Izanami: Sake and Spa


The most important alcoholic beverage in Japan is SAKE. It’s called “the drink of the gods” and has a long history dating back for centuries. This fermented rice and water drink is used in religious ceremonies and is enjoyed by many in the social setting among friends and family. Interestingly, sake is believed to possess health benefits and promote youthful, smooth skin. At Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Hot Springs Amusement Park and Spa Resort in Japan patrons can soak in a sake bath and look beautiful from head to toe! Now, that’s a lot of sake!

While the idea of soaking in a sake bath might be appealing to some, foodies will find the following sake experience more appealing: Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese inspired spa resort/oasis in Santa Fe, opened a sake restaurant called IZANAMI. In fact, the James Beard Foundation recently named it a semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant.”

What a brilliant idea to pair spa treatments with sake tasting The Turquoise Table decided a visit to Ten Thousand Waves would be a perfect girlfriend day trip to get away, relax and educate our palates!


The high desert oasis is located just 10 minutes north of Santa Fe away from the busy, touristy part of town. Two oxygen facials, a salt glow treatment and a therapeutic massage later, we were feeling pampered and ready for lunch at Izanami. The restaurant resembles a modern day Japanese farmhouse set among the evergreens. The setting is spiritual and zen-like. The main dining area has a very high ceiling with large hanging paper lanterns, an open kitchen on one end, booth seating in the middle, and a room with traditional Japanese zashiki style floor seating on the other end (perfect for playing footsie if you’re on a date :) ). The restaurant serves izkaya dining which is the perfect way to enjoy sake tasting with small plates of food shared among friends.



Lantern translations: I♥生油 I♥namazake (unpasteurized sake),
七味 shimichi (7 spice seasonings on each table),
萬波 Thousand Waves,
一期一会 One opportunity, one encounter so live life to the fullest


Zashiki style seating


We were equally excited about the food and sake- we had been waiting weeks for this day to arrive. There are plenty of small plates to choose from with many of the ingredients locally sourced and organic: roasted beet salad, house made gyoza, Japanese sweet potatoes, sake braised shimeji mushrooms, pork ribs (heritage St. Louis ribs), nami burger (local wagyu beef), kakiage (tempura battered shredded vegetables), and bokchoy. Each dish was very well prepared and plenty enough for sharing. With the very first bite of velvety shimeji mushrooms, we were in paradise!

Top: Shimeji Mushrooms
Bottom: Gyozas


Left: Beet Salad
Right: Japanese sweet potatoes
Bottom: Bokchoy


Nami Burger with local Tucumcari asadero cheese


Ginger BBQ Pork Ribs


Aooni “Blue Devil” Beer smiling and ready to devour Kakiage


The sake menu is very impressive with over 40 different sakes to choose from. Reading the descriptions of all the sakes took a while, and to say the very least, was very entertaining. There are 4 general groups of sake- fragrant, bright; tart, sweet; rich, mellow; clean, refined. In each of these 4 groups, there are about 8-10 different sakes to choose from. If you are unfamiliar with sake and just want to explore, Izanami offers flights of sake with each flight consisting of 3 sakes from one group. Being the inexperienced sake drinker that I am, I was expecting the sakes to be harsh and astringent (and gagging). But I was pleasantly surprised. Many of them were smooth going down the throat and complex in taste. Sparkling sake is also available.

Fragrant, Bright


Tart, Sweet


乾杯 (ganpai)!Bottoms up!


Maybe not so crazy for Crazy Milk?


After a few flights, we were having a really good time! The zen-like atmosphere was replaced with loud laughter, hip-hop singing, and tangential conversations about anything, everything and most importantly which sake to order next. With descriptions like “cabin in the snow,” “euphoria,” “yuri’s sword,” or “four diamonds,” how can you not order more? The descriptions were so entertaining that by the end of our meal, each of us had chosen a personal sake name to commemorate the occasion- Moon Glow, Crazy Milk, Umami Bomb and Fragrant Jewel- can you guess who’s who?

Black Sesame Panna Cotta


Flourless Yuzu Ricotta cheesecake


It was hard to end such a perfect meal but all good things must come to an end. After having dessert, we headed back to The Duke City with XM Radio blaring 80s and 90s music. Tumbleweeds were blowing across the highway and thoughts of returning to our daily routines weren’t a bother. After all…it had been a perfect day!

Date visited: March 2014

Izanami on Urbanspoon

Posted in Day Trips from Albuquerque, Santa Fe Restaurant Reviews, Taste, Travel, Urbanspoon reviews, Yelp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Zorba’s Fine Greek Cuisine

Santorini, Greece
Photo taken by Stacy Cashman, www.movingtofreedom.org
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license


Ahhhh, Greece… My good friend, Ann-Marie, tells me that this is one of her dream destinations. Just looking at all the on-line photos, I can see why travelers continue to name this as one of the top destinations in the world (even during times of economic woes). The landscape is breathtaking. Who wouldn’t want to visit such a picturesque place? I can picture my friends and I sitting at one of the small tables right by the water, enjoying the view and a delicious meal.

