BLOG FOR 2007
Nov. 6, 2007:
Tucson, AZ. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
One of the best attractions in Tucson is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum located a short distance
west of the city. The museum is a private non-profit organization that is financed entirely by admissions,
memberships, and contributions. It is well worth a trip, with special activities going on all morning and
into early afternoon. Because of the desert heat, not much is usually going on after about 2 p.m.,
although the exhibits are open and some are indoors.
The museum has built exhibits for plants and animals in their natural habitat that live anywhere in
the Sonoran deset, covering much of Arizona and northern Mexico. I think I was surprised at the variety
of animals that can survive in the desert.
An exhibit of Mexican wolves is one example of the animals that can be found at the museum.
One purpose of the museum is to provide a habitat for animals that have become very scarce in
The museum also has several eating places, including the acclaimed Ocotillo Cafe that has
limited hours in the summer: several days a week for lunch and Saturday evenings for dinner.
Ironwood Terraces Restaurant is open all year and serves hamburgers, pizza, sandwiches, and
Southwestern fare. I have it from a good source that the restaurant's wraps are outstanding.
Oct. 25, 2007:
El Paso, TX. Asian Grocery Stores.
El Paso is not exactly a mecca for Asian food, but there are several grocery stores and small
markets where groceries and supplies from the far east are available. There are also Indian, Middle
Eastern, and other stores that sell goods from other parts of Asia, but I will probably cover those in
There are probably some stores with which I am not familiar, but I can name the ones I know from
my own personal shopping. Oriental Imports at 9101 Gateway West is the largest Chinese
market I have seen in town, and the one that I think has the best selection. Located inside the Oriental
Center on the Interstate 10 in east El Paso, there is both a gift shop and a grocery store that seem to be
under the same ownership. Some of the Chinese restaurants in town say the grocery store has the
best Chinese vegetables in town, stocking items that cannot be found anywhere else. The supply
of vegetables comes from California, and items sold depend largely on what is in season. Since
bok choy and other vegetables are not available all the time, this is one reason Chinese
restaurants do not include them in dishes on their menus. Because of the vegetables available here
and from other sources, though, restaurants can sometimes prepare special dishes. Oriental Imports
is a good source for cooking ingredients such as oils and sauces needed for Chinese and other
Asian cuisine. This is also the number one store I would check for any Asian cooking utensils that
Hong's Blankets and Gift Shop at 2000 N. Lee Trevino specializes in Japanese
groceries, but also has a good selection of fresh Chinese and other Asian vegetables (many are
likely grown in California). I do not know vegetables well enough to compare the ones here with other
stores, but they looked fresh to me. The store is also the best source in town for Japanese teas.
I am not sure about the "blankets" but the store is mainly a grocery store with the typical Asian noodles
and cooking ingredients. The store is a couple of doors south of Riyoma Japanese Restaurant.
Bonsai Japanese Restaurant at 225 Shadow Mountain Drive has a market attached to the
restaurant that sells Asian goods. Bonsai used to be a Japanese and Korean restaurant, but now
serves Japanese food exclusively. The market, however, seems to be primarily Korean and the owners
of the restaurant and market are Korean. I would say it has items from a number of countries, however,
and for those on the west side it is the only Asian grocery store to my knowledge. It has a small selection
but it seems to be well stocked in the essential cooking needs for Chinese, Japanese, or other Asian
Jeh-Il Asian Grocery and Gift Store at 8305 Dyer Street is my favorite store in town for the
things that are really important (or at least important to me): Japanese rice cake and wheat cake cookies.
These are not only the best cookies in town, I cannot even find the same ones in other cities I visit.
Jeh-il is primarily a Korean grocery store, but the selection of Japanese and Thai cooking ingredients
is substantial enough that I believe a large number of dishes could be prepared with the goods that are
available here. I do not believe the store specializes in fresh vegetables, but I have not asked what
they have available. There are more types of noodles here than I have seen anywhere else, and
so many packaged goods with Korean and Japanese labels that I really wonder what they all are.
