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Entries in new mexico (27)

Monday
Apr012013

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe Bakery Roundup

There are a few things you should know about New Mexico. First off, it is part of the United States. The license plates helpfully point this out: “New Mexico, USA”. Second, it is one of the few states with an Official State Cookie (the biscochito—or is that bizcochito?). Third, it's a fantastic place to get fat, or, as I told one diner manager who looked at me funny when I ordered a sopaipilla and a slice of tres leches cake (no dinner to go with it, thankyouverymuch) a great place “to carb-o-load for a marathon you're never going to run.”

Here's where I've carb-o-loaded and sugar-rushed, and I think you should, too. 

Whoo's Donuts

Donut Stop Believin'. Santa Fe is not, strictly speaking, a donut town. In fact, there's only one non-chain donut shop in town. But one is all they need, because clearly, Whoo's Donuts are the best. This is where you'd get flavors such as blue corn with strawberry-jalapeno glaze, white chocolate lemon pistachio (pictured above) or salted caramel. You'll pay for them—most doughnuts are $2 or more—but they are so. Freaking. Good. 

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Chocolate Smith

Time for Chocolate. If chocolate is more your speed, you're in luck. Check out the "Chocolate Trail of Santa Fe" for a self-guided tour, or just read on. I'd start right after visiting Whoo's Donuts and go next door to ChocolateSmith and get something sweet like a mendiant, some bark, or a truffle. It's owned by the same people who own Whoo's Donuts, and everything, from the salted caramel truffle to the spicy chocolate bark, is made with love and care and is completely tasty. 

Kakawa

Not too far away, Kakawa Chocolate House is also a fantastic spot for chocolate, most notably drinking chocolate. They actually create historically accurate drinking chocolates there, in case you've ever been curious what Aztec chocolate tasted like, or what flavor of cocoa Jefferson might have favored. Oh, they also make a nice array of sweets on site, such as this delightful (and large) lemon pistachio macaroon.

C.G. Higgins also does truffles and chocolates, including some unusual flavors.This is more like the old-fashioned confectionery shop in town, but with some more updated flavors. Intrigued by the blue cheese and cherries jubilee truffles, I stuck kind of safe and tried the himalayan sea salt. Sweet. Salty. Yum. They also have a respectable hot chocolate (though in my opinion, that's something you look for at Kakawa). Also, just FYI, you could get some Chile Pecan Brittle here, too.

At Todos Santos Fine Chocolates, you'll find silver, gold, and...chocolate? Believe it. This small-batch chocolatier is noted for making chocolates that resemble milagros, small charm-like offerings to saints in Hispanic folk culture. These are done with edible gold and silver leaf, though, making them tasty offerings to your mouth!

Finally, don't forget CocoPelli: It's off the beaten path, in a mall, but the chocolate is all made by hand. Nice choco-covered fruit and nuts and truffles...and they make cakes and pastries, too! A sweet spot.

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French Connection. For a small city, Santa Fe has a surprisingly large amount of French bakeries. Le yum!

Macarons, Clafoutis, Santa Fe

Probably the most famous is Clafoutis, which is always, always crowded. Go there for breakfast, brunch, or lunch for a delightful Croque Monsieur (i'd tell you to get something else, but that's what I've gotten every time and I can't bear to order differently). Or just go to the bakery case and get one of everything. They are somehow able to make macarons at the high altitude, which is a bit of a miracle, and they're good--so are the croissants, the Opera cake, et cetera.

Montmartre

The French Pastry Shop and Creperie makes crepes both sweet and savory, and they also have a counter case full of Frenchie stuff to go. On past expeditions here I have tried their delectable sables and their blissful Montmartre pastry.

Cafe Mamou, Santa fe

Chez Mamou is another French spot in town, and they boast a beautiful array of French pastries. You'll find single-serve mont blancs or almond paste stuffed chocolate cakes, as well as croissants, brioche, and tarts. According to one of the handsome French-speaking gentlemen who work there, however, the best of the bunch are the lemon and apricot tarts. I haven't tried those yet, but have tried the clafoutis, studded with dark cherries and marzipan, and a chocolate almond thing that I'm not 100% sure of the name, but know it was delightful.

Swiss Bakery, Santa Fe

The Swiss Bakery might not sound French, but, after all, aren't fancy French pastries referred to as Viennoiserie? So yeah, it's going to come off as French. The best item in the case, according to one of the employees, is the Napoleon. I would tend to agree, although I haven't tried everything there. Just look at that thing. This particular one was stuffed with strawberry and kiwi. I know that might not sound amazing, but it really was. 

Also equipped with French pastries is Le Chantilly, a cafe with bakery offerings such as croissants, eclairs, and Napoleons.

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Ice Cream and Frozen Treats After enjoying some of the local spicy and chile-rich dishes, you're probably going to need something cool. I hope someone will challenge this statement with proof of delicious ice cream around town, but as it stands...there really aren't any notable local ice cream shops. Taos Cow ice cream at the station At The Station coffee house, they have ice cream from Taos Cow; likewise at CocoPelli (mentioned above).

