no oak and gentle melon and berry tones, and was especially good with my Pescatore. 

Calamari

Calamari

Calamari 

Rice flour dusted and fried with lemon aioli and marinara sauce 

The most perfect fried calamari I have ever had. Very lightly fried, and almost butter soft and tender. The marinara is excellent, but my preference is to add a small squeeze of lemon.  

Asparagus and Proscutto

Aspargi: grilled asparagus, prosciutto di parma, balsamic vinaigrette, gorgonzola cheese

Aspargi 
Grilled asparagus, prosciutto di parma, balsamic vinaigrette, gorgonzola cheese 

This dish is a classic side or appetizer that is often served at Café McGoldrick, where it was one of Jane’s specialties. 

Pete does it better. Very tender  asparagus and tasty prosciutto. The grape tomatos are a lovely addition.  

Carpaccio

Carpaccio: beef tenderloin, capers berries, olive oil, cheese crouton, arugula

Carpaccio 

Beef tenderloin, capers berries, olive oil, cheese crouton, arugula 

Bob marveled at this dish. The beef is paper thin, which adds to the excellent taste. This is a classic Italian dish, and Pete hits it out of the park.  

 

Crabcakes

Granchio: griddled crab and corn cakes
with puttanesca sauce and caper mayonnaise

Granchio 

Grilled  crab and corn cakes with puttanesca sauce and caper mayonnaise  

These are loosely similar  to those served at Terra American Bistro (Pete’s forerunner of his Terra Bistro Italiano. My friend Gil Garduñ0, Albuquerque’s  Sesquipedalian Sybarite, recommended that I try them there. 

The version at Piattini is very good. Now it is well known that I really prefer Maryland Crabcakes (and nobody here makes them as well as I do), but I will order Pete’s version again.  

Gnocchi and seafood

Pescatore: potato gnocchi, clams, mussels, shrimp,
scallops, marinara, pinot grigio, garlic, grape tomatos, chile flake

Pescatore 
Potato gnocchi, clams, mussels, shrimp,
scallops, marinara, pinot grigio, garlic, grape tomatos, chile

This is the very best  gnocchi–seafood dishes I have ever had, anyplace, including Italy. The seafood is fresh, tender, and succulent.  The garlic, while plentiful, remains sweet, and the pinot grigio-marinara is perfect with just a (correct) hint of acidity.Try a small spoonful of this sauce with a grape tomato, and the tomato will  explode in your mouth with an unbelievable taste. Pete Lukes, the owner-chef, told me that this is his personal favorite here. Mine, too.   
This dish has earned a place on my coveted Best Dishes of 2014 List.  

Clams and Linguini

Clams and Linguini

Linguini Molluschi 
White wine clam sauce, little neck clams, garlic, Italian parsley

All too often, clams taste like rubber pencil erasers. The clams here are perfect: fresh, tender, juicy, and properly shucked. The white wine sauce is amazing: tasty and not too garlicky. Peter has a way with garlic. It always comes out sweet. This is as good a linguini with clams as you are likely to get anywhere. 

Ceviche Italiano

Ceviche Italiano

Ceviche Italiano 
Scallop, tuna, shrimp, cucumber, tomato, lime, parsley, basil

Beautifully marinated seafood pieces, this version on ceviche is wonderful. Tender and juicy. We all loved it. 

Italiano? Because it has basil in it, so said our server. 

Rotisserie Chicken

Pollo: rotisserie half chicken, rosemary, piccata sauce,

Pollo:
Rotisserie half chicken, rosemary, piccata sauce, served atop a bed of tender asparagus

This half of a chicken is gently cooked to s slightly crispy brown and covered with rosemary and a piccata sauce (lemon, garlic or shallots and herbs). The organic free-range chicken is very tender and moist. 

My good friend, the pulchritudinous Marjorie Sons, allows that this is the best Italian version of chicken that she has ever had. 

Red Pepper Vichysoisse

Red Pepper Vichysoisse

Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Vichyssoise  

his was the piatto del giorno on the day that another good friend, the pulchritudinous Deanell Collins, and I had lunch at Piattini. 

This soup is rich and creamy as a good Vichyssoise should be. The addition of the red peppers set this combination  well above my expectations. Superb.   

