For a better rye bread, you’d have to go to New York City…

I grew up in New York City, surrounded by some of the best bakeries outside of Europe. Every neighborhood had multiple bakeries, each a little piece of the old country. We were all from immigrant families, almost nobody was more than second generation American. The bakeries were thus held to very high standards.

One of the biggest treats for me was whenever my dad would say “Let’s go to the bakery and get some chleba”. Chleba is the Slovak word for bread, but to me it meant New York bakery rye. Even as a child, I could eat a whole loaf at one time.

I left New York after college and moved to South Carolina. There is no bread there. Nothing I would call bread anyway. All you can find are soft white breads, sealed in plastic. Not a decent European bread with a real crust to be found. I came to the realization that there just was no good bread outside of New York. Especially rye.

We moved to El Paso about a year ago I went in search of real bread. I wasn’t expecting to find any, but I had to look. And I discovered Belle Sucre Bakery.

Belle Sucre makes the most authentic New York Bakery Rye bread I’ve ever had outside of New York. A two pound loaf, 40% rye, caraway seeds throughout, high gluten and a perfect crust that shatters! Actually, it is indistinguishable from the best I ever had in New York.

I am in heaven. I go to Belle Sucre every Friday to pick up my rye. It is always gone by Saturday. Sometimes I make salami or pastrami sandwiches on it, but more often I just eat it plain. It is seriously the most perfect bread I may have ever had.

Now that I think about it, you won’t get a better rye by going to New York. The best rye in the country may be right here in El Paso. The only thing that would be better by going to New York would be a ride on the 4 or 5 train to 86 Street for the world’s best hot dog lunch at Papaya King. But I think I might be disappointed in the bread up there now. BTW – I still call bread chleba.

If you are a bread or pastry fanatic, go to Belle Sucre. If you’re not, go anyway. If you haven’t been, you are seriously missing out.

Belle Sucre is located on the west side at:
7500 N. Mesa St., #307 El Paso, Texas 79912

Scroll down for more below the pictures…

I had to find out more about Belle Sucre so I had a chat with its baker/owner Jon Bowden. If he makes a rye that good, the rest of Belle Sucre’s products must also be fabulous.

Interview with Jon Bowden

What inspired you to seek out culinary training and, in particular, to become a professional baker?

“I was good at it and it wasn’t illegal. I wasn’t a very good kid. When I got into baking, I found I really enjoyed. it. It didn’t require a whole lot of college (which I didn’t want to do). It didn’t require me to learn a whole lot of things except how to bake. I really wanted a career where I wouldn’t have to go to school for a very long time and I wouldn’t get into trouble”.

Where did you obtain your culinary training?

“I started in high school. I went to the culinary vocational program for the Ysleta school district. There are a lot of notable guys around town and the world who went to the same program. It was a 2 year program and that’s where I got my start. After that, I attended the Culinary Insititue of America – I went there because it was the most expensive school and I figured that made it the best.”

What types of flours do you use?

“We get our many flours from General Mills, in particular Harvest King flour for our breads. This is an unbleached, unbromated flour that is both high quality and easily available. That is important in a commercial baking operation. We’ve used it for the last year, so I’m not about to switch. Switching flours can result in wild unpredictibility in the end product. Actually all our other flours (for cakes and other products) are also all unbleached and unbromated.

What is the most challenging product for you to make as a baker?

“The croissants. They’re almost a combination of pastry and bread. You need good attention to detail and it is a challenge to make these consistently well every day of the week. You really have to know what you’re doing and the only way to know is to have experience in doing it. Small changes in the temperature of the bakery from day to day or even hour to hour affect bread. Water temperature, mixing times all change so you just can’t follow a rigid set of rules and expect consistency. There *are* rules you have to follow, but it requires much more technique and adaptation on a daily basis. With breads it is an every single day thing that you have to know just what you’re doing.

What factors are the most critical for successful yeast breads?

“The temperature of the dough. If it is too hot, it ferments very quickly. If it is too cold, it ferments very slowly. You need a good knowledge of how to properly mix your dough. Actually, every part of the process is pretty much critical. If you mess up any one part, you can take a potentially great product and end up ruining it. You can have awesome bread as a dough, it is fermented… it has developed very well, then you go to shape it and, if you don’t know how to shape bread properly, you get a terrible product. A well-shaped loaf may look more attractive, but it also has more volume… it expands better… there are all kinds of things it will do that a poorly shaped loaf just will not do.