Gelato, Ecco Gelato, Santa Fe

There is, however, gelato. We'll start with Ecco Coffee and Gelato. A little more milky-icy than some other gelati I've tried, it's nonetheless fantastically flavored stuff. I got the stracciatella and pumpkin, which was serious pumpkin; a friend got the stracciatella with nutella. Yumsies.

Mangiamo Pronto, a casual Italian eatery, also has gelato which is quite good, and they are opening a gelateria next door to expand their currently small but very good offerings.

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Cookies, Cakes, n Pies: For the classic American treats, you have plenty of options too. 

Dream Cakes, Santa Fe

Dream Cakes Gourmet Cupcakes has a humble storefront but good gravy are these cupcakes good. Moist , butter-packed cake that makes you want to swoon. If they have it, please try the "Southern Belle". It's a rich pecan cake with cream cheese frosting--pictured above. You will not regret it.

Chocolate Maven, Santa Fe NM

The Chocolate Maven has it all, from cookies, cakes, and pies , to breads. They have a restaurant too, actually, but I've never gotten past the pastries. I've known and loved their Russian Teacake cookies and tarts, cupcakes, have ogled (but I will confess, not tried) their pies, and have truly enjoyed their croissants, which are crispy, light, buttery, and when filled (for instance, with almond paste), they are filled generously.

tres leches cake, cocopelli

CocoPelli, mentioned above, specializes in chocolate but they also bake their own cupcakes. And my oh my, was the Tres Leches Cupcake nom-worthy.

Dulce, Santa Fe

Dulce, in spite of the name, offers little dulce de leche and mainly, pretty standard American bakery fare. Not that this is a bad thing! Scones, cookies, a very nice Red Velvet cake.  

Sage Bakehouse

For carb-rich treats and wonderful breads, visit Sage Bakehouse. Dudes, dudettes, this place is pricey. But their bread is pretty amazing, and their cookies and pastries are made with love, care, good flour, and the taste reflects it. 

You'll also find some very tasty stuff at Treehouse Pastry and Cafe. It's in an unlikely spot—the mall, across from an abandoned allstate insurance agent, but damn, do they have a fine pastry case. The shortbread cookies were solid, and I hear the cupcakes are a great, but really, the highlight was the chocolate tart. It's both vegan and gluten free, but you don't suffer at all for its lack of ingredients. It has so much to offer flavorwise that you don't really care what's in it—it just tastes SO good. The secret may lie in the crust, which is made of crumbled crushed candied walnuts. It really reminded me of a sweet treat I love from Chaco Canyon raw and vegan cafe in Seattle.

Which leads nicely into more Vegan and / or Gluten Free options. 

Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll

If you're gluten free and/or vegan, Revolution Bakery has all the classics--cookies, cinnamon rolls, scones, and other tasty carbohydrates, but modified to be safe for your belly, heart and soul. 

Body Cafe also has a very nice array of house-baked (or, if you're raw, not-baked) vegan, gluten-free, or raw options for their sweets. Raw truffle, or vegan cheesecake? You'll find it here.

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Non-Bakeries that Have Good Stuff

When I'm in Santa Fe, I love Whole Foods. To be specific, though, I like the one on Cerillos Road, not the one on Cordova Road (I specify this because there are two Whole Foods markets like 2 blocks away from each other). I like them as a grocery store, but I also like the fact that their bakery often has a sort of “best of” selection from area shops. You'll see doughnuts from Whoo's, sweets from Sage Bakehouse and Chocolate Maven, and more. They also do a rather respectable job with their in-house baked goods, in particular their Chocolate Decadence cake, which is better than many restaurant versions I have tried!

A visit to the Farmer's Market is a highly good idea. It's on Tuesday and Saturday. Tuesday is smaller and slower but an easier pace, perfect to check out Cloud Cliff Bakery, ogle at pretty produce, buy some peppers which were being roasted while I watched, and buy this slice of prune-filled pie.

Pastelito Pastelito

 

It was made by a lady who just had two types—apricot and prune. The “pies” were rather flat, and reminded me of garibaldi biscuits. Apparently, these are sometimes called Pastelitos Indios and are common with Native American cookery.They also have a farmer's market “cafe” which had Whoos doughnuts and other goodies (some of them gluten free, since it's a big concern in Santa Fe).

If you stop nearby the farmer's market, you'll see a restaurant nearby called The Junction. I didn't eat there but when I walked in to try to sneakily use their restroom, I looked at the menu and the hostess told me that their apple pie was--not joking--some of the best in town. She said that on her birthday, she craved that instead of cake. Well, I'll just say that I took note of that.

Cake from The Station

Also nearby the farmer's market is The Station, a coffee shop where they not only, as previously mentioned, have ice cream from Taos Creamery, but a beautiful array of pastries made on site. Pick up a slice of almond clementine cake? Don't mind if I do. I also enjoyed how they used coffee ice cubes in their iced drinks. Nice touch.

