Sunday, September 9, 2012

Any List of the Best Places for Breakfast…

in Santa Fe will start with the same restaurants. You will find Harry’s Roadhouse, where we have eaten both breakfast and lunch and far preferred the breakfast. You will find the Plaza Café where we have eaten twice and far preferred the first breakfast to the second. You will find Cafe Pasqual's where we enjoyed our second meal far more than the first. You will find the Pantry Restaurant which we really enjoyed. And you will find Tecolate Café.

We had breakfast here on our last Santa Fe trip having been influenced by a segment on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives and came away less than impressed. But realizing that any kitchen may have an off day—even though technically they shouldn’t—we decided to give it another go.

When we arrived, there was already a line forming outside and the anteroom just inside the main doors was filled with hungry tourists.

(I am assuming that they were tourists because most of those waiting were grabbing tourist information brochures from the handy rack.) Whereas the Pantry seems to be the locals’ favorite, Tecolate Café seems to attract locals and tourists in equal measure.

The motto of Tecolate Café is “Great Breakfast…No Toast.” And that is a story. According to a Smart Kitchen blog written on June 7, 2011, the tale is as follows: “Tecolote Cafe is quirky, but they know their food and the spirit of the cantankerous New England army cook and founder, Bill Jennison (who passed last May), pervades….
Apparently, Bill was a crusty son of Massachusetts, who worked around the hospitality business for many years, finally settling in Santa Fe. In the
1980′s Bill decided that Santa Fe…needed a breakfast spot dedicated to serving fresh LOCAL New Mexican food.

“He sought out authentic recipes from his archives, his hospitality colleagues, and long-time residents. He sampled the recipes around to his network. They loved the food, but were not sure about his breakfast concept. As his former wife, who owned the Guadeloupe Cafe and loved the food, but not the operating hours, queried ‘Why do you want to be in a breakfast place where you will work yourself to the bone making this fabulous food, only to be answering complaint after complaint about the toast.’ Bill had a simple, pragmatic New England answer. ‘No Toast!’ and thus the Tecolote Café was born, without toast.”

To this day, breakfast does not include toast and with many of the breakfast items one has the choice between a basket of small pastries or a flour tortilla.

The menu contains a warning for the uninitiated: “Our chile fluctuates from hot to very, very hot. So if you're not sure, ask your server for a sample!” And I overheard a server explaining to what I presume was a table of tourists that the green chile was hotter than the red.

Since our breakfast choices give us a chance to sample both, I’ll be the judge of which is hotter.

Chuck ordered the Sheepherder’s Breakfast that contained boiled new skin-on red potatoes combined with jalapeño and onion, which were then browned on the grill. The potatoes, onions, and jalapeños were topped with green chile (he also could have chosen red or the Christmas combination of green and red), melted cheddar, and two over easy eggs.
There wasn’t much to complain about except—in my opinion—an excess of cheese. The green chile was quite good, but I’ve had better. And Chuck decided that, for him, this much green chile is too overwhelming at breakfast.

My selection was the Carne Y Huevos. Carne here refers to carne adovado, which is a dish of pork cubes marinated in red chile and then cooked until falling apart tender in the same marinade.
The quality of the chile can make or break this dish, and here I was not impressed with Tecolate Café’s version. In fact, I thought it far spicier than the green chile—perhaps because it had an underlying harshness.

The pork came with two eggs and a serving of what the menu describes as their “famous potatoes.” At first glance, these looked delicious. They were very thinly sliced and browned to a crisp. But as one ate through the outer layer, the potatoes inside were barely cooked.

We came away still unimpressed with Tecolate Café and can only award 2.5 Addies. I had rather we had gone back to the Pantry Restaurant.

And speaking of the Pantry…

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