Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
The holiday season, as it is ironically called, has snuck up on us and BAM! right in the kisser. Thanksgiving – our favorite holiday hands down, being secular, non-commercial, not “selfie” but OTHER-directed – is come and gone.
But what’s past is prologue, and we are now officially in the season of eating and drinking with family and friends until Epiphany. Norman Rockwell style around a table with family is the best way, of course, but the holidays are a moveable feast, too, when in another country, or condition. (A particularly memorable Thanksgiving dinner was in an empty Chinese restaurant in Chicago. It seemed the place was open for us alone.)
This year occasioned an invitation to The Compound, thankfully, gratefully accepted; and, as everyone knows, The Compound is the “toppermost of the poppermost,” to quote The Beatles, when it comes to Santa Fe dining. Seriously.
Since it re-opened in May 2000, in every season, the stately, two-story, Girard-reinvented adobe with Edenistic gardens set amongst majestic pines and cottonwoods next to the equally estimable Bellas Artes Gallery, is the site of some of the most beautiful and gracious dining on the planet under chef Mark Kiffin and the impeccably professional, friendly staff.
A prime spot any time is at the informal, four-cornered bar, under the direction of master mixologist Mike O’Keefe.
Thanksgiving evening, we were ushered through a throng (sorry, it’s the only word that comes to mind) downstairs, to head upstairs to one of the hushed, intimate rooms. (They’re not always open; we had the one to the south with the breathtaking view of the sunset this evening! A little bit of elevation changes everything.)
Over a superb vodka martini, and white wines for our companions, it was determined that the three-course prix fixe dinner ($85/person) was in order, and so it was.
The first course was the Roasted Fall Beet Salad, gorgeously plated, as is everything, of course. Slices of golden beets with Humbolt Fog Goat Cheese, dark rye toasts, candied walnuts, little drops of horseradish and sour orange vinaigrette, perhaps a dollop or two shy of a proper shot of that exquisite goat cheese.
Two of us had the saltine cracker-encrusted Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Creole style with little cubes of Tasso Ham, and a garlic and grain-mustard cream. We love crab cakes, but Creole style, we discovered, is not our favorite, the sauce and diced ham a bit overwhelming. Others may love it; we prefer Maryland-Baltimore style.
Being a traditionalist, there was no question but to go for the Roasted Embudo Farms Certified Organic Turkey, nice thick slices of breast and thigh, a lovely assortment of autumn root vegetables, Spanish chorizo stuffing, cranberry-orange relish and Yukon mashers with caramelized onion giblet gravy. It was Norman Rockwell perfect.
Our companions had perfectly prepared Organic Scottish Salmon with a delicate, rich lobster and leek carnaroli risotto (it could be served for dessert), with an even richer brandied-lobster cream sauce.
For dessert, an apple Napoleon – puff pastry, apple mousse, walnut oat streusel, salted caramel apple compote. Superb! And a pear sorbet, with pomegranates and a Gewürztraminer wine jelly. The pièce de résistance!
The Compound continues to shine brightly in the galaxy of top-drawer Santa Fe restaurants, and offers a pluperfect venue for a moveable feast during the holidays. A prix fixe dinner is offered over Christmas and New Year, as well, so check it out.