How do you decide what products to offer?

“I expected a big demand for breads and baguettes and the demand is pretty much turning out that way. Another really big seller is our chocolate cream cake. People seem to really like our cakes.”

Do you use already developed recipes?

“Sometimes I’ll just go and look in one of my books for a recipe if I don’t already have one that is a go-to. Some people may just bang out recipes for everything under the sun, but I’m more comfortable with starting with a known-good recipe and then customizing it. Some things we don’t really get recipes for at all such as mousses and custards. We just make them up as we go based upon known ratios. For some of the breads, it is just kind of a make it up aas you go. Once you have a basic understanding of how breads work, it is easy to just try stuff. It may not always work out but that’s ok.

Do you have any new products you’re thinking of adding?

“We’re going to add some more breads probably after Valentine’s day. I’d like to do a sourdough. Scheduling is going to be the biggest issue as it takes a good bit of time to learn how the sourdough responds. We are probably going to start doing some new muffins soon. Not necessarily adding items, but replacing some existing ones. I’m certainly not interested in making the very same things every day of my life. We’ll always have carrot cakes and lemon cakes – they’re real staples. We may do special things for holidays that we haven’t done before. I don’t think anyone will ever get tired of eating our croissants.

Belle Sucre Bakery on Urbanspoon

BBQ. Oh yeah. And by BBQ I don’t mean grillin’ out. I mean QUE.

I’ve lived in just about every state in the South at this point, and Richard and I spent the last couple of decades hanging out the QUE mecca of South Carolina. In those parts, it was all about the pork QUE and the sauce could be anything ranging from mustard-based, vinegar-based, tomato-based (or even Sundrop-based or Cheerwine-based, for those really well-versed in Carolina BBQ). We have had some fine pork QUE in our day.

Since moving to Texas last year, it’s been all about the beef brisket and sausage. We’ve tried several places all ready and have a few more to try out yet.

With a QUE background like that, you can understand our hesitancy all these years about trying Famous Dave’s. I mean…..a BBQ chain place based out of Minnesota?!?!?! Hmmmmm. Plus we normally don’t do chains.

But we’ve got one fairly close to where we live, and we’ve had more than a few local types tell us how much they like Famous Dave’s. And to top it off, we had a coupon for a free Famous Dave’s sandwich. So we decided it was about time to check the place out.

We headed in on a cold wintery Saturday for lunch, and we were immediately greeted warmly by the hostess and shown to a nice comfy booth. Before we could even look down at our menus, our server Mayela was there to take our drink order. Richard opted for the lemonade and I had a Diet Pepsi, but alcoholic beverages (including wine) are available as well (and will be tried out in the future, I’m sure).

Even at this early lunch hour, there were plenty of people enjoying a meal at Famous Dave’s. The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable.

There was plenty to choose from BBQ-wise, but I was hankering for a taste of my ol’ BBQ pork. Given that I’ve been in Texas, I’d been sticking to brisket for the past year. But it was time to be nostalgic and to go for the Georgia Chopped Pork Sandwich (hickory-smoked and slathered with Rich & Tasty BBQ sauce, per the menu). My sandwich came with 1 side and there were several tempting options, but I went with the Famous Fries (crispy-fried, thick-cut, skin-on Russett potato wedges). Richard chose the Texas Maneater sandwich. According to the menu, this is the sandwich that separates the men from the boys: real Texas beef brisket and zesty hot link sausage, sliced thin, piled high, and crowned with Hell-Fire Pickles. Like me, he ordered the Famous Fries on the side.

After Mayela took our food order, Famous Ken (who appeared to be a manager) came by our table. We loved Famous Ken! He asked us how everything was so far and if there was anything he could get for us, and he seemed genuinely interested in finding out who we were and how we were enjoying everything so far.

Mayela brought by some homemade chips and various BBQ sauces, and she spent time telling us about each sauce. It was fun trying them all out!

Before we knew it, our food had arrived. Oh my. This was some tasty QUE. It may not be the very best QUE we’ve ever had, but remember…..we’ve had some of the best to be had over the years. And we must say that this was some good tasty stuff. My chopped pork sandwich was tender and smoky-tasting, and the accompanying sauce was sweet and tomato-based. Richard thought the Maneater was a perfect combo of BBQ meat, what with the brisket and the sausage. Our sandwich rolls were fine, and barely big enough to hold all the meat. The fries were ok. I probably liked them more than Richard did (his comment was “the meat was where it’s at!”).

