All posts by zymologistbob

I think of myself as a bit of gastro-enthusiast, others may just call me a snob. Either way I'm content as long as the cuisine and libations keep coming. I brew my own beer, and know how to both bake and decorated a cake from scratch with proper butter cream Wilton roses. Most years I till the soil and grown my own fruit and veggies to be woven into a tapestry of gastronomical delight. From apple cobbler spanning across the culinary dictionary to zucchini croquettes, I'm no slouch in the kitchen. All that said however, with a try-anything-twice attitude, sometimes it's nice to enjoy the fine edible wares of others. I'll do my best to keep an open mind and an open mouth as I share my perceptive and journey with each of you as we feast together on what NM has to offer.

Making French Truffles at Joliesse Chocolates

Joliesse Chocolates
6855 4th St NW | Los Ranchos de Albuquerque

I’ll openly admit at least two of my most major addictions — chocolate and Groupon. This little adventure fed into both of those particular indulgences, and I assure you I would have satisfied each of those cravings again had they not been related.

I got to play chocolatier for day: just as much cheer as being a mouseketeer but without the ears and with messier hands. Joliesse Chocolates is a quaint little coffee and chocolate shop tucked away in an unassuming shopping center off of 4th street in northwest Albuquerque. It’s a charming little place that offers single source coffee drinks named after various Broadway musicals and — most importantly — chocolate wares and chocolate classes. Now don’t get me wrong, I would have happily had a mug of Wicked, their dark chocolate and chile espresso latte, but I was there for another reason. I was there to make chocolate truffles… lots of them.

In the class I learned the how and why of chocolate tempering, how to make a butter ganache, and finally got to get down and dirty by hand forming and decorating some of my own truffles.

For this outing, I dragged along my friend Shannon, who didn’t require any arm twisting. This always seems to be the case when chocolate is involved. Odd. We attended a Tuesday night class, though Sunday nights are also an option for truffle making. The classes are limited to 16 folks, but we were lucky enough to get plenty of attention, as we were in a class of only four. However, it is possible that the supervision was simply present as I really shouldn’t be trusted around that quantity of chocolate.

Class started with a bit of a chocolate history lesson and five different distinct and definitive samplings of chocolates, taking us each though a palleted journey, starting at white and moving darker and darker, then finishing off with the typical food service chocolate chips. One of these things was not like the other. All of the first samples were composed of only cocoa butter, cocoa (except for the white chocolate), sugar, and lecithin. The food service option, however, also had an artificial paraffin-like wax added expressly to replace the expensive cocoa butter present in “real” chocolate. Yummy, wax. Think of that the next time you bite the ears off a cheap chocolate bunny. They were trying to prove a point about quality, and I think they succeeded.

Next up in the grueling “why would anyone want to make their own truffles” courses was the mini session on tempering chocolate. For those of you not in the know, or cool enough to have already have taken this class, tempering is the process of heating and cooling chocolate so that it forms crystal bonds, making it good for dipping, coating, and generating that overall smooth composition that will melt perfectly at body temperature. This provides the wonderful silky smooth melt-in-your-mouth texture. (It also gives you the perfect melt-all-over-your-hands-and-smear-it-all-over-your-friend’s-phone consistency when you’re hand crafting chocolate balls, but more on that later.) The tempering itself consisted of taking already melted chocolate and thinly applying it over a room-temperature marble slab for cooling over and over again, then reintroducing said chocolate to the melted batch and repeating. The cooling of the marble slab created type V (remember Roman numerals?) crystals, which then seed the entire molten batch of chocolate into a tub of decadence.

Tempering the Chocolate
Tempering the Chocolate

After tempering chocolate, the next step was to combine 1 part unsalted butter to 1.7 parts of the chocolate by weight and mix until properly incorporated. Once combined, this becomes our ganache. Hence the alternate name of “butter truffles” for French truffles. We were told that this can also be done with cream, or a mix of cream and butter in order to obtain the desired thickness of the end product.

Spooning Chocolate
Preparing the Chocolate for Trufflizing.

It was at this time we had the option of adding various flavors to our truffles. A host of spices, herbs, and liqueurs were presented. I went with chile, ground pepper, anise, and a pinch of cardamom. My cocoa-compatriot, Shannon, went with what I believe was a mixture of ground anise, rosemary, and cinnamon.

