ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Erin Wade has had interest from Los Angeles.
But when it came time to open a second location of her celebrated Santa Fe salad bistro, Vinaigrette, Albuquerque made the most sense.
“(We were) wanting it to be a little closer to home and also feeling like Albuquerque is a great market for us,” Wade said.
The new Vinaigrette opened this month at 1828 Central SW, continuing Wade’s mission to serve healthy food in a joyful, approachable setting. It’s a concept that’s proven popular in Santa Fe and even garnered mentions in the New York Times.
“We’re trying to fit in with people’s best intentions for themselves, and I think that has worked,” Wade said. “People do want something that makes eating well delicious, fun and easy.”
Fans of the Santa Fe bistro will find their favorite signature salads in Albuquerque. That includes the “Omega,” with its avocado and piñon flavors, and the “Cherry Tart,” a mixture of dried cherries, mild feta, peppery baby arugula and toasted pecans with a champagne vinaigrette.
The menu also has the same classic salads (think Cobb and Greek), sandwiches and side dishes.
But Duke City diners get a few extra options including “lunch couples” — pairings of smaller salads, sandwiches and soups — as well as a menu of signature drinks like the Pepino, a non-alcoholic, cucumber-and-lime-juice concoction.
Most of what Vinaigrette serves is organic, local or sustainable — or some combination of the three. The Santa Fe bistro incorporates the bounty from Wade’s farm in nearby Nambé, and Wade is currently seeking fresh produce from Albuquerque growers for the new restaurant.
Wade’s focus on ingredients — and her enthusiastic attention to detail — meant the expansion was not taken lightly.
“Expanding and growing and trying new things in a responsible way, I think, is a really fun challenge — how to maintain the uniqueness and quirk and fun of a local business and having more than one,” Wade said.
Wade took a winding path to the restaurant business. A native of Washington state, she entered Harvard University with plans of becoming a surgeon. By the time she graduated in 2002, she was on the fashion track, a dream she pursued in New York City and Milan. But nine years ago she moved to her family’s Nambé property and soon took up farming, a pursuit that led her to open Vinaigrette in 2008.
“When I was jumping from this to that, trying to follow my bliss and know what that meant, (the shifts) looked kind of frenetic,” she said. “But now the there’s a weird harmony.”
Wade’s science background helped her farming, while her design know-how is evident in every corner of her new restaurant, from the hand-glazed green tiles she selected for the bar to the old-fashioned orange dining chairs. She even gave the women’s restroom an artistic flair by using reclaimed metal — corrugated steel from an old shed’s roof — to form the bathroom stall partitions.
Wade’s still not done developing the new Vinaigrette — housed inside a 3,000-square-foot building that had long been vacant. She has plans for bistro seating on the east patio and a “secret garden” dining area in the more secluded west patio.
“It’s just going to be gorgeous,” she said.
Vinaigrette is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. The phone number is 842-5507.
Local launches cosmetics line
Danielle Bridges made her make-up dream come true.
The University of New Mexico student launched her own cosmetics line this fall and is now selling her Passion Beauty Eternal products at a few Albuquerque shops.
Bridges — who’s been shadowing and blushing other women since her days at Albuquerque High — has done makeup professionally in a salon setting and had film and fashion work. The 24-year-old had been plotting the makeup line for the past few years, squirreling away the more than $10,000 she needed to get it started, finding the out-of-state manufacturer to produce it and picking her colors.
“This line isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme or something. I really love makeup and I want to offer people awesome makeup,” said Bridges, who is actually planning a career in social work.
Bridges aimed for products with a high “color payoff” but not a high price tag and a line that would appeal to anyone — from the teenage glitter-hound channeling her inner Nicki Minaj to the 60-something who prefers a more natural look. PBE includes eyeliners, shadows, mascaras, lipsticks, glosses and more.
Bridges expects her “loose paint” products — small pots of sparkly dust that function as eye shadow or mix with lotion for a more subtle shimmer — to generate the most interest.
Most products are in the $10-$20 range.
Customers can now find a small selection of the makeup at LoveLight Boutique at 147 Harvard SE, and at Trendz Beauty Supply, 5314 Menaul NE.
‘Educational candy store’ closes
After 15 years in Albuquerque, Learning is Fun is going out of business. The store at 4900 Menaul NE expects to shutter by mid-December, according to manager Shelby Richardson.
Richardson said Albuquerque was the last remaining location of the family-owned chain that started in Las Vegas, Nev.
The owners have “just done everything they could to keep it going and continue business, but the economic factors just made it so it wasn’t possible,” she added.
The store is in the process of selling off its remaining inventory of puzzles, games, books, puppets, arts-and-crafts supplies and other educational and teacher materials. Its website is scheduled to shut down, too.
Getting ‘Stufy’ in the Heights
The venerable Stufy’s brand is branching out to Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights.
Larry Villanueva, who owns the restaurants with his sister, expects to open a new Stufy’s Drive-Thru at 1311 Juan Tabo NE by mid-December. It will offer drive-through and inside service.
The Stufy’s at 1107 Candelaria will remain open, and Villanueva said he’s also looking for a new presence on the West Side. The chain lost its site on Coors earlier this year due to a fire.
Stufy’s — started more than 40 years ago by Ray Madrid and Villaneuva’s parents, Lawrence and Lydia — has had many locations around town since its founding and upgraded the menu to include items like chile rellenos and chile con queso. But the stuffed sopaipilla continues to be its calling card.
“That’s what we specialize in,” Villanueva said.
Holiday heat at El Pinto
Just in time for this food-centric season, El Pinto is re-releasing its Scorpion Salsa.
It’s made from the New Mexico Scorpion chile pepper from the southern part of the state, which El Pinto marketing director Doug Evilsizor said has tested above 1 million units on the Scoville heat scale. For perspective, New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute rates a red habanero at an average of 150,000 units.
But El Pinto isn’t trying to singe tastebuds — Evilsizor said the salsa production process helps damper the heat index down to 10,000-12,000 units.
“It’s hot — it’s certainly hot — but it’s within a category that’s edible,” he said.
The salsa is now available in both a 16-ounce jar for $20 or a 3-ounce, single-serve cup for $5 online at elpinto.com or at the restaurant.
If you have any retail news to report, contact me at email@example.com or 823-3864.