Not to confuse you, but the Santa Fe Baking Company is not actually a bakery--it's a cafe-restaurant. And, you know, a pretty good one. Their breakfast burrito, for instance, is beloved. But luckily they DO have their own selection of baked-on-site goods, including muffins, scones, brownies, cookies, et cetera. 

Bobcat Bite Chocolate Chip Cookie, Bobcat Bite

If you do travel all the way to Santa Fe, you must go to Bobcat Bite, a very famous burger place and beloved by locals and travelers. But save room for dessert, because they make their own cookies there!

Cafe Pasqual's, Holiday Pie Mania, Santa FE

Cafe Pasqual's is nationally famous, and with good reason: they offer some delicious eating at their restaurant. But you know what's great? Their desserts. They're house baked and Southwest influenced but also rooted in Americana. For instance, a chocolatey pecan nut pie, which combines pecans, native to the area, and a Kentucky classic? Yes please.

And OMG, the banana coconut cream pie from Jambo Cafe. This is a sort of African-Carribean fusion cuisine restaurant, and everything you eat is so freaking good. But save room for this pie. Please. 

Chocolate Cream Pie, Harry's Road House, Santa Fe

Harry's Road House is a popular people-pleasing spot, and they have a nice array of house-made desserts. Including chocolate cream pie, chocolate cake, and cookies and other sweets. 

Tesuque Village Market is not a bakery, but they do have some fantastic baked goods. Among the sweeter surprises? Sticky buns that would do a midwest potluck proud. 

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 Let's Carb-o-load for Breakfast 

Tecolote Cafe, Santa Fe

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you're in Santa Fe, promise me you'll go to Tecolote Cafe at least once. Blue corn pinon pancakes will make your head spin with their awesome amazingness, and they offer a bakery basket or a tortilla with egg dishes. Go for the basket!

Tune Up Cafe

You'll need breakfast more than once while you're in Santa Fe, unless you're only staying for a few hours. Why not try the Tune Up Cafe? In addition to delicious pupusas and all sorts of tasty savory fare (including a popular breakfast side of fried bananas with cream), they also make all their own baked goods, so please, for me, try one of their wedding cake cookies. It will make you look like a cocoaine addict after you eat it, and it's apropos, because I suspect they are crack filled. They are really, really good. 

Pantry restaurant

The Pantry is a fantastic spot to get breakfast AND sweet treats. Their pancakes are light and fluffy and worth the visit; their sopaipillas are a fine specimen (see below). They also have their own proprietary tres leches cake, which is baked by an employee's wife. Yum!

El Tesoro, Santa Fe NM

OMG El Tesoro. Go for breakfast, stay for the muffins. LOOK AT THAT THING.

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An Unexpected Sweet Spot

Who knows what adventures await you after all of that delightful carb-o-loading? Here's what happened for me. All that breakfast worked up an appetite for a trip to the bookstore. Collected Works is a great bookstore, where they carry my book and Judi's and will probably carry my next book, too. They have a fantastic collection of cookbooks, and while reading about desserts from the area, I got intrigued by a writeup about the fantastic carrot cake at a place called Mission Cafe and Sweet Shop. I decided to walk over.

Well, it's been closed for three years, but it so happened that I walked by the Oldest House in the USA. No kidding! And guess what? They sell baked goods there! The caretaker, Evelyn, baked everything herself. Pick up a brownie, scone, and a couple of biscochitos? Well, OK.

Now, as Evelyn told me, when it comes to biscochitos everyone has their own variation and secret ingredient. She wouldn't tell me hers, but she assured me that she used the vital one: lard. When you make these cookies with butter, they are just not the same. Sorry! She also said that when she was young, biscochitos were most commonly baked in a sort of trefoil form. But today, she bakes hers as stars so that people can refer to them easily, and they won't break as quickly.

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Sopaipilla Nirvana

To the uninitiated, a sopaipilla is a pillowy piece of fried dough. It's not technically dessert. It's a fried bread, but it's not a doughnut. It's neutral (or should be), and is served with honey. It's used as a side, to sop up soups, stews, or sauces, and it's just delicious. It's typically served as a side dish in New Mexican cuisine. Occasionally it's an automatic side, but often you have to order. They don't break the bank, though—the most expensive ones I came across were $2 for a basket of 2. Though not a comprehensive list, because there are so many restaurants that offer them, here are some that I've known and loved in Santa Fe.

Horseman's Haven Horseman's Haven

First up, Horseman's Haven. What an oddball spot. It's in a gas station and kind of looks forbidding from the outside, like a place where bar brawls break out. But inside it's not a dive bar, but instead a family friendly restaurant. And every day at three pm, they start up their fryers to make sopaipillas. Now, it's odd that they only start making them at three. Why? I asked the waiter. It was 2:58 and I had time—there were no exceptions to the rule, apparently. He didn't know. “that's just how it's done here” was the basic response. The sopaipilla here was fresh. A little greasy. With a nice thread of honey served on top, it was a pleasing side to a meal. It definitely made me hungry for more.