Tiramisu

tiramisu bundt
mascarpone laced, espresso cream

Tiramisu bundt
Mascarpone laced, espresso cream

This is not like the traditional tiramisu  that you will get in other places, but a bundt cake with all the traditional flavorings.  The mascarpone espresso cream gave the cake a lovely moist texture without making it soggy. This is a welcome change, and I highly recommend it. 

Have a cup of delicious cappuccino with it.  

 I did not dare taste the other desserts lest I throw a sugar fit (I must restrict sugars. Drat. But the Chase Gang dug in with gusto, and moans of  OMG filled the air. Next time I may have what they were having.  

Tradizionali crème brûlée with biscotti  

crème brûlée

Tradizionali crème brûlée with biscotti

 

Frutta 
fruit crisp with vanilla ice cream  

Frutta

Frutta: fruit crisp with vanilla ice cream

 

 Cioccolato:
Chocolate-brownie cake, chocolate  auce  

Cioccolato

Cioccolato:
Chocolate-brownie cake, chocolate sauce

And don’t forget to finish off with the great cappuccino

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

For a recent addition to the Albuquerque dining scene, Bistro Piattini is a welcome addition. Pete and his highly capable staff are wizards. And the service is exemplary. I intend to put it on my regular rotation. Please join me.  

 

Open Kitchen

Open Kitchen

 

 Bistro Piattini 

Street view(505) 792-1700 

Altura Park 
1403 Girard NE 
Albuquerque, NM 

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Posted in Honorable Mention, Italian | Leave a comment

The Spot Cafe

Welcome addition to Corrales dining 

Seventh visit: July  19, 2014
First visit: June 8, 2014

Sopt Panorama

AaronThe Spot Cafe is located in the heart of Corrales in the space recently vacated by The Oasis.  Aaron and Deb Worrell have been in the restaurant business for more than  20 years. Serving comfort food at great prices and just a seven-minute walk from my Corrales home, this place has already become one of my favorites. 

The servers are bubbling over with enthusiasm and charm. They treat me like I am family. Mayling Garcia, no longer at Perea’s Tijuana Bar, is now here, much to my delight.  Mayling, a long-time Corraleña,  is famous in these here parts for her  Glass Armonica artistry. 

The Victuals 

My, oh my, this stuff is good. The menu is still in its foemative stage because Aaron wants to make sure that his customers get what they want. 

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and Gravy 

Biscuits and Gravy can be dreadful in the wrong hands. Not here. 

These are the very best Biscuits and Gravy I have ever had. Anyplace. Perfection. Super-flaky biscuits, tasty gravy that is not oversalted, sausage patty that is delicious and not greasy, and perfectly fried eggs. My grandchildren love this dish, which has already earned a place on mt Best Dishes of 2014 List. Aaron  has a real passion for this kind of food. food. 

Pecan Waffle

Pecan Waffle

Pecan Waffle  

This waffle is better than any your momma  ever made.  Aaron starts making the batter as soon as the ticket arrives. This it the epitome of freshness, and the texture is perfect. The pecans are lightly toasted. Served with eggs any style and your choice of meat (Deanell had ham and scrambled), this is a fabulous breakfast. Get some red chile for the eggs — it’s among the best in the city.  

Pancakes

Pancakes

Pancakes 

As with the waffle, the batter  is not started until the ticket arrives.  The pancakes are thick but very light and airy. I had mine with sausage links, eggs over easy, and hash browns, which were crispy (no soggy stuff here) and oil free. Great breakfast.  

Bot can he do lunch?

And how!

BBQ Pork Sliders

BBQ Pork Sliders

BBQ Pork Sliders 

Served with Cole Slaw, which is so good that I will ask Aaron to make me a batch for my next crabcake party.  Good pork, good tangy BBQ sauce (slightly sweet, and the sliders are the  right size. The small buns are nondescript, and don’t detract from the pork. Really good.  

Shaved Beef Sandwich

Shaved Beef Sandwich

Shaved Beef Sandwich 

Shaved tri-tip beef with two cheeses served on a green chile roll.  Heavenly juicy (dripped down my chin). Delicious. 

I got this with a cup of green chile chicken enchilada soup, which I usually shun as being trite. Not here — the soup is good enough to earn a high place in competitions such as the Roadrunner Food Bank’s Souper Bowl. Really fine green chile finish.  

Chicken Tacos

Chicken Tacos

Chicken Tacos 

Tacos are tacos, right? Nope. These are lovingly handmade tacos made with the freshest ingredients you are likely to find anywhere in the city.  

