Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our Patio Garden

One of the most memorable features of our gallery is our hidden patio room with the huge old elm tree growing in the middle.  Its serenity has impressed literally thousands of people and inspired some to try something similar at home.  Come on by and enjoy it while you can because it might be going away.  Our landlords have informed us that, even though they also think it's wonderful, they want it gone.  Their plans for the development of the east side of the Hacienda Plaza property don't include our patio.  The Balloon Fiesta starts in a few days.  This may be one of your last chances to visit our little treasure.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Our Founders: Dan & Peg O'Leary

This is the short version of how we got here.

It wasn't a covered wagon, but in 1973 we sold our house in New Jersey and hand crafted a Dodge van into an RV.  After a month or so trekking around the USA, we decided that New Mexico was the place for us and bought a house in Albuquerque.

After a while here we combined Peg's trained art talent (Fine Arts, University of Tennessee), with Dan's "I can put my hand to anything" attitude and began doing Arts & Craft Fairs around the southwest.  Over the years we garnered scores of awards and developed a wholesale business as our work evolved into the art furniture we make today.

In 1981 we bought and renovated an old apple barn in High Rolls, New Mexico.  For a number of years we became exclusively wholesalers, showing our work at the NY & LA Gift Shows.  Our work was carried by some of the best national catalogs and some of the best gift galleries and furniture stores around the world.

In 1995 we returned to Albuquerque to open Horse of a Different Color in Old Town.  At that point we started easing ourselves out of the wholesale market to concentrate on our unique store.  Calling on our friends of long acquaintance in the art world, we have put together a store that is a happy experience for local and tourist alike.  We continue to produce our art furniture exclusively for the Horse and have added T shirts and magnets that utilize Peg's art.  Peg also does jewelry and unusual wind chimes when she feels an extra artistic itch.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Restaurant Updates

A quick run through on restaurants already reviewed and since revisited one or more times.

Antiquities: Still good, but perhaps 3-4 times in one year is too much for this type of restaurant.

Noda's: Disappointing this time around. Out of some of the best stuff very early in the evening. Even the presentation wasn't as bright as the first visit. Not sure about another visit. (Noda's closed not long after this review.)

Saggio's: Initial revue still holds true. It is what it is, and that means fun, value & satisfaction.

Cafe Da Lat: Remains our favorite "go to" place in town.

Vernon's Steakhouse

The full speakeasy drill here; secret password and all that. We went with Devin & Deb for Dev's birthday. The majority verdict was excellent all around. Decor was great. Table furnishings top notch. Service excellent. Bone-in rib eye: Peg says the best she's had. Veal Marsala for Devin, which he loved. Surf & Turf for Deb...again thumbs up. My filet mignon was pretty (in fact, gorgeous), but not a lot going on in the taste department.

All in all, it felt like a fine dining experience should and the cost was commensurate. Somewhat north of $300 for the table. The layout of the room is a bit eccentric. Ell-shaped, which puts the piano man out of sight for a good portion of the room. Ambient noise is high. Again the service was excellent. Attentive without being overbearing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dan's Hand

My thanks to friends and acquaintances for their sympathy and concern. On 5/12, secure in my supposed status as a master woodworker, I let a wonky piece of corrugated cardboard kick back and whack my right hand into a 10" table saw blade. This resulted in another exciting ride (Peggy piloting) to yet another emergency room and a session in the operating room. The blade bit into 3 fingers running parallel to their length starting at the tips. My pointing finger took the worst cut, going down to the 2nd knuckle. Middle finger was down to 1st knuckle and ring finger just a nick.

I had the last of the stitches out last Friday and while it looks like I'm going to have mighty ugly fingertips, I'm hoping to eventually get back full mobility. Right now they itch, hurt when bumped, and are still swollen. However, I can clench them all the way with some effort, and am walking around with a foam ball trying to rehab.

8/7/09 UPDATE

Just back from therapy at the VA Hospital & all seems to be going well. Got a couple of therapeutic toys to play with. I'm always thrilled to get "freebies" from the hospital, like when you get to take home the cheap mustard yellow washing pan and pitcher after a hospital stay. According to to the various medicos, all is progressing well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Italians

That's two Italian restaurants. During Balloon Fiesta Peg & I have little energy left over from the store, so we eat out most nights. We recently ate at a couple of contrasting places on successive nights with interesting results.

We had planned to go to Saggio's in the university area, where I could get my favorite mussels with red sauce & pasta, but Peg bumped into a couple of old friends from Cloudcroft and we decided that Saggio's wouldn't be their cup of tea. Instead we went to Paisano's in the northeast heights.

We have been going to Paisano's for, probably, 30 years and I still get lost because I can't remember if it's on Eubank or Juan Tabo. (It's Eubank near Snow Heights.) Paisano's has always featured fresh homemade pasta and, in recent years, has offered half portions on most of their entrees. They seem to have cut down the menu choices quite a bit of late. There is a nice basket of bread on the table with a dish of spices and a big bottle of olive oil so that you can dip as much as you like. Jim, our waiter, was affable and attentive throughout the meal, and we had a fine time with our friends.