Anyway, even if the main purpose of my trip is for desserts, I have a lot of fun looking at the other things.
Jun. 24, 2007:
Roswell, NM. Finding Good Eats for the UFO Conference. There is only one
recent review posted on this web site for Roswell, New Mexico, but past visits to the city have turned
up some surprisingly good places to eat. This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the famous
(but not fully documented) Roswell UFO crash, and there are expected to be large crowds to hear
several speakers on the subject of extraterrestrial vistations as well as to enjoy some family fun on
the weekend after July 4th. I went to the 50th Anniversary celebration in 1997, and I highly recommend
going to the celebration this year, especially if you can attend one or more of the informative lectures.
During the conference ten years ago, some of the local residents recommended the
Nuthin' Fancy Cafe at 2103 N. Main as a place for a good lunch. Actually it is also open
for breakfast and dinner, and with the home cooked style food it serves, it would probably be good
for any of these meals. It has undergone a change of owners since I ate there (actually I ate there on
multiple occasions), but it seems to be as popular as ever. I enjoyed the bread, and I thought the
main dishes pretty much lived up to the restaurant's claim of having home made food.
One of the most interesting restaurants in town is
A Taste of Europe at 1300 N. Main that would probably be easy to miss even though it is
on the main highway near the Convention Center. I ate there a number of years ago while driving
through town, and I do not remember much about it except that it was good. It also has a reputation
for serving surprisingly good food that most people do not expect to find in southeastern New
Mexico. I remember it having some pretty common Italian dishes, as well as some more unusual
ones from eastern Europe. The fact that it is still in business after a number of years says quite a bit.
The UFO Museum at 1st and Main has a permanent exhibit of UFO photos, information on crop
circles, and a small book store and gift shop for the times you might be visiting when there is no
conference. Nearby is
El Toro Bravo
Restaurant that has fairly decent Mexican food, although I would not compare it with Albuquerque or
There are several other Mexican restaurants in town but I do not know how they compare to
in Ruidoso, and there is one in Roswell also (this is a mini chain with 3 or 4 restaurants). Some of
the entrees were mediocre, but I enjoyed the chicken cacciatore, and I thought the salad and wine
were particularly good.
Jun. 14, 2007:
El Paso, TX. Rosa's Cantina. When the lyric "Out in the West Texas Town
of El Paso" in the song by Marty Robbins comes to mind, one thinks about the events that might have
transpired in Rosa's Cantina. Many may not realize, though, that there is a real Rosa's Cantina at 3454
Doniphan Drive near the Sunland Park Racetrack. I do not know how long it has been there but I
know it has been more than twenty years (and perhaps predates Marty Robbins' song).
Rosa's serves Mexican food for lunch, and at night is a popular bar and cantina (I am not sure
of the difference between the two--perhaps a cantina is required to serve Mexican beer). Since my
lunch experiences predate the time I started writing reviews, I have not included it in the review section
of the web site. If you are in the area, though, and you would like to get a cheap lunch, this is a good
Jun. 14, 2007:
El Paso, TX. Special Cantonese Style Dishes at
Oriental Cafe. Oriental Cafe is
gradually introducing authentic Cantonese style dishes to the menu. The main problems
seem to be that customers are not familiar with the food so that they want to order it, many
of the ingredients are not available or are only occasionally available, and some of the
food is more difficult to prepare than the standard stir-fried and deep fried dishes which are
the big sellers at Oriental Cafe and other Chinese restaurants.
As a volunteer "test subject" I have been able to sample some of these dishes that I
thought were as good as they were interesting. If there is enough interest with other customers,
some of these might be made available on a more regular basis. Both of the owners of
Oriental Cafe seem to be very good cooks. However, Winnie, the wife, has been particularly
interested in experimenting with some of the same dishes that are served in the Cantonese style
restaurants of California.
Pork ribs with black bean sauce made a tasty treat, and the vegetables made it more so.
This type of meat takes a long time to cook, and is available in many west coast restaurants if
you give them advance notice.