I’m taking this opportunity as I write to try one of her truffles for the first time. (It was terrible, Shannon. Don’t bother trying them. Just give them all to me and I’ll get rid of them for you.) Mine, however, were delicious, and I’m not nice enough to share them with anybody.

After a quick trip to the fridge allowing the ganache to rest and become more workable, it was time to turn our concoction into the actual truffles. This basically meant taking a wad of gooey messy chocolate and trying one’s best to roll them into little balls of yumminess. Think chocolate meatballs.

It is possible that this process resulted in chocolate everywhere. This is probably the only time in my life that I’ve had more chocolate on me than in me. It was oddly satisfying, even if there was chocolate under my fingernails, on my elbow, and apparently a bit freshly adorning my confectionery copilot’s phone. I think it was an improvement. Everyone has had a caramel dipped apple, but I doubt there are too many chocolates rolled iPhones. A tasty collectors item had I ever seen one. The mess is part of the experience, I’ve been assured that it wouldn’t have been as much fun had there been gloves and aprons involved.

Chocolate Class - messy hands
In the world of truffle-making, you have to be willing to make a mess.

Once we had our little chocolate noms formed, we were given the opportunity to roll them about in various coatings including crushed nuts, sesame seeds, gram cracker, more chocolate, or the traditional cocoa power. Truffles came by their name as these little cocoa powder dusted lumpy balls of delight that greatly resembled the freshly dug up dirty mushrooms of the same name, or possibly because the French have run out of words, I’m not really sure. It has only been more recently that truffles were dusted in something other than cocoa powder. Celebrating modern times and given that the lesson of the night was making a royal mess, I did what any rational person would do and used a bit of everything to coat my truffles.


Chocolate Class Truffles
Chocolate Happiness at Joliesse Chocolates, Albuquerque

Finally we packed our freshly minted truffles into paper wrapping cups and pristinely placed them in a translucent Chinese takeaway box finished with a golden seal. They looked so elegant, it is hard to believe the amount of chaos it took to birth them. But it wasn’t just a mess that was created, there were also chocolate, laughs, stories, and smiles.

The finished product!
Handmade truffles packed nice and neat @ Joliesse Chocolates

Would I go back? Absolutely. For starters I ended up with a batch of delicious truffles made exactly to my specifications. Even though the shop is way out of my way, they have other chocolate classes, a cozy lounge, and even a bacon & vanilla espresso. I’ve already recommend the class to a smattering of friends in hopes that they too will become a chocolatier for a day.

Lizard Tail Brewing – ABQ

9800 Montgomery Blvd NE | Albuquerque

The third time is a charm, or at least that’s the hope for Lizard Tail, one of Albuquerque’s newest brewery arrivals. I recently stumbled into the former residence of both Bad Ass and Farside Brewing to be check out the new home of Lizard Tail. Though they weren’t scheduled to officially open until Friday, August 22, I took a chance with their soft opening earlier in the week and gave their wares a proper sampling.

Lizard Tail Brewing, Albuquerque
New Home of Lizard Tail Brewing, Albuquerque

It is about time that the Heights got a brewer; it has been needing one for a while. It is just a bit odd that all three that I’m aware of have taken up the exact same residence in a little strip mall at the corner of Montgomery & Eubank (which also happens to host the offices of everyone’s favorite crooked lawyer friend Saul, from “Breaking Bad.”) With a bit of luck, and some proper patronage, hopefully they’ll be around for a while.

Lizard Tail Brewing - Strip Mall Location
Lizard Tail Brewing – Unassuming Strip Mall Location

The first thing I noticed once I walked in the door was — gone are the days of looking into the nano-brew kitchen when the place was Bad Ass and Farside. A wall has been erected, and a lizard has been painted. A whole lizard, not just the tail. Further inspection proved that they pretty much gutted the old place, adding and fine-tuning where appropriate.

Lizard Tail Brewing - Logo Indoors
Lizard Tail Brewing – Logo Indoors

The master brewers / prioritizers Dan and Ken seem to be heading into the direction of malt forward beers. A trend that is at times counter to the New Mexican love of hops and bitters. But this is something I’m not the least bit sad about. I like my beers with a good malty introduction, so it is just fine by me if they want to keep their two barrel system pumping out sweet low-hop beers. Expect beers to max out around 70 IBUs with most things circling around 30 to 40 IBUs.

As per typical, I ordered a flight of beers… two, actually. Each flight has 4 beers, and there were 7 on tap, with an 8th one showing up mid-way through flight number two.

