Pie are shared
Entering Dish n’ Spoon Cafe & Gifts feels like slipping back into the past. The front porch is loaded with colorful displays and signs that invite you to come inside. As the screen door slams behind you, you might as well be stepping into a midcentury roadside store somewhere in middle America. Or Santa Fe in its lone-wolf stage, before making money surpassed living the dream.
Dish n’ Spoon is clearly not about big bucks; it’s about the owners’ creative expression on every level. It was already well known as Four & Twenty Blackbirds, an eclectic gift store with café, when husband-and-wife team Anna and Sancho Soeiro bought it three years ago. They have expanded the inventory and changed the menu. It’s now loaded with books (for children and adults), toys, ceramics, garments, and knickknacks. And the pies are better than ever.
The whimsical cooking here is as varied as the things on the shelves and the walls. As I was writing this review, the proprietors were cooking a special Ethiopian dinner. Sometimes Sancho, the chef, goes a little too far for my taste, adding complexities that don’t always work, but there is an earnestness to the food that feels good. The owners’ generosity and enthusiasm are genuine, and these qualities are exhibited in their pay-what-you-can Mondays and a kids’ corner to keep the tykes happy — or at least occupied.
Large servings of hearty, healthy food are the norm. Sancho uses organic ingredients as frequently as possible, and homemade goodness radiates from his plates. Personal 5-inch dessert pies are on sale daily and can be reheated at home. For 10-inch familysized pies, place orders on Wednesday to pick up on Friday. The pies come in flavors that vary seasonally. As dessert, they come piping hot, with a hefty dollop of whipped cream (or homemade organic ice cream). They’re the best thing Dish n’ Spoon makes; the crust is hard to beat, and they aren’t too sweet, either.
A hearty Greek avgolemono soup (traditionally, egg and sour-citrus juice mixed with broth), thick with rice and dotted with spinach, was intensely lemony and creamy. I give mixed reviews to the scoops of egg salad and tuna salad on a small bed of greens. The tuna salad was tasty, perked up with pickle and celery and just a few herbs, but the egg salad was overloaded with dill, which discolored the whites, making them gray. Another salad, the curried chicken, rich with golden raisins and sliced almonds, teetered on the edge of spiced excess, but on slices of good whole-wheat bread, the intensity was delicious. The sides offered are potato chips, kosher dill pickle, or three-bean salad flavored with cumin seed. The bean salad is way too vinegary for my liking, and I ordered it twice to make sure.
A hot corned-beef sandwich on sprouted rye was good, as was the turkey meatloaf with a very nice mixed salad on the side. The meatloaf isn’t for those who are craving a hearty poultry fix, as it’s loaded with sunflower seeds and grated onion, garlic, carrots, and bell pepper. But it’s tasty and light, enough for two to share. A pesto and portobello quiche came with a mesclun salad. The crust on the quiches and pies is one and the same — crumbly, tender, and buttery — but the quiche filling is less than thrilling.
If, in a moment of insanity, you decide to order something other than a little pie for dessert, there’s a chocolate-chip cookie. It’s a mound that is neither crispy nor moist, not chewy but full of chocolate chips. A gooey brownie filled with coconut, hazelnut, and almonds was very good, and we ate it hot with homemade ice cream — another whimsical expression flavored with white-chocolate chips, vanilla, and rose essence. A really nice surprise, which could be just as satisfying as dessert, was the special offer of a bottle of hefeweizen or Santa Fe Pale Ale for a dollar.
Passion is what Dish n’ Spoon is all about, and the place is a fun house of personal expression. The owners don’t follow my maxim that less is more in the herb department, but I can forgive them for that. I will forgive them just about anything if they keep making those pies.