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Home / Articles / Food / Food Writing /  How Sweet It Is
p 31 Food sweetwater-harvest-kitchen
Sweetwater’s communal table beckons.
Gabrielle Chastenet

How Sweet It Is

Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen serves up tasty, honest food

December 18, 2012, 8:00 pm

Sitting at a table inside the brand-spanking-new Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen (512 Pacheco St., Bldg B 795-7383) transports me to northern California.

The cathedral-ceilinged spot at the entrance of the Pacheco Street Lofts reminds me of cafés in Napa, where healthful and mindful living feel bright, spare and fresh-faced instead of funky, Boho-cluttered and warmly alternative.

Just inside the door, a table for tots with wooden toys sits neatly opposite a shelf displaying eco-centric lunch totes and almost-too-beautiful-to-use wooden grain mills. The space is light-filled and hard-surfaced, and a custom-commissioned, moss-green community table lined with driftwood and air plants dominates the dining area. A bar fills the front of the house, tucked in view of the kitchen, and the entrance to the restaurant sits streetside (a slight trek around the building from the parking lot) at the behest of a Feng Shui master.

Sweetwater’s space radiates, which makes it an ideal spot to start the day.

The kitchen serves breakfast all day, offering free-range egg dishes ($6.50-$9.50), vegetarian pancakes from organic house-ground flours ($8) and “Bowls Full of Love + Energy” ($5.50), both warm and topped with dried nuts and fruit.

A generous, white-rimmed bowl of Payasam—an East Indian hot cereal resembling childhood favorite Malt-o-Meal, if slightly darker and nuttier-tasting—comes smattered with pistachios, raisins and an arc of banana. It spoons up all cozy and caring—homey, yet slightly glamorous.

The open-faced breakfast sandwich ($9.50) with its side of sweet potato hash consists of a thick slice of the café’s house-baked sourdough bread, toasted, then layered with a shaving of gruyere, a salty ribbon or two of prosciutto, a tangle of fire-roasted red bell peppers and a chive-flecked poached egg on top. The lemon ricotta pancakes ($8) are noteworthy, poured as they are from an organic, ground-that-morning spelt flour batter.

Lunch layers soup and salad onto the breakfast menu, and the daily specials board drew my attention. A chile pumpkin soup studded with a roasted corn relish and rich swirl of crème fraiche alongside a grilled brie and pear sandwich exited the kitchen, like a food stylist’s dream, on a stark white plate holding two pale sandwiches overflowing with bubbling cheese. Out of them peeked the tiny green tips of matchstick-cut pear, and in a hand-thrown bowl next to the sandwich, the paprika-colored pumpkin soup puree was dotted with yellow and swirled with white. Both were deliciously simple—honest and straightforward, with no frills, but nourishing and clearly made of high-quality ingredients.

Attention to quality set the heartbeet superfood salad ($10.50) apart, too. In it, Gemini Farms’ mixed greens come ultra-lightly dressed in a lime-honey tahini dressing, the barely slick leaves weighted down by roasted beets, daubs of fresh feta and skin-on fruity Marcona almonds.

The pasta section of the menu offers a regularly changing in-house ground organic noodle dish ($12) tossed in a simple marinara. Though at only a week old at the time of my visit, the kitchen was still working out the kinks in getting the pasta’s density right, ruling out the tagliatelle as an option.

Sweetwater has a wine and beer bar like no other in town. The co-owners obviously envision a gentle tasting-room ambience over that of  a rollicking watering hole—a place to learn about the libations, all of which are crafted eco-consciously. It’s also the first restaurant in New Mexico to offer wines on tap, and puts the mead from local Falcon Meadery in a drink category of its own.  

The bar pours four wines, two from Colorado and two from a California vintner with SIP Certification, meaning the grapes are grown sustainably and the vineyard’s workers’ conditions are evaluated and held to high standard. Wine on tap reduces spoilage and limits resource use (bottles, labels, corks), in addition to cutting on transportation costs. Beers from Oregon, California and Colorado round out the alcoholic offerings, and local brewers of kombucha and an energy drink get billing on the beverage menu, too.

Dinner at Sweetwater promises a prix fixe (three plates for $18) or an à la carte hand-wrought meal of soup, salad, stew and/or savory tart, punctuated by comforting, Goodnight Moon “bowl full of mush”-type desserts prepared in the same vein as breakfast’s Love + Energy bowls. 


At a Glance
Serving: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks
Menu: Egg dishes, vegan options, soup, salad and more; prix fixe or à la carte
Recommendation: Breakfast or dinner—when the mush and wine flow.


Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that the pancakes were vegan. They are in fact vegetarian, not vegan. The SIP wines were also incorrectly listed as coming from Colorado, when in fact they are from California.

 

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