#69 | Fruit Leather, Food Trucks, and Kumquat Sauce
Climatarian? Regenivore? As we enter 2023, eating responsibly seems to be hitting a 2.0 moment, pivoting, more or less officially, from the prevailing triad of vegan, vegetarian, and whatever, to a choose-your-own-adventure model, in which one makes climate-considerate choices in a more á la carte fashion, depending on the given time and place of the meal in question.
But alas, complexity also reigns in 2023, and what we consume is only part of the sustainability equation. What if the meal checks all the regenerative boxes, but the labor that created it does not? In The Menu, which we enjoyed/endured recently at Violet Crown in Santa Fe while munching on a bowl of (likely California-grown) brussels sprouts handed to us by a notably friendly kitchen worker, the issue of sustainable labor comes to a head in a way that drives home the point.
Lest you think the suffering of the staff portrayed on screen is all hyperbole, and in case you’ve been living under the proverbial (or culinary) rock, this week Chef René Redzepi of Danish haute eatery Noma (not to be confused with a certain similarly named Ojo Caliente restaurant) announced he would bid adieu to the butts-in-seats model after 2024 except for the occasional pop-up. Why? We can’t say for sure, but it seems that while Redzepi has found a way, at least theoretically, to source wood sorrel and plankton responsibly, the sourcing of humans has become a matter far thornier. To wit: the announcement coincides with a gaggle of former interns going public with their tales of punishing hours and indignities involving fruit leather, and follows Redzepi’s own admissions of staff bullying and other abuses.
The announcement set the internet aflame with debate, mostly over whether it’s cool for any restaurant to ask patrons to pay five hundred dollars for a meal composed of (actual) sticks and stones. Which is to say the issue of the treatment of human beings seems to have slid off the plate. Which is to say, let’s do better here at home, and pay attention not only to the burrito you hold in your hands but the hands (and lives) of those that got it there.
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“Something crisp is the ideal match for Umami Moto’s fried chicken sandwich,” writes Briana Olson in “A Pint & a Bite,” The Bite’s beer-and-food-truck-pairing tour. “The chicken is brined in buttermilk and kimchi juice, fried Southern style, then generously (and beautifully) dressed in a sweet, gochujang-infused barbecue sauce evened out with the tang of Vietnamese-style pickled cucumbers and house-made kimchi. The bun is an easy place to go wrong—who wants to get lost in the bread of their sandwich, especially when the centerpiece is crispy fried goodness?—and this one, a nice soft brioche, is just right.”
Check Umami Moto’s schedule to find out where their truck will show up next. Read more and check out what else you’ve been missing from New Mexico’s only independent culinary authority at The Bite Stories.
Entrances & Exits
This week Erin Wade of Vinaigrette fame and local developer Jay Rembe announced plans to build a new restaurant complex in West Downtown. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the concept-y space will house six interdependent eateries, including a relocated Vinaigrette, a German brewhouse, a commissary kitchen, a Polish deli, and a private club called, yes, the Pickle Baller.
Up north the fine folks at Santa Fe’s Bread Shop are now serving lunch inside their cozy new spot at 1703 Lena Street.
Kaune’s Neighborhood Market in Santa Fe is closed this weekend. And beginning tomorrow, Horno Restaurant is doing the same, through January 25. Word is both venues (and we think likely others) are giving their staff a break after a busy holiday season.
No, you can’t ride the Fire Ball, but today at Cliff’s Amusement Park in Albuquerque a food truck rally offers plenty of other ways to spend your time (and cash). Somewhere upward of fifteen mobile eateries will descend on the park along with a bouncy house and a few other related attractions. If you’re feeling judgy, this could be a good spot for you—word is attendees get to vote for their fave food trucks.
Like food truck fare, beer tastes better outdoors, and tomorrow Santa Fe’s Hidden Mountain Brewing will take over the taps for an extended lunch at Totemoff’s at Ski Santa Fe.
Normally you’d need to travel to Houston or Saigon for a dinner crafted by the celebrated hands of Chef Nikki Tran, owner of famed Vietnamese fusion destination Kâu Ba. Not so this Tuesday, when Open Kitchen brings Tran to Optunia’s airy and verdant second-floor space in the Santa Fe Railyard. The dinner menu offers her distinctive takes on Vietnamese cuisine, and with such evocative items as kumquat dipping sauce, Cajun fried banana, and mustard green beef rolls, is almost as fun to read as this newsletter.
The food-labor conversation gets local with writer and farmworker Anita Ashok Adalja’s dispatch from the fields of New Mexico farms. “The invisibility of farmworkers contributes to the devastating experiences of abuse and hardships endured by those responsible for our nourishment,” she writes in our sister publication, edible New Mexico.
“And what about the hands and bodies of those who harvest?” inquires Briana Olson in another edible deep dive into the labor behind the food we buy, “The State of the Meat Market.” “I’m thinking not only of their skill, their accuracy and swiftness, nor only of whether they say something like a prayer, but also whether they are recognized for their work. Whether their own lives and deaths are honored, considered, cared for.”