Like many expectant and well-trained omnivores with carnivorous bents, I’m sniffing the air every day for signs that much-adored Santa Fe chef Brian Knox’s new lowbrow, high-quality burger stand has opened. But should I be?
I never believed the myth of the ugly American until I saw it for myself: a whole parade of cacophonous, sweaty, engorged Americans—complete with sun visors, dangling cameras and bulges barely recognizable as flesh testing the seams of riotously colored clothing—all rumbling up an otherwise quiet and quaint Italian street, like invaders from planet NASCAR.
Johnny Vee, the free-spirited and jovial chef who commands the kitchen at the Las Cosas cooking school, is accustomed to both novice and accomplished home cooks suddenly stopping in their tracks like over-jellied terrines, as their brains momentarily imitate poached eggs.
Last week was Santa Fe’s turn on the New Mexico Restaurant Week roster. Fifty-four restaurants prepared special, prix fixe, bargain menus in order to lure customers during the promotional scheme, aimed at generating traffic during a traditionally slow part of the season. It’s a great event, with some cringe-worthy moments.
Normally, if someone were to offer me a nice little cup of “vegan-aise,” I would look around for a stick with which to beat him. The only mayonnaise I’ll eat is the fresh-made, lovingly whisked variety, preferably created shortly after stealing a warm egg from under a hen. It’s not snotty; I just think mayonnaise in a jar from the store tastes like…nothing.
Selling burritos and tacos on the south side is a whole different game compared to peddling them downtown. Local favorite Bumble Bee’s Baja Grill has acknowledged that it can’t compete with the increase in taco carts and burrito stands on the other end of town. The solution: hamburgers.
In tandem with the cupcake craze that has finally swept Santa Fe, artisanal olive oil, salt and balsamic vinegar shop Oleaceae has brought upscale oil and vinegar tasting to town. How exactly these fads take hold is beyond me, but there’s nothing wrong with spending a gluttonous half-hour swilling vinegar from stainless steel containers in the small, charming shop.
It’s all about pies and macaroons if the fashionable foodie hype is to be believed. Cupcakery is passé, claim the fashionistas—never mind Vogue magazine’s declaration that “owning a cupcake bakery is the career fantasy of our times.” And yet Santa Fe is happily drowning in cupcakes.
When the Green Onion, more typically called the “Grunion,” shut its doors and left St. Michael’s Drive with a dearth of cheap beer, alcoholic quiz games and greasy onion rings, we lost more than just a skeezy bar. We lost the identity of the road, the soul of St. Mike’s.