Lettuce wraps with shrimp were delicious, and they were even better with a
special dipping sauce that Winnie makes.
Whole steamed fish with black bean sauce was one of the more delicious dishes I
A light soup with spinach and tofu does not take as long to prepare as some of the
other soups, but the problem in El Paso is finding suitable vegetables. Some other types
of vegetables can be substituted, such as mustard greens.
The owners usually make a daily soup with whatever ingredients are avialable. This time
it was carrots.
Pepper beef is usually available to order. This was a different twist, though, with cabbage
added as a vegetable.
I like anything made with lotus leaf, such as this chicken dish.
The dumpling with pork and preserved vegetables is sometimes served in the lunch
buffet. It is a special treat, though, with the restaurant's home made dipping sauce.
In hot weather cold soups are good, such as this soup made with seaweed that is cooked
until it becoms soft. The soup is allowed to cool and served either for dessert or the last course
in the meal.
This soup was named "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall" because, as the story goes, Buddha
smelled the soup cooking and it was so good he jumped over a wall to get it. Although he was
a vegetarian, the soup had so many good ingredients that he could not resist this soup made
with several kinds of meat. The ones in China include shark's fin, an ingredient that I do not think
is available in El Paso. The soup I tried had a complex mixture of other ingredients, though, such
as abalone, scallops, ginseng, and bamboo shoots. The soup takes about a day to cook, which
explains why the owners do not have the urge to prepare it very often.
May 17, 2007:
El Paso, TX. Chinese Cold Soup at Oriental Cafe.
Oriental Cafe, across from Franklin
High School, has been preparing some very good employee meals of which I am able
to partake when I give advanced notice or there is enough available to share. This has
been an opportunity to try traditional Cantonese food that people would prepare in their own
homes--sometimes it includes dishes that take hours to prepre, but mainly they are simple,
Since this blog focuses on reporting different types of food and opportunities for finding
them, I was interested when I was served a soup I had never tried before. I do not know its
name, but I was told it is popular in California. The soup is good hot when it is first prepared,
but afterward is usually served cold, as it was to me. When served cold it is usually eaten
after the meal, and its sweet flavor makes a good dessert. The swirly looking matter is
yellow fungus that is packaged dry. Many Chinese dishes have an enhanced flavor by
using dried ingredients that are then reconstituted when prepared, and I am sure this fungus
would taste much different if eaten fresh. Dried fungus is an integral part of Chinese
cooking, with black fungus being one of the most important ingredients in hot and sour soup.
The cold soup pictured below was rounded out with some plums and mushrooms, for a
very refreshing treat.
May 5, 2007:
El Paso, TX. La Ideal Bakery.
Part of the Mexican food scene in El Paso is the several very good bakeries that serve
Mexican style pastries and baked goods. Bowie Bakery in South El Paso is probably the best
known. From my experiences at quite a few business meetings, however, I found that the
best treats came from La Ideal Bakery at 1700 Wyoming Ave., just off I-10 near Cotton Street.
La Ideal serves traditional Mexican pastries that are always fresh.
Empanadas, shown on the top shelf of the following photo, are the standout
item at La Ideal. These are made with sweetened fruit in a wrapping that
reminds me somewhat of home made pie crust. It is impossible to tell from the
outside what type of fruit is inside the empanada, but the employees will inform you
which ones are available. I would recommend ordering the pineapple, and these
seem to be the most popular with groups of people as well. Apple is usually
available, and sometimes there will be other varieties such as pumpkin.
I have not noticed whether La Ideal bakes loaves of bread or other non-pastry items.
I know that they provide the rolls served at Amigos Restaurant a few blocks away, and these
are some of the best in El Paso. I am also extremely impressed with the pumpkin pie sold
before Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Apr. 22, 2007:
Mesilla, NM. La Posta Restaurant.