Lizard Tail Brewing - Beers Board
Lizard Tail Brewing – Beers Board

It would be at this point where most beer bloggers would show you a picture of the flights of crisp clean, mouthwatering beers. But I’m not here to pander to an audience, nor am I your typical beer blogger. Also, I forgot to take a picture.

So instead, let’s go through a beer journey in our imagination. Close your eyes and you can visualize the beer as I describe it. Oh wait, don’t do that. I don’t want to judge you, but I’m pretty sure you can’t read with your eyes shut. So let’s just assume that the reverse is true, and 1000 words equals a picture.

The following were a part of the beer roster when I visited.

  • Berliner Weisse 4.5 ABV 8 IBU (coming soon)
  • German Blond Ale 5.5 ABV 20 IBU
    This light hay colored beer was more bitter than I expected. It seemed to my non-expert palate that it was quite a bit more than the reported 20 IBUs. Slightly astringent, but otherwise clear and crisp. This would be a good beer for warm day and session sipping.
  • Honey Pale Ale 6.3 ABV 35 IBU
    Darker and more golden than its German Blond cousin, the Pale Ale was about where you would expect it to be on the bitter range. It had some earthy undertones as well, though I’m not sure if any hints of honey really snuck their way in. It also seemed a bit thin, in my opinion.
  • Belgian Abbey 6.6 ABV 25 IBU
    A lovely example of a Belgian style Abbey. It was a bit hazy, as well it should have been, and golden brown in color. This beer had an aged woody flavor that complemented the almost grapefruit-like undertones. Absolutely worth drinking again… and again.
  • IPA 6.8 ABV 70 IBU
    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I have few merits judging IPAs. I’ll drink one from time to time, but I don’t know what I’m doing. This is one of those that I may drink from time to time, but the bitter was a bit strong for me.
  • Amber 5.7 ABV 40 IBU
    Mmmmm. As in Mmmmmalty. Mellow, malty, and smooth. That about sums it up. I’ll have another one of these magical darker Ambers, please.
  • Oatmeal Brown 4.2 ABV 25 IBU
    I like Oatmeal, I like browns, I even like sour beers. This, however, was not right. Though notes of coffee and chocolate were present, I fear that this batch was just off. The flavor led me to believe there was a Brettanomyces infection going on. For a beer in which it is intended, it could be a wonderful thing. This one was not. I could not even finish the sample glass. I hope to come back again and see it improved.
  • Indian Black Ale 6.6 ABV 70 IBU
    Black IPAs seem to be a thing now. I’m ok with this. This malty dark bittered black ale was actually rather lovely. It was nice and creamy with a well-balanced hop signature.
  • Rye Stout 5.5 ABV 35IBU
    Saving the best for last. This dark almost nutty beer was my pint after flight choice. To my knowledge I’ve not had a Rye Stout before. As a lover of all beers dark, this was a prime example of something new that made Lizard Tail well worth the trip.

Outside of beer, Lizard Tail also offers up some appetizers and sandwiches. I only had the beer, so I’m afraid I can’t comment, but it seemed to be pretty typical fare for such an establishment.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t overly impressed with Lizard Tail’s beer. That’s not to say that most of the beers weren’t good. Most were rather lovely, there just wasn’t anything that stood out in any major way, except for maybe the Rye Stout, but that may have simply been the novelty. Given Albuquerque’s brewery diversity, that’s something that really needs to happen.

I will say that Lizard Tail seems to have some great potential, a good location, and friendly staff. I will definitely be back, if for nothing else, for a pint of their Rye Stout and to give their seasonal beers a shot.

Boxing Bear Brewing Co. – ABQ

10200 Corrales Rd. NW | Albuquerque

The Boxing Bear Brewing Co. is the latest brewery to open up on Albuquerque’s West side. Head brewer Justin Hamilton (former head brewer of Chama River) and his team opened the doors to the public on July 27, 2014. Since then, they’ve been slinging five of their own beers and a handful of local guest wares.

New Mexico Craft Beer at Boxing Bear Brewing Co
Boxing Bear Brewing Co. ABQ West Side

I recently swung by the new brewery on my way back from a morning trip to Santa Fe. You know, I was just up there piloting a plane for the first time, no big deal. With that humdrum out of the way, it was time for a second adventure.

