#47 | Goji Berries, Agedashi Tofu, and Entrances & Exits
Berry season in New Mexico can mean the divinely sweet burst of juice that pops in your mouth after kneeling to pick a wild strawberry from the mountain floor, or tasting the fleeting and complex floral notes of fresh blackberries in your nose as you pick them from a homegrown bush, or sampling a fresh batch of raspberry jam at the market. Lately for us, it has been our personal discovery of goji (Lycium barbarum) berries: a drought-tolerant Chinese cultivar of wolfberry, whose well-adapted cousins (for example, Lycium pallidum, Lycium andersonii, and Lycium torrey) have long been appreciated and stewarded here in the Southwest. A few plants can yield handfuls of the semisweet, slightly bitter and tangy, vaguely tomato-like berries that make nice additions to smoothies and jams, salads and pizzas, juices, and whatever else might want to be accented with small bursts of a singular and complex flavor.
Growing goji berries is relatively easy here in New Mexico—they like our alkaline soils, require little water once established, and handle our hot summers and cold winters well. If growing your own gojis isn’t in the cards but you still want to experience the taste of a fresh berry, we imagine a trip to a place like the Taos Goji Eco Lodge during harvest season might do the trick. Or maybe you’ll stumble on a good place to pick wild wolfberries in some nearby wash or hiking through the state’s rangelands and plateaus. Need a botanical rundown of the plant? Check out this guide, which includes a sweet illustration from a local high school student.
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Agedashi tofu defies our usual tofu preferences: It’s often made with soft tofu. The tofu is not marinated or simmered in any sort of mouth-numbing sauce, nor is it smoked or fried frozen or thrice cooked or any of those other tricks for making tofu toothsome and chewy. And it is served more or less on its lonesome, without rice or noodles or baguette. Maybe that very lightness is what has appealed to us lately—the silky texture balanced with the delicate crunch of an exterior dusted in flour or potato starch and lightly fried. With the sauce—dashi and mirin and soy—alongside chopped green onion, grated daikon, bonito flakes, and maybe a bit of nori, it tastes oh so slightly of the sea. In the words of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art author Shizuo Tsuji, “The ingredients are very simple and there is no new twist to the deep frying technique, but the flavor is sophisticated.” We haven’t settled on a local favorite yet, but we’ll return for the one at Gen Kai in Albuquerque.
Entrances & Exits
K Style Kitchen opened recently on Winter Haven Road, having moved into the erstwhile M’tucci’s Italian Cafe and Market near the corner of Coors and Montaño. This means a spot to get Korean fried chicken (as well as bibimbap, bulgogi, kimchi fried rice, and the like) on Albuquerque’s Westside.
There’s another new place to eat in the East Mountains: the All Roads Cafe opened in Edgewood last week. We’re going to give them a minute to acclimate to their business before we drop in, so we can’t yet vouch for their sandwiches, but we can observe that they make their own chips (that’s chips in the American, not British, vernacular).
The much-loved Freezie Fresh reopened this week in Santa Fe; they’re setting up Thursdays through Sundays in a new spot, at 2601 Cerrillos in the Artisan parking lot.
Marquez Deli is moving into CHOMP Food Hall (and rebranding as ALEX NYC Deli) next month. In other CHOMP news, Catch Santa Fe Poke is now open there from Tuesday to Sunday, and the food hall is planning a “grand reopening” on August 5, by when all seven food vendors will reportedly be up and running. (If you’ve been there this summer, you know that some stalls have been closed or empty.)
M’tucci’s celebrated their ninth anniversary this week—that being nine years since the opening of their first restaurant on Coors and Montaño (a few doors down from the aforementioned K Style). The birthday dinners have passed, but you can still catch discounts on a few things (notably, their pizza) at all their locations today and tomorrow.
Food trucks and food vendors will be serving up a plant-based array of deliciousness at the Food Fight at Salt Yard West in Albuquerque on July 28. A portion of proceeds will go to the nonprofit animal sanctuary Misfits of Oz.
Saturday, July 30, M’tucci’s Bar Roma is fundraising for the Grief Center of New Mexico, which was broken into over the Fourth of July weekend. Twenty percent of sales from dining (in or out) that day will help the Grief Center recoup the thousands of dollars in damages and theft.
Red River’s 8750’ BBQ & Music Festival will be the site for a pretty serious BBQ competition as well as a New Mexico green chile cookoff and a CASI (that’s short for Chili Appreciation Society International) red chili contest. If the spelling doesn’t give it away, that’s chili as in Texas chili. The festival runs August 18–20, with guests’ chances to sample the goods on Saturday.
And in case you missed it: the Lavender in the Village Festival is happening tomorrow in Los Ranchos.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants were announced last week. Need we point out that none are located in New Mexico? Of the 50, 29 are in Europe, 13 in the Americas, 7 in Asia, and 1 in Africa. We’re not as good at math as we used to be, and we love Italy as much as the next eater, but we wonder if the results might be a bit skewed.
Also not in New Mexico, to maybe even more surprise, were the two winners of the 505 Southwestern national recipe contest. Notably, both winning recipes—the Eggcellent Breakfast Sandwich and Air Fryer Southwestern Salsa Verde Corn and Bacon Rangoons—contain bacon. Naturally, we have more opinions about breakfast sandwiches than can fit in this letter, and let us not wade into the question of whether it’s a rangoon if it’s not a crab rangoon. But if you want to take a deeper dive into the question of just what crab rangoon is, read this. Tip: it has nothing to do with Myanmar.