Friday, May 21, 2010

Pizza for Lunch – Part III

Finally, today would be the day for Rooftop Pizza.

Or maybe not.

As Chuck was taking photographs of the historic Hotel Fonda just off the Plaza in Santa Fe, I stuck my head into La Plazuela, the hotel’s more formal dining room. As one blogger described it: “Eating here is like eating inside a kaleidoscope. It’s sort of Mexican, sort of Southwestern, and very colorful. All four walls of the large room off the lobby of La Fonda Hotel are made of glass, as is the ceiling. While the ceiling is shaded against the hot sun, the walls, divided into window panes, are painted in simple designs and primary colors, much like the windows D.H. Lawrence painted for Mable Dodge Luhan. Ficus trees are draped in strings of tiny white lights and the furniture is heavy, dark, and ornately carved.”

“La Plazuela was the hotel’s original 1920s patio and it retains that sunlit Old World charm. Skylights flood the dining room with natural light and handsome carved furnishings, artisanal lighting, and our much-loved, hand-painted windows create a beautiful, inviting room”…(From the hotel’s web site).

Inviting the room was, from the sturdy tables set on highly polished red floor tiles to the slightly curved bench seats for four.

The restaurant was still serving breakfast, but I asked the hostess if I could take a look at the lunch menu. After a quick scan, pizza would wait yet another day. La Plazuela at the Hotel Fonda would be our lunch destination.

I am not sure if the menu should be described as restaurant classics meet the Southwest or the Southwest meets restaurant classics. But most of the dishes did have a Southwest bent. One item that intrigued Chuck was the BLT Salad--heirloom tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon, butter lettuce, arugula, frisee, breadsticks, and for the Southwest twist, a red chile ranch dressing.

Other choices included: the “Talus Wind Ranch” Turkey Panini—turkey carnitas in adobo topped with roasted corn black bean relish and crème fraîche and stuffed into grilled ciabatta bread; the Torta de Puerco—pork carnitas with grilled red onions, queso Chihuahua, avocado, tomato, and roasted garlic-jalapeno mayonnaise; “Talus Wind Ranch” Turkey Breast Medallions—pan roasted and served with roasted corn black bean relish, barbeque-chipotle vinaigrette, roasted piñon couscous, and fresh seasonal vegetables; and the Champagne Poached Alaskan Halibut with papaya coulis, red lentil salad, and fresh seasonal vegetables.

Chuck finally chose the Chicken Salad Panini—small pieces of diced white meat chicken, tossed in a spicy habanero/cilantro/honey mustard vinaigrette and served on brioche with arugula and New Mexico goat cheese. The bread, with its high egg and butter quotient, made for an ultra crisp panini. And the dressing only contained a hint of ultra hot habanero peppers, and what heat there was was nicely balanced by the honey mustard. If I had any complaint, it was that the sandwich was a little light on the chicken salad. With this came an order of perfect sweet potato fries--just brown enough to be extra sweet, but not so brown as to be bitter.

Since I had passed on the carne asada at Café Pasqual, the La Plazuela Carne Asada—char-grilled flat iron steak served on a bed of rajas (chiles and onions) and accompanied by refried beans, a cheese enchilada, and guacamole and pico de gallo—was a possibility. Or there was my favorite—Rellenos de La Fonda, two green chiles filled with Mexican cheeses, lightly beer-battered and shallow-fried, topped with a choice of red, green or Christmas. But instead, and to indulge my ongoing craving for fish or seafood, I ordered the Medallions of Char Grilled Salmon accompanied by roasted sweet corn vinaigrette, artichoke-fingerling potato hash, and fresh seasonal vegetables.

What a good choice. I received two good sized pieces of perfectly grilled fish, lightly crusted on the outside and moist and flakey inside. The hash consisted of both white and purple potatoes mixed with finely chopped artichoke with a small portion of sautéed mushrooms, red onions, and peppers. And the seasonal vegetables? One of my favorites--grilled asparagus spears that were crisp and tender.

Of course we had to look at the dessert list and selected the Mexican Chocolate Streusel. This moist, rich, and deeply chocolate tasting cake was served warm and came with a small dollop of roasted banana ice cream and four banana slices with a crème brulee-like topping.The streusel topping was a mix of chocolate and sugar that had become somewhat crunchy with baking. It is a good thing we shared this; it was more than one person could eat alone.

Well, we will be leaving Santa Fe without pizza but with having had two excellent meals at Café Pasqual and La Plazuela. If Chuck’s sandwich had contained more chicken, I would have also awarded La Plazuela a 5.0 Addie rating, but instead, it only earns 4.5.

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