Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Santa Fe Southwest Breakfast

Exterior of La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe
La Fonda on the Plaza sits at the corner of the Old Santa Fe Trail and East San Francisco Street in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The location is one of the oldest hotel corners in the United States hosting an inn or fonda for more than 400 years. In the past cowboys came to water their horses in the fountain, Russian spies supposedly lurked the grounds during the days of the Manhattan Project bomb development, and guests have always mingled with locals at La Fonda's bar. The hotel's signature restaurant, La Plazuela, is "the gathering place" in Santa Fe and I decided to make a visit.

La Plazuela stood as the hotel’s original 1920s patio and now huge potted trees provide an outdoorsy feel.  Arriving for breakfast, I entered a sun-kissed room where natural light danced off 460 hand-painted windows, one of the hotel's treasures. The ambiance from rustic carved furniture mixed with the Southwestern spirit to create a visual treat.

Huevos Qaxaquenos
Couldn't resist ordering one of the house specialties, Huevos Qaxaquenos, described on the menu as green onion cilantro scrambled eggs with crispy fried tortilla strips, salsa roja, poblano rojas topped with assorted Mexican cheese, and served with black beans and grilled breakfast potatoes.  The colorful plate infused the air with a delectable aroma when presented. The eggs tasted spicy, but not hot and the texture of the tortilla strips added an appetizing crunch. 

If you're visiting Santa Fe, you owe it to yourself to enter this landmark hotel, if not to dine, to at least soak up the legendary history.

La Fonda on the Plaza
100 E. San Francisco Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
505 982 5511

This post joins other food blogs on Wanderfood Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Friar's Flan

Chef Estevan’s Garcia prepares what he refers to as monastic food. He ought to know; he’s a former member of the Franciscan Order. But Garcia no longer cooks in the monastery, he rules as the Executive Chef at the elegant St. Francis Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both the hotel and their restaurants feature beautifully simple but refined taste.

I was treated to an indulgent meal designed to awaken the palate with flavor. Each course presented me with an unusual treat. The highlight of the night was the Chef’s signature dessert, a goat’s milk flan. By then, I was full, but thought I would  try a bite. Saints preserve us! It would have been sinful not to savor every morsel on the plate. And when I looked around, I saw every other member of my group had done the same. Not one plate held leftovers.

The flan tempts with amazingly delicate and rich taste, yet not over powering. The smooth creamy texture simply dissolves into luscious delight. This flan rises into a spiritual sensation and is obviously inspired by connections from above.

Bless you Chef Garcia for sharing the recipe.

Goat’s Milk Flan

Makes 6

½ quart/1 pint heavy cream

¼ quart/1/2 pint goat’s milk

¼ vanilla bean

¾ cup sugar

6 egg yolks

4 egg whites

1. Mix ¼ quart heavy cream and ¼ quart goat’s milk.

2. Stir the vanilla into the sugar using a fork and add to the milk mixture. Boil until it looks like it’s about to boil over. Remove from the heat and add the other quart of heavy cream to cool it down.

3. Mix the egg yolks and white until they are well combined and then add them to the milk mixture. But, if you don’t temper your milk mixture into the eggs first, the eggs will foam.

4. Carmelize the sugar and then put it on the bottom of the ramekins, but let the sugar get hard before you put the milk mixture on top of it. Also, make sure that your sugar is dark enough so that it looks like it’s almost burnt.

5. Put your six flans in a pan and fill it halfway with warm water, and then put it in the oven for three hours ar 250 degrees.

This post joins other food blogs at WanderFood Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Dinner with Harry... Potter

The Three Broomsticks - A Restaurant Review

Chicken and Ribs Combo at The Three Broomsticks
For those who don't remember the acclaimed movie, "My Dinner with Andre," the drama centered on the dialog between two restaurant guests. I have to say my meal with Harry was quite the opposite. Harry wore an invisibility cloak and stayed under the cone of silence. I felt his magical presence but our conversation lacked a certain spark. Some might have thought I ate alone. But remember, my dinner with Harry... Potter took place in The Three Broomsticks Restaurant at Hogsmeade, the snow-capped Victorian village within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The place is the sensational new draw at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

When I entered the tavern, I found a short waiting line. I ordered roast chicken and ribs and the special house brew- Hogs Head beer. Other menu choices highlight English fare, such as fish and chips, shepherd's pie or Cornish pastries. My quick survey revealed numerous orders of fish and chips coming out of the kitchen, but no shepherd's pie.

Kid's meals conjure typical entrees like macaroni and cheese or chicken fingers, but add healthy snacks such as grapes and applesauce. Desserts cast their spell from chocolate trifle to apple pie or strawberry and peanut butter ice cream.

Orders arrive on trays which unfortunately do not fly, so must be carried to the dining area. A friendly costumed employee meets and escorts muggles to an empty table. This service proves extremely helpful during busy hours.

The ingredients, quality of preparation, presentation and taste were far better than anticipated. My chicken was juicy and moist, not over or under-cooked; the ribs perfectly simmered and grilled and accompanied by buttery roasted potatoes and fresh corn on the cob. The corn husks had been turned back but were still intact giving an attractive look to the plate. The beer packed the punch of a Sam Adams, which I like, so pleased my palate.

