Thursday, January 13, 2011

“That’s It!”

(continued from yesterday’s entry.) At the station, our citizen went through a catalog of places where Blue Corn Pancakes could be found. Seeing the photo (right) of Jemez Stage Stop, he exclaimed: “That’s it!” With this positive ID, we were able to close this unusual “Missing Persons” case. I assigned the write-up of the case to Chuck. Since the restaurant had been known as Deb’s Deli in an earlier life, his report read:

“Missing Person: Deborah Dellee
Disposition: Party located. Re-united with person reporting missing person.
Case Closed.”

Nice job.

My name’s Kate.

As the late great baseball player and manager and noted Twentieth Century Philosopher, Yogi Berra, is reputed to have said “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
We pulled up in the small parking lot, and I exclaimed “There is a small stream in back. I distinctly remember this. We almost ate lunch at Los Ojos across the street, but chose this place instead.”

Yes, we had been at Jemez Stage Stop five or six years ago when it was known as Deb’s Deli. We were making the drive west and south from Bandolier National Monument and went over the mountains and down Route 4. In need of lunch, we stopped sans information (we weren’t traveling with a laptop in those days) and had a couple of sandwiches. I don’t remember much of the meal, but have always remem-bered the café and the beautiful scenery along Route 4 (see yesterday’s entry).

The minute we walked through the doors, I turned to Chuck and said “We ate at this table over here.” (Am I good or what?) I must admit that I don’t remember everything. Were cowboy boots displayed everywhere (left)? Was there a poster advising the cautious use of mustard, mayo, and catsup (photo below)? What about the Native American rugs and Marine Corps banner (fourth photo below)? Where they there? I don’t think so. I don’t remember the battery operated candles on each table (fourth photo below). Do I? I know we ate there in early October, so I doubt that someone had pulled a chair up in front of the fireplace insert (directly below).

Jemez Stage Stop only seats about forty inside, but has additional patio dining. Given that it is thirty-five degrees outside and snow is piled on the table tops, we’ll stick to indoors. But we found what we were looking for—our friend Tom the Traveler’s Mecca of blue corn pancakes. But, of course, we had already found it, and just didn’t know it.

For such a small place in such an out-of-the-way location, the café has as extensive breakfast menu. One can dine on Mother’s Mountain Traditional Breakfast (two eggs, cheesy country potatoes, toast, choice of bacon or sausage); the Chuck Wagon Special (scrambled eggs, ham, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, country potatoes, and your choice of toast); the Jemez Handheld Burrito filled with eggs, cheese, chopped green chili, country potatoes; Huevos Rancheros; the Breakfast Bowl with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and country potatoes in a large bowl with your choice of bacon, ham or sausage; scrambled eggs and chorizo; and sausage gravy and biscuits.

Omelets (made with extra-large eggs and cheddar cheese and a side of country potatoes) include: the American made with ham, bacon or sausage; the Denver with ham, tomato, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions; the Popeye with spinach and mushrooms; the Veggie with spinach, tomato, mushrooms, peppers, black olives and onions; and the Spanish with green chili, onions, tomatoes, black olives and a side of beans. You can add chorizo to any omelet for $1.00 and can also order a sample of their red or green chili for $1.00.

From the griddle come blue corn/blueberry pancakes, Buttermilk Pancakes, Miah Cakes (buttermilk cakes, bacon, onions, and cheddar cheese and green chili stew); Ricca Cakes (blue corn silver dollar pancakes with green chili and cheddar cheese), Chocolate Charlie Cakes (buttermilk pancakes with a chocolate chip “smiley” face cooked in).

My breakfast choice was the Veggie Omelet with chorizo added and a side of green chile. This was amazing. Filled with loads of crisp tender veggies, it also contained a bountiful amount of spicy fresh chorizo that is made in house and is flavored with enough red chile to wake you up in the morning, but not so much that you are guzzling water for relief. The veggie omelet would have been delicious alone. The chorizo kicked it up more than a few notches.

The accompanying cubed and fried potatoes were lightly covered with grated cheese. The green chile, also made in house, was a tasty (spicy) and interesting version. It was thinner than most and contained chopped tomato and bits of ground meat. And it tasted great on the potatoes.

Well, we had been on the trail of the missing blue corn pancakes, so could Chuck order anything else? He went with the tall stack (three cakes) without blueberries. (We later learned that they are Wild Maine blue-berries.) As our young server (who was doubling as the cook) went to take his menu, Chuck added on a side of the country potatoes. (Our friend Tom the Traveler maintains that Chuck is the only person he knows who orders potatoes with pancakes.) Then he added on a side of four slices of bacon. Then an order of toast.

As we were waiting for our breakfast, we were talking with Michael Farber, the restaurant’s manager, and learned that the blue corn comes from a local grain mill in Santa Ana Pueblo and is sold under the Tamaya Blue® brand. (By the way, doesn’t he look like the late George Carlin in his youth? Maybe you need to see the pony tail to see the resemblance.) And he told us to save room for their homemade cookies.

When they brought out his breakfast, all I could say was “Oh my God.” A heaping pile of potatoes. Two slices of thick Texas-style toast. Four slices of bacon. And three of the tallest pancakes that I have ever seen that were served with warmed blueberry and maple syrups.

It is hard to describe the cakes without comparing them to those at Sophia’s and the Range Café. All three places serve up a great blue corn pancake, each have their own nuances, and all three were delicious in their own right. Sophia’s had deeper corn flavor. The Range Café’s had the addition of pinon. But the corn meal at Jemez had a coarser and heartier texture which made for a heartier pancake. And you seldom find a pancake this large that is this light and fluffy. He does wish he had ordered them with the wild blueberries, but wanted the pure taste without additional elements.

I am sure that it comes as no surprise that he didn’t “eat the whole thing.” Half of the stack returned home with us and I have the leftovers carefully packaged for a breakfast this weekend. He did demolish the potatoes, bacon, and toast.

Just as we were finishing, Michael brought over a plate containing two chocolate cookies. The flat chocolate cookie was made with cinnamon, cardamom, and white pepper. Wikipedia describes the taste of cardamom as being “a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance.” It was wonderful in the cookie. The second domed topped cookie was gluten free and resembled a chocolate meringue. It was light, crisp, and delicious.

All in all, the adventure surrounding the search for blue corn pancakes, the satisfaction of an unexpected revisiting of an enjoyable stop from years past, and the pleasure of meeting Michael Farber and partaking of his creations combined to provide a 5.0 Addie dining experience.

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