My friend Barbara Chase had these, and was delighted. She gobbled them down before I could steal a bite.  

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings 

I rarely order wings. Christina said that they are excellent, and Mayling was just leaving with a bagful for her lunch.   Recommendations I could not resist. 

Among the very best I have ever had (including in Buffalo). Meaty and slightly crisp (no soggy wings here). The sauce is plenty picante. I have become a fan.  

GCCB

GCCB. Competition style, of course.

Green Chile Cheeseburger 

This is not on the menu, which lists an angus burger with all kinds of superfluous (to me) stuff. I asked Christina to have Aaron make ma a competition-style GCCB, medium rare. Juicy. He did, and it was among the best I have had. Tasty, and the green was smoky and picante. Nicely done. 

Order the slaw side. I will stop making slaw at home, and will have Aaron make enough for my guests the next time I prepare my famous Maryland Crabcakes for my friends. 

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles with a Honey-BBQ Glaze

Chicken and Waffles 

My son Chris told me on Facebook that he likes chicken and he likes waffles, but didn’t think they belonged together. This dish is a traditional and highly popular one in the U.S. South. And there are at least three places in the Duke City where you can gorge on this delight. So, Chris — try this dish sometime. 

Aaron’s version at The Spot Cafe is fabulous. The chicken is lightly breaded and fried to perfection and covered with a delicious honey-BBQ glaze. The waffle is light and airy, being made from scratch as soon as the ticket hits the  kitchen, and is the epitome of all waffles. 

 You can eat very well here. I did.

OK. Now what about dinner?

Not yet. Still waiting for the Beer/Wine permit, which as we all know takes the politicians and bureaucrats forever in this state. Maybe early-middle of July? I’ll let you know. 

Another of my favorite servers, the pulchritudinous Christina, tells me that in addition to a regular menu there will be rotating specials. Friday, for instance, will be seafood, and she allows that there will be bay scallops. Can’t wait — I am from the Chesapeake Bay area.  

I predict that The Spot Cafe will become another Corrales destination restaurant.  

What others are saying

 Gil Garduño:  New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite.

Milk Shakes made from Blue Bell Ice Cream

Milk Shakes made from
Blue Bell Ice Cream

Interestingly, the cafe’s ambiance bespeaks fine dining with linen tablecloths, cloth napkins and table service but the menu is more akin to an over-the-counter operation with an emphasis on contemporary comfort food at great prices. It’s an inviting menu both during breakfast and lunch.  Start the morning off with build-your-own omelets, panini-stuffed French toast, breakfast sandwiches and a nice line-up of breakfast burritos.  Sandwiches and burgers highlight the lunch menu, but no ordinary burgers are these.  A one-half pound “Kobe” beef burger is available with your choice of toppings and is prepared to your exacting specifications.”

Urbanspoon: Talk of the Town, June 22, 2014

Talk of the Town June 22

Talk of the Town June 22

The Spot Cafe

Door(505) 899-7768

 
4940 Corrales Rd 
Corrales, NM 
 
 

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Posted in American, Breakfast/Brunch, Burgers, Sandwiches | 1 Comment

Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub

 Scrumptious Food and Brews on the Wesrside

Third visit: April 17, 2014
First visit: February 19, 2014 

SS PanoramaGood Riddance Quartets, Welcome Stumbling Steer.

Bartman and the Ruthie

Bartman and the Ruthie, two charter members of the TNCGT.

My Thursday night Culinary Gastronome Team stumbled into the Stumbling Steer on a recent outing.

Good choice.

This place is the brainchild of General Manager Sonny Jensen, a San Diego transplant. Sonny likes beer and gastropup food. He likes people, and can usually be seen working the room. He recognized me on my second visit.

The Stumbling Steer brings a fresh approach to Albuquerque in terms of great beer and delicious food. As a gastropub, The Stumbling Steer’s mission is to provide a place where anybody can come and enjoy our expertly-crafted beers with a full menu that, well—pretty much tastes awesome with their beer.

Chef T

Chef T

The magician in our kitchen is Chef Thanawat Bates. Chef T, as he’s commonly known, was the Executive Chef at the Brown Palace in Denver (where he received a James Beard Nomination) and The Ritz-Carlton in Washington D.C. In other words, the guy knows what he’s doing! Although Chef T has made a name for himself in fine-dining, he has always wanted to reinvent pub food. He says, “There is no reason why bar food should be so boring and predictable. It can be fun, exciting, taste great and still be priced the same.”

