Hello, world! Hannah and I are continuing to eat well, but we aren’t writing about it right now.
Hannah: The important thing to remember is WHY we went to L.A. for Christmas. Do you?
I CAN NO LONGER REMEMBER
I JUST FLOAT WITH THE WIND
Hannah: To go see Les Mis at that fancy movie theater!
Edward: Oh yeah! That was a long way to go to see a movie. Also, now we’re going to seem like crazy Les Mis superfans.
Hannah: I’m not sure why I didn’t feel well later that night, I only ate a bunch of fried seafood, a big-ass coffee drink, movie theater food, soda, candy, and then corned beef super late at night. What could go wrong???
Edward: *sad trombone*
Hannah: What is the name of that theater?
Edward: The ArcLight — the fanciest theater in the world!
Hannah: Yes. And we went to see Les Mis on Christmas Day. It was pretty crowded. Here are the two celebrities I saw:
and Lea Michele
Lea Michele was in the bathroom at the same time as me.
My Brush With Fame.
Edward: As a one-time L.A. resident, I can attest that those sightings represent the typical fame range of celebrity sightings.
Also, the locations where such celebrity sightings occur.
By the way, people of Earth, if you ever visit Los Angeles, you have to check out the ArcLight Hollywood. It will make all other multiplex experiences seem like being pelted with rocks and shoved into a barrel full of starving weasels.
The theater has reserved seating, none of those obnoxious pre-movie ads, minimal trailers, enforced rules about cell phone use and general noise making, and my favorite — no one is allowed in the theater after the movie starts.
Also, in the lobby you can get some ridiculously good coffee, served by severe-looking young Germanic staff dressed like Dieter in “Sprockets.”
Hannah: Oooh yeah
Hannah: So, well, the movie food isn’t worth talking about, and we dont’ have pics, so next is…
Edward: Fun fact: the Arclight discourages people from bringing babies to shows by actually charging full adult price for kids under 2 at peak hours!
So baby privileges are thereby reserved to the wealthy, while the riff raff must shell out for a babysitter or stay away.
Hannah: Do you mean the hoi polloi?
Edward: Doesn’t “hoi polloi” sound like it should be a delicious Hawaiian dish?
Made of the tears of native Hawaiians under the subjugation of Western imperialism.
Hannah: *sad trombone*
We should make one called poi haole.
Edward: Poi haole should be a hot dog.
Hannah: Served with poi and spam?
Edward: It would save a lot of grief from people seeing the poi and going wtf is that
Hannah: “Yo dog, we heard you like weird gross pork bits meat in tubes, so we put gross pork bits meat in squares on top!”
Kid pointing to bowl of grayish substance: “What is that?”
Dad: “It’s poi, son.”
Kid: “You ain’t kidding!”
*dad leaps out of frame*
OK we’d better move on!
This is why our L.A. recap is in multiple parts instead of being three paragraphs.
That place is kind of a blur. I was super tired from driving all day (or, riding), and it was late!
Edward: After the movie, we headed over to Canter’s Deli, which is a 24-hour joint and an old school L.A. institution.
Hannah: I ate corned beef! I think I picked it out of the sandwich because i don’t like rye bread all that much. I remember that, and orange soda?
Edward: I had a plate of pickled herring in cream sauce.
Hannah: And a bagel.
Edward: I love pickled herring, but I was only able to eat a little of it. It was…TOO MUCH HERRING
Hannah: Plus you ate a seafood tornado earlier in the day. A “literal” “tornado” of “seafood.”
Personally, I think the food at Canter’s is OK, but you’re really there mostly because (a) it’s one in the morning, and (b) you want to see some freaks. And the freaks include both patrons and waitstaff.
Hannah: Remember there was a loud band?
Edward: Yeah, although I can’t remember what kind of music they played. Which is odd because we were seated RIGHT BY THE BAND
You know when you go to eat at a place, and there’s a band playing, and you didn’t go there to see the band, nor do you especially want to have a band playing while you eat, and it’s kind of awkward because you’re avoiding eye contact with the band?
Hannah: I think it was classic wrock.
Man, I was mostly just tired, and consequently, crabby.
Edward: Yeah, we were beat from an evening of mingling with fancy folk and going to the bathroom with Glee cast members.
We ordered a bunch of food that we barely even ate, which is totes an L.A. thing to do.
Hannah: Uh, because who wants creamed herring in a hotel room with no fridge. Are you crazy????
Edward: But creamed herring is delicious!
BTW, you’ll find that we have almost no photos of any people in these restaurants, because people in L.A. have a weird ability to sense when they’re being photographed.
Hannah: Not that we’re all the time trying to take photos of people. I feel we go out of our way to not.
Edward: No, but they’re just in the frame.
At Canter’s though I really wanted to photograph most of the people there. It was full of freaks.
Edward: I mean not like backstage at a New York Dolls concert, just like wacky L.A. characters.
Hannah: Holy crap, we’re not even on Day 2 yet???
Edward: THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYING
Edward: In the morning we went across the street to the Fairfax Farmer’s Market, which is a big permanent market next to The Grove shopping center, which is hideous!
We first encountered the Fairfax market a few years back, when we visited L.A. to see Wicked at the Pantages in Hollywood. Does it not seem kind of weird that we keep traveling to L.A. to see musicals? I didn’t think I was that huge a fan of musicals, but apparently I’m willing to cross state lines to see one.
Hannah: It seems appropriate.
