Thursday, August 23, 2012

As We Were Leaving Backroad Pizza…

I picked up a postcard listing the “Farm to Restaurant” locations in Santa Fe and was happy to see that our planned lunch spot after our morning on the Plaza—The Shed—was among those listed.

“There aren’t many opportunities to eat in a building that dates to 1692, but that’s just what the Carswell family offers to tourists and locals in central Santa Fe. The Shed originally occupied an old wood shed on Burro Alley in 1953, housing just 22 seats. The family moved to a more historic (and spacious) setting at Prince Plaza in 1960. Over the years, the Carswells embraced a deeper commitment to New Mexican cuisine…. The space features low doors (people were shorter in 1692), thick walls (people were louder?) and an inviting courtyard patio....

The Carswell family’s personal paintings line the wall

and ristras (strings) of dried red chilies hang from the ceiling. The Shed offers plenty of color on and off the plate” (Joshua Lurie

The Shed was a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award in 2003. “The Shed Restaurant received this award…as an American Classic of timeless appeal. Winners are selected by secret ballot by more than 600 food-industry professionals. Many consider ‘the Beards’ to be the Oscars of the food world…. This fine acknowledgement adds to the celebration of The Shed's 50th anniversary” (

“A restaurant begun in a burro shed on a dusty alley in a then-sleepy little town’ might not sound as if it would be--50 years later--hailed as a venerable institution. The Shed, though, has become the standard-setter for northern New Mexican fare, Santa Fe charm, and warm hospitality” (The Beard Foundation’s web site).

The lobby’s multi-hued visual fodder makes it easy to miss the framed certificate commemorating the award, but you get the feeling the restaurant’s proprietors are okay with that.
The Shed has been a family tradition—three generations of Carswells serving three generations of patrons…(who) queue up for as long as it takes to be seated in one of the restaurant’s nine rooms behind Prince Patio, a flagstone courtyard oasis drenched in sunlight and shaded by verdant vines…” (

Since we had reviewed The Shed’s menu on-line, we didn’t see the need to read the menu posted by the patio entry nor did we spend much time looking at the menus provided by our server.
I must say up front that we probably didn’t give The Shed a real opportunity to show why they have been honored by the Beard Foundation. For some reason, neither of us was in the mood for New Mexican food that day. And no, we weren’t deterred by Andrea Pyenson’s words at bostonglobe/ “Anyone with a low tolerance for spicy food should heed the warning on the Shed’s menu: ‘For those unaccustomed to eating chile, ours is spicy!’

"Most dishes specify whether they come with red or green, but some, like the enchilada and taco plate, offer a choice of red, green, or ‘Christmas’ (red and green). The red chili is like a fireball exploding in your mouth. You get the sensation of eating, then boom! Taste buds you never knew you had wake up and there’s a prickly feeling inside your cheeks. The green is much more subtle; a delicious complement to a blue corn enchilada.”

I selected the Oven Roasted Turkey Breast sandwich which came (my choice) on sourdough bread. I was told by our server that this excellent bread came from the Plaza Bakery, which we may need to seek out before our stay is finished.

The sandwich contained roasted turkey slices (sliced medium thin), Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and—for special “oomph”—green chiles. It was a very large sandwich. It was a very good sandwich. It just wasn’t an exciting sandwich.
Especially when compared to the enchiladas smothered in red chile that I saw being consumed at a nearby table.

As a reminder that someday I need to try one of the black bean burger recipes that I have printed off the internet, Chuck chose the Gardenburger which was served on a toasted bun with a side of roasted green chile sauce and his choice of Swiss, American or cheddar cheese. Like his favorite black bean burger at Shelby’s Bistro in Tubac, AZ, the patty was nice and crisp on the outside.
He asked our server what ingredients had been used to make the patty, and other than telling us that it contained “lots of things” like beans, carrots, and sesame seeds, he wasn’t really sure.

Both of our sandwiches came with a small cup of garbanzo bean salad that, in addition to the beans, continued celery and parsley and was tossed in a light red wine vinegar dressing.

And to accompany our sandwiches, we ordered the Italian Green Bean Salad which is described on the menu as “This Shed relic is for the green bean lover. Steamed green beans marinated in olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices.”

The best way to describe this is to paraphrase from that old nursery rhyme The Little Girl with a Curl—when it was good, it was very, very good, and when it was bad it was horrid. The beans were lightly steamed and tossed with what seemed to be the same red wine vinegar dressing that graced the garbanzo beans. Way too many of the beans had been left on the vine way too long, and the short cooking process left them tough and fibrous.

Folks, there is no excuse for sending beans like this out of the kitchen. If you are being frugal, save them for the soup pot. But I am not sure any amount of cooking could have saved these beans.

We probably should have saved The Shed for a day when we wanted what The Shed does best—New Mexican food. With the exception of the green beans, there was really nothing to complain about, but this lunch just didn’t excite me and earns no more than 3.0 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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