Saturday, May 29, 2010

Time to Call in the Pro…

she says with tongue planted firmly in her cheek.

On his solo trip to Santa Fe last fall (this was during my pre-hospital, but post-healthy period), Chuck stopped for lunch at Bobcat Bite, one of the best known and highly regarded hamburger joints in the country. Since then, he has maintained that this very small restaurant served the best green chile cheeseburger ever and that I needed to eat there to validate his opinion. This was to be the day.

“Located on Old Las Vegas Highway which at one time was part of historic Route 66, the Bobcat Bite has been a family-owned-and-operated restaurant since 1953. Originally a trading post, then a gun shop, it was made a restaurant by Rene Clayton (owner of the Bobcat Ranch). It was first operated by her daughter Mitzi Panzer in 1953. Since then it has been operated as a mom and pop diner by a series of proprietors: Don and Millie Cowell, Don and Shelba Surls, Bob and Judy Amos, and John and Bonnie Eckre, who took over in May of 2001.

Many people ask how our name was derived. Years ago, before I-25 was built, bobcats came down from the hills and were given treats at the back door at what was one of the few local dining spots that were friendly to bobcats at that time.” (From the restaurant’s web site.).

While there were tables available, Chuck insisted that we sit at the counter where we had a view of the mountains and could observe birds at their feeders. While waiting, I started talking with the woman sitting next to me. She and her husband had lived in Albuquerque for years and now lived in Texas. Back in the area to visit their son, Bobcat Bite was their first stop when reaching Santa Fe. She assured me that there was no better burger than the one I was about to have. We’ll see about that.

The hamburgers come in one size – ten ounces of fresh-ground choice whole boneless chuck and sirloin. That is one large burger. That is one very large burger. So I decided that I would forgo any of the sides – home fries, potato salad, cole slaw. (Those are Chuck’s home fries shown in the photo below, and yes, I did help myself to a few.) So I kept it simple--the green chile cheeseburger, medium, with MOP. MOP was Chuck’s mnemonic device to remember that I like Mayo, Onion, and Pickle on my burgers.

The burger arrived. Egads, this thing is huge. It’s got to be an inch thick! Would it be, as they describe “medium” on the menu, “Pink through and through”? You bet. I took one bite, and juice poured onto my plate. I took a second bite, and the heat of the green chile exploded against my taste buds. On the third bite, it registered that the meat was fresh and hand-formed. I have to admit it. Chuck was right. This was the best green chile cheeseburger ever. This was indeed a 5.0 Addie burger.

You Have to Admire this Courage

“When Sage Bakehouse co-owners Andree Falls and Amy Cox met in Dallas, Andree was running her own restaurant and Amy was completing a Master's in neuro-biology. Both had been coming to Santa Fe to hike for years before they chose it as an ideal place to live. When they decided to open a bakery, the fact that they had no idea how to do it didn't deter them in the least.” (From the web site.)

They found their bread mentor in Michael London, a well-known baking connoisseur in upstate New York and former English professor, who taught them everything about the baking business--from ingredients to equipment.

“Sage Bakehouse opened in June of 1996, and served 300 people on its fifth day in business. By the end of August, the company had grown ten times over. Originally baking 200 loaves per day, the bakery now produces 3,500 to 4,000 daily. "We're very lucky to be well-received," Andree asserts gratefully.

Since its debut, the Sage Bakehouse has become a Santa Fe institution. The bread is golden perfection, made even more delicious by a natural leavening process free of commercial yeast, and other restaurants around town proudly feature it. “ (From the web site.) Shown on the left are (l. to r.) a batard, a multi-grain with seeds, a cranberry loaf, and a chipotle cheese loaf.

We had sampled their bread at Sophia’s Place and Ezra’s Place in Albuquerque, and nothing was going to stop us from going right to the source. After at least fifteen minutes of debate, we finally settled on (clockwise, from top left): the Sourdough made with authentic lactobacillus sourdough culture and which, the bakers claim, is “tangier and chewier than the typical Bay Area offering; the Pane Paisano, an Italian country bread that is “the ideal sponge for extra virgin olive oil” (and we can attest to the accuracy of that claim); the Pecan-Raisin that contains more than a third of a pound each of select raisins and pecans; and the seeded baguette.

Well, these were devoured in short order, and a stop to replenish our supply will be necessary before leaving Santa Fe.

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