I’m not clear on where The Grove was in relation to our hotel (which was AWESOMELY located) but it seemed far.
Anyway, the Farmer’s Market was the other reason we went to LA!
Edward: Right, we fell in love with the market the first time we were there. It’s just rows and rows of stands selling awesome food! BBQ, Spanish tapas, Korean, French, Mediterranean, Cajun, Sushi, Singaporean…all kinds of deliciousness. There’s a French bakery where we got these tasty macarons…you can literally spend an entire day there just hanging out and eating a bit of this and that.
Macarons at the Normandie Bakery
Edward: And browsing through the many cool shops and fresh produce stalls.
Did you like Bob’s Donuts? I thought the coffee was good.
Hannah: Yes. Man, this is making me want to go back!!
Edward: Me too!!
Hannah: I do like Bob’s Donuts!
Edward: My favorite part of the visit was going to the market in the morning before it got busy, and just hanging out, drinking coffee, eating pastry, and reading. The market is open-air, and there’s a courtyard with tables where you can sit and eat.
If you love food, there’s something amazing about the market in a way that makes me feel like I’m ten years old, you know what I mean?
You’re surrounded by all these different food stalls that are all offering great food.
Hannah: Yes, but I feel like when we were there it was too overwhelming in some ways. Like, I wanted to try a bunch of stuff, but I feel like we tried very little.
Edward: Yeah, there was no way we could try more than a fraction of what was on offer. I could have spent a day just sampling stuff from the Cajun stall.
What was your favorite thing you had there?
Hannah: It’s all kind of a blur. To be honest, I think it’s the donuts.
For me I think it was the one I believe is called Magee’s Kitchen — the lunch counter with the crazy random items.
Hannah: Oh, yes, the roast beef.
Edward: That’s the one where you can get a corned beef sandwich….and enchiladas!
And Mac & Cheese!
Edward: Oh man, the roast beef and mac & cheese were delicious! Pure comfort food!
Edward: That was a fun experience, but it was a little too crazy there due to it being the holidays and zillions of tourists coming through town.
I say “tourists” as if we were not also tourists, since we had been there once before and were therefore locals.
Hannah: I think that was it. So many many people everywhere was a shock for this little country mouse.
Edward: Oh for sure…there aren’t many crowds in the United States like Los Angeles holiday crowds!
That evening, we tried Currywurst for the first time.
Currywurst is something we had never heard of before, but it’s apparently a super-popular fast food in Germany! It’s very simple — just a steamed/fried pork sausage that’s sliced up and slathered with curry ketchup.
Hannah: Currywurst was a delightful surprise!
Who knew that curry ketchup was the sauce flavor sensation we’d been waiting for??
Edward: WHO INDEED KNEW
Curry ketchup is delicious! It’s really the only way I want to have ketchup now.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I think Currywurst ended up being my favorite meal of our entire L.A. trip. Something I had never tried before, that was delicious, not expensive, and served up by some extremely pleasant people.
The sausage and sauce were delicious, and the garlic fries were EXTREMELY GARLICKY AND DELICIOUS
Basically, everything was delicious.
Hannah: It was so good we had it the next night, too, instead of going elsewhere.
Edward: That’s right — we actually gave up a precious food consumption slot for a repeat of Currywurst!
By the way, it should be noted that at no time during this trip were we actually hungry, in the sense of having empty stomachs. It was just a continuous process of topping off.
Hannah: So sad.
Let’s mention that we also went to the Griffith Park Observatory, and another movie. So it doesn’t seem like all we did was stuff ourselves and crawl back to our hotel.
Edward: That’s true, we did actually move our limbs in ways not related to eating food, or moving toward food.
Hannah: Although I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the only other place we ate twice was the amazing restaurant attached to our hotel. Proximity as a factor weighed heavily in our choices!!
Edward: There is that!
To be concluded…
What I loved about this sandwich
This is the Reuben special at Nob Hill Bar and Grill. What I loved was that the corned beef was succulent and extremely flavorful. I’d like to think it was house-corned, especially because I got actual corning spices in the sandwich.
Another thing to love
The dressing was served on the side. This is not traditional for a Reuben, but was much appreciated because the sandwich was already so moist, what with the delicious moist beef, the melty cheese, and the sauerkraut, that being able to apply the dressing as needed (or perhaps it I was meant to dip) was a plus for those of us who tend to be messy eaters.
I also loved loved loved
The perfectly cooked sweet potato fries! As a fan of such fries, I know the all-too-frequent disappointment of sweet potato fries that are either flimsy soggy and limp, or are firm because they’re underdone. These were crisp outside, fluffy inside, well-seasoned, not greasy, and very delicious. So much so that my dining companion has suggested we go back just so *she* can have those fries.
This sandwich doesn’t appear on the regular menu, so keep an eye on that special’s board!
Hannah: ON THE ROAD WITH HANNAH AND EDWARD
Is it a deal-breaker if I say I can live without ever eating a Tommyburger again?
Edward: Well, first of all your statement is nonsensical — it is not actually possible to live without eating Tommyburgers!
Hannah: Maybe if I ever get to go to the OG and taste the 50 year old chili, then maybe I’ll get it. But I’m always happy to support your interests — which is why every time we go to CA we have to stop in Barstow and get one.
Edward: It’s funny that our trip to Los Angeles was bookended by hamburgers — we got Laguna burgers before leaving town, and stopped at “Original” Tommy’s in Barstow on the way in!
Wait, no one will know what you’re talking about by “the OG” or the “50 year old chili.” Those things all demand explication. Which I shall provide.