Making my way to the intersection of Coors and Alameda, it was pretty easy to spot Boxing Bear. What took me by surprise, however, was the fact that there was a new Southwest Grape & Grain store next door. This is a name likely familiar to other local home brewers such as myself. Had I done my research beforehand, I would have known that our friendly new neighborhood brewery was in fact a collaboration. To me, this is a great sign. It means that not only is it convenient for a home brewer to grab a drink as they are picking up supplies, but also that Boxing Bear stands so strongly behind their beer that they almost dare you to try and make something better.

Something that may catch a few folks off guard is that the entrance to Boxing Bear is not under their great big sign. Rather, one has to stroll north around back and meander through Boxing Bear’s spacious patio picnic area (complete with a small stage). This probably wasn’t a bad move, and if I wasn’t there on a Friday afternoon I could easily imagine it filled with happy patrons and a live band. Once I finally breached the front door, I noticed the entry way. To my left was a grand 10 barrel brewing system, with room for more. I stood and admired the stainless steel and Pyrex, and had there been some brewing going on when I walked in, I may never have made it to the bar area. Mental note: come back and watch some professional brewers work their malty magic.

After finding a table, I ordered up a flight of all the house beers. The dining/bar area was quite large, made even larger in appearance by the wall-length mirror that I only noticed when I was getting a cup of water to cleanse my palate between samples. Apparently, the attractive man checking me out  when he too was getting water, was simply an illusion.

Time to settle in and meet the beers. From left to right on the flight I sampled the following.

Boxing Bear Sampler

  • Hairy Mit Hefe 5.4% ABV 12 IBU: An apricot/blond colored smooth traditional Hefeweizen with light carbonation, a good mouth feel, and a pleasant nose of cloves and banana. Quite tasty indeed.
  • East Kent Ale 5.3% ABV 35 IBU: A golden/orange ale with a strong, but welcomed, aroma of hops. A very nice balance of bitter and malty. This could easily be considered an “East Coast IPA” for our non-NM friends who just don’t get bitters.
  • Paw Swipe Pale Ale 5.2% ABV 45 IBU: This is the type of beer that I consider to be the pinnacle of “lawn mower beer.” It is exactly the sort of thing you’d want to be drinking outside on a hot day under the duress of yard work. Heavily influenced from what I’m guessing are Cascade Hops, this beer has a lovely crisp citrus-like flavor and a slight bite at swallow, but overall finishes quite nicely.
  •  Bear Knuckle Double IPA 9% ABV 100 IBU: This is the beer in the bunch that took me the most by surprise. I’m traditionally not huge on IPAs, especially those boasting 100+ IBUs. This beer, unlike some other hop forward beers, I found to be quite pleasant. The bitterness isn’t overwhelming, and is – in my opinion – well balanced with the stronger than expected malty undertones. I’d even contemplate bringing a growler of this stuff home with me. Which are strong words coming from a non-IPA guy.
  • Black Bear Stout 65.3 ABC 100 IBU: Ah, dark beers. This is where I’m the most at home, and probably also the pickiest. Without a doubt, this was a stout. A blind man could tell you from sight alone. The Black Bear has a strong nose of coffee, smoke, and other earthy tones. It was bit lighter in body than I generally like in a stout, but it still had the creamy, lacy finish that one would anticipate. I could see this beer coming out on Nitro (hint hint) pretty easily. The smokiness of this beer was almost as strong as the malt, but not to a point of being overwhelming.

Though Boxing Bear only presently has five of their own beers on tap, I was told that an IPA and a Summer Ale were to be expected soon. They also expect to have a rotation of a few seasonals as time goes on. What’s interesting is that Boxing Bear also has their wine license. So we can expect wine, cider, and meads to be available. At the moment, they are also offering some guest beers from Bosque Brewing, Chama River, and Turtle Mountain, along with some wines from Black Mesa, Alta Canyon Cellars and Santa Fe Vineyards.

Beyond the standard booz-ohol, Boxing Bear also offers an array of reasonably priced sandwiches completed with pickle spear and a bag of kettle chips. They even have a vegetarian option. It would be nice to see them offer appetizers or other snack food as well. Hopefully that option is coming soon.

Boxing Bear Menu
Boxing Bear Menu

The staff of the brewery was very open and friendly. They were even willing to investigate further when they didn’t have answers to my questions. I don’t know if any of this was because I was madly scrawling notes into my pirate-themed spiral notebook as I was sampling beers.

This is absolutely a place I will return to.

Oh, and about the name Boxing Bear…  apparently Justin, the head brewer, has two dogs. One is a boxer, the other a great big fuzzy thing that looks like a bear.