My total bill came to a reasonable $19.99 for the food and drink. Three Broomsticks posts a family size savings option, the "Great Feast Platter,"  which feeds at least four adults.
The ambiance of Old World decor is constructed from weathered wooden beams and exposed rafters that soar to a high pitched ceiling. Wooden walkways and a spiral staircase seem to levitate overhead. Large stone fireplaces and wall mounted antlers give the impression of a hunt club. Overall the tavern feels hundreds of years old and fits the Potter books.

Hog's Head pub sits to the side of the restaurant with an additional entrance from the main thoroughfare. Don't worry if you look over the bar and notice a large stuffed boar's head periodically snarl. The surprise is part of the fun. Patrons can try the non-alcoholic Butterbeer- a frozen drink I quaffed to cool down from the overwhelming heat. Tasted like a cream soda, sweet from caramel or butterscotch, with a frothy head like Guinness. I didn't try pumpkin juice, another drink concoction drawn from J.K. Rowling's famous books.

The spell of Three Broomsticks and Hog's Head Pub retain the touch of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Muggles may not find their dining experience supernatural, but the chefs are working their best to prestidigitate thousands of meal per day.

This post joins other food blogs at WanderFood Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fonzie's Kind of Place: Cheeburger, Cheeburger

A Restaurant Review 

Arthur Fonzarelli, aka "The Fonz," would give two thumbs up and an "Aaaaay!"to the original Cheeburger,Cheeburger in Auburn, Alabama.  The joint looks like a throw back to Arnold's malt shop from the TV show Happy Days. I visited on Auburn University's opening football game day and the place was packed.

The atmospheric jive beats to the tune of  oldies, food and frivolity: retro fifties to early sixties aluminum chairs with faux turquoise leather upholstery, Formica topped tables, neon lighting and a soda fountain.  Tee shirts, college pennants and memorabilia hang upon the walls. 

The menu features 100% Angus beef burgers, including the famous pounder, which is actually 20 ounces.  If you finish this monster, your waiter will take your picture to add to the wall of fame. Diners choose from their choice of eight cheeses and a slew of toppings for their size burger or chicken sandwich. Invent your own salad and ice cream dessert the same way-  pick the ingredients the way you desire.

And, boy, my milkshake made me feel like I'd found my thrill...on Blueberry Hill.

Children's menu selections are served in cardboard boxes shaped like a 1957 Chevy convertible. Should your youngster down a half pounder, their photo will join the kid's wall of fame. In the sixties that was cool, but in our politically correct culture, I suspect someone will call a halt claiming childhood obesity concerns.


If you feel like a old-fashioned, lip-smacking, juicy- do I daresay slightly greasy, grilled hamburger with fries and a shake- or better yet, with an ice cold beer-- head over to Cheeburger, Cheeburger, now in 59 locations.  The place will make your day happy.

 This post joins other food blogs at WanderFood Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Sand Castle is a Labor of Love

Melissa and Tim Wellford
The Sand Castle Cafe and Grill on St. Simon's
A Restaurant Review and Recipe

As a Labor Day tribute I've chosen to honor two people who love their jobs: Tim and Melissa Wellford, owners of The Sandcastle Cafe on St. Simons Island, Georgia. These two are a team who live and work long hard hours together. Their restaurant has earned a faithful following and like the nearby lighthouse, shines as a beacon. The Cafe is open seven days a week from 7:00 am to 2:30 pm, except Sunday- 8am-2pm.

For $8.35, the full buffet breakfast comes with eggs to order, carrot, raisin, morning glory or blueberry muffins, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, waffles, French toast, grits, cheese grits, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, hash browns, fresh fruit, yogurt and beverage. You can't beat that, especially since Tim is the chef.  He loves to cook and his customers savor the rewards.

On the morning I visited, I have to say the pancakes were the lightest I've ever eaten. Truly melt in your mouth lusciousness. In fact, everything tasted just how I'd wished it would.

I'd describe the decor as beach casual with turn of the century photos of St Simons gracing the walls. Want to sit with your cup of coffee and bask in the morning sunshine? Try the outdoor seating area near the pier. While the Sand Castle ranks as a locals hang out, it's not wired for wifi.  That's because 200-300 patrons demand the breakfast buffet on Saturdays and Sundays. In a typical week Mike and staff cook up 300 dozen eggs and 350 pounds of sausage

The cafe also runs a brisk lunch trade and tour bus groups favor the spot. Tim's lunch specialty is a crab cake sandwich and he kindly shared the recipe.

Small town island life agrees with Tim and Melissa and it's easy to tell they are happy people. Melissa says she is living her dream life. "We make a good living in a good place to raise a family. The Wellford's and their one daughter reside close to school, work, play and the doctor on St. Simons.

All of that sounds ideal, but the fact remains-- Melissa and Tim labor at their love. Here's wishing them and all a  Happy Labor Day.

Please visit other food blogs through WanderFood Wednesday and try Tim's recipe:

The Sand Castle Cafe Crab Cakes

4 lbs. lump crab (the good stuff)

2 cups crushed Saltine crackers

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1 1/2 Tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning

1 Tablespoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon Coleman's dry mustard

5 Tablespoon chopped parsley

Mix 4 eggs, the old Bay, pepper, mustard, mayonnaise.

In a separate bowl, toss the crab with the cracker crumbs. Let sit for an hour.

Mix all together and scoop into good size cakes. Fry, grill or sauté as you choose.  Tim fries the cakes for his famous sandwiches.

The Sand Castle Cafe on Saint Simons Island
117 Mallory St
Saint Simons Island, GA 31522

(912) 638-8883