One of the great things about being a registered dietitian is the unique appreciation of the process of making food and the tools it takes to make it. Of course, I’m not saying that you have to be a dietitian to appreciate the process, but we appreciate it and are often more than happy to step into the kitchen when invited to see what goes on behind the scenes.
As with so many people who are appreciative of truly good food, we are often supportive of local restaurants and venues, eschewing the national chains in exchange for a good local place. This was the case on Sunday afternoon after my husband and I completed a 54 mile bike ride for the Day of the Tread. In the morning on the way “out” we, along with about 900 other riders, rode west on Mountain Road (in Albuquerque). On the north side of the road, a lone piano player sat on the patio of a local restaurant, playing and waving as we rode by. Four hours later, after our, we skipped the buffet and headed out to lunch and cruised back down Mountain Road in our truck back to the restaurant with the piano player.
The piano player was long gone, but signs in the parking lot indicated that the restaurant was a bakery that also served pizza. Not sure what I was in the mood for, I knew pretty much anything would do: we had just completed a 50-some mile bike ride!
Inside was very warm – it was a bakery in full swing. We were handed a biscochito, probably because we were still quite obviously in our biking gear. Cookies empanandas, pizza, sandwiches, coffee and tea were among our choices and all of this made on-site. Making the choice of a roast-beef and provolone sandwich meant the baguette I ordered my sandwich on was made that day. The honey wheat bread my husband ordered for his sandwich was made that morning. The cookies and empanadas were made in that building in the last day or two.
While we waited for our order, we checked out the pictures of the owner Pratt in newspaper and magazine clippings and Food Network highlights. Old ovens were in the indoor dining area. And did I mention that the place was very warm?
I noticed that the guy behind the counter, at the butcher block counter was weighing shortening on a balance scale. A very old balance scale. It was fascinating! Not a modern digital scale, but a cast iron balance scale. He invited me back to check it out. He was measuring out the ingredients for tomorrow’s breads using 5-gallon buckets. The dry ingredients were in the buckets and now he was measuring out the shortening. While I was back there, I mentioned that we had noticed the large industrial oven that was behind him. I had originally wondered it if was still in use, however standing next to it, it was quite obvious that it was: it was not just warm back there, it was hot! Chris Morales opened up the oven showing me the bread baking the oven at that very moment. So old was this oven that Chris said he has become the oven engineer. No one is available to repair it anymore so he was the repairman. They are no longer made, and they used to be used in correctional facilities.
Albuquerque is a mile-high and very dry. Water generally boils at 198 degrees (give-or-take depending on the day) and our atmospheric pressure makes baking a bit different than at sea level. Baking is part artwork, part chemistry. It was very cool to visit the back of the bakery.
Golden Crown Panaderia (bakery in Spanish) is a gem of a place and I will absolutely be back. I only had a sandwich with great tortilla chips, and an awesome chocolate biscochito (the second one came with lunch), but I really want an empananda and I have heard the pizza is great too, and they make my favorite, Hawaiian with Canadian bacon and pineapple. When you go, say hello to Chris. He’s the baker in the back. But everyone there is very friendly.