Of course, we were stuffed. But dessert beckoned, and we answered the call. Richard had the Famous Sundae, with 3 scoops of ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream. He said that it was an excellent sundae. Given the pecan pie-aholic that I am, there was no question what I was getting. Bring me out the Better Than Mom’s Pecan Pie! This was a generous slab of pie (oh yes….I just love me a whole slab of pie!), sitting alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some whipped cream. This was my kind of dessert! The pecans actually tasted quite good and fresh, and while the crust appeared non-homemade it still was quite tasty. Famous Ken came by again and commented on how great the bread pudding is…may have to try that next time if I can ever resist the pecan pie. Mayela also by with the check and mentioned that the bread pudding is her fave dessert (and that website photo of it sure does look good).

Richard and I honestly were not expecting much from Famous Dave’s. But Famous Dave’s really did exceed our expectations. The QUE was surprisingly good, and we also really enjoyed our desserts. The atmosphere was relaxing and comfortable, and the customer service was fantastic. Mayela was an excellent server, and Famous Ken stopped by several times to make sure all was fine with our meal. We also saw him checking by all the other tables, to make sure that people were enjoying their food and their time at Famous Dave’s. And on the way out, several servers (not even our own) said good-bye and told us to have a great afternoon. That is great customer service!

Famous Dave's on Urbanspoon

This was a Saturday for checking out some things that have been on our “go to” list for quite a while: the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum (in nearby Las Cruces) and D’Lox (here on the Westside).

The museum was a real gem. There were plenty of great photo ops for Richard (tractors and trucks and moo cows!). There will definitely be a return trip there.

I’m sure another return trip will be made to D’Lox, based on how much we liked our first visit today. We’d heard good things about it, and since it’s so close by it was only a matter of time before we finally made it there. We arrived at around noon and wow…the place was packed! But we were seated right away and made to feel comfortable.

This was a lively but comfortable restaurant, and service was “spot on” the entire time. Our server, Soledad, did not miss a beat and managed to do a splendid job waiting on us and several others tables. We noticed that the restaurant was filled with people of all ages, and we saw lone diners, couples, families, and groups of friends all dining in this attractive restaurant.

Many people were still choosing breakfast dishes, but we opted for the lunch menu. I went with the Kickin’ Chicken Quesadilla and Richard ordered the Cubanito sandwich with Onion Rings. In a surprisingly short amount of time, out came our food.

And oh yum! This was some good stuff! My quesadilla included grilled chicken breast, tomatoes, grilled green onions, and Hatch green chile in grilled tortillas, served with lettuce, fresh avocado, sour cream, and salsa. Everything in this dish was fresh, and it all combined nicely to make one delicious lunch-time dish. The serving was so generous that I didn’t even have room for dessert (believe it or not!).

Richard’s Cubanito was a sandwich to behold. It was a grilled and pressed French baguette layered with spicy mustard, fresh pickles, pickled red onions, slow roasted pulled pork and shaved Black Forest ham. He said that it was “such a complex taste – good and spicy and truly excellent mustard…..possibly one of the best sandwiches in El Paso”. This was one beautiful looking sandwich, and even though I’m not a big meat eater I may have to order this one some time. It looked spectacular! The onion rings were certainly generous in serving size, and they made Richard happy.

Now we know why D’Lox does such a good business. The food and service were excellent, and it’s a comfy and relaxed atmosphere. We’re glad it’s in our neighborhood!

D'Lox on Urbanspoon

A few months ago, I read about a new place on the Eastside offering up Chicago deep dish stuffed pizza. Oh yeah. I grew up making annual treks with my Mom to Chicago. The purpose of these trips supposedly to take in museums, but in reality it was just to eat pizza. Geno’s East, Giordano’s, Edwardo’s, just to name a few of the places that served up those great Chicago deep dish memories. For me, thin crust pizza just doesn’t cut it. Give me that good deep dish.

Needless to say, I was excited to try out Sparrow’s Spirits and Pies. Richard and I spent a fantastic Sunday at Guadalupe National Park, and on the way back home we veered off to eat up some pizza.

