Excellent Eats

Gourmet Girl - January 30, 2014

Authentic Philly cheesesteaks in Santa Fe, Shake Foundation opens and a free chocolate talk.

Yo, Philly Cheesesteaks in Santa Fe!

Having just returned from a trip back East that included the requisite Philly cheesesteak—this time from Steve's—I couldn't wait to hightail it over to Bambini's Steaks and Hoagies, a hot Santa Fe food truck serving up authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks.

Authentic Philly cheesesteaks in the high desert of Santa Fe? This I had to try.

I'm happy to report that Bambini's cheesesteaks are dee-lish! Made with hoagie rolls, meat and cheese imported from Philadelphia, these cheesesteaks are the real deal. The Original Bambini's Cheesesteak is filled with Angus sirloin steak and fried onions. You can choose Provolone or American, but any cheesesteak afficianado worth their salt knows to order “wit Whiz”, or Cheese Whiz, which pairs perfectly with that Philadelphia roll. The roll, not incidentally, must be long and thin, neither too soft nor too fluffy and definitely not too hard, but baked just so. Bambini's scores especially well on this point. (They also offer gluten-free hoagie rolls, for those adhering to a wheat-free diet.)

Bambini's menu includes authentic Italian hoagies, a Chicken Parm made with breaded chicken cutlets, red gravy, provolone, hand-cut Parmesan and Italian parsley; BBQ Chicken Cheesesteak, Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak, Falafel Hoagie and The Storm Steak, a version of the Philadelphia Cheesesteak topped with green chile. For sides, you can order French fries, cheese fries, green chile cheese fries, beer battered onion rings or breaded mozzarella sticks with red gravy. (For those of you who are not Italian, red gravy is the term for marinara sauce.)

For dessert, the cannolis with chocolate and pistachio also are imported from Philadelphia. I didn't have room for one after finishing my cheesesteak on this first visit, but you can bet, I'll be back! Bambini's will definitely be a regular stop for me.

When you consider the history of the trio behind Bambini's, it's no surprise their cheesesteaks are this good. The executive chef, Steve Pompei, is a Philadelphia native who grew up cutting meat in his father's Italian meat market downtown. He went on to work as a carving chef in a Philly restaurant and as a sous chef in restaurants around the country. He came to Santa Fe to be executive chef of The Palace Restaurant and Saloon in the 1980s and has long dreamed of opening a Santa Fe eatery that served authentic Philly cheesesteaks and Italian hoagies.

With the help of his daughter, Lynsey Pompei-Storm and her husband Chip Storm, that dream has now come true. And mine, too! To be able to eat a delicious, authentic Philly cheesesteak right here in Santa Fe is a wonderful development. Now...is there anyone interested in opening a food truck that serves fried clam rolls?!

Bambini's winter hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and the food truck is located at the corner of St. Francis Drive and Mercer Street, right in front of Ski Tech, which Storm has owned for a decade. Click here for more info.

Shake It, Baby

The rumors are true! Shake Foundation, the new eatery created by Brian Knox—formerly of Agua Santa, The Standard Market and the much-missed Escalera—has finally opened on Cerrillos Road on the site that once housed a 50-year-old gas station.

A tribute to Knox's favorite childhood food, as well as New Mexico's world-famous green chile cheeseburger, Shake offers three-ounce cheeseburgers on a buttered bun, topped with the hottest green chile he can find from Hatch, local Monterey Jack cheese and stewed onions. The menu also includes hand-cut fries, turkey and lamb burgers, fried oyster sandwiches with red chile mayonnaise and lemon, and the eponymous shakes, made with Taos Cow Ice Cream, that are so thick they're called Adobe Mud Milkshakes.

The hamburger, and the endless varities of toppings and preparation, has been one of America's most popular foods since it was invented in 1900 and it gained recognition at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Knox has a four-minute video on Shake's website of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger, and while all you see is the famous artist strugglign to get the ketchup out of a bottle then eating bite after bite, in silence, you get the point. The hamburger is an art form, and Knox's green chile cheese version takes it to a whole new level. Click here to view the video.

Flavored with Chocolate: A Spanish Colonial Tradition

“He bowed three times, kneeling each time. … I came out, received him
and embraced him. … I ordered him to enter my tent, greeting him kindly
with warm words and chocolate, which he drank.”
—Diego de Vargas describing a meeting with Pueblo leader Luis Picurí in 1692

Spanish colonists discovered chocolate in the Americas and revered it as a delicacy, using it in a critical role in diplomacy and negotiation, including during the Reconquest of the city after the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. Because of its popularity, a whole culture of accoutrements evolved for the making, storing and eating of chocolate, and many of these items are on display at the New Mexico Museum of History, including a large ceramic jar used by colonial families to store the precious food, in the Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now exhibit.

Josef Díaz, museum curator of Southwest and Mexican Colonial Art and History Collections, offers an intimate gallery discussion of one of the world's favorite foods in his free talk, Flavored with Chocolate: A Spanish Colonial Tradition, which takes place at 5:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, when the museum is open for free from 5–8 pm as part of First Fridays, from November through April.

Diaz will discuss the chocolate accoutrements in the exhibit, and how the items fit into the broader Spanish Colonial world. He'll look at how this New-World delicacy quickly hybridized between Spanish and Native culture and also at the historical use of chocolate in colonial New Mexico, including its role in the reconquest of Santa Fe.