Hannah: I expect people will do the research. I believe in the people. But you go ahead?
Edward: I don’t even expect people to finish reading our blog posts, much less do independent research based on them!
Please, tell us about Tommy’s.
Edward: Tommy’s is a famous regional burger chain based in Los Angeles. It’s been around since the 1940s.
When I visited L.A. as a little kid, my Uncle Steve took me to Tommy’s and I had a chili burger there, which is what they’re famous for. I fell in love with them!
I don’t know if they’re still around, but there used to be a whole bunch of weird off-brand Tommy’s knockoff joints in L.A., all called things like “Tom’s” and my favorite for sheer laziness, “Tomy’s”
Hannah: What is it that you love, though? What about the burger?
Edward: By the way, here’s a funny list of imitation Tommy’s joints in L.A.
I think the chili has a lot to do with it. It’s not fancy — in fact, it tastes kind of wrong on some level — but it’s still insanely delicious. And there’s a lot of it, so it’s a gloriously sloppy burger.
My theory about people’s favorite burgers is that you love what you grew up eating, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with my unseemly love for Tommy’s chili burgers.
And of course a lot of our favorite foods are our favorites because of the time and place that we first encountered them.
My first encounter with Tommy’s was at the original “OG” location, at the corner of Beverly and Rampart in L.A. (“OG” L.A.)
It was and is incredibly sketchy, which as we know automatically makes any burger 50% tastier.
Hannah: Also you were with a beloved person.
No seats, takeout only, just a shack with a bunch of surly ex-convict-looking dudes making burgers behind an open-air counter. You get in line, get your soda from a cooler, order your burger, then you get your burger and spoon some extremely unhygenic looking jalapeño peppers from a little metal prep box that was half-filled with dead fruit flies.
Then you take your burger and go across the street to the parking lot, where they just have these little shelves lining the lot that you lean against and eat your burger, usually next to people wearing a lot of leather and/or neck tattoos.
Hannah: Well, ok, I’m pro-going to Tommy’s but I’m anti eating it for MYSELF. I have to do complicated calculations to determine if what I’m about to eat is worth the stomachache it’s going to cause. Unfortunately, for me, Tommy’s doesn’t pass.
Edward: I think it’s the heightened sense of danger that adds deliciousness to your meal.
What delicious thing did we eat next? Herring in cream at Canter’s?
Edward: No way dude, you’re forgetting our first L.A. adventure!
We drove into town and for reasons of PURE WHIMSY decided to bypass our hotel and head straight for the beach!
We got onto the Pacific Coast Highway and drove up to Malibu.
We got to Malibu and then wanted to turn around, but could not, because Malibu is for some reason a very turn-around-unfriendly town, with streets that go right up to the buildings and not many parking lots. The only thing we could do is turn off onto what looked like a nice sedate small side road.
However, the road was too narrow to turn around on, so I kept driving down the road to see if there was a spot with some room to make a U-turn. But it just kept going!
And then there were cars behind and ahead of us, which was freaking me out because where did this road go, anyway? There was no sign that it was anything but a sleepy residential road!
Hannah: LOL Oh no, this was potentially such a fight scene. Tensions were running high in the car as I am not relaxed in such situations, and you are definitely not relaxed in such situations.
Edward: Yeah because you were like, turn around! And I was like, I can’t!
Then we reached some kind of mysterious gate with a bunch of cars, and I was like, “I DON’T KNOW OKAY WHATEVER!” and drove through the gate.
Hannah: Oh man, everything about this was awful! We didn’t know what was up, and we knew we were going to have to pay for parking. Which you HATE!
Edward: Oh yeah, there was some kind of ridiculous parking fee, like $10!
Hannah: And, I believe, it was CHRISTMAS DAY.
Edward: WE WERE PAYING TO PARK AT SOMETHING WE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT WAS
The whole thing kept getting weirder. I wasn’t sure what this place was — it looked like some kind of meeting hall or something from outside, and all these well-dressed people were filing into it. I was like, is this some private event? Everyone looks like they know each other! Let’s get out of here!
Edward: But then at some point we were like, SCREW IT LET’S GO IN
Hannah: After much angst!
Edward: I was like Hannah on “Girls,” I figured at worst it would make for good blogging material.
“Humiliated in Malibu”
“Awkward Silence as Security Guards Approached”
“Ejected from Posh Club AND Made to Pay for Parking”
Edward: However, it turned out to just be a seafood restaurant, the Paradise Cove Cafe. #anticlimax
Hannah: But it was lovely to be eating seafood on the beach in Malibu with you on Christmas day. What an adventure!!
Edward: Everything turned out much better than expected!
We got something that I’m going to call the Seafood Tornado.
Hannah: And fried clams! And bloody marys!
Hannah: Really, what can be said about fried clams. These were excellently clammy.
Edward: I had to look at the online menu to see what was on the Seafood Tornado — it’s ridiculous!
Yo dawg, I heard you like shrimp, so we put a giant prawn on top of a pile of jumbo shrimp!
Ahi sashimi, smoked salmon, bay scallop ceviche, marinated calamari, mussels….
That was a lovely afternoon. After our meal we went out onto the beach and I jumped in the air.
Hannah: Yes, things could have gone so wrong, but they went pretty right
Edward: Definitely the best restaurant experience I’ve had where I didn’t know anything about the restaurant, didn’t know I was going there, and in fact didn’t even intend to go to a restaurant in the first place!