Tia Sophia

The next sopaipilla stop was Tia Sophia's, where the sopaipillas are one of the specialties. Theirs was wonderful: soft but chewy, chewy but not tough. It was like biting into a cloud. If clouds were made of fried dough that you could pour honey on and eat.

Sopaipilla from the Pantry

Time to continue carb-o-loading, so off to The Pantry Restaurant I went. Here, I tried their sopaipilla, which was very yeasty and slightly sweet. Very different from the other ones I'd tried so far, lighter and less evident that it was fried, but very good. 

Maria's

I was starting to feel a serious sopaipilla jones by this point, so hit up a place called Maria's with my friend Judi, who is a famous author and also has a passion for pastry. In fact, we met in a case involving a pastry. The sopaipillas at Maria's were respectable, but (in my opinion) slightly inferior to the ones at Tia Sophia's. I enjoyed the crispiness of this variety, however.  BTW, Maria's specializes in Margaritas. I tried Judi's, but in general margaritas are a one or two sip type of drink for me. Better (for me) was the Margarita cheesecake. We tried that, along with the kahlua cheesecake. It was muy delicious. 

Tortilla Flats Sopaipilla

When it was time for more sopaipillas, I hit up Tortilla Flats, where they make a yeasted sopaipilla. Nice and lightly crispy, this one was airy on the inside. They only begin frying at 11 am. The manager informed me that this is because the quality is superior when they have ample time to rise, and “we are not making them in the middle of the night!”.

Finally (for now), I have also wholeheartedly enjoyed the sopaipillas on offer at Gabriel's, a restaurant famous for making guacamole tableside. Their sopaipilla was like a delicious pillow, more substantial than some others but perfect for sopping up honey and sauces. I loved it. 

Whew!

Now. I can't say I have been to every single place in Santa Fe, but I firmly believe I've visited a lot of the good ones. And if this writeup doesn't make you hungry for some sweet Southwest adventure, I don't know what's gonna give you an appetite!

Tuesday
Mar192013

Pastry Pilgrimage: Pie Town, New Mexico

Pie Town, New Mexico

A Pie-lgrimage: Road trip to Pie Town, New Mexico.

In the game of life, we all have journeys to take, and pilgrimages to make. And as a seeker of sweetness, I prefer to make mine dessert related. So it should be no surprise to you that it's been a longtime dream of mine to visit Pie Town, New Mexico. Yes, friends, this is a place that actually exists. And this spot in the desert's name was in fact inspired by the classic American dessert.

As the lore goes

There are several versions of the story of the founding of the town and how we came to be called Pie Town. There may be some discrepancy in dates but these are the basic facts of our story.

In 1922 a veteran of WW-I by the name of Clyde Norman filed a 40-acre mining claim for gold and silver along the route of US-60 and a trail set aside to drive cattle to a railhead 60 miles to the east. Although US-60 bills itself as the Nation's first coast-to-coast highway, when Clyde Norman settled here the cattle driveway was the more important route. Norman’s mining claim was not very successful so he opened a small store to supplement his income. He sold gasoline, kerosene and pies made from dried fruit. Some stories say he made the pies, some say that his teenaged niece did. At any rate the pies were a hit with the cowboys on the cattle drives who went out of their way to stop at "Pie Town."

In 1924 Harmon L. Craig bought a half-interest in Pie Town from Norman for "one dollar of good and lawful money and other good and valuable consideration." A few years later Craig bought out Norman and became Pie Town's leading citizen. He owned the mercantile store, a Chevron service station and garage, a café and a pinto bean warehouse. Most of the families that settled in Pie Town came from Texas and Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and established homesteads. The bean warehouse provided local homesteaders a way to market their crops. Mr. Craig helped these families struggling though the Depression by selling land below market value, and by making loans with no collateral and no interest.

When it came time to establish a Post Office for the town the Postmaster General thought Pie Town was not an appropriate name, but the local citizens insisted that it was the only acceptable name.

In 1940 Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee took an extensive set of photographs of Pie Town, including some using the new Kodachrome color film. Those photographs are in the National Archives.

Today's residents still have the sense of community and self-sufficiency that sustained the earlier settlers. We enjoy a unique tranquility in one of the few places in the United States where you can still see the Milky Way.

Of course, as the owner of the Good Pie Cafe put it more directly, “we call it Pie Town because it's about 3.14 miles from nowhere.” 

Here I am!

And well, that's true. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Santa Fe, or a 2.5 hour drive from Albuquerque. Either way, it's a long trip for a town that boasts a main street area of about 2 blocks, and only a small handful of businesses, two of which are pie-centric. 

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NMGood Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

One friend asked me “did you really drive all that way for just a slice of pie?”.