Greek food, the basis for the Mediterranean diet, is full of healthy ingredients such as olive oil, veggies/fruits, beans, and wine. However, the Greeks also have dishes where the meat takes center stage- gyros, lamb kebabs, grilled chicken, etc. When my family and I want a break from burritos and burgers, luckily, we don’t have to travel 6000 miles to Greece to get delicious Greek food. It’s a short drive to the Northeast Heights where Zorba’s Fine Greek Cuisine is located.

On a recent visit to Zorba’s I was in the mood for a gyro (yee-row). Close your eyes and imagine this- lots of onions and tomatoes nestled among seasoned, thin slices of grilled lamb and beef wrapped up warmly in a pillowy pita topped with a cool, creamy tzatziki sauce (add a splash of hot sauce if you like). Now doesn’t that sound delicious?! After taking a bite of the gyro, I looked over at Zorba’s large wall photo mural of a Greek town similar to  the photo above of Santorini and I saw myself transported to that place where my friends and I are sitting right by the cobalt blue waters of Greece…mmmm, ooooo, yum, ahhh….heaven…



The entrees usually come with a side Greek salad, just the right size to satisfy my requirement that all healthy meals should have a serving of veggies. I just love the traditional flavors of feta, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, olives, and banana peppers tossed with a vinaigrette…so clean and simple.

I like moussaka so I recommended it to my daughter and she ordered it. My first-ever moussaka was eaten at Vios Café in Seattle (Capitol Hill neighborhood) where I became an instant fan of Greek food. My husband, who is always looking for a healthy choice, chose the grilled Greek chicken with rice pilaf and a side salad. For the less adventurous, like my son, there’s always the safe but satisfying Greek-style spaghetti. One will also find many of the other traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita and souvlaki.

Moussaka, a casserole made with layers of eggplant (and sometimes potatoes) and spiced meat filling topped off with a creamy bechamel sauce


Grilled Greek Chicken


To finish, there’s always everybody’s favorite, baklava. But, why not try some of the other traditional desserts like galatoboureko, a creamy dreamy custard. How about  kataifi or ergolavus? Or maybe Zorba’s family recipe rizogalo? Galatoboureko, ergolavus, rizogalo, kataifi, baklava…(clap, clap)…galatoboureko, ergolavus, rizogalo, kataifi, baklava…hey!

As I write this post I’m getting hungry for Zorba’s so I think I’ll stop here. My daughter is just back from taking the SAT so I think we’ll head over to Zorba’s…and then…. we’ll go shopping. See you there!

Date visited: February 1, 2014

Zorba's Fine Greek Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Cravings Satisfied at Rebel Donut


Do you ever get food cravings? I do…many times for chocolate, sometimes for cookies, occasionally for something salty. Usually I can conveniently find something in my pantry to satisfy those cravings, but every once in a while my cravings require a little more effort to fulfill. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I were both having a craving for doughnuts. I have a pretty good recipe for baked sweet potato doughnuts and I could have made some at home. Instead she suggested we try something more adventurous, hedonistic, and rebellious.

“How about Rebel Donuts?!” she said.

“Perfect! We’ll stop by on our way to the shopping mall.”

It’s always enjoyable to have someone to share my cravings with, and even better when that someone is my daughter :)

Rebel Donut- east side location near Menaul and Wyoming


With all the buzz surrounding this doughnut shop (Breaking Bad inspired Blue Sky donuts and winning the Food Network’s Donut Showdown), we were eager to sample the many different flavors. The doughnut case was filled with colorful and creatively decorated goods. Don’t expect to find the old-fashioned, traditional flavors such as glazed, chocolate glazed or jelly filled donuts. But do expect to find bold, defying-the-norm combinations just as the name of the place clearly states. Since it was only the two of us, we had a really hard time narrowing down our choices to half a dozen. While we were checking out each one of the doughnuts, the line behind us kept getting longer, so we let some patrons go ahead of us. As we continued our discussion about what to get, the line built up again. Feeling the pressure to make a decision, we finally decided it was best to just give in to our inner cravings and order. My daughter chose the Chocolate Bacon, Hello Dolly, and the Birthday Cake donut for her brother. I chose the French Toast, the Boston Bullseye, and the Coconut.

Rebel Donut

Clockwise starting from upper left: Coconut, Boston Bullseye, Chocolate Bacon. French Toast, Birthday Cake, Hello Dolly


The French Toast donut was accurately portrayed. The doughnut was shaped like a piece of toast, drizzled with maple syrup frosting, dusted with sugar and topped with a dollop of very buttery buttercream. My daughter gave the Chocolate Bacon a thumbs up as she fed and fulfilled her craving. The Coconut donut is a cake donut. When comparing this cake donut to a cake donut from Dunkin Donuts or Shipley’s Donuts, this one is better. It was moist and creamy, not dry and cardboardy- a pleasant surprise.



