Gardunos : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

So one day, you’re walking down Vegas Boulevard and…

Oh man, I can’t *believe* I forgot to blog about this… I think I Tweeted, but 140 characters does this no justice.

So picture it if you will. Las Vegas Boulevard just a week or so ago.

I’m over at the Mirage because I was hungry and wanted the fare offered at the Carnegie Deli***.

I swear, I am a New York Jewish girl, because I gotta have their chopped liver salad. Just *gotta* have it!

So after finishing my meal and losing a few bucks to the slots, I decided to walk.

I always have to take some time to walk Vegas Blvd to see how it has changed. Plus, you get a whooole different view of The Strip at street level.

There I am walking north on the strip headed toward Fashion Show Mall with a destination of the Trump Hotel nestled in behind the mall, when I see a little alcove-like thing in the wall around the Mirage.

People are lined up there and I figure, well, it’s some Vegas thing, a mostly naked show girl, an “amazing double” dressed up as Michael Jackson (only I just saw him a couple hours ago back at the Bellagio) or a Three Card Monte game, who knows.

I was not prepared for what I saw.

Not. Prepared.

I come around the bend and see this lush green inset in the wall with a railing.

Ok, you know when you go to a cathedral or a really large Catholic church and they have the Virgin Mary Grotto? With the statue and the railing and the somber tones?

Yeah. It was like that.

Only the statue people were worshiping was this (click for full size):


If the imagery isn’t immediately clear to you, that’s a golden rendition of Sigfried and Roy and a white tiger, festooned with fakey shards of crystals shooting out of the cement moorings.

Oh man, everyone was snapping photos like the red carpet. They’d put the kids in front of this thing, or the lady would get in front and the guy would take the photo then the guy would get up there and the lady would snap away, and then the whole family would crowd in there.

People were beside themselves to get photos with this statue.

In a non-ironic way.

Well, I found a break in the crowd and grabbed a couple iPhone photos so I could show The Good Man and we could look at this later and ponder just WTF.

I have no answers.

Other than that’s Vegas, I suppose…

***Not intentionally, but we ended up having an “old home” week in Las Vegas. We went to Garduños to fulfill longing for the food of my youth, then later I took The Good Man, a Brooklyn boy, back to the Carnegie for a monster Reuben (corned beef, if you please).

Woo! Thank you!

October 6, 2009 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Albuquerque, Gardunos, good eats, latent childhood, New Mexico, Opinions, road trip, travel 

Hit 115 visitors yesterday, a new record for my little blog that could!

Thanks to all the eyeballs that (who?) dropped on by! Much appreciated!

Today I embark on a journey back to New Mexico. We’ll see what sort of trouble I can get myself into!

And oh yes, there will be good eats. Of that there is NO doubt!

Is Big Brother Watching?

To my Albuquerque friends, welcome to the fray.

According to today’s ABQjournal, ya’ll are getting Google’s “street view” maps.

They photographed the streets here in the Bay Area a bit back. It’s both cool and creepy. Cool in that when I’m going to a restaurant I’ve not been to before, I can take a look, see what it looks like and spot it more easily from my car. Creepy in that I looked up my home address and by God, there it is. On a nice clear sunny day.

It was a quiet day in my neighborhood. I’m not there, at least not outside. Not like the scores of people who are up in arms over how they’ve been caught on Google’s camera, like this couple who have even filed a lawsuit.

It’s something of a game online, web forums dedicated to finding nekkid people on Google street view. And yes, by the way, there are quite a few. Some worth seeing…others, notsomuch.

Street View really is a fascinating thing. I mean, it can put you “right there”, which is cool. When they are done with Albuquerque, I fully intend to look up lots of favorite places in a homesick kind of way. I may gaze longingly at the Garduño’s location on Academy for hours…(it’s not there yet despite the article saying much of Albuquerque is already done)

I just looked up the house I grew up in. It’s there. And the residents have totally redone the house. Almost didn’t recognize it. Whoa! (bastards took out my mom’s rose bushes!)

Ok, it is also pretty creepy. Especially when you see people caught unawares as the van rolls by.

On Sunday, The Good Man and I were waiting for a table at our new fave breakfast place. While leaning against our car, I heard a van rattle by and pause. It caused me to turn around. Turns out Microsoft might be launching a similar service. At least that’s what the van said on the side. So there I’ll be, face hungry and agog on yet another street view service. Just. Great.

Creepy.

At least I had my clothes on.

