Amuse-bouche

NO­TABLE NOSHES AROUND TOWN The fried chicken sand­wich at Bet­ter­day — full of sa­vory fla­vor — is bet­ter than any cof­fee shop sand­wich has a right to be.

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Lau­rel Glad­den

No­table noshes around town

The Greek philoso­pher Her­a­cli­tus is noted for ob­serv­ing that “change is the only con­stant in life.” That could cer­tainly be said of the restau­rant busi­ness: On a reg­u­lar ba­sis, doors open and close, chefs come and go — some­times even be­fore a critic has a chance to pen a re­view — and menus get facelifts. This week, Pasatiempo takes a brief look at ex­pan­sions, ren­o­va­tions, and ad­di­tions to fa­mil­iar menus in Santa Fe and note­wor­thy noshes worth seek­ing out in un­ex­pected places. Un­less you’re a reg­u­lar, Bet­ter­day Cof­fee Shop and Kitchen (905 W. Alameda St.) might not strike you as a des­ti­na­tion for break­fast or lunch; the ur­ban-chic spot in the Solana Cen­ter started its life as the city’s first dis­penser of the pop­u­lar Stump­town Cof­fee and has since become a hip­ster out­post, of­fer­ing a short menu to java ad­dicts who pre­fer to plant them­selves, MacBooks on laps, in one place for hours at a time. Those who have made Bet­ter­day a habit know well its gim­micky “bur­rito in a jar,” a rather twee take­out dish in which the con­tents of our fa­vorite hand-held sus­te­nance are ar­ranged in col­or­ful strata in­side a Ball jar. It’s too clever by half, per­haps, but it al­lows you to walk away with break­fast or lunch in a re­us­able jar — while also avoid­ing the carby pit­falls of the tor­tilla.

Flesh­ing out the menu are a grass-fed-beef green chile cheese­burger and a fried chicken sand­wich that’s bet­ter than any cof­fee shop sand­wich has a right to be. Roughly the size of a ten­nis ball, it looks a bit mod­est, leafy let­tuce bloomers peek­ing out from un­der a domed but­tery bun. The meat is as­tound­ingly ten­der and full of sa­vory fla­vor, and the crust is crisp with­out crum­bling away. A dol­lop of chopped roasted green chile adds a touch of pleas­ant hot-smoky fin­ish, though I longed for a swath of sharp mus­tard. An ac­com­pa­ny­ing serv­ing of fries, rus­set beau­ties en­veloped by a cloud-white pa­per sack, makes up for any ap­petite-sat­is­fy­ing short­falls of the small-scale sand­wich, though I’m bet­ting those are rare.

Some eight years ago, Erin Wade opened Vi­nai­grette, breath­ing re­fresh­ing, whim­si­cal life into the of­ten-dis­missed realm of salad, and now, at Mod­ern Gen­eral (637 Cer­ril­los Road) — her cheery, tony, loft­like mar­ket-café — she re­ju­ve­nates the pancake with col­or­ful, mod­er­ately sized Mod­cakes, “a hum­ble dish rein­vented for the mod­ern palate,” she says.

“If Vinny is about achiev­ing health by eat­ing more greens, Mod­ern Gen­eral is about the grains,” Wade has said. Plain­cakes — made with white Sono­ran wheat, teff, or corn­meal — are on the menu, as are al­lur­ing-sound­ing Sweet­cakes to soothe the long­ings of your sweet tooth: co­conut cakes with al­mond and lime-pas­sion fruit curd, car­rot-gin­ger slathered with tangy labne but­ter­cream, and le­mon cakes lay­ered with le­mon curd and rasp­berry com­pote. But if your tastes run to­ward the salty, as mine do, the Sa­vorycakes will hit your sweet spot.

In a fla­vor pro­file more com­monly associated with bagels, red pep­per Sono­ran wheat cakes are topped with an am­ple por­tion of salty-smoky lox and chive sour cream, a driz­zle of red pep­per syrup of­fer­ing the slight­est sweet coun­ter­point. The not-very-spicy green chile corn cakes — ac­cented by scal­lions, cilantro, and mostly in­dis­cernible Jack cheese — become a nice herby, sa­vory break­fast or brunch with an overeasy egg crown. The Su­per­cakes, in­spired by sa­vory Ja­panese okonomiyaki, are salty and sin­cere (kale, cab­bage, and flax all in the same place at once) and slathered with a rich, dark, sticky sauce. A healthy pile of thin Ital­ian ham and gooey melt­ing lay­ers of cheese make the stack of pro­sciutto-Ro­bi­ola cakes al­most too rich to eat. Al­most.

Verde (851 W. San Ma­teo Road and 105 E. Marcy St.) got its start by spe­cial­iz­ing in juices of all sorts; per­son­ally, I’d rather chew my calo­ries than slurp them, so I of­ten turn to their ar­ray of sal­ads, sand­wiches, and wraps — and in the morn­ing, Overnight Oats or gra­nola. The fill­ing lentil-laden Brunch Salad Bowl sat­is­fies the legume lover, al­though the dress­ing of­ten strikes me as overly acidic. The Santa Fe Sweet Potato Wrap, with its Anasazi beans, es­cabeche, and soft, mildly sweet tu­bers, is sat­is­fy­ingly sub­stan­tial and nu­tri­tion­ally loaded.

Meals from Verde are typ­i­cally the grab-and-go sort, but now dur­ing week­day lunchtime at their San Ma­teo lo­ca­tion, they of­fer dine-in ta­ble ser­vice, with a new, heartier ad­di­tion to the menu: the Verde Juiced Burger. Made in house with sweet pota­toes, black beans, juice pulp, and var­i­ous grains and seeds, it’s a sturdy, pleas­antly warm, and col­or­ful patty on a no-non­sense sprouted whole-grain bun. Like many other veg­gie burg­ers, it’s not try­ing to fool you into think­ing it’s made of meat, but it will quiet your rum­bling belly all the same. I had my doubts about the spicy beet ketchup, but its earthy fruiti­ness and mild heat was a sprightly coun­ter­part to the patty’s veg­e­tal earnest­ness.

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