My response was, “No. I drove that distance for three slices of pie.” 

But to one on a pastry pilgrimage, that's quite enough. And it's also true that this town has played muse to more than me: there's a book called Pie Town which was so popular that a sequel was written, too. Even without that, though, I was delighted to head down there—on Pie Day, no less, 3/14. 

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

After driving a long-long way, our first stop was the Good Pie Cafe. At this cafe they serve a simple diner menu, but Pie is the real focus. They'll offer several types each day, and most likely their famous New Mexican Apple Pie will be on the menu. 

The atmosphere is eclectic and funky, kind of like visiting your uncle who's living off the grid or something. But with pie. It's cozy and quirky.

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

We ordered the New Mexican apple pie and the chocolate pie. Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

It was evident from the get-go that these are not necessarily fancy pies. But the love with which they are crafted is clear, and for me, that made the experience. The apple pie was an interesting flavor—the light sweetness of the apples was nicely paired with toasty pinon, and then—surprise!--a little kick from the green chile.

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

It made for a fascinating flavor, and I could definitely see this as a breakfast treat, not so much a sweet at all. Especially with that nice, sturdy and very carb-y crust. That's my type of crust, by the way. I don't like it when pie crust shatters on you. The chocolate pie had a nice flavor, but I wished it had a big fat dollop of whipped cream on top.

Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

Still, the experience of eating pie in this weird little spot in Pie Town made it all worthwhile.

Good Pie Cafe Good Pie Cafe, Pie Town, NM

While we were there, we were given stickers as a token of the owner's appreciation of our patronage on Pie Day. We were also told to come back on 6/28, which locals call “Double Pie Day” on which you are welcomed to eat double the pie. What a great day!

Pie-o-neer Cafe, Pie Town, NM

Down the road, you'll find the Pie-O-Neer Cafe. Don't go there on Thursday, or Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, as they are closed—but luckily, it was Pie Day on the Thursday we went, so they were open as an exception.

Pie-o-neer Cafe, Pie Town, NM

It being pie day and all, the selection was somewhat picked-over by the time we got there—apparently, there had been a big run from students from a nearby college. But there was enough for us to enjoy a slice of coconut cream pie with a nice meringue topping. 

Pie-o-neer Cafe, Pie Town, NM

Interestingly, I don't think I have ever tasted coconut cream pie with a meringue top like this before. I found it highly satisfactory. The coconut custard was very dreamy, and the pie crust a flakier variety than down the street. It worked very well together.

Pies Open

 Moreover, I felt that the pies were perhaps more sophisticated at Pie-O-Neer and the atmosphere still quirky but a little bit more grandma's house style.

Pie-o-neer Cafe, Pie Town, NM

Pie-o-neer Cafe, Pie Town, NM

So yes, I drove 7 hours (3.5 hours each way) for some pie. Was it the best pie I've ever had? No. But I call to mind a passage in the classic Donuts: An American Passion in which John T. Edge refers to the act of eating beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde as being a "rite of passage". While they're not the only friteur in town, he says, there's something to having the experience of eating them there and taking part in that ritual. 

So, that having been said, for the experience of enjoying pie in pie town, what I ate couldn't have been better. 

Pie Town, 3.14 Miles from Nowhere. Places to go while you're there: Good Pie Cafe, Pie-O-Neer Cafe, and don't miss the Windmill Museum

Saturday
Mar162013

Pastry Profiles: the Montmartre from The French Pastry Shop and Creperie, Santa Fe

Montmartre

Now here's a pastry that makes me want to start singing "Isn't she lovely?". 

Beautiful red strawberries standing proudly at attention, gleaming under an apricot glaze. Thick whipped cream. Spongey cake. A rich layer of pastry cream. More cake to keep it all in place. That, my friends, is the Montmartre, a totally sweet pastry named after a Parisian neighborhood which I scored at The French Pastry Shop and Creperie in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

How did I choose this pastry above all the others in their delectably filled cases? Easy: I asked the employee working the counter what the very best thing was in the case. He kind of blushed, said of course everything was good, but that his personal favorite was this bad boy. And so I went with it.

I wasn't disappointed. The Montmartre was kind of like strawberry shortcake's more glamorous French cousin, with a little more sophistication and je ne sais quoi. But when it came down to it, the strawberries n cream was down-home delicious, to the very last bite. 

A sweet find indeed! 

The French Pastry Shop & Creperie, 100 E. San Francisco Street, Santa Fe NM; online here.

Sunday
Mar102013

CakeSpy Undercover: Banana-Coconut Cream Pie, Jambo Cafe, Santa Fe

Dessert, jambo cafe, santa fe

Totally sweet! This week will bring 3/14, otherwise known as "the other pie day". But rather than get involved in an argument over whether 1/23 (the day the American Pie Council deems National Pie Day) or 3/14 is the true Pie Day, I'd rather spend this valuable online word real estate to tell you about the best pie I've eaten recently: the Banana-Coconut Cream Pie from Jambo Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Now. A little briefing on Jambo Cafe. Their menu merges aspects of Jamaican, African, and Middle Eastern cuisine, and every single thing is delicious. While not dessert, their cinnamon-sugar dusted plantains as an appetizer are a great lightly sweet beginning, and it will definitely set the tone for a meal that must end with dessert.