Hannah: Oh andthebloodymarywasgoodandthewaiterwasgood
To be continued…
Hannah: Dinner at Chez Nous was delightful and everything was magnificently delicious. The special appetizer was Saucisson en Brioche, which was, oddly, a kind of introduction to a food I ran into a lot in Austin. They’re locally referred to as kolaches (but are actually klobásníky). Spicy jalapeno smoked sausage baked in a slightly sweet dough. I admit they became my go-to breakfast immediately.
Back to the french food! After that substantial appetizer, my entree arrived: perfectly crisp and moist Confit of Duck Legs with Apricot Compote. The succulent duck with fruit was everything I wanted. I think duck as a food kind of moved up in my estimation after that dish.
But the real star was the little mushroom timbale that, along with pommes dauphines and a roasted tomato, comprised the “side dish” to the duck. The mushroom was a savory custard that smelled intoxicatingly of mushroom and truffle. I was sure the promise of the aroma wouldn’t be met in the flavor….how could it be? But I was wrong. That thing was one of the best things I’ve *ever* eaten. And its tininess made it even more memorable, because it left me wanting more.
MOONSHINE PATIO BAR & GRILL
Dinner at Moonshine was a more casual affair. We sat out on the patio and enjoyed the late Spring in Austin. The beer was good (I drank a local IPA that I, sadly, can’t remember the name of), and the chicken and waffles was great.
The chicken was boneless, had a nice healthy spice and the combo of maple butter and chipotle gravy (with warm syrup too!) may sound….not appetizing….it actually worked very well for me.
FONDA SAN MIGUEL
Dinner at Fonda San Miguel was special because the restaurant is beautiful, our team got to eat together, and I had a drink that absolutely loved. The food was good, but I ate very light because I wanted to have room for dessert, which I didn’t end up having.
So my dinner choice, which was what they call “tostadas compuestas surtidas” was three small tostadas, one each topped with chicken, guacamole, and cochinita pibil (pork baked in banana leaf.) They were very good and I would recommend them as an appetizer, or for a light dinner!
The star of this meal, though, for me, was the Pisco Sour. The version they make at Fonda San Miguel is a Peruvian, so it uses Peruvian Pisco, lime juice, a little simple syrup, and an egg white to make it foam. Dotted with a drop of bitters, it’s so refreshing and light and cooling and tasty and one of those drinks that you know you could drink with ease and relish all night and you would be so very sad the next day. My dining companions explored all parts of the menu in their choices, and everyone was very happy with their meals.
My solo lunch at Downtown Burgers was on the last day of the conference when everyone was just trying to grab a quick bite between final sessions. Directly behind the convention center is this adorable burger shack with a few umbrella-ed tables out front. My bacon cheeseburger and fries with a cold can of Dr Pepper made me feel patriotic…I did my duty as an American! It didn’t hurt that the burger was awesome, the veg nice and fresh, the bacon crisp, and the beef flavorful. The fries were hot, crisp, and salty. All in all a worthy example!
EASY TIGER BAKE SHOP & BEER GARDEN
Last but not least, a quick coffee and breakfast pastry from Easy Tiger.
The coffee was just a house brew and the pastry (a Tiger Claw) is a bear claw with a spiced nut filling. Seriously spiced, like someone took your favorite chai and made it into a food. I loved it. My photo is actually of the ones still for sale, because I was so eager to eat mine I forgot to take a picture!
My final analysis: Austin, you are a friend to foodies!
Edward: Garlic scapes. What are they. The unknown. Terrifying!
But no! They’re just the flower stalk of the garlic plant, usually seen at farmer’s markets around the beginning of the season. They’re quite lovely — gracefully curled, like extra-long green beans, deep green turning yellowish approaching the flower.
The stalk is firm, with a snap — like green beans. The flavor is…well, garlicky. To me it’s sort of analogous to green onions, in that they have a definite garlic flavor, but with a green, herby overtone. Also fairly spicy. I was expecting something more mellow, but these actually pack a punch.
The first thing we made with these is garlic scape pesto, using the Saveur recipe. This recipe uses salted, roasted cashews. Some use almonds or pine nuts. Hannah figured the cashews would make for a creamier pesto, so we went with cashews.
I started off by separating the flower tips from the scapes. It’s probably optimal to just snap them off with your fingers, like with asparagus stalks, but I used a knife, for no particular reason other than that I was feeling shivvy. (We’re saving these flower ends in some water to see if they open up.)
That done, you set about chopping up the scapes. The Saveur recipe calls for 1 cup of “finely chopped” scapes, so I went about chop-chopping.
These guys are tricky to chop, not because of texture/thickness but because the hard little pieces go rolling everywhere. I was getting a little irritated, but then Hannah pointed out that it was all going into the food processor anyway, so why bother chopping them into teeny pieces? What a fountain of wisdom is Hannah!
And here I must brag on myself a little bit. Check out my awesome spatial estimating powers (third photo from top). I grabbed what I figured would end up about a cup of scapes, and sure enough, it came to one cup (minus a few pieces that as far as I know are still somewhere on the kitchen floor). SUPERSPATIALESTIMATOR
So then you get your other ingredients together. This recipe has four ingredients plus salt and pepper. You can’t get much simpler than this!
You got your 1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan — I don’t have to tell you not to use the green can, right?
A decent olive oil. Surprisingly, Costco’s Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin “Toscano” is not bad at all, and passes the “actual real extra virgin olive oil” test (which, as you probably know, isn’t something you can assume).
