Pioneering restaurants set the pace - Las Cruces Bulletin

Pioneering restaurants set the pace

Five Las Cruces eateries to take part in New Mexico Restaurant Week Feb. 20-27

By Samantha Roberts

Las Cruces Bulletin

Five-star dining is not just for big-city life, and this week the best of Mesilla Valley’s res¬taurants are offering their gourmet foods at “rock-bottom” prices.

After an extremely successful 2010 debut in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico Restaurant Week is back for a second helping and this time Las Cruces has been added to the mix.

The event includes four consecutive Sun¬day- to-Sunday celebrations in Las Cruces (Feb. 20-27), Taos (Feb. 27-March 6), Santa Fe (March 6-13) and Albuquerque (March 13-20).

The week is a time for restaurants to of¬fer a unique menu and show off their capa¬bilities. Restaurants are encouraged to put to¬gether a three-course, prix-fixe dinner, begin¬ning at $25 per couple for casual-dining res-taurants or $20 to $40 per person for fine¬dining restaurants.

With the success in the northern part of the state, Michele Ostrove, president of WingsMediaNetwork, and her team recog¬nized the need to make the event statewide.

“Last year, both local and out-of-town din¬ers embraced the opportunity to sample new restaurants at an affordable price in Santa Fe and Albuquerque,” said Ostrove, adding she is certain the success will carry on this year in Las Cruces.

“The week brings diners out in droves be¬cause it gives guests a great excuse to get out during the winter. The prices are affordable and it creates a great social atmosphere.”

Restaurant Week is strategically picked dur¬ing a slower time in the restaurant industry, or off-season, which creates a win-win situation for guests and restaurant owners.

“The event is really embraced in New Mex-i¬co,” Ostrove said. “Nearly 40 percent of all guests in restaurants last year were trying the restaurant for the first time. New Mexico is a dining destination and attracts people from all over, including neighboring states. People flock to New Mexico for their iconic cuisine.”

The week is also a great opportunity for lo¬cals to try new places in a social atmosphere.

Participating restaurants include La Posta de Mesilla, Double Eagle, Sunset Grill, De La Vega’s Pecan Grill & Brewery and Café España.

La Posta de Mesilla

La Posta de Mesilla originated in 1939 and the business has grown to occupy 10,000 square feet of the La Posta compound, which now includes several shops.

The restaurant offers many fine traditional “New Mexico” Mexi¬can dishes and owner Tom Hutchinson be¬lieves Restaurant Week will increase the res¬taurant’s exposure.

“I’ve heard from different restaurants who have participat¬ed in past events (in Santa Fe) and they describe the event as very worthwhile and a well-run program,” Hutchinson said. Hutchinson also hopes the event at¬tracts a crowd during a slower time for the restaurant industry.

“We are highlighting our new items, such as a shrimp cocktail and a chocolate pecan pie,” he said. “We are also offering a three-course meal, something that is new for us.”

During the weeklong event from Feb. 20-27, La Posta will offer an array of pairings in the three-course meal, including guacamole salad, chile con queso and a Mexican shrimp cocktail as appetizers. A newer menu item, the Mexican shrimp cocktail offers whole shrimp in a spicy blend of fresh avocados, cu¬cumbers, celery, onions, tomatoes and jalape¬ños. For entrée options, La Posta will feature the La Posta combination, tostada compuesta cups, flautas, enchilada plate and La Posta combination No. 1.

“We are offering a three-course meal at a reasonable price,” Hutchinson said. “The meal is $25 per couple, something that would be quite more expensive at other times. There is a lot of value there, and will be offered for din¬ner or lunch or on the weekend. If you can’t eat it all, you can take it home.”

To top off the trio, couples can pick from Stahmann’s chocolate pecan pie – exclusively at La Posta, dessert empanadas and homemade flan for dessert.

Although the event will be shortly after Valentine’s Day, Hutchison and other restau¬rant owners don’t think it will affect the guests’ turnout.

“There really are no concerns in regards to the holiday,” he said. “We usually run our spe¬cials for about a week to give guys a little more time, but I feel that Restaurant Week is just outside of that Valentine’s window.”

Double Eagle

“In regards to dining out during the win¬ter, there is a time slot of rest for Mesilla,” said Double Eagle Manager Jerry Harrell, adding that the Double Eagle is looking for a boost in guests’ attendance during Restaurant Week. “It’s a chance for us to show off what we’ve got.”

Harrell also said he hopes to attract both new and returning customers.

“We are hoping our current customers will recognize a good deal and take advantage of it,” he said. “And those who haven’t been here will come out and try what we have to offer.”

Harrell said the restaurant has taken its most popular items and given them a “twist” by putting them together in new ways and at discounted prices – $40 per person.

“We are using dishes we typically serve, so people can come back and get the same basic items,” Harrell said. “I would recommend the rosemary roasted pork tenderloin. It comes with a jalapeño glaze that has a splash of Span-ish cherry to give it a zing.”

Appetizers at the Double Eagle include a choice of Caesar salad, tortilla soup or spin¬ach salad. In addition to the rosemary pork tenderloin, guests can also pick from chicken breast Jerusalem or beef bourguignon. To finish off a perfect meal, caramel apple meltaway pie, brownie jubilee and crème brulee are the des¬sert selections.