You must get dessert here, because other than their baklava, which is made by an outside vendor, it's all baked in-house. I was pretty excited to try more of their sweets, as I had already tried their rum pecan pie at an event.

When I recently went there, I ordered the Banana-Coconut Cream Pie, and my dining companion got the Flourless Chocolate Cake. When they both arrived, we were so excited. We each took a respective bite of our own desserts, then politely offered each other a bite.

Flourless chocolate cake, Jambo Cafe, Santa Fe

After taking a bite of that flourless chocolate cake, I smiled and whispered in my companion's ear, "Mine's better". 

There was nothing wrong with the cake, of course. But the banana-coconut cream pie was just so good. Since I know my low-light photos don't quite do it justice, I'll tell you about it from the bottom up. 

Dessert, jambo cafe, santa fe

First up, a nice, sturdy crust. It wasn't soggy under the weight of all the custardy stuff. It was nice and crispy and had just slightly absorbed the flavors of the pie filling, making for a delightful cookie-esque backdrop.Jambo Cafe, Santa Fe NM

Next, the filling. Oh, the filling! If you imagine the best version of a rich, thick banana cream pudding (you know, the kind with real bananas), you're on the right track...but now, add an extra element of delight by putting in some coconut. Got the idea? This pie is just that: a mashup of the tastiest banana cream pudding and coconut cream pie you've ever tasted. 

But don't stop there. Top it with freshly made whipped cream and then dust it with cocoa and cinnamon sugar. Isn't your mouth happy just imagining this?

If you don't like banana, or you don't like coconut, please, for the love of all things tasty, just click away from this page now. But if you do love these flavors, then please, consider taking a road trip or airplane right, right this very minute, to try some of this pie. I don't think you'll regret it. 

Jambo Cafe, 2011 Cerillos Road, Santa Fe NM; online here.

Saturday
Feb022013

CakeSpy Undercover: Cocopelli, Santa Fe NM

tres leches cake, cocopelli

It's the age-old story: CakeSpy will tell you about something sweet she got to eat. I don't know about you, but for me, this never gets old!

This time, I'm going to tell you about a place called Cocopelli in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It's by a megatron movie theater. Honestly, by sight alone, this shopping complex is not the type of place you'd expect to find unique, baked-on-premises sweets. But looks can be deceiving.

Image: Cocopelli

After viewing a movie at aforementioned megatron jumpoplex theater, a friend and I were walking in the parking lot when a gentleman wearing a chef's hat, apron, and carrying a tray of cupcakes approached us. "Red Velvet Cupcake?" he asked? Well, I think you know my response. I know you're not supposed to take candy from strangers, but cupcakes from strangers are OK, right?

The cupcake was rather impressive--the cream cheese frosting was perfectly tangy, the cake was nice and rich. I wanted more.

Cocopelli

The marketing gentleman was kind enough to suggest that we visit the bakery, and we did. Cocopelli

Since it was getting late-ish, the supplies had dwindled, but I was delighted by what they had. One of the bakers, who was on-site, told us that the owner was a chocolatier, and that she had bakers who did the other sweets. The main offerings you'll see upon entering are chocolates and cupcakes, but there are some other items available, including ice cream from Taos Cow. The baker we spoke to knew her stuff--she's a trained pastry chef, and brings some serious love to her cakes and cupcakes.

Cocopelli

After viewing all the choices, we settled on the Tres Leches cupcake, which looked so saturated with sweet dairy that it was coming out of its jacket. It weighted about a pound (I say this as a compliment). It was very good. The almost-wet cake was so dairylicious that it almost felt like eating cake and ice cream at the same time. The frosting was rich and smooth and probably not even necessary with a cake that rich, but oh so welcome. The spice on top provided a nice roundness to the extreme dairy overload.

Cocopelli

This was a good cupcake, and the chocolates we sampled were very nice, too. I think it's well worth a visit, and not just if you find yourself at the movies next door!

Cocopelli, 3482 Zafarano Drive, Santa Fe; online here.

Saturday
Jan262013

CakeSpy Undercover: Revolution Bakery, Santa Fe NM

Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll

I'll be totally honest: sometimes, gluten-free baked goods just taste funny to me.

I know it's not their fault. They're made using a different type of flour--flours, in fact! It's not just a matter of swapping "all purpose" for "gluten-free". It's a little trickier than that. Most gluten-free baking is actually done with a mix of a few types of flour, to guarantee a good combination of flavor and texture.