For fun: top 15 street view sightings. No nudity on this one, just FYI.

Tradition

It’s a lovely thing. It’s a way to bind people together (and not in that “I can’t breathe kind of way”), a way to identify each other, a way to mark time.

In my life there are plenty. Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Posole at New Year’s. Ham at Easter.

Noticing a theme here? My traditions do tend to revolve around food.

Fair enough.

When I was living in Albuquerque and working at Sandia Labs, the Friday tradition was happy hour at Gardunos over by Winrock Mall.

Delicious margaritas, happy hour tasties, and Mariachi as a way to end the week. That can’t be bad.

Today I’m enjoying a Bay Area tradition. Observed by most restaurants in the area and also by the cafeteria where I work.

Clam chowder.

: slurp slurp :

Oh yeah, baby. I know it’s Friday when there is a steaming pot of chow-dah at the Cafeteria. As far as I know, it’s homemade on site. This week’s batch isn’t as tasty as last week, but that’s ok. It’s still all kinds of yum on a cold rainy day.

The engineers will line up in droves, often the only time all week they toddle out of their black hole labs to see the light of day. I get in line with my unwashed brothas to savor the aroma.

Lop off a slice of sourdough, and that’s a little bit of heaven right there on a plastic tray.

So, ya’ll entertain yourselves, I’m enjoying a tradition over heah.

Happy Friday to all.

My Happy Meal

July 9, 2007 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Albuquerque, Bay Area, dessert, Gardunos, good eats, Love, Opinions, San Francisco, Sodini's 

In one of those “I saw something and that gave me an idea for something else” moments, I was scanning the Albuquerque Tribune today and looked under the “Photos” heading where sometimes they have little “Viewfinder” vignettes with a cool black and white photo accompanying. Today there is a link with the title Viewfinder: His happy meal.

It’s a cute little story about a dog. But that’s not the point of this post.

Just reading that title in my stressed out work haste made me think about food, comfort food (it is my lunch hour, after all). I have been so tweaked out with work and personal issues that I have been eating a LOT, lately. Taking to fats and sweets and salty to try to make me feel better about a life that feels on the verge. It’s doing nothing to help my waistline and doing even less to improve my mood.

Nonetheless, as I sit here with rumbling in my tum, I had a thought upon reading that title “What meal would make me happy?” Kind of like a turn on “If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?”

My mom wasn’t that great a cook, so I don’t have a lot of “home cooked” stuff I could list. But let me take a stab at it.

If I had to eat a last meal and there were no space or calorie limitations on my tummy, here’s top ten what I’d have:

1) My best friend’s homemade chile rellenos. She makes them with chile grown by her uncle, the flavor is fantastic and she has just the right batter to make them light and delicious. Alongside her with her pressure cooked pinto beans, she makes the best beans, hands down.

2) Beef Lasagne from Sodini’s in San Francisco. And the seafood linguini…..

3) Fried Calamari from Caesar’s down near the Wharf in San Francisco. And the Minestrone….

4) The green chile chicken enchiladas with an egg and sour cream on top from Gardunos….and a couple margs…I love Gardunos mix. And the carne adovada……

5) Pretty much anything made by my brother-in-law, but his mashed potatoes rock my little world…….

6) My mom’s tortillas “back in the day”. She can’t put the finesse on ‘em like she used to, but circa about when I was seven years old and we’d come home from Saturday Mass and she’d roll ‘em out and I’d cook ‘em on the griddle. Layer on marinated beef or game meat, cheese and you were off to the races……

7) Anything from Legal Sea Foods in Boston.

8) Hamburger. All of the following:
A green chile cheeseburger from Blakes.
A Whataburger.
A Fuddruckers hamburger circa 1986. (I went recently, it’s yucky now, but back then it was da bomb! ).
A carefully cooked thick burger over a campfire on a bun that *might* have a little sand or ash on it but who cares because you’ve been swimming in the lake/fishing/ hiking/ skiing all day and you are FAMISHED and besides you already ate two hotdogs……

9) My own chile con queso and chips

10) Huevos rancheros from this restaurant in Albuquerque that is now defunct and it will plague me all day until I can remember the name……

Honorable mention:

Biscuits hand made by the mom of my college roommate along with her homemade apricot jam….next to two farm fresh (I pulled ‘em this morning) over easy fried eggs.

Homemade ice cream (my best friend’s recipe) and a couple of my homemade chocolate chip cookies

Anything from Chopies, Nopolitos or Sadies

An Owl Burger (the one in San Antonio, NM, not the Albuquerque location)

Pizza from New York City, preferably the borough of Brooklyn….