In the final analysis, however, I was disappointed in the meal. While the half portion always seemed to make sense in the past, paying $5.50 for a salad that is free with the full portion seems a bit much. I had sea scallops with red sauce. Two medium large scallops. A decent portion of linguine but, unusual for their vaunted pasta..."clumpy". The sauce was kind of sweet with what I guess was touch of cream and (mea culpa) reminded me just a bit of Spaghettios. I won't speak to my companions' dishes, but no one went out of their way to comment favorably.

The next night Peg & I decided to go to Saggio's. It is across from UNM on Yale Blvd. It is part sports bar and part counter service Italian Restaurant. Where Paisono's is a quiet sitdown place with Italian opera playing in the background, this place is noisy, sometimes frantic with Dean Martin playing on the speakers. The main room is a large, tall open space with kitschy accents and amusing character murals on the walls and ceiling. The clientele is much more eclectic than Paisano's. University students and university characters, mostly but not exclusively youngish make for interesting people watching. We find the way things run here a little stressful. There never seems to be enough time to really see all the menu items that are hand lettered all over the wall behind the order takers before you have to step up and make your choice. There is always the anxiety of worrying whether a table will be free. After ordering you have to take your ticket to the bar if you have ordered beer or wine.

I get around the problem by always ordering the same thing. There are restaurants all over town where I only order one or two particular items. From experience, I know that experimentation will just result in disappointment. Here I order "Josie's Special" and two glasses of wine. A beautiful decorated peasant bowl of linguine with a dozen or so mussels in spicy hot red sauce with fresh tomatoes and a nice piece of bread. It is, hands down, the best Italian mussels in town. I have almost never finished all the pasta.

Peg experiments more here and had a shrimp puttanesca with calamata olives and capers, mild red sauce and linguine. She loved it.

In an interesting comparison to the previous night, we shared a Caesar Salad. It was cheaper, bigger, and better. In fairness, however, Paisano's house Chianti was only 50 cents more per glass and much the superior wine.

These two restaurants are entirely different animals, but the bottom line is that I come away from Saggio's happy and satisfied. Paisano's currently disappoints expectations. For price comparison: Paisano's $75 w/tip, Saggio's $39 no tip.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Best Japanese in Albuquerque?

We finally got out to the wilds of Rio Rancho the other night for a visit to what has been touted as the best Japanese restaurant in Albuquerque. Noda's is tucked into a nondescript mini mall in the sea of new construction near Intel. While, for people who live in this area, a trip across the river into Albuquerque is routine the reverse isn't true. Especially for those of us who live in the older parts of the city, venturing out there has a surreal quality. It is like dropping through a synchronastic infindibulum to "some other place".

Well, we found Noda's with no problem. It was right across the parking lot from a bra store. While the exterior isn't prepossessing this interior is just fine. Simple, clean, with muted colors. Calm and relaxing. I have been told that it is difficult to get a table at this popular spot, so I guess that the four of us were fortunate this particular Thursday evening as Noda's was less than half full for the two hours we were there.

My son and I love raw fish. Our wives, not so much; but they usually find something satisfying at the sushi restaurants that we frequent. Now here I must emphasise that, although Noda's is frequently listed with sushi restaurants, it is not one. Noda's has a few rolls, but it is a Japanese restaurant known for it's incredibly fresh sashimi and some original takes on the theme.

My son had a two fish entree which came with a vegetable tempura served in a boat. The ladies made a meal of various appetizers while I went for the most expensive item on the menu ($27) which was the sashimi platter.

The bottom line is that this was the best sashimi I have ever had in Albuquerque. The kind that makes me close my eyes and hum as I am eating it. The Ama Ebi (sweet shrimp) came with raw heads. That was interesting, but I prefer the heads fried crispy in a salt crust to contrast with the sweet bodies. Even the salmon was about the cleanest tasting that I have ever had. That said, I still think that it belongs in creamed salmon and peas over toast and not on my plate. I'll request something else be substituted next time. There was more than enough on my platter and I did not feel shorted at all. The shiso leaves were real instead of the plastic faux leaves you get elsewhere. Wonder of wonders, the wasabi had some of the real stuff in it and wasn't entirely dyed horseradish.

Truthfully, I was kind of lost in the experience and did not pay a lot of attention to what everyone else was having. I know that my son enjoyed his meal as much as I. There was an eel dish that I have heard touted and it was better than the overly sweet eel that is usually encountered. The tuna carpaccio, which has been praised elsewhere, was a disappointment to me. I am usually disappointed in any dish that involves cheese at a Japanese restaurant and this tuna and mozzarella combo is best left to a really good Italian chef.

In the end, yes, I think this is the best Japanese restaurant here. The owners and staff are accommodating, helpful and friendly. The interior decor is pleasant and does not upstage the food. I did not find it as expensive as I was led to expect ($160 w/tip for 4). I will be back, and while I may experiment with an appetizer or two, this will be my sashimi place from now on.