And likewise, the taste doesn't always translate exactly. Some gluten-free flours will impart a more assertive flavor than white flour. That, I think, is what makes the goods kind of funny sometimes. Like, they taste too healthy or they have too crumbly a texture or something.

gluten free cinnamon roll

So when I taste a gluten-free baked good, do try to be aware of these things, that they will never taste exactly like their floury counterparts. 

But they still can be a thing of beauty in their own, gluten-free right. And an example of a bakery that has a good thing going on is Revolution Bakery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

At Revolution bakery, they have a big focus on bread as you walk into the cafe, but they also have a very nice selection of pastries and baked goods--they do cakes, too.

Keeping it simple, I chose a quinoa chocolate chip cookie (which was vegan, too) and a cinnamon roll. 

Gluten free cookie

The chocolate chip cookie was very nice. It was crispy around the edges but slightly softer inside. It crumbled lightly when bitten into, like a coarser sort of shortbread, and the flavor was slightly nutty and almost oat-y, which made it taste like a health cookie, sort of. I say "sort of" because it was assertively cookie-ish enough to not ever be confused with a granola bar. This is the type of healthy sweet I like: one that I can tell myself is virtuous, even if it really isn't.

Gluten free cinnamon roll

The cinnamon roll was likewise lightly nutty in flavor, which worked quite well with the yeastiness of the pastry. But what this treat is really all about is the cinnamon-sugar filling and frosting, which play together to create a symphony of sweet morning music tastes in your mouth. A very nicely done cinnamon roll. Had I tried this one not knowing it was gluten-free, I might believe that a hippie-ish sort had hid flax or something inside of the dough, but I wouldn't instantly proclaim it gluten-free just upon tasting it. It had a very nice texture, too.

Baked goods are a bit spendy at this spot, but a lot goes into making a gluten-free baked good, and I think they're worth seeking out. So if you find yourself in Santa Fe, hit them up! Just remember to go early in the day, because they can tend to sell out of some things later on.

Revolution Bakery, 1291 San Felipe Boulevard; online here.

Saturday
Jan122013

CakeSpy Undercover: Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Not so very long ago, I visited a magical place called Taos, New Mexico. It's a place famous for a few things

It also has a bookstore called Moby Dickens and another store called Unicorn School Supply. And it is the home of Taos Cow. So naturally I liked it there.

I also heard it is the occasional home of Julia Roberts, but she's not always beloved there. But I digress.

Taos, NM

While there, I heard over and over that I simply had to visit a place called Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery. Well, if you tell me I should go to a bakery, chances are, I will--immediately. So over I walked.

Here's how it looks from the outside. It looks kind of enchanted, behind all of the desert plants, doesn't it? I'm sure it's even more so in the summertime. 

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

When I walked in with a friend, it was very quiet, and we thought maybe it was closed. It's more a restaurant in the front part. But as we walked back, we found the pastry case. Oh, hello.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

They had a lot of good-lookin' stuff, and while we browsed the offerings, we were offered free dragonfly-shaped cookies. Very nice.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Of course, it soon was revealed why the cookies are complimentary--because everything else is so expensive! We got a slice of the chocolate cake with red wine-soaked cherries, and a chocoalte salted caramel tart. And a coffee. And the bill came to nearly $20. Yowch!

But gosh-darn were they good. If the picture doesn't give you the idea, let me tell you that this cake was a pure chocolate-filled bite of heaven. And since it has cherries on the top, it's probably OK to consider it health food.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

But as for the salted caramel tart.

I'll tell the truth, I found the crust pleasant, but it was the filling, oh the filling, that made it memorable! The perfect marriage of dark, bittersweet chocolate with smooth, velvety caramel. Topped with salt to bring that beautiful flavor combination home, all in your mouth. This was one of those "oh can I please eat my weight in it" sorts of foods.

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Oh, one more shot!

Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery, Taos NM

Based on the price, I would not call Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery an everyday type of bakery/dessert spot. Consider it more a fancy dessert place, or a place to get dinner and dessert in style. But most importantly, enjoy!

402 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM; online here.

Wednesday
Jan092013

Pastry Profiles: Carrot Muffin, El Tesoro Cafe, Santa Fe NM

El Tesoro, Santa Fe NM

I've never known a muffin like this before.

I met this muffin at a place called El Tesoro, which is located in the Sanbusco Market Center in the Guadalupe District of Santa Fe. Per the Sanbusco Center website, "This treasure, as the name El Tesoro implies, has been serving food to Santa Feans for the past ten years.  Breakfast and lunch are served daily.  The menus are a beautiful blend of New Mexican, Central American and American entrees; it is a local’s favorite for fresh guacamole, great green chile, pupusas, salvadorean tamales, salads and salmon tacos.  The food is prepared fresh daily with items made to order."

Now, a New Mexican-Central American eatery wouldn't be the place I'd expect to find a top-tier muffin...or to have a muffin on the menu at all...but that's just what they have here.

It's a carrot zucchini muffin you see in the picture above, and while the taste is just fantastic--spicy, lightly sweet, very moist--what is really intriguing about this muffin is the texture.