We found Sparrow’s Spirts and Pies in a new strip mall and headed inside. We looked around and saw some nice and interesting (and what appeared to be local) artwork on the walls. We were immediately seated, and soon after were greeted by our server who told us up front that their pies are Chicago deep dish style and take 35 minutes to bake. Hey, fine with Richard and me….we willingly wait for good food. Our server took our drink orders right away and made an excellent beer recommendation for Richard: Blonde Bombshell (which Richard oved and said was a perfect accompaniment to the pizza). We perused the menu and decided on the Man Eater’s medium stuffed deep dish, which included pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, green pepper, red onions, and probably one or two things I’m forgetting about. The menu also included some great sounding subs, but that’s not what we were here for.

Thirty-five minutes later, out comes this work of pizza art. Our wonderful server (so sorry-forgot to get his name) brought it out already sliced and dished it out onto plates. MMMMMMMmmmmmmm. It was so good. It took me back to my days back in the Windy City. The crust was thick (just as I like it), and the added ingredients were plentiful and of high quality. Richard said that it was very good, both sweet and spicy, with very high quality meat. I know what he means by sweet and spicy, as the tomato sauce had a pleasant sweet taste to it while the sausage was good and spicy.

The medium pizza was plenty for the two of us (with leftovers…..highly unusual for big-time food shovelers like Richard and me). Stuffed deep dish pizza is very filling! For once, I was actually too full for dessert (which included cheesecake. No surprise that I checked that out).

Service was excellent, food was excellent, and we left with a smile. It is so nice to have Chicago style deep dish pizza available here in El Paso. I see some more trips to Sparrow’s Spirits and Pies in our future.

Sparrows spirits and pies on Urbanspoon

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. And sometimes, things not going as planned can end up pretty darn good.

Like today….plan was to go to a unique little sandwich place across town. But El Paso Saturday afternoon Christmas shopping got in the way of that. Trying to avoid the masses, we gave up on that unique litltle sandwich place and headed in the direction of home. And just as we were heading to the true home stretch, into our view came a place we’d been meaning to try. We’ve been in El Paso for over a year now, and we had yet to get to Village Inn. Yep, it’s a chain. And no, it ain’t foodie in any way. But sometimes you just want something served up old school coffee shop style. And Village Inn delivered.

By this time, we were starved. So we headed in and salivated at the pie case (well, I did anyway). The hostess showed us to a comfy booth, and we settled in to take a gander at the menu. Our surroundings were good ol’ coffee shop decor, just like what we’d grown up with and were hoping to see here. And what better meal to get in a coffee shop than a burger and fries? I went with the All-American Cheeseburger, and Richard had his topped with bacon.

As we sat and waited, we watched at numerous people came in to pick up pies to go. Oh yes…..pies. I had heard that Village Inn was known for their pies, so you can bet that was going to part of my dessert order.

But back to the burgers….our burgers and fries arrived and they were just what we wanted. Nothing fancy, just good coffee shop burgers. My Swiss cheese was good and melted, and my burger was cooked up just right. The fries needed a little salt, but once I added that they were just right (as in hot, crisp, and tasty). Richard loved his burger too and said that the bacon was cooked up just right (he likes it crispy).

Now time for those pies. Richard is a cake person, not a pie person. But even he could not resist the pies of Village Inn. He, of course, had to go with the “red” pie (cherry). Our server offered to heat it up, but he preferred it at room temperature. He said that it was “red and flaky”, and he ate every last bite. As for me, I come from a real pie loving family. We ate birthday pie rather than birthday cake. So I’m serious about my pie. There were quite a few tempting flavors to choose from, but I had to go with the caramel pecan silk (I mean, who can resist that?). And yes, it was good. It was a multi-layered mix of some of my favorite flavors ever. Now the pie crust was not the best I’ve ever had, and the “whipped topping” was not real whipped cream. But even so….it was a darn good tasting piece of pie. And I’m sure that more Village Inn slices o’ pie are in my future.

All in all, we had a very tasty and relatively inexpensive meal at Village Inn. The food came quickly, the service was just fine, and it was nice and comforting to eat once again coffe-shop style. Sometimes that’s just what you want. Especially when things haven’t gone as planned!

Village Inn on Urbanspoon

I combined several of my favorite roll recipes and also made several changes and additions to come up with this one. I make this using my old and trusted stand mixer, which is good and strong and does the kneading for me (yeah!). The caraway and kosher salt topping comes compliments of Richard – he has to have it, but I think the rolls are also great without the topping. If you leave off the topping, be sure to brush some butter on the top of the hot rolls – makes ‘em shiny and soft and even more yummy!

