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Nexus Brewery: A hub for soul food
Thursday, 20 September 2012
Image
Photo by Adria Malcolm
Nexus Brewery builds a niche in the booming craft brewery scene with tasty menu of southern comfort food


By Justin De La Rosa
The New Mexican idea of soul food comes in the form of tamales, posole, enchiladas and green chile on everything. It’s what a lot of us grew up on. Too often, we forget about the savory southern eats from which the term originated. I’m talking about fried chicken, gumbo, red beans and rice and collard greens. Are any of these foods better than the other? The answer is dependent on who you’re talking to and where they’re from.

Culinary norms vary from region to region, which is why I employed the proper palates of a few of my friends from Mississippi and Tennessee to accompany me in sampling southern foods and New Mexican brews at Nexus Brewery.

Most breweries around town boast their beers and invite you to bring your own bites, but when you go to Nexus, don’t start thinking about where you want to order your pizza from. They’ve got your gastronomic bases covered, from Albuquerque to Alabama.

Nexus Brewery
4730 Pan American, 505.242.4100
11:30a-10p, Sun.-Thu.; 11:30a-midnight, Fri.-Sun.
*Kitchen closes 9p, Sun.-Wed.; 10p, Thu.-Sat.
nexusbrewery.com
Tucked away in what is largely an industrial area on the I-25 frontage road just north of Montgomery, Nexus started when owner Ken Carson walked away from a secure job in banking to open the brewery. Since then, Carson has worked every day toward bringing us fine craft beers and New Mexican soul food.

Image
Photo by Adria Malcolm
After some deliberation and a pint of a malty, deep-brown Scottish ale ($4), we started with the thin-sliced, lightly-battered fried pickles ($6) with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce. A nice outer crunch with a warm briny inside is complemented with the creaminess of the ranch soothing the saltiness.

We each ordered different signature dishes and shared a few bites around the table. I chose the New Orleans Style Gumbo ($8) with chicken and andouille sausage, garnished with pico de gallo. I found it an odd combination on paper, but in practice, the mild piquancy of the Mexican salsa fresca worked in with the hearty Cajun spices to give a unique heat to a traditionally savory dish, as well as an uncommon crunch. 

One of my friends opted for the southern staple of red beans and rice with sausage ($8), also topped with pico de gallo. Rather than mixing it all together and throwing it in a bowl, the beans sat on a bed of rice, surrounded by diagonal-cut coins of andouille sausage. This allowed us to try each exceptional element of the dish before combining it for the soulful symphony of the savory South.

Image
Photo by Adria Malcolm
The true star of the meal was the fried chicken, which we tried in two ways — the classic chicken and waffle pairing ($10/2 pc.), and a breast with sides of collard greens ($3.50) and mac and cheese ($4). The large, quartered waffle had a light, cakey consistency and sweetness. The crisp, lightly seasoned chicken supplemented the sweet of the syrup and waffle, thus allowing the waffle to transcend the barriers of breakfast food to an any-time-any-day food. For a nice twist, I highly recommend adding some Cajun hot sauce to spice it up.

A nostalgic note was struck in the hearts of my southern companions upon the first forkful of collard greens. The slow-simmered greens are cooked with smoked turkey and slightly spiced. Often considered an acquired taste, the greens won over my taste buds with an almost silky texture and easy crunch. Slightly sour, but enjoyably fibrous, it is unlike anything you would find on the menu of your favorite New Mexican restaurant.

By the end of the meal, we found ourselves tempted, but too stuffed to try the fish and chips ($7/1 pc.), which boasts a striking similarity to catfish and the chopped pork sliders ($6/2 sliders). Oh well, there’s plenty more visits to be had, as an end is certainly not in sight for a fantastic addition to Albuquerque’s booming craft brew community.

My discovery of Nexus Brewery came at the right time, as we welcome autumn’s cooler temperatures. Instead of going to your standby bowl of green chile stew to warm your soul in the coming months, go off the beaten path and get some gumbo or red beans and rice. Even if food isn’t what you’re after, the Scottish ale has an alcoholic warmth to it that is full of fall flavors.
 
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