On the Santa Fe Culinary Trail…Geronimo
May 23, 2009 | Comments Off
We arrived in Albuquerque yesterday to a most unusual and unexpected site: pouring rain. Since this region has been in a drought for years, I feel guilty bemoaning them a little moisture, but I admit that I’m grumpy that they are getting the much-needed rain on the weekend I chose to spend here, looking for some of that burning hot southwest sunshine.
My itinerary here in Santa Fe, an hour north of our arrival spot, is mostly eating, drinking and meeting people so that can all be done despite the rain, thankfully. We decided to start off our trip with a splurge dinner at Geronimo, one of the most highly regarded Santa Fe restaurants.
I hadn’t been there during my last couple visits, so I was really looking forward to seeing what they were up to. I’ve always been impressed at what the chef does with unusual combinations of flavors that he somehow makes them sing. Just before our reservations, we were having drinks with a local chef friend here who said that there was just a big change of hands in the whole fine dining scene a couple weeks ago and that the original chef, Eric DiStefano, was coming back to Geronimo after a couple years away and would be dramatically changing the menu. It made me nervous that the restaurant was so much in flux and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the kitchen.
I need not have worried. The meal was stellar and the wait staff, exceptional. The only hiccup in the evening was the very disorganized host who sent us to an absurdly packed bar when we arrived at 8:05 for our 8 reservation. The host asked us to wait in the bar while they prepare our table. There were so many people crammed into the bar that we chose to stand outside instead of having a claustrophobic panic attack. We milled around for a bit, next to an adorable teenage couple who looked like they were on their way to prom, and were finally seated at 8:30 after Sandra, my dining companion, went up to the desk to find out what was going on.
Once seated, the experience improved dramatically. We were offered their dinner menu, but no chef’s tasting menu, a sign that the kitchen is in flux a bit. The menu had fewer New Mexican touches than I remembered but they did have their signature Elk with Applewood Bacon and the Chile Prawns dishes still.
We opted to start with the Spicy Crabcakes with remoulade and an asparagus and spring shoot salad with a black truffle vinaigrette and grapefruit. The salad had fresh spring flavors and a great balance of earthy, sweet, and spicy. We were also delighted with the crabcake, which yielded a good dose of spice and the crunchy salad underneath cooled the heat nicely. For my entree, the scallops with bacon essence, black truffle ravioli and wild mushrooms sent shivers of pleasure through me. They apparently basted the scallops with a bacon stock reduction as they cooked so each one had a smoky, subtle flavor. The beef tenderloin over rapini with a sliced potato cake was perfectly prepared and was insanely tender and juicy.
I was very surprised that the recession seemed to have no impact on the menu prices. The entrees were between 28-45, which really seemed staggeringly high. They mentioned that they were packed all weekend so I’m guessing that they don’t feel the need to adjust them, but I wonder how much longer they can sustain a menu priced at that level if the economy doesn’t pick up soon.
In my experience, a waiter has the power to make or break any meal with service. I was so relieved that our waiter Chris really was on top of his game and had the right combination of chattiness and brisk efficiency. He made a great, reasonable wine recommendation of a Napa Sauvingon Blanc and steered us well with the menu optioms. At the end of the meal, he poured us complimentary taste(s) of a local moscat from a new vineyard called Guadalupe Vineyards. It was nearly clear in color, but exploded with bright floral jasmine and apricot and had enough citrus to keep it from being cloying. It completed the meal perfectly and left my palate tingling with the lingering floral vapors.
I am very curious to see what happens to Geronimo in its next phase of existence but after tonight, I am optimistic….