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup warm water
½ cup warm milk
¼ cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
3-4 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large bowl or electric mixer, combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and ginger; add warm water and stir to dissolve. Let rest for approximately 5 minutes, to let yeast proof and become foamy.

Add milk, butter, ½ cup sugar, salt, egg, and 2 cups of flour to yeast mixture and mix at low speed for 2-3 minutes, or until well combined. At low speed, add in remaining 1-2 cups of flour (enough to make a soft dough). Turn speed of mixer to high and beat for 3 minutes. Place dough into a large mixing bowl that has been coated with oil on the bottom; turn dough over and cover with mixing bowl lid or foil. Place in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator and shape into 9-12 round balls (depending on how big you want the finished product. Place rolls in a greased 9-inch round baking pan. Combine caraway seeds and salt; sprinkle evenly on top of rolls (you may have some of this mixture left over). Let rolls rise, uncovered, in a warm place until doubled in size (approximately 1.5 hours). Bake in preheated 400 degrees F. oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Yield: 9-12 rolls


By special request from EP Veg Snob

After a busy Saturday morning hike, Richard and needed to “refuel” as they say (whoever they are). We’d heard good things about an Argentinian restaurant here on the Westside called Cuartito Azul, so that’s where we headed. When we pulled into the small parking lot at a few minutes to opening time (1pm on Saturdays), there were already several people waiting. Good sign!

Right on time, Cuartito Azul opened their door and in we went. With only a few tables, this is an intimate restaurant with a wonderful feel. We loved the ambience right away. The staff was on top of things from the beginning and through the end of our meal. We immediately ordered a glass of cabernet sauvignon and when it arrived, we were very pleased with not only the taste but also the very generous serving for the very reasonable price.

The menu includes a number of Argentinian favorites, including steaks and pastas. We’d read good things about the empanada appetizers and several others in the restaurant ordered those. But we knew if we got those we’d be too full for the all-important dessert course. So we refrained and placed our orders for the “main thing”. Our server brought us some rolls as well as olives and what appeared to be marinated lima beans to tide us over. I let Richard eat up the rolls, which he said were good and tasty.

Richard went for the chorizo steak, which came with salad and mashed taters. It was very reasonably priced, considering both the quality and the quantity of food served. It looked wonderful, and he said that the steak was “a carnivore’s delight …… perfectly cooked and heavenly seasoned”. He also enjoyed the mashed taters and salad, but for him……steak is king and that’s truly what mattered (and he was mighty pleased with this one).

I had the spinach lasagna with four-cheese sauce. It came with a beautifully presented, fresh salad with red wine vinaigrette. Such a simple salad but so,so good. And the lasagna …..oh my. This was yuuuuuummmmmmyyyyy. There were layers of spinach and pasta, along with what tasted like wonderfully crunchy nuts (walnuts, perhaps?), all topped with an incredibly rich and divine-tasting four cheese sauce. I ate every last bite. This was quite a lasagna experience (and that’s saying a lot, because this girl has had quite a few lasagnas in her day).

Ok, dessert time! There were quite a few tempting offerings, including tiramisu and tres leches cake and cheesecake. But of course, Richard had to go with the chocolate cake (which was incredibly moist and chocolate-y). And in my quest for the richest and biggest dessert possible, I had to go with the brownie with ice cream (which was very good, with what seemed to be a nice, freshly baked brownie topped with plenty of good vanilla ice cream. Just what I needed, of course, on top of that rich ‘n tasty lasagna).

All in all, we really loved our lunch at Cuartito Azul. The service was fantastic, the atmosphere was really nice, and the food was fantastic. By the time we left, nearly every table was full (at 2:15pm on a Saturday afternoon). And we can see why! We will definitely be returning to Cuartito Azul. Because of the limited number of parking spaces and tables, we highly recommend reservations in the evenings. You don’t want to miss this place!

Cuartito Azul is located on the west side at 500 Thorn Ave. El Paso, TX 79912
Cuartito Azul on Urbanspoon

Richard and I had a fave pizza joint back in Charleston, SC (hey, Andolini’s!). We used to go there all the time. It wasn’t Chicago deep dish (which is my all-time love in the word o’ pizza), but it was dang good. And you could get it by the slice. And it had all sort of strange (and strangely appealing) decor. And it was in the neighborhood, close to where we lived. So… had a lot going for it.

