Last October, I underwent total right knee arthroplasty. It had to be done for years, but I kept putting it off. During the first two weeks after the surgery, I was so uncomfortable that I vowed not to do the other one even though the left knee was probably worse than the right. In the eighth week after the operation, I wondered why I had waited so long. The result was stellar. The pain I had been through was gone.
If you’re reading this column in print, it’s probably Wednesday morning. So while you’re reading this, I’m going to have my left knee totally replaced. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, even though I have an excellent surgeon and a wonderful physiotherapy team. I look forward to walking without pain. My golf buddies also look forward to not having to pick up my golf balls and listen to me whine.
I have found that the best way to prepare for surgery and subsequent recovery is to remember some of my favorite experiences. It’s no surprise that many of my favorite memories are about food and restaurants.
Other than the house and Louise, my favorite place to visit is Santa Fe, New Mexico. On our first visit to Santa Fe, we came across a small restaurant near the downtown plaza. It was mid morning and the place was packed. I’m not too much to wait, but this place was worth the wait. I remember when our name was called we were informed that a table was not yet available, but if we wanted we could sit at a community table. It was perfect. We met some of the most wonderful people who shared their favorite places to go and things to do in the area.
We enjoyed the experience so much that we incorporated a community table into The PumpHouse. Unfortunately, the concept did not succeed in Victoria.
Pasqual’s is an intimate restaurant decorated in vibrant colors that match their inventive and eclectic menu. Their unique dishes are inspired by New Mexican, Mexican and Asian cuisines. I like restaurants whose dishes venture into the unexpected.
Pasqual’s is known for its breakfast. Their culinary philosophy demands that all ingredients be fresh and not pre-prepared. Everything is homemade, including their sausages and breads. It really shows in the end products. Because their breakfasts are so famous and because it’s not so easy to get into, breakfasts are served throughout the day. I am told that this policy has cost them quite a few cooks. It is incredibly difficult to cook both breakfast dishes and lunch and dinner dishes in a relatively small kitchen.
For the past few years we have visited Pasqual’s on almost every visit to Santa Fe. On these visits I managed to sample almost everything on their breakfast menu.
It is difficult to choose what to order. Their grilled salmon burrito with goat cheese and cucumber salsa is outstanding. It’s hard not to order their chorizo quesadillas made with their homemade chorizo, gently scrambled eggs, freshly made flour tortillas and topped with their special red and green chili sauces.
I love polenta. Polenta is not seen enough on restaurant menus in my opinion. Oatmeal is ubiquitous in Southern restaurants, but polenta is rarely found, especially for breakfast. Pasqual’s offers grilled polenta with chorizo, corn and red chili sauce. Polenta begins the traditional way by boiling coarse cornmeal in water until it thickens and begins to pull away from the side of the pan. Once the polenta is cooked, you mix together the eggs, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese and roasted Hatch peppers. Place this mixture on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and leave to harden in the refrigerator. The polenta is then cut into triangles and grilled on a cast iron griddle. The grilled polenta is then topped with chorizo and roasted corn, finally being dressed in a delicious red chili sauce.
Without a doubt, my favorite item on the breakfast menu is Huevos Motulenos. The village of Motul on the Yucatan Peninsula is the origin of this dish. It’s a spectacular dish with unexpected ingredients like green peas and grilled bananas. Bananas make this dish. I have their recipe for this dish and the recipe is included at the end of this column.
Writing this column while reliving the memories of one of my favorite places has done wonders to ease the anxiety of my upcoming surgery. Thanks for making me happy.
Dennis Patillo is a committed gourmet and chef. He has spent his life studying foods from around the world as well as regional cuisines. Her passion is to introduce people to ingredients and techniques that can be used in their home kitchen. He and his wife, Louise, own The PumpHouse Riverside restaurant and bar.