Friday, October 03, 2008

New Mexico: The Grove

Maria and San Pellegrino.

It was absolute, utter misery.

That was my night last night. Sheer agony. Okay, maybe not "agony" but definitely miserable. Probably one of the most miserable nights in my life. I didn't really fall asleep until 4am and then was rocked awake by another frantic sprint to the bathroom. Could've used a matchbook. Hell, a blow torch would have been ideal.

It's morning and things have settled down a bit but I'm worked. The only positive aspect of the night is that I read just about every printed word in this week's Alibi (Albuquerque's Alternative Weekly Newspaper) and have intimate knowledge of every event going on in town. Did you know that Journey and Cheap Trick are playing tomorrow at 7:30pm? Now, you do.

After spending half of her night giggling at my misfortune and suffering, Maria is hungry and ready for breakfast. I can't eat a damn thing. I'm not even hungry. What was I thinking eating that Green Chile Stew last night? Moron.

But she's hungry and she wants coffee.

Finding coffee in a new town is always an adventure filled with trepidation. Luckily, Ray was in town earlier this year shooting a movie - maybe it was porn, maybe not (okay, porn is what I'm planning to do next year), and recommended a place called The Grove. Since he and his wife own the half eponymous Gesine in Vermont, it's a safe bet to check out.

The nice thing about Albuquerque is that everything is pretty darn close to each other. It's one of the blessings of a small town, which makes getting places easy peasy. The Grove is both a cafe and market. Actually, it's more gourmet than market with only a selection of pricey gourmet offerings but there's a big La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine behind the counter that instantly buoys my spirits, not to mention the really tasty menu offerings from the kitchen.

The only thing I'm allowed to eat: plain English muffin.

Problem is, I can't eat anything. A phone call to Doctor Mom revealed what I already feared in my heart of hearts: no solid foods, no caffeine, no dairy, only liquids and crackers. Ugh, what a nightmare.

It's a shame because while I really wanted to check out their coffee, I couldn't. It looked pretty good. They were doing latte art. They steamed milk individually per order. They've got a nice espresso machine. Lots of good things going on.

That's when I noticed the barista pulling a shot for a cappuccino that was done at 22 seconds, she kept it flowing. For the uninitiated, one can tell when an espresso shot is "done" by the color of the espresso stream as it falls from the spouts of the portafilter. It should come out dark and brown. When it turns blonde, you know that all the great flavor of the coffee has been extracted out of the bean and you should stop, lest you prefer excessive bitterness in your coffee.

Unfortunately, I don't think these people were trained with that little tidbit of information because this barista let that shot run and run, and run. All the way to 27 seconds. It's not as if she was distracted, she was intently watching the shot the whole time - probably waiting for some prescribed amount of time to pass before stopping the brew. A shame. And at least I had a reason why I couldn't drink coffee.

Maria's crepes with fresh fruit, yogurt and creme fraiche.

Compiling my misery was what I ordered for meal: house made English muffin, no butter and a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water. The muffin was pretty good. Sliced. Would have been nicer fork split to have all the nooks and crannies to hold your melted butter. Of course, I couldn't have butter so I suffered. Compound that with the mineral-y carbonated water from Italy and I wanted to stick that butter knife in my throat and just end my suffering.

Fact of the matter is that I hate, absolutely detest, carbonated water. Unless it's got a 5 to 1 ratio of Coca Cola syrup in it, I'd prefer to have plain water. Then no butter??? Just a plain English muffin??? Can you feel my pain?

Maria, on the other hand, went ahead with a vanilla steamer and an order of Grove Pancakes - French style crepes with fresh fruit, creme fraiche, toasted nuts, local honey with yogurt. It looked absolutely delicious.

The Grove Cafe & Market
600 Central Avenue SE
Albuquerque, NM 87102


Anonymous said...

dude! Sorry you got the bug...
What is it about Albuquerque?
Last time I was there both my Dad and I got it bad!
May your appetite return.
-Chris Deferio

Anonymous said...

Sorry you're feeling so bad, but glad you made it to Frontier anyway. That place is superb if for no other reason than the fact that a place like that out here on the west coast would be all gussied up. Frontier is still the real deal.

Also, thanks for the tip (and warning) on the Grove. I've noticed that place before but haven't been there to check it out.

If you do eventually feel up for it, my top pick for coffee in Albuquerque in all my visits has been Michael Thomas Coffee. They are very skilled, roast their own and do a pretty decent job with it. Not amazing but they are very good.