Your roasted, salted cashews. PROTIP: buy these in bulk at your local natural-ish grocery. We got these at Sprouts, where they had cashew pieces in bulk for considerably cheaper than whole cashews.
You put everything into a food processor, add a little salt and pepper, and away we go! Taste it and season accordingly. I ended up using a few shakes of sea salt, a bit of black pepper (not that much, really, since it’s a bit spicy to begin with), and adding a little lemon juice to brighten up the flavor.
You can use this pesto with pretty much anything you do with pesto. Last night I baked some Mahi-mahi fillets (15-20 min at 375) that I had topped with pesto and thin slices of lemon. Delicious! We also put this in an omelette with sliced fresh mozzarella. Magnifico!
It freezes well, too. Hannan & Edward say check it out at your local farmer’s market this weekend!
[NOTE: We forgot to mention in our review that all the courses (except the lobster pappardelle and the cake) were served family style. The dishes you see in the photos are five portions. –Edward]
Edward: Honey, sometimes I feel like we’re just the media outlet of Torinos @ Home!
Hannah: I will be DEAD HONEST here…I feel that way too. Like, this isn’t supposed to be the Torinos blog, because that would be crazy…right…?
However, the chance that we have eaten well is significantly higher when Torinos is involved.
So, whatever whatever.
Edward: But I think part of it is that people who like Torinos, really, really like Torinos, and want to support them. We’re not the only ones!
Edward: So, for instance, the special dinners they have — almost everyone who attends them is a regular. I’m starting to recognize the same faces each time. And these people — us — we have a special affection for Torinos.
Because it’s basically a mom ‘n’ pop restaurant, as Chef Maxime said last night, but it offers some of the best food in the city.
Even though I am a stone cold cynic about many many things…last night I realized what a gem we have in Torinos in ABQ, and how lucky the city is…and most people don’t even know it,
Edward: But I guess that’s what it is that makes people so evangelistic about Torinos — it’s the kind of restaurant you want people to know about!
Hannah: Wait, there’s something else I want to say….
It’s not perfect. Torinos @ Home is a family restaurant, and it’s not trying to be classical fine dining, or anything other than what it is. It’s real people and real people aren’t perfect. However, I’ve never been somewhere where the people behind it were so very passionate.
I think that’s what makes it special. Even if the service is off, or the dish isn’t what you expected, it’s still better than so much out there.
Edward: Isn’t that strange? I haven’t seen any restaurant inspire such passionate loyalty. I think it’s what you’re saying: we’re lucky to have Torinos because it’s kind of an anomaly in this city — a restaurant that serves food on the level of fine dining, but it’s completely unpretentious and casual. I can’t think of another restaurant like that in Albuquerque.
Hannah: OK, enough evangelizing…now the fooooood!!!
Edward: For those just tuning in, Torinos has started doing special dinners every once in a while, like wine pairing dinners and special occasion dinners. Last night was a special birthday celebration dinner, both for Chef Max and Torinos itself, which opened on Maxime’s birthday and is three years old!
Hannah: (Spoiler: IT WAS SO SO SO GOOD)
(Side note: Torinos opened in ABQ three years ago– existed in Santa Fe before that.)
The first part which was antipasti and fritto misti was served in three parts. Right?
Edward: Right. There was a fried ravioli with — pecorino romano?
Chickpea fries… < -- THE AWESOME Antipasto platter with tuna salad on a roasted pepper, and grilled veg... Proscuitto and speck ham... Hannah: And calamari. Which we can call it because: ITALIAN!
Edward: They’re allowed to call it calamari. Everyone else: squid.
Or appropriate terminology based on your native language.
But the calamari — beautifully crisp YET tender, perfectly cooked.
Also, can I just say something about the tuna?
Hannah: Um, is it “THIS IS THE BEST TUNA”? Or not?
Edward: The tuna salad epitomizes Torinos…you tell someone “tuna salad” and they think, yeah, so? But they don’t get it, Yes, it is technically “just” tuna salad. However, it is THE ABSOLUTE PERFECT TUNA SALAD.
Hannah: No. It really is. That beautiful tonno on a wee boat of roasted red pepper? Come ON.
Edward: You think, ohhhh, OK I get it now. I thought I was eating tuna salad before, but I was not. This is actually tuna salad. I’m not sure what it was I used to eat. Perhaps some kind of gutter scrapings.
Cured meats, tonno, grilled veg, calamari, baccalao. I neglected to get a pic of the baccalo because I was too busy getting in on my plate and into my gullet.
Edward: Indeed. Baccalao is something I had not tried before Torinos — if this is what it is, I am a fan!
We love their cured meats. I’m always very happy when I’m tasting the prosciutto.
Hannah: Was it pecorino in the ravioli? Or ricotta salata?
Edward: I thought Daniela said it was pecorino, but she could have been talking about something else. [NOTE: According to the menu, it was pecorino.]
Hannah: That little fried ravioli…I squeezed some lemon on it and it was sublime.
And chickpea fries!
Edward: The chickpea fries — are they just a chickpea flour batter that’s chilled and then cut into strips and fried?
Hannah: Yes. Ground chickpea cooked like polenta…
Served to me…
In a quantity so shockingly small…
Edward: These dinners are always a life lesson for me about quality over quantity. Each of the courses does not satisfy me, insofar as I would prefer a portion size equal to a gigantic trough or wheelbarrow of each dish. They are all gone way too soon. By the end of the evening, however, I am somehow totally stuffed and completely sated.