I have been disappointed at the way La Posta has removed much of the chile heat, covered
everything with yellow cheese or sour cream, and done everything it can to serve the type of mild
"tourist food" that can be found just about anywhere in the U.S. Just about all the other restaurants
in Mesilla serve much better New Mexican food, including the one I went to on the same visit to
Still, tourists flock to La Posta, and a big reason has to be the historic building in which it is
located (I am sure that many people also like the food at La Posta, it is just that I do not consider
it to be authentic New Mexican food). It is worth showing some pictures of La Posta, and I believe
it is worth a visit if you are in the area, even if you do not plan a meal there. The sopaipillas,
appetizers, desserts, etc. may be good even if you go elsewhere for a meal. For the previous
review I did on La Posta see the following:
This is a view of La Posta from the historic plaza in Mesilla, just southwest of Las Cruces, and
about a mile from the I-10 exit:
The entrance to La Posta is on the east side, opposite of the previous picture:
There are several stores and gift shops, including this one that sells some pretty good salsa from
In the lobby is a large bird cage with quite a few inhabitants, including this friendly guy:
The kitchen has to be almost a mass production facility to keep up with the number of orders
it has to get out to customers:
The food looks good and is good; I just do not think it is the best representation of authentic
New Mexican cuisine:
Feb. 23, 2007:
El Paso, TX. Lent Specials at Carnitas Querétaro.
With the start of Lent several restaurants offer Comida de Cuaresma, either fish or vegetarian
meals on Fridays until Easter. I started the season at Carnitas Querétaro, a place normally known for
its meat dishes, but which also offers traditional Lent specials. A report with photos is shown on a
Carnitas Querétaro Comida de Cuaresma
Feb. 18, 2007:
El Paso, TX. Chinese New Year.
I am still trying to learn the food and customs of Chinese New Year, and fortunately it is getting easier to do
so in the United States. The Chinese community in El Paso has a celebration every year, this year being at
the Hong Kong Buffet. I was told they had a whole pig to celebrate the Year of the Pig, whole chickens, fish,
and other types of traditional food. I was also told that the room was just about filled to capacity, so it is
doubtful that they are anxious to have a large number of additional people join the party next year.
I was also told that the Taiwanese community had a separate celebration at a different restaurant. The
New Year is all about celebrating and getting together with family, so both of these gatherings were much
more than just a place to eat good food.
For those of us who either were not invited or chose not to go to these celebrations (they actually had
a cover charge and I suspect were open to anybody) it took a little creativity to find traditional New Year's
food. I had my first success on New Year's eve (Saturday) at
at 931 N. Resler Drive across from Franklin High School. This small restaurant has new owners and I have
been enjoying traditional Chinese meals on a regular basis. For the New Year they had prepared a traditional
vegetarian dish Silken Tofu and Lilly Flowers that was served with snow peas, fungus, and a specially
cooked tofu. The lilly flowers were mixed into clear noodles so that it almost seemed like a "clear" or
transparent food, fitting in with the theme of eating vegetables for the purpose of cleansing the body. I thought
it was a taste sensation that I hope to be able to enjoy in the future.
For the Sunday dinner on New Year's day my party went to
Sam's Chinese Restaurant
at 1501 E. Yandell Drive near downtown El Paso. Let me warn people that if you plan to go on a Sunday or
on special occasions, it may be quite difficult to get a table, and the individual orders that are cooked may
take a while to prepare. The special at Sam's was a whole Steamed Chicken with ginger,
representing prosperity and good fortune for the new year.
I will have to say that even in all my west coast dining I have rarely encountered anything as delicious as
this dish. This was a special chicken shipped in from California (I have been told that the ones sold in the
local markets are too large and do not taste right for a steamed dish). The cooking methold was slow, but
made the chicken fall off the bones. The ginger and other flavors permeated everything, and this food was
truly worthy of a special celebration. Bob, one of the owners of Sam's Restaurant, had ordered a limited
number of chickens. I suspect that he can order more next year if people let him know ahead of time that
they will come in for it.
I want to give my thanks to both restaurants for not only providing excellent meals, but also sharing some of the
traditions that are celebrated in a large part of the world.