Well,  it is exciting and excellent.

The Lunch

Before getting to the delicious details, I need to offer kudos to the excellent waitstaff. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Crisp fried sprouts, garlic, peanuts, tamarind, and bird peppers (the chef, Chef T, is Vietnamese). Wimps can opt out of the incendiary peppers, but I think this would be a serious mistake. The blend of all the elements masks the searing heat (50,000 – 100,000 Scovill units).

If I told  you Brussels Sprouts haters out there that this is a fantastic appetizer, you might think me daft, and you would be wrong. Chef T will change that for you.

This dish as made its way to a spot on my coveted Best Dishes of 2014 List. It’s just that good. Amazing.

Stumbling Steer Burger

Stumbling Steer Burger

The Steer Burger

Half-pound Angus patty, turkey pastrami, mushrooms, onion compote, and Gruyere cheese on an excellent challah bun.

When I am in the mood for a burger, I almost always opt for a competition-style GCCB. Had I done that here, I would have missed out on one of the most delicious burgers I have ever had.  Perfectly cooked medium rare, the juices ran down my cheeks. Don’t miss this tasty gem. 

B2LT

B2LT

B2LT 

Braised Pork Belly, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Bacon Mayo, Tomato Jam on a Ciabbatta Bun. 

This is a modern update to the classic BLT. The addition of the braised pork belly is a stroke of genius, and transforms the sandwich into an excellent new creation. Great taste, this has quickly become one of my favorites at The Steer. 

What’s for  Dinner

Korean-style baby back  ribs

Korean-style baby back ribs

Korean-Style Baby Back Rib 

Full rack braised in IPA and grilled in Dragon Sauce with potato salad and kimcgi.

This was Ruthie’s choice, but she ad the Dragon Sauce on the side anticipating that it would be too hot for her. These are among the very best ribs in town. The spicing of the dry rub is phenomenal. Were I to order these ribs, this is how I would get them.

Steak and Fries

Steak and Fries

Steak and Fries

8-oz. culotte top sirloin, onion hay, scallion sauce, and pickled watermelon.

The Bartman often goes for steak, and he exclaimed that this is among the very best he has ever had. Thick and perfectly cooked to his specifications, it looked like a masterpiece on its cutting board. The fries are among the best you will get anywhere.

Braised Pork Belly

Braised Pork Belly

Braised Pork Belly

Ginger beer-braised with a creamy potato salad.

Pork belly is back in again, and I’m sure glad about that. This is a truly  outstanding dish, and it is beautifully plated. I asked Sonny if Chef T. did the plating, and he replied  that T. was in Augusta that weekend, having been invited to be the executive chef for the masters Golf Tournament. Nice gig.

This is one heckuva fine treatment of pork belly.  Not fatty, not greasy, bur perfectly cooked. The ginger is mindbending. I am a pork belly freak, and this is one of two absolutely stunning pork belly dishes in The Duke City (the other is at Budai Gourmet Chinese, Dong Bo Pork). Stumbling Steer’s pork belly has made its way to a spot on my coveted Best Dishes of 2014 List.

The  Beer

The Brewnaster

Kirk, The Brewnaster

The Stumbling Steer’s brewmaster is Kirk Roberts.  Kirk has more than 15 years of experience brewing beer in Southern California. He’s won 8 medals worldwide for his beers including a Gold Medal at last year’s  Great American Beer Festival for his Scotch Ale. He plans to brew his famous IPA, Double IPA, Pale Ale, Imperial Stout, Red Ale, Blond Ale, Scotch Ale and some very exciting seasonals. You’ll be able to stop by and watch Kirk do his thing as our entire brewing system will be on display…you can even tap the glass and make him feel like an animal at the  zoo exhibit.

I am especially fond  of the Red and the Nut Brown. Anxiously awaiting the appearance of a Scottish.

Please note that The Steer is open late after most of the Westside has gone to bed.

Front

Stumbling Steer Brewery & Gastropub

Door Handle(505) 792-7805 

 

Paradise Hills
3700 Ellison Dr NW
Albuquerque, NM 87114

SS HoursWebsite
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Hartford Square

Sarah Hartford’s spirit is in every bite of her food

Fourth visit: April 10, 2014
First visit: March 6, 2014 

Hartford Panorama

daffodilsLast night I dreamt I went  to Hartford Square again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the patio, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the gate-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate….

