An outdoor heated mineral pool beckons guests at the Garden Gate Day Spa & Salon, but its appeal lies in more than just its smooth surface. As visitors slip beneath the surface, underwater music floats gently into the eardrums. Similarly soothing details pop up throughout the spa: a rain shower and dry saunas stand ready in the women's changing room, an aromatherapy room engages the olfactory system, and luxurious spa packages encourages all-day visits.
Ever since Baskin Robbins began its dessert fashion show in 1953, more than 1,000 original flavors have sauntered across the nation's tongue runways, 31 at a time. With the ice creamery's iconic pink sampling spoons as your guide, taste-test as many as you like until you find the flavor that gives your soul a back rub, whether it's a classic flavor such as rocky road single scoop ($2.49) or a seasonal serving of Love Potion #31—white chocolate and raspberry ice cream loaded with raspberry-filled chocolate hearts—and America's Birthday Cake ($3.99). Otherwise, keep it simple and bury your face within the flavor of the month. The ice alchemists at Baskin Robbins can also transmute their ice cream and sherbet into drinkable desserts such as floats, freezes, and shakes ($4.39–$5.89).
Fat Sat's Bar and Grill conjures memories of the jazz age with its 1920s-style ornamentation and murals of old-time Chicago street scenes, each hand-painted by world-renowned artist Michael Ostaski. The owners named the bar in fond remembrance of their grandfather, Uncle Saturnino Trujillo, who grew up in the era of prohibition and speakeasies. Inside the kitchen, chefs bustle day and night, whipping up breakfasts, twirling pastas, hand-cutting rib-eye steaks, and grilling seafood. Bartenders behind three separate bars communicate to one another by angling mirrors as they fill cups to the brim with margaritas and 14 draft beers. Nineteen flat screens beam down upon the bars and tabletops, and a fire pit blazes amid two large outdoor patios. Live bands serenade guests Thursdays through Saturdays, while Friday nights entertain guests with games, trivia, dancing, and karaoke, offering them a welcome reprieve from evenings spent thumb-wrestling their aunts.
Pizza 9 is the brainchild of Hasan A. Aslami and Behrad Etemadi?aka Hass and Rod. The pair opened the first Pizza 9 in 2008, and then the combination of Rod's business know-how and Hass's more than 20 years of experience with Chicago-style pizzas helped to scatter franchise locations like pepperonis throughout New Mexico.
Chicago-style deep-dish and thin-crust pizzas emerge from each Pizza 9?s ovens with traditional and gluten-free bases, as well as with the aromas of ingredients such as pepperoni, artichokes, and green chilies. Signature calzones disguise warm centers of bacon, eggplant, and spicy giardiniera, and hearty nests of pasta hide beneath plump meatballs and ladles of shiny marinara.
You don't earn the title "The Salsa Twins" for nothing. Brothers Jim and John Thomas take their salsas very seriously, as they are essentially a family heirloom, made using recipes handed down by their grandmother. The twins' parents first opened El Pinto as a seven-seat restaurant in 1962. The name's translation ("the spot") has become more and more appropriate over the course of the now world-renowned eatery's history. Jim and John took over the business in the early 1990s, expanding it into a 12-acre destination restaurant that seats more than 1,200 locals and visiting celebrities, presidents, and wedding guests in five patios, three indoor dining rooms, and a cantina.
But they wouldn't have experienced such profound success?and earned their nickname?were it not for their signature salsas. When customers began requesting that they bottle the mouthwatering condiments more than 10 years ago, Jim and John started a cook-and-bottle night shift at the restaurant. The popularity of their products has grown faster than a cactus in Martha Stewart?s sandbox; you can find them at leading retailers across the country, and you may have seen Lester Holt enjoying them on Today. The twins use flame-roasted and hand-peeled green chilies from New Mexico in all their products, which they manufacture onsite. Their 8,000-square-foot production facility was featured on an episode of History's Food Tech show.
And green chilies aren't the only ingredients the twins are picky about. Somewhere in a supply warehouse between California and New Mexico, thousands of avocados are slowly ripening in three temperature-controlled zones, destined for the restaurant's famous guacamole. El Pinto?voted Best New Mexican Restaurant by Albuquerque The Magazine?mixes fresh onion, housemade salsa, and the kind of creamy hass avocados you can only find in California. You'll also taste the verdant mixture atop El Pinto?s nachos, which the Wall Street Journal has called some of the best in America. The restaurant's combination of Old-World hospitality and authentic ingredients has also earned it numerous awards from the Weekly Alibi, with some of the area's best sopapillas and margaritas.
When recalling how his Yiayia—or grandmother—taught him to make baklava, the eldest brother of the Nicolopoulos family remembers the way she would painstakingly roll out homemade sheets of phyllo dough onto a clean white sheet. Rolling it thinner and thinner, she would drizzle it with melted butter to keep it soft and moist until finally the delicate dough was so thin her grandson could see right through it to read the words "one hundred percent cotton" on the sheet label beneath. "I didn't realize it then," he says, "but Yiayia was teaching me patience, about quality, and about our heritage."
Fifty years later, that same dedication to quality and heritage permeates the Nicolopoulos' pastry shop, which owes its name to the family's patient matriarch. Each of the shop's dulcet Greek desserts is whipped up using all-natural ingredients—including eggs from free-roaming hens that are cage- and antibiotic-free––and generations-old recipes. To craft rectangles of baklava in true Yiayia Maria style, pastry architects scrupulously hand assemble 30 layers of paper-thin organic phyllo dough, keeping careful eyes out for gusts of wind as they spread a butter-and-nut mixture between each tier. Sweet honey soaks through the pastry structure, seeping into each phyllo wall before the family's signature clove is placed on each piece. Honey also plays a starring role in Yiayia's finikia cookies—which feature hints of cinnamon, clove, and orange in the subtly sweet morsels dusted with walnuts—and tart-like pasta flora butter cookies take a dip in the sweet stuff after being filled with apricot, strawberry, or raspberry preserves.