Tiny hanging tea lights cast orange orbs onto the lavender-hued walls. Thatched wicker chairs gather around tables, round and tapered like the heels of giant boots. Though these decorative embellishments may seem bold, the Martinez family wants them to be fixtures of a much greater statement—a culinary statement, one that won Los Equipales the title of 2011's Best Mexican restaurant according to Weekly Alibi.
The Martinez family changes the menu every three weeks to focus on the specialties of a different state of their native Mexico. Homemade sauces such as sweet mole and spiced tequila cream marinate fresh fillets of red snapper, salmon, and spice-infused chicken. While waiting on sizzling plates of fajitas to cool, patrons can also ask servers about their private rooms, which accommodate up to 110 guests or 500 tapped telephones.
A project of Feel Good Festivals, the New Mexico Cup celebrates the area's fine wines and craft beers while also supporting a worthy cause. This year's beneficiary is Tricklock Company, a theater organization dedicated to examining the human experience through poetic theater and absurdism. Festival-goers first sample adult beverages from regional wineries and craft breweries, then cast their vote for the tastiest pours. Professional and celebrity judges also weigh in on their favorites. The Albuquerque Convention Center echoes with the sounds of live music, the names of raffle winners, and the excited shouts of anyone who didn’t realize Prohibition ended 80 years ago.
Florent and Hervé Lescombes carry on winemaking traditions created by six generations of vintners in the Lescombes family. The winery’s 120 acres of vineyards stretch across the high desert, where the temperate climate and fertile soil help produce 7–10 tons of grapes per acre. After maturing, the grapes travel back to the winery, where state-of-the-art equipment transforms them into more than 70 different wines, including Blue Teal and DH Lescombes. On weekends, live jazz acts play at St. Clair’s four local bistros, which serve French country dishes and gourmet fare. St. Clair's wine festivals invite patrons to crush grapes between their toes and try to catch falling sparks on their tongues at fireworks shows.
Pacific Paradise merges the flavors of the Far East and the Pacific Islands into an extensive and far-reaching lunch and dinner menu. Placate palates with the spicy Thai eggplant ($6.95 for lunch, $8.50 for dinner), tenderly sliced Mongolian beef ($8.50 for lunch, $11.95 for dinner), vegetable tempura ($7.95 for lunch, $9.95 for dinner), or Pacific Paradise's signature seafood-rice pizza ($15.50), a smattering of the sea stir-fried with jasmine rice, egg, and pineapple, all baked and served with soup and a salad. The Malaysian sautéed scallops ($8.95 for lunch, $13.95 for dinner), finished off with mushrooms and coated in a curry coconut sauce, will have taste buds rising up and high-fiving each other in victory, while the Hawaiian golden crisp chicken ($8.50 for lunch, $10.95 for dinner) evokes nostalgic memories of the decade you spent whittling wooden teddy bears on a desert island. Spicy options also abound at Pacific Paradise, with heat-bringing dishes such as the marinated Tibetan lamb kabob ($12.95), the Mongolian beef roll with asparagus ($12.95), and the kung pao tofu ($10.50), which consists of crispy, deep-fried tofu in a spice-laden kung pao sauce. A full sushi menu is available, as is a monsoon’s worth of wine and beer options.
O'Niell's sports all the usual accoutrements of Irish pub¬–Celtic culture, like open-mic events, dark and mysterious pints, and trivia nights, and a few unusual ones as well, such as works from local artists dotting the walls, a modest gluten-free menu, bartenders in druidic robes, and a few actual Irish car bombs here and there to keep things exciting.
Set in a brightly lit structure with florid décor, the cuisine engineers at Slate Street Cafe serve up eclectic fare prepared with locally sourced produce. The café includes an upstairs wine loft, where the house sommelier helps tasters choose from an array of more than 25 wines. Idle maws can occupy their ivories with an appetizer, such as the hummus, which is served with pita bread ($6.50). Wholesome ingredients, such as Napa cabbage, steamed rice, and fresh mozzarella, compose the elegant dinner menu. The chicken-fried steak arrives accompanied by locally produced chilies ($16), and the hotshot ahi tuna greets tongues with an entourage of sesame seeds, wasabi cream, and feral sports agents ($24). Vegetarian options include the veggie enchiladas ($15), and desserts such as the rotating-flavored homemade cupcakes ($3) can be paired with a sweet wine, such as the Bonny Doon Viognier Doux, a 2004 California white ($8.50).