But we hadn’t really been to a local El Paso pizza place yet. So it was about time. Richard really had a craving. I’d heard some mentions of Ardovino’s Pizza, so we headed to the Westside location (on Resler) on a Saturday afternoon. We were there at an off hour, but it was surprisingly busy (and kept getting busier during the time we were there). We asked to be seated on the patio and really enjoyed the casual setting there.

We started with a glass of the house cabernet. Wow – they were nice and generous with the wine and we surely appreciated that! Richard went with the Create Your Own pizza and (meat lover that he is) he chose the following four toppings: pepperoni, sausage, salami, and Canadian bacon. I was craving pasta big-time, so I opted for the Meat Lasagna (per the menu, it’s made with four cheeses, homemade Italian sausage, marinara sauce, mushrooms, and basil).

When our food arrived, we were not disappointed. The pizza looked great. Richard said that he actually prefers a thicker crust (this one was quite thin), but he said that it was an excellent and delicious pizza overall. My lasagna was delicious, as well. The Italian sausage in the lasagna was wonderful, and the dish was nicely presented and really well seasoned. I loved it! I was saving room for dessert (of course!), so I let Richard have the 2 pieces of garlic bread that accompanied my lasagna. Richard’s comments on the bread: “I could eat that bread all day….I could eat it till I explode!” Ardovino’s Pizza also had some tempting sandwich offerings on the menu. While I will be hard-pressed to ever pass up the lasagna, Richard may try one of those on a future visit.

Ardovino’s Pizza had a surprising number of dessert options (yeah!). Richard went with the root beer float and it sure looked good. He said it was great! It was served up in a nice big mug. I opted for the cheesecake with chocolate sauce. While it may not have been homemade, it was very tasty and I certainly enjoyed it.

We left Ardovino’s Pizza as very satisfied diners. The service was just fine. The meal was a good value for the quantity and, this is very important, quality of food served. And our stomachs were very happy!

Ardovino’s Pizza has several locations. We visited the one located on the west side at 865 North Resler Drive, El Paso, TX 79912

Ardovino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Ardovino's Pizza on Foodio54

It’s funkalicious! That’s what Richard said about Tom’s Folk Cafe, and I have to agree with him. It was mmmm, mmmm good. We’d been waiting for a chance to go to Tom’s since it opened a while back, and when the opportunity finally arrived it was well worth the wait.

Tom’s is located in a neat little house near UTEP. It has only about six tables as well as some patio seating, and we went at an off-time to be sure to snap a spot. Even at our off-time, there were quite a few other customers there enjoying Tom’s cuisine.

The staff we met were all super-friendly, including our server who did just fine throughout our meal (unfortunately, I didn’t catch her name). We also enjoyed the music and the laid-back, enjoyable vibe of the place.

We started with a malbec off the wines-by-the-glass list. Then we started making tough choices. The menu items at Tom’s were so tempting – so many good things to choose from! In the end, Richard asked for the Tom’s Fried Chicken (Buttermilk Marinated Chicken Breast with Andouille Gravy, Sweet Potato Mash, and Asparagus) and I got the Winter Vegetable Dumplings (Medley of Pumpkin, Beet, and Sweet Potato Dumplings with Roasted Hazelnut Butter and Red Wine Sauteed Vegetable).

Having lived in South Carolina for a long time, Richard has had some fine fried chick in his day. This one was a little different than what he was used to, being a chicken breast covered with yummy gravy. He commented that he’s never eaten fried chicken with a fork! But oh, he loved that chicken. He loved the spiciness of it and didn’t leave a single bite. He’s not as big a fan of sweet taters and asparagus so didn’t eat every bite of those, but they sure looked tasty from where I sat.

As for me, I was busy eating my own de-licious meal. I was not quite sure what to expect from this entree, but it definitely did not disappoint. In fact, it was right up my alley. The dumplings were oh-so-good and served with one of my favorite vegetables: brussels sprouts. Although meatless, this was one hearty meal and I ate every bit of it.

Dessert time! Our server had Richard at red velvet brownie, and she had me at donut bread pudding. Oh my…..these were good! Richard’s brownie came with peaches and berries. My donut bread pudding was served on top of what appeared to be a creamy sauce (perhaps an Anglaise) and topped with crunchy almonds. These were truly some fine desserts.