Hannah: Yes. I didn’t know what was coming when I ate those chickpea fries.
(Spoiler: SO SO SO GOOD)
Edward: They’re so creamy inside, but have a nice crust on the outside. And just a really nice clean flavor.
Hannah: OK. Now we’re about to get serious, with the first of the “real” courses.
Hannah: BEEF CHEEKS MCGILLICUDY
Edward: That’s the actual Italian name of that dish.
Beef Cheeks Rotolo!
Hannah: I kid because I love.
Edward: LOVE THIS DISH
Hannah: I really really love.
Edward: So good.
Hannah: It rotolo’d me right over!
Hannah: OK listen: I know many many people love their braised brisket agnolotti. But I’m not a lover of braised meats…usually.
Edward: Me either.
Hannah: So when people praise that brisket, I just nod in polite agreement. And that’s what I was expecting with this dish.
How-EVER. I was completely wrong. This rolled, baked pasta with braised beef cheeks and two kinds of Italian cheese…ungh.
Edward: What made it different for you? From other braised meats.
Hannah: The tenderness of the beef wasn’t….I dont know…stewy or something. It was clearly tender meat in the first place. The pasta was perfect.
Edward: Oh, so it wasn’t tenderized tough meat like braised meat usually is, but a cut that’s already pretty tender. So maybe it didn’t need so much cooking, so it didn’t get that kind of dullish flavor that slow-cooked meat sometimes has? I don’t know how to describe it, but less-cooked beef and more-cooked beef taste very different. I mean just in terms of flavor (obviously, the texture is different).
Hannah: Yes, I agree. But for many people, slow cooked meat is where it’s at! And for me, in some cases! But usually not beef. So I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved that rotolo.
Edward: It’s actually Torinos that has turned me around on slow cooked meat. The first time I tried their duck confit, it was worlds away from what I thought it would be.
Hannah: Oh. Yes, you’re completely correct. When I go there and don’t eat the duck confit, I feel a little sad.
Honey, a side note: this post (and this weblog) is for people who gasp when they eat something delicious. Who miss duck confit, who feel near tears when they taste a perfectly ripe strawberry in a cake like you’ve never had a strawberry before in your life. Those are our people. Not everyone is like that, which is weird to me, but I accept that human variation is a fact.
So I want no guff.
Edward: Side note to your side note: I agree!
Hannah: That’s why we’re wed.
Edward: Hey, back to “rotolo” — is there a term for a word that evokes the thing it’s describing, but from the actual physical shapes of the letters, not the sound (onomatopoeia)?
Hannah: Dude. That kind of question is maddening.
Hannah: OK, beef cheeks = the best thing so far.
Until the next thing….
Hannah: Wikipedia told me that the name derives from the verb “pappare,” to gobble up.
Uh, yeah. I would have eaten the **** out of about everyone else’s bowl in my vicinity.
Edward: Gobbling occurred, yes.
Hannah: It was…ungh.
A. Perfect pasta is a joy forever.
B. Sweet lobster.
C. Some kind of brown sauce.
Why, honey. Why am I not eating that right now?
Edward: All decorum was abandoned when it came to that lobster. I started out just trying to daintily pick out the lobster meat, but eventually I just picked it up and gnawed at it like a starving castaway.
Nothing about that dish wasn’t awesome. This is an example of the “why can’t I just eat a trough of this?” idea I mentioned earlier.
Hannah: Here’s the secret to this dish, I think: it wasn’t little pieces of lobster mixed in some pasta. It was a hunk of lobster in its shell, with its little legs still attached (sorry lobby, thanks for your sacrifice), perfectly cooked on top of some crazy good pasta.
And yes, you had to dig that biz out.
Edward: Yeah, so it wasn’t all just a big bowl of food, but it was separate pasta and lobster that each had their own thing going on, and all tied together by that gravy.
Hannah: That gravy.
Edward: Remember the lobster bisque we had that other time? The gravy kind of reminded me of that.
We haven’t talked about the wine pairings, which were awesome, but none more than the upcoming dish: pollo al limone, paired with a rosé. Was a revelation!
Edward: Yeah, it was all right…WHAT IT WAS DELICIOUS
Hannah: The lemony chicken and preserved lemon slices and Niçoise olives…a wine needs to be able to stand up to that lemon! And I was surprised how perfectly that rosé balanced in my mouth.
Edward: That’s another one of those dishes where it’s not normally something I crave — a braised chicken — but it’s just so beautifully prepared that it’s totally not like what I expect and is completely delicious.
Hannah: Yes, although I’ve gotta say that the poor chicken had some hard acts to follow. It was lovely, but those pasta dishes….
Edward: Yes, the pasta dishes reigned supreme. BUT, this lemony chicken was great. I thought it might be super sour, but it really just was more like intense lemon essence, a little tangines, then you get the salty olives that balance it all out.
Hannah: And the meat was so moist.
Edward: Another great thing about that dish is that I thought we were done with the savory courses after the lobster pasta, so I was all sad, but then hey! Bonus dish!
And last but not least:
only the best cake
what the hell
Hannah: I mean really. Maxime was standing behind me explaining all the parts of the cake to someone else
Edward: To: All Other Cakes
You are #2 or lower.
Hannah: and I couldn’t even pay attention because my ears were…like…all parts of my head were focused on what was happening in my mouth. And I don’t even like strawberry stuff all that much.
Edward: Yeah, I know a food is really special when I find myself eating it in tiny little bites to make it last.