Anything from the Aqua Grill in SoHo.

A good old fashioned Polish buffet alongside my Midwest family in South Bend. Ah the fried chicken! And the sausages! And the saurkraut! : drool :

Crabs, lobsters and clams straight outta the pot by the pool at the home of my best friend from high school. Ah, those were good days…..

I’m sure there is a lot I’m missing, but that’ll do for now. I’m happy. And hungry.

: rumble :

The Answer

April 14, 2007 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Gardunos, green chile, Hatch, Las Vegas, New Mexico 

I posed the question “What’s a girl gotta do to get a good margarita in this town?” on April 4th.

I found the answer.

An airplane.

Did you know that Gardunos has a location at The Palms casino in Las Vegas? Yes of course you knew that and so did I, The Palms being owned by those good New Mexico boys the Maloof Brothers.

On Thursday, I entered the establishment with much trepidation. Would it be the same as my beloved Winrock Mall location? Would the margs taste right? Would the menu be the same?

I exhaled a sigh of relief to see the *exact* same menu. I ordered a marg. Aaaah, there it is.

I had an obscene amount of green chile, what they call their “Chile Gourmet”, a green chile bowl con machaca. The fruit of Hatch was hot that night, so hot I was “whoo’ing” and sweating like an amateur. Such delicious pain.

Such a happy New Mexico girl.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m going again tonight! Yipee! And taking some “newbies”. Hope they love it! Aw really who cares, *I* love it (and so does that wonderful man who will hold my hand and give me water when I weep “it’s too hot” tears) and everything is gonna be all right in my world.

Enjoy the weekend!

Lime+Tequila+Triple Sec+salt+ice = love

April 4, 2007 by · Comments Off
Filed under: Gardunos, Margaritas, New Mexico, NMSU, Sodini's 

What’s a girl gotta do to get a good margarita in this town?

I moved from the great State of New Mexico about ten years ago. This Memorial Day, in fact, marks ten years ago. Oh how far I’ve come in lo these ten years. The span between 28 and 38 sometimes feels like a lifetime.

I was a wide-eyed innocent back in the day. I’ve become more cynical, less career driven and much, much calmer in these ten years. Not to say that wouldn’t have happened had I stayed in Albuquerque, but I think living in “the big city” has grown me up…a lot.

At first I wanted to throw off my New Mexico roots. I didn’t tell many people I was from there thinking it foreign and backward. The people I did mention it to said “oh, like Taos?” Good lord, if they only knew there was SO much more to the state than Taos. Or Santa Fe.

A lot of people in San Francisco have asked me about Santa Fe. I think the Madison Avenue advertisers have done a good job of hyping “the mystique”. I guess if you aren’t from there it’s all mysterious and stuff. For a local, it’s a tourist place. Locals avoid tourist places.

In order to help my fellow San Franciscans understand, I began to liken Santa Fe to Pier 39. I’d get a startled “oh!”, but they got it. I’d tell them there was much to see in a state that big that didn’t include Santa Fe or Taos. Then I’d drop this tidbit on them: you can’t fly into Santa Fe on any of the major airlines. That was usually enough to get them talking about something else.

But time has passed and I’ve gotten perspective on my state. Now I find I’m proud as hell of being from New Mexico, and I’ll shout it from the rooftops. My boss at work wears a USC shirt on most Fridays because it’s his alma mater and he’s very proud. So I got online and ordered up a nice crimson NMSU shirt and began wearing it on every Friday, grinning at him in staff meetings. Sadly he didn’t notice until I pointed it out…..

NMSU made it to the NCAA this year. Oh man, after years of looking at the Duke posters and brackets outside of my VP’s office (and my executive VP and the VP of the group I worked in a few years back) I was so damn proud to post up the wall outside my office with NMSU schwag this year.

I had a laugh when a group stood outside my office looking at the stuff and laughing about how they hadn’t heard of New Mexico State. I said, “hey, by the damn way, our Governor is running for President!” They looked at me with blank stares. I said “Bill Richardson” helpfully. The response was an appalling, “who?”

Bah!

But ok, I’ve gotten used to people thinking I’m from Arizona. I’ve gotten used to “oh Taos” being the answer to the statement “I’m originally from New Mexico” or jokes about a left turn at Albquerque. I’ve learned to deal.

