Outstanding farm-to-table cuisine in Arroyo Seco
First visit: October 20, 2012
ACEQ is a family-owned, farm-to-table restaurant located in the Arroyo Seco Plaza. They serve their own interpretation of comfort food, utilizing the best in local, wild, and farm-fresh ingredients. The menu features contemporary takes on old classics, house-made specialties, and craveable desserts that will change with the seasons. The space expresses the unique charm of Arroyo Seco, evoking a sense of community and comfort.
The name “ACEQ” comes from the Spanish/Arabic word “acequia,” the communal irrigation ditch that channeled the water for crops and livestock from the river. The name was chosen to honor the culture and traditional farming practices of those who grow our food.
The Taos News reports,
“When married couple Noah Pettus and Brittany Garner decided to come back to Taos, they wanted to bring their culinary experience with them. Pettus, an Arroyo Hondo/Arroyo Seco native, went to the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Garner attended Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta, and both wanted to start a restaurant that reflected their core values.” — By J.R. Logan |
Our good friend and fellow gastronome Sally Wasowski Insisted that we accompany her to ACEQ, and are we sure glad that she did.
The menu is small, but the selections looked so interesting that we wound up ordering more food than the three of us could possibly eat. In retrospect, I would do that again. So should you.
Chicharrón (Spanish pronunciation: [tʃitʃaˈron], Portuguese: Torresmo [tuˈʁeʒmu], Filipino: chicharon, Chamorro: tsatsalun) is a dish made of fried pork rinds. It is customary in New Mexico to make these from small cubes of pork belly fried to a semi crispy state, and fans often eat them like peanuts pop a few in your mouth. Bet you can’t stop.
ACEQ’s version is like no other that I have had. The cubes are larger (about an inch) and they are not fried to a dry crisp, but remain tender and juicy. They are served here on a bed of butter lettuce and topped with a delicious sweet rep pepper relish. Outstanding appetizer, and a fine start to a great meal.
Smoked Trout Mousse
Jane ordered this dish as an appetizer. Silky smooth texture, it is served with parsley, tomato, and grilled toast rounds. The smoky taste is not overpowering, but somewhat subtle. I think this dish is spectacular, and so does Jane.
This is a baby pumpkin that is stuffed with a mixture of farro and a white cheese, and seasoned with balsamic vinegar and herbs. Besides being a very tasty dish, it is unusually beautiful on the plate. Be sure to scoop out all the pumpkin flesh, whish has been baked to a soft and smooth texture.
Farro is a food product composed of the grains of certain wheat species in whole form. The exact definition is debated. It is sold dried and is prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy (many recommend first soaking overnight). It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups. It is sometimes ground into flour and used to make pasta or bread.
Sweet Corn Soup
There is quite a surprise lurking in this fine bowl of soup: a crab fritter. I am a sucker for crabmeat in almost any form. It is very special here. The soup itself is very rich and flavorful. The sweet corn taste is complemented with a dollop of spicy yogurt. This is a soup for the gods.
Surely you have had fried chicken. So have I, but nowhere else is it done as well as that at ACEQ. Fried to perfection, it is served with quinoa, greens, and an amazing tomato gravy. Sally claims to be in a rut — she almost always orders this. You can ask the kitchen for white meat, dark meat, or a combination. I prefer dark, which I deem more juicy and flavorful.
The menu lists this pasta dish as Buffalo Cavatelli, but they were out of buffalo and substituted lamb. My good fortune. If the powers told me that, for the rest of my life, I could consume only one variety of red meat, surely it would be lamb. Especially if it were raised organically at Shepherd’s Lamb Farm in Tierra Amarilla, as the lamb in this dish was. This is, to me, the very best lamb that New Mexico has to offer.
This is a very rich dish, and the sauce is complex and magnificent. ACEQ’s Lamb Cavatelli is now my second favorite pasta dish in New Mexico (the first is still the Orvietto Pasta at Nicky V’s in Albuquerque).
Chocolate Cream Pie
After all that rich and fantastic food, we didn’t need dessert. But Sally insisted that we try the Chocolate Cream Pie. We reluctantly ordered one portion with three spoons. This was definitely not a mistake. The filling is very creamy, very chocolatey, and sits on an outrageously good Oreo crust. The slice sat in a small pool of raspberry syrup. I can’t believe that we ate the whole thing.
Sally gets extra points for guiding us to ACEQ. She was somewhat apprehensive in suggesting this place because she knows how picky I can be. She visibly relaxed when she saw the expression of delight wash across my face as I took the first bite of the Chicharones. ACEQ is on my list on Taos restaurants that I must return to on each Taos visit.
ACEQ has earned the number 5 spot on my New Mexico Top Ten List (outside of the Duke City area).