El Tesoro, Santa Fe NM

It's soft and cakey on the inside, but has a firm yet silky-smooth crust on the exterior. It's almost like the exterior of a popover. It makes you want to keep eating just for another bite of that perfect texture. How on earth did they do it? I would love to know!

But mostly, I'd like to eat another, and soon!

El Tesoro, 500 Montezuma Avenue, at the Sanbusco Center; online here.

Tuesday
Jan082013

CakeSpy Undercover: Rebel Donut, Albuquerque NM

Rebel Donut

When, with a rebel yell, she cried mo', mo', mo'...I'm pretty sure she was talking about donuts.

And if she was in Albuquerque, she was probably talking about Rebel Donut, a very cool place for donuts in the Land of Enchantment.

As their website entices, "Rebel Donut is Albuquerque's premier artisan donut and pastry shop specializing in designer donuts, baked goods, coffee and more. We pride ourselves in using quality ingredients to create worthwhile indulgence. Our menu consists of over 30 flavors that change daily. Come in and try our Maple Bacon, Rocky Road, Red Velvet Rebels, Raised Glazed, Fritters and much, much more. Come on....be a rebel."

Avec plaisir!

And it's not hard to love them from the get-go, with a donut counter filled with holey treats as bountiful as this:

Rebel Donut Rebel Donut

Ranging from the old standards to the new and funky, Rebel Donut has a lot of choices.Rebel Donut

And of course, because it's New Mexico, they have a flavor inspired by the Official State Cookie, the biscochito:

Rebel Donut

As well as a donut containing green chile, a staple food in the state.

Rebel Donut

And with a nod to the famous TV show which takes place and is filmed in Albuquerque, a "Breaking Bad" themed donut, complete with blue rock candy to resemble crystal meth (it's actually pretty cute):

Rebel Donut

Well. After much deliberation, we decided on a few flavors: a "birthday cake", glazed vanilla cake, and maple walnut. The donuts were affordable--I forget exactly how much each one was, but the total was less than $4 for everything.

Rebel Donut

These donuts, while not so rebellious in the taste department, were quite good and fairly traditional donuts. And that is a good thing, people! Slightly on the soft side (not as much of a crispy "crust" as some donuts). Nice and cakey and soft inside. Delicately vanilla-scented dough. Very nice icings and frostings.

Rebel Donut

A very nice pit stop for holey treats if you find yourself in Albuquerque, and the shop's decor is fun, too.

Rebel Donut, 2435 Wyoming Blvd., Albuquqerque NM; online here.

Wednesday
Jan022013

CakeSpy Undercover: Saratori's di Tully, Albuquerque NM

Saratori's, Albuquerque

When you think of an old-school Italian bakery, you probably think...New York. Boston. Providence. New Jersey. Or at least I do. I don't have actual evidence, but I feel like there is probably a higher concentration of such bakeries in the Northeast. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico probably wouldn't even cross my mind in pondering old-fashioned Italian bakeries.

But as it turns out, such a place does exist--a bakery called Saratori's di Tully

Saratori's

It's next-door to Tully's, an Italian specialty market that made me feel like I was in Philadelphia or New Jersey for a few moments--big, fat sandwiches at the deli counter, homemade ravioli both in the deli department and freezer, and more types of pasta than you can count. A great place, but you'll have to trust me on that. I'm here to talk about the sweets.

Saratori's di Tully, I hear, is named after two girls in the family--Sara and Tori. If that is true, I hope that both girls are extremely proud to have this establishment bear their names, because it's chock full of  tasty stuff.

They make their cannoli to order, I should tell you that first. Although I have not tried one of these heavenly treats for myself, I have it on very good authority that they're good stuff.

Saratori's, Albuquerque

I started with the "Spruzzare Biscotto", which was nice and tender and almond-y--a perfect cookie bite. The texture was very nice--slightly dry, but not like dry-out-yer-mouth. It would have been even better with an espresso, I think!

Saratori's, Albuquerque

Next up was a fennel biscotto, which was lightly licorice-y (but not offensive to licorice haters) and not extremely sweet but more like a nice tea cookie. See the fennel seed? It added a nice little burst of flavor at irregular intervals. Sometimes it is nice to have your cookies challenge you a little, you know?

Saratori's, Albuquerque

Finally, the "Nonna's Lemon Drop" cookie. It's a general rule that I hold that if it's named after Grandma, it's probably gonna be good. For me, this cookie led to several moments of nostalgia--not for my upbringing, but for the cookies I used to buy at Rocco's Pastry on Bleecker Street when I lived in New York City. If you've been there, you know what an excellent experience it is. Here's the cookie.

 Saratori's, Albuquerque

Very, very good stuff. And a charming and sweet staff.

Saratori's, Albuquerque

For a taste of the East Coast in the middle of Albuquerque...dudes and dudettes, you've got to go to Saratori's!

Saratori's di Tully, 1425 San Mateo Blvd, Albuquerque; more info here.

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