 

My friend Michael Gonzales, owner of Cafe Bella Coffee, urged me (several times) to try Hartford Square. After my first visit, Micheal wrote to me:

“I am so delighted you were able to make it there Larry! Like I was telling you in my opinion that place has opened a new chapter in central new mexico dining.”

Michael is one of several food people I know who I trust completely.  So, what is so special about Hartford Square that makes me dream of it?

Sarah Hartford.

This place is Sarah’s dream.  She serves only the freshest local stuff, organic wherever possible. This is farm-to-table at its best. Seasonings are phenomenal, and nothing is oversalted. There are salt shakers on the tables if you must destroy her delicate balance. I won’t. Fresh flowers, daffodils and forsythia during my last two visits. The decor is simple: black, white, and stainless steel. The delightful staff wear black and white.

For each of my visits, I had a cup of soup and a half-sandwich. My guest Deanell had salmon twice and salad/sandwich the latest time.  Did I say that everything is fresh and delicious? Well, I said it again.

Corned Beef on Rye

Corned Beef on Rye

Corned Beef on Rye

Sarah does corned beef from  scratch. The outside is slathered with orange marmalade making for a delightful rind. The Swedish  rye (house made, of course) is sprinkled with orange zest before baking. Truly amazing combination.

The soup — Cabbage, Bacon, Caraway & White Beans — was hearty and quite amazing. I got my corned beef and cabbage this day.

Meat Loaf Sand and Cabbage bacon white bean soup

Meat Loaf Sand and Cabbage bacon white bean soup

Hot Meatloaf & Mozzarella Sandwich on Homemade Herb Bread 

With cabbage and white bean soup.

Everybody’s mom makes meatloaf and serves meatloaf sandwiches the next day. Well, Sarah’s meatloaf trumps your mom’s. And it’s better than what I make. Her homemade herb bread is spectacular, with a delicate taste and perfect texture. Don’t forget to eat your spinach.

Italian with Carrot-Ginger Soup

Italian with Carrot-Ginger Soup

Italian Sandwich— Ham, Salami, Sundried Tomato, Pepperoncini & Provolone on Herb Bread 

Surely you have been to sub shops and had an Italian sub.

This Italian is better. The real star here is the use of oil-packed sundried tomatos. Delicious.

The real hit of this lunch, however, is the carrot-ginger soup. The finely pureed carrots are sweet and not salty (although sarah assured me that there was salt added in the cooking). I could  not taste it, and that is a tribute to her delicate and thoughtful seasoning. The ginger was fresh and pungent. One of the best soups I have had during my six years in The Duke City.

Salmon with Spinach Butter and Kale Salad

Salmon with Spinach Butter and Kale Salad

Salmon with Spinach Butter

Deanell loves salmon. This spinach butter-covered filet was perfectly cooked. Soft and buttery.

Kale and Brussels Sprouts are back in, it seems. I hated these things when I was a kid, and so did you.  Well, forget that your mom forced these on you, and order this salad. I love it. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t make it bad. On the contrary, it is fabulous.

Granola Bar

Granola Bar

Granola Bar 

For breakfast, snack, or lunch, these bars can’t be beat.  Not at all like the junk you get in the yuppie camping stores, these beauties are lovingly hand made. Dates, apricots, apple, cranberry, flax seed, millet, brown sugar,and more are gently blended and lightly baked. Michael Gonzales would be proud to serve these in his place. Get a bagfull. Take  them home. Or just eat them in the car.

Zingtopia Macu  Drink

Zingtopia Macu Drink

Zingtopia Macu Drink 

Sarah makes many drinks, including a special blend of coffee provided by  Michael Thomas.

You will do well to order a zingtopia macu, which has become one of my very favorite delicious cold drinks  I have found in this town.

Just get one. Or two.

Hartford Square is small, having but seven tables and a lunch counter.  Size doesn’t matter. It is the piece of Sarah’s spirit that is contained in every bite of food that does matter.

Come back here when the weather lightens up and the small patio opens.

By the next time I dream of Hartford Square, I will have planted a suggestion to get up at o-dark-thirty to get there for breakfast. Friends tell me that it, too, is great.

Hartford Square

Dining Area(505) 265-4933 

EDo
300 Broadway Blvd NE
Hartford HoursAlbuquerque, NM 87102

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