Edward: Something about the textures, the subtle flavors…it was NOT too sweet. Most restaurant desserts are sugar bombs. This was really delicate and just a little sweet, so you could taste all the other flavors.
Hannah: Honey…. let’s wrap up. I’ll make my closing argument.
Hannah: If, person, you are in Albuquerque and haven’t yet gone to a special event at Torinos, then I contend you haven’t experienced it at its best. It is So. Fun.
The next one is in July. Watch for it.
I REST MY CASE.
I will comment briefly on your closing argument, then I will make my closing argument, then a brief side note.
Hannah: Tell us what you’ll tell us, tell us, tell us what you told us.
Edward: I agree with your statement. If you have not been to Torinos, I think the special dinners are a great way to get to know what Torinos offers — to get to know Daniela, Maxime, their food, the spirit of their hospitality. The wine flows, the atmosphere is relaxed and fun, and you leave feeling like you’ve had a real experience.
MY CLOSING ARGUMENT
When we lived in Las Vegas, our favorite restaurant was Rosemary’s. A fine dining restaurant, but with nothing snooty about it…they didn’t hit you over the head trying to impress you. They were just quietly awesome at what they did, and let the food and service speak for themselves. It was a neighborhood restaurant in a nondescript strip mall — not the trendiest or flashiest restaurant in Vegas by far, but one of the very best for people who love good food.
Torinos is like that for me. Seeing Daniela’s energy level and the work she puts into running the place makes me have to sit down and take a rest on her behalf. I have no idea what it is Chef Maxime does back there in the kitchen — some form of sorcery or dark magicks, I assume — but he puts food together in a way that takes me back to my childhood in Northern Italy…AND I AM NOT FROM NORTHERN ITALY.
I can’t put it better than Gil does in his tribute, so I’ll just point you there. All I can say is, here’s a place run by a passionate couple who take fierce pride in what they do, and have the talent and work ethic to justify that pride. It’s a place run by people, not some investment group, and you can feel their heart and soul in everything they do. I felt as welcome the first time I stepped through their doors as I did last night.
I’m definitely no culinary expert — just someone who lives for that special plate of food that causes me to make strange moaning and humming noises when I eat it. Food that is so good it actually makes me ANGRY for some reason. That’s what I get from Torinos and why I’m such a fan, and why I regularly encounter other people who are just as blown away. If I could afford it I would eat there almost every night. I say almost because sometimes I’ve gotta have the red chile.
The hyperbole and the evangelizing are just something that happens when you dine at Torinos and you’re the kind of person who can appreciate what you’re experiencing. I’m pretty sure every diner in the place last night was gushing as shamelessly as I am now over their meal and how fun the evening was, and that’s pretty cool.
END OF CLOSING ARGUMENT
Oh, my side note is that the dinner was a community table, and the courses were served family style. I have not been to a community table dinner before, so (as an introverted, quiet person) I had some trepidation, but it turned out to be loads of fun.
Our table companions were terrific company, and I think what made it so pleasant was that, even though we were all strangers, we had our love of Torinos in common. So it was kind of like a meeting of the Torinos Fan Club. “I don’t know you, but I recognize you as a member of my tribe.”
Hannah: Yes, exactly! Plus, our dining companions were very charming!
Edward: We tend to be shy with new people, so I’m glad our companions kept things interesting!
Oh, also: one topic of table conversation was that the beef cheeks rotolo should totally become a regular menu item. So let me put that out there and voice my FULL THROATED SUPPORT for that measure!
Hannah: Honey, I declare that Once Again….
Edward: WE HAVE EATEN WELL
Hannah: See ya next time!
Torinos @ HOME
- UPDATED HOURS -
Lunch/Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday 11:00am – 9:00pm
Edward: Had a terrific lunch at Torinos on Thursday — squid ink tagliatelle with mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari. Pasta: delicious. Broth: delicious. Seafood: perfectly cooked. CAN RECOMMEND.
A quick plug for our favorite restaurant: Torinos is celebrating its 3rd birthday on Thursday, May 23rd (which is also Chef Maxime’s birthday) with a special community table dinner. Five courses, each paired with different wines. The lineup:
Antipasto Platter: prosciutto, speck, salame, grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, bell peppers tonnato, fried pecorino romano ravioli, garbanzo bean fries, bacalao, fried calamari
Wines: Chianti “Il Vescovado” and Chenin Blanc from Gruet Winery
Beef Cheeks Rotolo: hand made rolled pasta with braised beef cheeks, topped wth red wine sauce and gratinee parmigiano
Wine: Prine Rosso from Puglia
Lobster Pappardelle: hand made pasta served with lobster
Wine: Pinot Grigio “Conti delle Venezie”
Pollo al Limone: braised chicken with olive niçoises and lemon
Wine: “Whispering Angel” Rosé
“Fragoletto”: Maxime’s birthday cake
Wine: Prosecco Pulcinella
$67 per guest, not including gratuity.
The special dinners at Torinos are always a great time, and the food is spectacular. 505-797-4491.
Edward: Before the doors closed on Milton’s Restaurant in 2012, it was one of our go-to breakfast spots. Their breakfast menu was pretty basic, nothing fancy, but it was consistently well prepared and the service was also consistently good. It was a little divey, but we loved the down ‘n’ out ambiance of this old-school diner. The fact that we were willing to drive five miles to Milton’s on a Saturday morning while nursing hangovers says a lot. So, it was pretty heartbreaking to learn that Milton’s had closed down.