What I’m still struggling with is the lack of good Mexican food around here. You’d think a state with a population of Latinos at or better than half would have some kicking Mexican food. You would be wrong. At least for the Northern part of the state. I lay no claims to the food down south not having spent enough time in research down there.

My loving partner thought he knew from good Mexican food until this past October when, on a road trip, I turned him on to the delights and joys of the fruits of Hatch, New Mexico.

But more than that…more than using tomatillos for the green in your salsa, more than finding *gasp* CARROTS in my fajitas, more than seeing low fat refrieds on my plate, the one thing I miss is a real good margarita.

It can’t be that hard, right? And yet it is. It’s all about the mix. Gardunos does it well, really well. My mouth is watering as I type…. Sadies also does a fine job. I think one of the best margs I ever had was in Juarez at Señor Frogs (I don’t think it’s still open at that location). It was great because it was fresh squeezed lime juice, a bit of sugar, and tequila. All nice and unmessed with. Fresh and oh so delicious.

You should taste the crap I have to put up with around here. It’s unnatural! It makes a homesick girl want to cry.

Now there is a LOT of food that the Bay Area does REALLY well, (I’m talking to you Peter and Mark Sodini), but so far…Mexican food isn’t one of them.

Don’t EVEN get me started on guacamole. Avocado, lime juice, tiny bit of cilantro, tomatoes. THAT’S IT!

Why’s it gotta be so hard?

Sigh, sometimes it doesn’t pay to be an expatriate New Mexican…..

The State’s answer isn’t mine.

March 19, 2007 by · Comments Off
Filed under: ABQjournal, Gardunos, green chile, Hatch, New Mexico 

On March 15, 2007, Arnold Vigil wrote an article in the ABQjournal titled “To Mix, or Not Chiles?” (terrible grammar, by the way…..).

In this article, Mr. Vigil discussed that the New Mexico State Legislature, currently in session, is contemplating a “State Answer” to the “State Question” which was established on the books in 1999. The state question, as most natives already know, is “Red or Green”, asked by wait staff in restaurants and referring to which type of chile you want on your eats.

The proposed State Answer is….get this…”Christmas”….referring to wanting both.

Ok…I don’t want the state answering for me. Mainly because I never order both. But also because that answer is dumb.

None of my friends order both. We are confirmed green chile fans. Hell, I know a few folks from Hatch and other spots who contribute their crops to the state’s supply of green chile. Plus, I like the taste of green better. Red chile is usually left out in the field too long and roasted too long and it takes on a bitter flavor. Bitter is NOT what I want on my huevos. No, a nice smoky green chile is the stuff of life. Red is okay. I’ll have it on enchiladas sometimes…nice on carne adovada, of course. But I’m a green girl and most of my buddies are too.

And if we did order both, we’d say both. I think I remember one time at Gardunos when I was a kid, my dad ordered both, but he said “both”. No self-respecting native would say “Christmas” or even more schlocky “Navidad”. Ugh!

As New Mexicans, sometimes I think we shoot ourselves in our own feet by giving over to scholcky and silly. Actually, a lot of that comes from, I believe, people who moved to NM…but moved there like 20 or 30 years ago and fancy themselves to be natives. No.

Maybe a turista can giggle and feel so “in” by ordering “Christmas” on their burrito. The waitperson will bring it to them. And all will be fine. But those of us from there originally will roll our eyes at the ridiculousness. I guess coming from there you have to learn to give over to some of the silliness. If I can endure Nelson Martinez on the news and then endless commercials for his Mariachi band, schlocky content set on “extreme”, then I can handle my own freaking legislature catering to the inane.

Hey, this may be a north vs south thing. Maybe up North they say “Christmas” with frequency. South of the Sandia Casino, no self-respecting New Mexican would give in to that.

And I have to be honest…I’m a little tweaked that the Legislature thinks they can answer the age old “red or green” question for me. If this passes, does this mean everyone has to have both all the time? Oh the horror at the thought! My mouthwatering Chopes chicken enchiladas with a fried egg on top, smothered in green and *gasp* bitter ass red? NO!

I don’t want this to pass! I don’t want this answer on the books! I’m outraged!

Who is the lobbyist that can best represent the interest of us the few, the proud, the hungry!??! In the name of Sadies and Gardunos and Nopalitos I DEMAND that I be given a choice! My choice!

Don’t let the government dictate your combo plate!

“Christmas”…fer chrissakes…forcing an answer in un-American.


Photo by Karen Fayeth