Welcome to a Fork first—a dang interview with a local food person! How'd we do that without divulging our super secret identity? Suffice it to say that we were like "Please don't tell anyone." Fingers crossed that it works—especially since we'll be able to trace it back to the source if word gets out.
Anyway, let's talk macarons. They're those colorful little French cookies that you and everyone you know had no idea existed until just a few years ago when they popped up freaking EVERYWHERE—and then we all acted like we'd always known about them and we'd always loved them and we'd always bought and ate them. Yeah, those cookies. Seems there's a new spot in town called Chainé that focuses specifically on these bad boys, and we reached out to owner/baker Chainé Pena to ask some questions about the noble cookie. Ch-check it out:
Why don’t we remember macarons until a few years ago?
It's so funny, I just had a customer come in and we were chatting about that, how they're at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods now. I don't know where the popularity came from. I don't know if it's because they're inherently gluten-free, or because they're such a beautiful cookie, but I've seen an influx on social media, and I know, for my business, I just started posting pictures of the macarons I made at home for friends and family, and people kept asking me 'Where can I buy these!? Where's your store!?' And then I just asked myself where my store was eventually. I started making them probably about 7 years, and I took a class in France on the macaron about a decade ago.
You always hear it’s a complex cookie to make. Is that true?
It is. They're really finicky, they're kind of ridiculous, but I think that's why I love them so much. They take a lot of precision and a lot of patience and a really nice, delicate intricate touch. For me, with my convection oven, it'll take me about 3 hours start to finish to make a batch of 100. That's because I make each one of my fillings and everything from scratch. One of the most fascinating things about them is you can pack a punch of some other elaborate dessert into this one little cookie.
What sets them apart from other cookies?
I think it's an unexpected textural and flavor thing. They look sort of unassuming from the outside, and then you take a bite and there's this whole world inside. Texturally, they have an eggshell-like exterior, and the inside has this beautiful, chewy and really luscious center. I think it's a bit of a surprise for people, and a lot of my customers have only had macaroons with 2 Os—then they try their first French macaron and I see their eyes open with surprise. I think that's part of the whole allure.
Why did you choose the macaron as your focus?
My background is in two very different worlds: I was a yoga instructor for about 10 years, and prior to that I did makeup for film and TV, special effects, mostly. [Making macarons] is part of a very mindful, slowed-down meditative process that I love. Each and every shell is hand piped and has to be done just right, and my art background, as far as sculpting and special effects goes, kind of applied in this interesting way.
Is there anything else we really need to know about the noble macaron?
I guess mostly not to write them off because they're gluten-free. A lot of people think it's going to taste like a cardboard box, I myself didn't set out to make a gluten-free cookie, and the meringue base and almond flour lend themselves to the most beautiful texture. Don't judge a book by its cover.
Find Chainé at 131 W Water St. or firstname.lastname@example.org
-There's a new chef over at 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar, and we, for one, welcome our new culinary overlord. OK, that sounds intense, but we love new chefs and can't wait to check it out. Welcome Steven Peyer, who has chef'd it up in London, New Zealand, Seattle and elsewhere.
-The 7th Annual Hungry Mouth Festival is right around the corner on Saturday Nov. 9, and the gala benefit's proceeds go to St. Elizabeth's Shelters & Supportive Housing. Find chefs Nathan Mayes of Paloma, Mario Martinez of Eloisa and the Flay-slayer himself Fernando Ruiz of the Lodge and Ranch at Chama Land & Cattle Company, cooking up a stellar (semi-competitive) meal at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa. Tickets run from $175 to $1750, but remember it's for a good cause and all you really have to do is show up and eat.
-Rumors have flooded our way about the closure of upscale diner Jimmy D's in the former Santa Fe Bite space at Garrett's Desert Inn. We sent a reporter over who wasn't able to glean any additional information, but we're on the case and hopefully will have more info soon. For now, it seems Jimmy D's is dark and closed—we'll confirm ASAP.
-The heretofore mysterious Cafecito is now officialy open for business Monday-Saturday 8 am-4 pm, we're told. Operating out of the former Opuntia space at 922 Shoofly St. (310-0089 is the number), the coffeehouse and eatery offers all kindsa coffee and snax and we're particularly enamored with a menu item known as "breakfast—the Argentinian way" (Butter croissant, toast, scrambled eggs, ham, sliced sliced provolone cheese, jam or dulce de leche and butter). Here's the website.
-Nominations are open now for Edible New Mexico's Local Hero Awards. Between now and Dec. 19, you can nominate any businesses or organizations you believe are having a positive impact on New Mexico food. Learn more here, including who has won in the past.
-Get this, people looking forward to Thanksgiving—there exists in this world effing turducken flavored Pringles. The chip company, which clearly has no respect for the goodness of the world and seems to have no problem playing God, includes the chips in its new Friendsgiving pack. The idea is that one takes the chips, which come in turkey, duck and chicken flavors, and mash 'em together creating an unholy union and assaulting the tastebuds of anyone nearby. Jeeze.
-In other Thanksgiving news, it turns out most of us don't know shit about yams and we've unwittingly been ruining our Thanksgivings for who knows how long. In other words, are you eating yams or are you eating sweet potatoes? You probably don't care (marshmallows), but here's more info.
-A man in Maryland was reportedly stabbed to death in an altercation over a Popeye's chicken sandwich. What are we becoming, America?
-Late night house Jimmy Kimmel returns with another year of that thing wherein he gets viewers to tell their kids that their Halloween candy is gone and tape their reactions. Kids, understandable, are not happy about such news and don't always respond maturely. Ah, yes—making your kids cry is SOOOO funny, right? In reality, it's wack, and we really hate it.
-What do you know about bubble tea? If it's nothing, look it up. If it's something, check out this story from eater.com's Jenny G Zhang about its cultural implications for Asian folks. Once again, Eater remains one of our faves and you should probably bookmark it.
-Next time you're in a restaurant eating it up, remember that real-life spies often use them to do spy stuff. At least that's according to a new book by former CIA operative Amaryllis Fox (best name). In a recent chat with NPR, Fox outlines how the restaurant world is vital for spies. Cool, right? Super-cool.
A Totally Scientific Breakdown of The Fork’s Correspondence Number of Letters Received
Most Helpful Tip of the Week
“You a millennial?”
*No way to know for sure.
Actually Helpful Tip
Biscochitos always have lard and never shortening.
*Good to know for the future.