Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chicken Wings and Turkeys

You may see chicken wings and turkeys while dining at Ezra's Place in Albuquerque, but they're not on the menu at this neighborhood joint.

The "signage" for Ezra's was the first unique feature of this unusual eatery. The spray painted name would not seem to beckon the uninformed diner in for a fine meal.

This entrance is in the rear of a building whose function is also not associated with fine dining--a bowling alley.

So how did the Lucky 66 Bowling Alley make it in to a food blog? Because Ezra’s Place is owned and operated by Dennis Apodaca, the genius behind Sophia’s Place (discussed in an earlier entry). Sophia’s Place is named after Chef Apodaca’s daughter, so Ezra’s Place is named after his son.

Having enjoyed our two breakfasts at Sophia’s Place, a trip to Ezra’s for breakfast became a high priority. So off we went early one Sunday morning. Ezra’s is considerably larger than Sophia’s, but when we arrived, the restaurant was almost empty. However, it began to fill during the course of our meal. Unlike Sophia’s, Ezra’s is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner.

Because of the day and time, we were not able to witness bowlers with chicken wings (when a bowler lets his elbow get away from his body during the swing) register turkeys (three consecutive strikes) in the course of a game.

The standard breakfast menu contains about a dozen listings which included corned beef hash, eggs benedict, and omelets. I was almost ready to order the hash and then our server told us the morning’s breakfast specials – mixed berry pancakes (I had these at Sophia’s), lemon ricotta pancakes, the breakfast sandwich, and something called crab benedict.

Chuck, being the pancake man, ordered the tall stack of lemon ricotta pancakes with a three slice side of bacon.

Earlier, in my review of Sophia’s Place, I raved about the wonderful apple-smoked bacon. Since Ezra’s serves the same bacon, I won’t repeat myself. The only comment I have is that it could have been a bit crispier. The order of pancakes was two six-inch diameter and a quarter-inch thick cakes with a bright, lively lemon flavor.

Chuck thought he detected an excess of baking soda, and since he really doesn’t like that flavor – either in biscuits or pancakes – this detracted from the experience. I must admit that I didn’t taste this at all. I guess I am not that sensitive to baking soda.

I chose the crab benedict and can describe them with only one word – stupendous. Two good-sized crab cakes were topped with poached eggs, cooked medium (I hate runny egg white) and drizzled with red chile. The term “benedict” was used loosely, since the dish didn’t have the English muffin bottoms (no loss as far as I am concerned) nor hollandaise. But the crab cakes were full of good sweet flavor, plus a little heat from minced jalapenos, and what the server told me was their special “spicy salt.” All this was topped with three asparagus spears, perfectly cooked with just the right amount of snap.

Two sides came with my breakfast order. First was a large portion of potatoes – or papas, as described on the menu. Small potatoes were sliced about an eighth of an inch thick, then cut into quarters, fried until they resembled thick potato chips, and dusted with seasoning. The second side was a small serving of baby greens tossed with a light olive oil and lemon dressing. When I was first presented with the plate, I thought salad was a strange accompaniment at breakfast. But this worked and the light lemon taste was a good proxy for lemony hollandaise.

When our check arrived we discovered that instead of the tall stack of pancakes, Chuck received the half stack. This was all to the good, since these were heavier and more filling cakes than those we had eaten at Sophia’s Place. Still, not getting orders correct seems to be a chronic problem with Chef Apodaca’s restaurants and is inexcusable – whether it is the fault of the server or the kitchen - at restaurants that produce this high a quality of food, and this shortcoming lowers the Addie score to a 4.0.

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