Tom’s Folk Cafe reminded us of two of our fave funky restaurants back in Charleston, SC. We loved the atmosphere and the food (which was all nicely presented and oh-so-nice tasting). There were a lot of other tempting things to try on that menu, so we’ll definitely be making a return visit (or visits).

Tom’s Folk Cafe is located on the westside at 204 Boston Ave El Paso, TX 79902

Foodiesmash – you need to check this place out!

Tom's on Urbanspoon

A few months ago, I had a doctor’s appointment and happened to spy a new restaurant being all readied-up right nearby. It looked pretty snazzy, and Richard and I made a mental note to check the place out once it opened.

Well, that time had arrived and last night we headed on over. Red Mountain Bistro opened up on the Westside recently. We had a fairly early dinner reservation, but as the evening went on the place became much more crowded and quite energetic. They actually had quite a few people (including us) on their reservation list, and there appeared to be plenty of walk-ins as well. The restaurant seemed to attract a mix of couples of all ages, as well as small groups and families. The decor was quite sleek and chic, and it looks like they are continuing to add plants and other decorations (some were being brought in as we arrived).

When we arrived, we were initially led to a table that seemed (to me, anyway) too close to some other customers. Too-close-for-comfort seating is one of my pet peeves, and since the restaurant had plenty of empty tables at that hour I asked for another. The hostess immediately led us to a more private table (yeah!).

Our server (Whitney) soon arrived, and she did an excellent job throughout our meal. We ordered from the wine list (Hob Not Merlot for me, and a cab whose-name-I-can’t-remember for Richard) and really enjoyed our selections once they arrived.

Richard was starved so he eyed the appetizer list, and the meat-loving guy decided to go with the Skewers (filet tips, Spanish chorizo, and Manchego with chili oil). Before his appetizer arrived, Whitney brought out a basket full o’ yummy bread. I am a bread baker, and I could tell the the onion roll in that basket was homemade. It was oh-so-good. The other bread (which Whitney informed us was also homemade) appeared to be an Italian-type loaf that was sliced, buttered, seasoned, and broiled. I didn’t have any of that bread, but Richard scarfed it down like crazy and said it was incredible.

Appetizer time! Richard said that the chorizo was “killer”, and the filet was great as well. Cheese-hater Richard had no idea at the time what that he was also eating cubes of cheese, but he even ate those up. He said that it was a really delicious combo of three different tastes and textures.

Now on to the entrees. The menu was perfect for Richard and me, because there were plenty of meat-heavy items (with a great choice of sides) as well as pastas and risottos. I could not resist ordering the Green Chile Risotto (queso fresco, sweet corn, cilantro, and green onions). This risotto was gorgeous, with so many nice colors. And the flavor – yum! EPVegSnob would love this entree. It was served super-hot (kudos to Whitney for serving up our entrees so quickly) and just perfectly seasoned. Richard (no surprise here) had the Ribeye (king cut, 14 oz.). Steaks are served with two sides, and he went with caramelized onions and the truffle fries. Oh my – he was in man-meal heaven! He said that the fries were the best that he’s had in El Paso, the steak was cooked exactly as he requested, and the caramelized onions were the perfect addition to that steak.

Richard chose to eat up more of that good bread for dessert, but you know me……I asked Whitney to bring that dessert menu right out! I also asked at that time for our bill, and our server Whitney brought it right out (another big yeah!). There were several tempting dessert choices (including a cheesecake, panna cotta, and molten lava cake), but I went with the bread pudding. I’ve eaten a lot of bread puddings in my life, and this one was truly delicious (and not the least bit soggy or heavy, like some bread puddings can be). While I’m not a fruit lover, the blueberries and blackberries on the side were a pretty and flavorful addition. The only thing I could suggest would be a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream served along with it (but that may also be the dessert-glutton in me speaking).

As we left, the restaurant was filled with people who seemed to be having a good time and enjoying the ambience and cuisine at Red Mountain Bistro. There were also plenty of people out on the patio, enjoying the first bit of fall weather we’ve had in El Paso. We were really glad to see so many people enjoying this place. We look forward to enjoying it again ourselves!

Red Mountain | bistro is located on the westside at 631 N Resler

Red Mountain | bistro on Urbanspoon

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