After downing 2 doughnuts each, we agreed our cravings were satisfied and we were ready for some shopping. It’s great to have such a place in town where we can fulfill our needs in a fun, creative, and tasty way, the Rebel Donut way!


  1. Prices are a little steep but worth the experience.
  2. If you have a giant craving they can make you a giant donut, 14 inches in diameter.
  3. Menu changes.

Date visited:  January 20, 2014

Posted in Albuquerque Restaurant Reviews, Taste, Teen approved, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Bread Making


For me bread evokes all sorts of good memories. Growing up in the 70s Mrs. Baird’s white bread was what we ate and I remember visiting the factory where we sampled freshly baked bread with lots of butter- it was wonderful. In my 20s, three girlfriends and I did the backpacking/Euro rail trip through Europe and had bread almost daily- café au lait with bread/jam for breakfast, a French baguette with cheese and pâté for a picnic lunch (after biking to the Castle Chenonceau), Italian bread with our pasta for dinner…oh how I wish I was there now.  More recently, one of my favorites is Macaroni Grill’s rosemary focaccia bread- I could probably eat a whole loaf by myself! Now, whenever my family and I dine out we always make a point to comment on the bread that’s being served. So, am I a bread snob? No. I don’t think so. I would like to think of myself as a bread aficionado.

Sarah showing us how to de-gas the dough


Earlier this month, I jumped at the chance to attend an artisanal bread making class. The bread class was a two-day course at Los Poblanos taught by pastry chef, Sarah C. It was the perfect introductory class and just what I needed to jumpstart my journey into the art of bread making. At the simplest level, bread making consists of mixing and manipulating only 4 ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. Following Sarah’s 14 steps of bread making, one can produce a beautiful, delicious product. She stresses the importance of using high quality ingredients, which will make for a better tasting bread.

  • Flour- use bread flour, it has the highest amount of protein, 12%, of all the different types of flour; protein=gluten and gluten is what provides structure for the bread; use organic if possible because it contains live cultures which enhances flavor
  • Yeast- there are 3 different types: active dry or instant dry, fresh and wild (harvested from the air); 100% fresh = 50% active dry = 40% instant dry, use this ratio if you are using a different yeast than what the recipe calls for
  • Water- its role is to hydrate and always add less than you need to in the beginning because the amount of water will depend on the humidity level in your environment; use the highest quality of water
  • Salt- slows yeast down, strengthens gluten, controls the color of your product, and adds flavor; use fine sea salt or kosher salt not the large flakes which will “tear” the dough

At the next level, one can pay closer attention to the details of time (for kneading and fermenting), temperature (for fermenting), and types of pre-ferments to change the texture of the crumb and the taste of the final product. For example, one would knead a sourdough dough longer than a French bread dough. Incorporating techniques such as the windowpane test (stretching the dough to examine for webbing and tearing) can guide the bread maker on when to stop kneading. The bread maker can use temperature to either speed up or slow down the process of bread making. This is useful when you have time limitations. You can also affect the taste and texture of your final product by using different pre-ferments- biga, pâte fermentée, poolish, or regular sponge. Try making the same bread with different pre-ferments to find out what you like. Furthermore, if you like a crispy crust, you can add steam to the baking process.

The windowpane test


What I look forward to is the day when I find myself at a certain comfort level where I can experiment, create and expand my repertoire. Fine tuning my sourdough starter to my taste, getting creative with ingredients such as bleu cheese/nuts/fruit, or trying different types of flour would definitely make me a well-educated bread aficionado. Achieving this level of adeptness can lead me to endless bread creations!

One of my final products- Dinner Rolls


My first solo attempt at making bread has been the basic sourdough. After studying my new bread book, The Bread Maker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, and using what I learned from class, I was successful at producing two loaves of bread with a crispy crust and creamy crumb. Whole Foods watch out, my bread is better than yours! Since practice makes perfect, my family and friends can expect to be eating lots of sourdough for now. Maybe a year from now I will have the basic French baguette and Italian ciabatta perfected and ready to share with friends and family!

My sourdough bread


This was really good!


“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard


  1. Baking bread requires special kitchen tools- a scale with ounces and grams modes, a bench knife for cutting dough, a bowl scrapper and a thermometer.
  2. Never put dough down the sink drain- it’ll clog it up
  3. La Montañita Coop (on the west side) carries New Mexican flour from the Sangre de Cristo Agricultural Producers. I heard it’s supposed to make really tasty bread.

Date of bread class: January 4-5, 2014

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