I had heard that Milton’s was going to reopen at a new location at some point, but I didn’t know where or when. So when I saw the above sign while driving past a little office park in our neighborhood, I almost swerved onto the sidewalk. I immediately turned into the parking lot and did some investigative journalism. The contractors working on the interior confirmed that, yes, this was “the” Milton’s, and that it would be opening in a few months.
Hannah and I are pretty stoked — not only is Milton’s finally coming back, but it’ll be within walking distance of our house! I’m curious to know what form Milton’s Mark II will take. It won’t have the same charm in this sterile new location, but I’m hoping the food and service will still be as good as it was.
The last time I drove past it, a couple of days ago, there were still sheets over the windows, so I don’t know how close they are to opening. Cannot be soon enough for me.
Edward: Every neighborhood has that one cursed location, where seemingly every few months a new restaurant opens and briefly flowers, only to be found, weeks later, doors locked and emptied out, usually without warning and sometimes with a terse explanatory note taped to the door. A location that, because of some mysterious ill-starred confluence of deadly factors, becomes known to locals as the place where dreams of prosperity come to die.
Case in point: the building at 10131 Coors Boulevard, next door to the Teriyaki Chicken Bowl in the Alameda West shopping center (the one with the Jo-Ann’s, Marshall’s, Albertson’s), that has been a steadily revolving door for hopeful restaurateurs over the past few years. When I started working in the area, I dimly recall it being a mariscos restaurant, that very shortly went out of business.
After that came the late, lamented Hakata Asian Cuisine, a great idea (pan-Asian specializing in charcoal-grilled yakitori) torpedoed by a combination of iffy location, uneven execution, and prices that kept at least this lunchtime diner from frequenting the place. Hakata had some shortcomings, but it was one of very few quality Asian restaurants in that area, so when it abruptly vacated last spring, I wept bitterly, albeit only figuratively.
I’m not sure when it happened, but one afternoon a few weeks ago I was headed into Albertson’s when I espied a change in signage at the erstwhile Hakata buiding. Naturally, I suspended my grocery plans and hustled over to see what was up. “Chinese Gourmet Express,” eh? The building was empty, but I resolved to keep an eye out for developments.
So, today I drove past the place, and found it festooned with streamers and balloons. A good sign vis-à-vis openage! I decided to check it out.
I had no idea what to expect, but the sign did suggest that it would be more towards the Panda Express end of the Chinese food spectrum than the Budai. Inside: immaculate, well-lit. Hakata’s dark wooden bar and pub atmosphere was replaced by a steam table counter manned by a cheerful Chinese lady. I studied their to-go menu — apparently the only kind available — and saw that they offer made-to-order Chinese dishes in addition to the fast food counter.
Being in a hurry, I decided to try the fast food, figuring I’d get a sense of their baseline before sampling the regular menu (I would have just ordered the Mongolian Beef, natch). The one-item combo is $3.95 and comes with fried rice and chow mein. There’s also a two-item combo for $5.25, with additional items a dollar each. I got the two-item combo, with Orange Chicken and BBQ Pork, mixed fried rice and noodles. A side of egg rolls set me back a couple more dollars.
There’s a scene near the end of Boogie Nights, after the shot-on-film 70s flicks with artistic pretentions have been replaced by cheapo video, where the porn cinematographer played by Ricky Jay is editing a scene shot on VHS. Ricky looks up from the crappy footage on the video screen and mutters, with dead-eyed resignation, “It is what it is.”
What can I say. Chinese steam table fast food: it is what it is. Which isn’t in any way a knock on Golden Star in particular. For what it is, it actually is not bad. The entrees, which are your standard fare, including Sweet & Sour Chicken, Kung Pao, Pepper Beef, etc., all looked fresh, and are put out in small batches so it’s replenished more often.
As for the two entrees I chose, the Orange Chicken was a good rendition of fast food Orange Chicken — yes, the sauce was candy-sweet, but it still had a good crunch to it and wasn’t over- or under-cooked. The BBQ Pork was above average for what you normally get, surprisingly not all that sweet, with some nice char on the outside.
The egg rolls were OK, chewy and a little tough, but with a good filling and overall not bad. The pinkish sauce was your standard sweet & sour. The fried rice and noodles were not good, but no worse than what you usually get with a Chinese lunch combo. Definitely not your first-string rice and noodles, but not the worst examples of the form, by far.
I’m not going to lie, the lunch counter examples of the food here is not great Chinese food, which I think even the owners would admit. On the other hand, it’s not meant to be great Chinese food, merely decent fast food quality Chinese at a decent price. By that standard, I think Golden Star does well. It’s a chain, but a regional chain and perfectly acceptable if you’re not looking for gourmet quality (despite what it says on the sign). Can recommend (as qualified above), will return for the regular menu.
I wouldn’t want to bet on the survival probability of Golden Star in this difficult location, but I wish them luck (they’ll need it). Aside from Chin Shan, a fair ways down Coors from here, I don’t know of any other Chinese restaurant in this neighborhood that’s really worth the miles or the money. (Of the two nearby places I’m thinking of, one is way overpriced for what you get, and the other is sub-edible and should be closed down by the health department — permanently, I mean, and not just occasionally.) If you’re looking for a fast, inexpensive Chinese lunch that offers fresh, decent food, skip Panda Express and hit up Golden Star.
Oh, and here’s their to-go menu:
GOLDEN STAR CHINESE FAST FOOD
10131 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114
Sunday – Saturday 11:00am – 9:00pm