Inspired New World Cuisine at Epazote, Santa Fe

Taquitos de Chapulines

Fernando Olea, Chef and owner of Epazote in Santa Fe retired from business in Mexico City, and moved to Santa Fe several years ago. Olea is fascinated by cuisine of the pre-Columbian indigenous people of Mexico, especially the moles (Aztecan for “sauce”). Combining this passion for historically authentic food and his love of being in the creative flow result in some spectacular food. He does not call his food “Mexican” because that term has come to represent food that has no imagination or true ethnic content. Everything that Olea serves is made in his kitchen. His moles are a result of historical research, molded with love into his inspired creations.

On the night we were there, we began our dinner with a sampler of three of his moles: classic Mole Poblano (chocolate, chile, canela and many more ingredients from Puebla),  Mole Rosa (a pink mole that has chiles mellowed by white chocolate), Mole Verde (a tomatillo, white chocolate and chipotle) acompanied by housemade silver dollar corn tortillas. For those who are attentive to the tasting, the rewards are rich and memorable.

We shared Taquitos de Chapulines, tiny soft corn tortillas topped with crispy sauteed grasshoppers, guacamole, Mole Negro de Oaxaca and micro greens. The sensations of crunch and creamy avocado gave way to a lingering finish of the mild heat of the mole.

Espresso - New World Crab Bisque

Next came an “espresso”. Served in a demi-tasse cup with a foam, reminiscent of the best efforts of a first-class barrista, it was actually a soup of crab in a rich poblano crema bisque topped with Amaretto foam and flecks of chocolate. It is so rich I was happy that the serving was small because I would have kept right on eating.  

Duck Breast with Mole Poblano

We shared entrees of Duck with Mole Poblano and slow cooked Lamb over Oaxacan rice wrapped in a banana leaf a la tamales de Yucutan. The duck was a breast, perfectly sauteed to a medium rare with crispy fat. The Mole Poblano offered the perfect counterpoint to the duck. The plate was finished with a timbal of spinach mousse with habanero foam and a timbal of rice (also done in the style of Oaxaca).

Dessert was a magical presentation of avocado mousse enhanced with chiles and pumpkin seeds, served over an intense ginger sauce and a beet reduction. This is clearly a case of the sum is greater than the parts. The flavors and textures draw on all of the tastebuds beginning with a rich creaminess forward ending in a lingering rich, spicy finish. Each bite opens new taste sensations.

If you live in Santa Fe, be sure to visit Epazote (on Agua Fria across from Sanctuario Guadalupe). If you are planning to visit Santa Fe make sure that Epazote is included in your dining plans while you are here. Kudos to Chef Olea!

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Grilled Lamb Chops

Poolside at the Gant, Aspen, CO

The Gant in Aspen is a condo complex and a hotel. Because they are operated by a hotel management company, all amenities one would expect from an upscale hotel are available. In addition, because it is a condominium apartment, a well-equipped kitchen is also available and there are gas grills strategically located around the property. The one drawback of this set-up is that if you are only staying for a couple of days and want to cook you need to anticipate what staples you might need. When we embarked on our brief road trip we didn’t anticipate cooking so didn’t bring staples. The challenge, then, is to cook a tasty meal without provisioning an entire pantry. The only pantry items available were salt and pepper. With the thought a poolside dinner of tasty grilled lamb chops, we made our shopping list. Fortunately, Aspen has a superb butcher and a couple of decent supermarkets so it was relatively easy to get our ingredients and prepare dinner so that the end result was a delicious meal that was relaxing to prepare.

Wilted spinach and grilled potatoes

To cook the potatoes, start with young new potatoes. Wash them and cut into lengthwise quarters. Put in a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Boil for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and cool in cold water. At this point they should be not quite cooked. Put in a bowl with olive oil, chopped garlic and fresh rosemary. Gently toss so that all surfaces are covered. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them. When ready to cook, put directly on the grate over the

On the plate

hottest part of the fire. Cook for two minutes on each flat side. When all potatoes are cooked, keep them in warm at the side of the grill. If you are having asparagus, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put on the grill and cook for two minutes. Turn them and cook for two more minutes. Asparagus should be bright green and al dente. If you are having spinach, start with young leaves. Rinse and drain. In a sauté pan heat olive oil or bitter. When oil is hot add the leaves in batches and quickly toss, adding more spinach as the leaves wilt. Work quickly and don’t overcook. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the table and serve at room temperature.      

Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon and Rosemary

4 loin lamb chops, 1 inch thick

Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

4 stems fresh rosemary, leaves removed and coarsely chopped

Lamb chops on the grill

Juice of 1 lemon

1 lemon, sliced

2 TBS olive oil

8 sprigs fresh rosemary

Rub lamb chops with olive oil and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Put lamb chops in a baking dish and cover with rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil. Using tongs, toss well so that all surfaces are covered. Cover chops with rosemary sprigs. Cover dish and refrigerate until ready to cook. These can marinate for a couple of hours to overnight. Prepare a hot grill. Put chops on the grill with rosemary sprigs on top. Close grill and cook for three minutes. Set chops aside and put rosemary sprigs directly on hottest part of cooking surface. Put chops on rosemary sprigs, close lid and cook for three more minutes. Remove from grill and let sit for five minutes. Serve with rosemary grilled new potatoes and grilled asparagus or wilted spinach.

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Hello world!

Hi Folks

Well, I suppose just about the time I get around to blogging about what gets me juiced/keeps me juiced that I find out that blogging has become so last century. Billie has been telling me for months that I should be tweeting. (That’s coming soon.) Maybe it’s one of those analysis paralysis things. Think about it too much it never gets done. Anyway, even if it is last century (or at least ’00’s) there are some things I enjoy  sharing with others and this is a great platform for that. I enjoy cooking for others and sharing that fun with other folks. Listening to music is a passion of mine. It is amazing that so much music is available for listening. The options are so staggering as sometimes to be really difficult to choose. It’s a far cry from the record store soundbooth I would go to as a youth to hear my first hi-fi of Harry Belafonte. Sometimes astrology might be a topic or at least woven through. I like it as a language that allows for a broader discussion of the human experience. You’ll probably hear about Billie from time to time. Billie and I have been married for over 36 years and our relationship continues to be a strong teacher to me. Mostly, this will be a few words from time to time about what I’m enjoying. I’d love to hear from anyone who has something to say to me or share with me or to answer questions.

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