While reservations at the Double Eagle are always recommended, even if it’s a few hours’ notice, Harrell said he urges guests to notify the restaurant about reservations during Res¬taurant Week “ASAP.”

The Double Eagle has also decided to up¬grade its scotch well to Speyburn, a 10-year¬old single malt.

“People that know scotch are going to say ‘Wow’ because this is usually a premium li¬quor,” Harrell said. “I would recommend pair¬ing it with the beef bourguignon because the scotch has a light-lemon, medium-bodied fla¬vor and complements the rich wine sauce of the beef and mushrooms.”

Sunset Grill

According to Peter Raitt, general man¬ager of Sunset Grill, the event is great for the restaurant industry as a whole and showcases what the restaurants are capable of.

“We hope to get as many people through the door as possible,” Peter Raitt said. “Espe¬cially new customers. There is still a precon¬ceived notion that Sunset Grill is private, but actually we are open to the public.”

Along with its special menu, Sunset Grill will offer a Cocktail Clinic that highlights the restaurants signature drinks for $10.

“Since we do have a signature cocktail menu that our Wine Director/Mixologist Ian McKay put together, we are going to teach the public how to make those drinks,” he said.

The clinic will be on a first come, first serve basis and is open to anyone over 21 years.

With regard to food, Sunset Grill will fo¬cus on its fresh seafood and aged beef because those dishes give a good feel of the restaurant, Raitt said.

“Our two most popular dishes are fresh scallops and filet mignon,” Peter Raitt said. “The filet is the most tender in Las Cruces, and although we offer it on our regular menu, we are preparing items differently for Restaurant

Continued on following page

The week lets us highlight favorites on the menu and do something different and new.

ASHLEY SPRINGER, De La Vega’s Pecan Grill & Brewery Marketing Director

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Residing in Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, Café España boasts a well-planned three¬course menu, including steak España, chicken pasta and tarragon salmon as entrée options.

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Steaks from De La Vega’s Pecan Grill & Brewery heat up on the grill.

Other menu items for the week include decadent desserts and a wine tasting.

Week, such as different sauces and sides.”

The menu at Sunset Grill will be $30 per person for the meal and $40 per person for the meal with wine pairings. Raitt said the menu alone typically costs $55.

Appetizers on the special menu include a choice of 7 onion soup, raw oysters or fire¬cracker spinach salad. For the entrée portion, guests can choose between filet mignon, seared sea scallops or halibut; and desserts options are comprised of almond zabaione, chocolate and pistachio cannoli or chocolate cake.

Café España

Nestled in Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, Café España is a traditional hacienda style cocina with attentive selections of wines, li¬queurs and self-indulgent desserts. The café’s menu includes a choice of the encanto spinach salad, roasted pablano corn chowder or en¬salada Caesar for starters. The steak España – usually a $20 entrée alone – mesquite chicken pasta or Spanish olive and tarragon salmon are the entrée options. For dessert, the café is of¬fering chocolate mousse cake, cheesecake xan¬gos or flan España.

“We chose these items because they are our most popular items at a great price, especially for a steak dinner,” said Susan Raitt, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.

In addition to the menu, café servers will suggest optimal wine pairings for the meal.

Raitt said the café chose to participate in Restaurant Week because they want to remind people that the café is open to the public.

“We really hope to attract new visitors as well as introduce renovations from a few years ago that locals may still be unaware of,” she said.

The meal is $20 per person.

De La Vega’s Pecan Grill & Brewery

Ashley Springer, marketing director of De La Vega’s Pecan Grill & Brewery said Restau¬rant Week is an “awesome” concept and a good fit for local businesses, especially De La Vega’s.

“The week lets us highlight favorites on the menu and do something different and new,” she said. “Although we don’t really know what to expect, we are prepared with extra staff members and food.”

Springer said the restaurant will be serving special green chile items and a very popular bread pudding.

“We are also serving items that are not normally offered, such as a new fish, chicken, steak and vegetable plate,” she said. “A lot of these items take more preparation time and really showcase what we can do. They are items we can prepare for caterings, but maybe not every day.”

In addition to its unique menu, the restau¬rant will hold a blind taste test at 6 p.m. Thurs¬day, Feb. 24.

“For $25 a person, guests will blindly be tasting six wines, taking notes and comparing qualities,” Springer said. “None of the bottles will be shown until the night of the event, so this is a true blind taste test.”

Reservations for the event can be made with Bar Manager Nick Pederson at nick@pecangrill.com. Spaces are limited.

The brewery’s menu will consist of beef tenderloin canapés, smoked salmon canapés or stuffed hatch green chiles for starters. Main course options include green chile chicken lasagna, mushroom filled beef tenderloin, green chile stuffed chicken, salmon in lemon pepper dill sauce or porterhouse steak with sautéed mushrooms. Sweet options such as cinnamon bread pudding in rum sauce, napoleon a la mode or peaches and crème parfait will be offered for dessert. The menu will cost $30 per person.

For more information on Restaurant Week, visit www.nmrestaurantweek.com and click on Las Cruces.

Throughout the week, The Double Eagle will offer a three¬course meal in its elegant dining room.

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Sunset Grill has picked an array of seafood and beef items for their menu during Restaurant Week.

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A local and tourist favorite, La Posta de Mesilla features many of its favored dishes for $25 per couple.

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