Friday, June 08, 2007

Assault On Los Alamos & Sandia: Payback For Pete? Trouble For Tom? Plus: The Politics Of Dining; Our Restaurant Reviews For Your Summer Of '07 

Udall & Domenici
Is it payback time for Pete? And trouble for Tom? Those questions dangle over the NM Congressional delegation which was sent into a tailspin this week as the chairman of a key House subcommittee, Rep. Peter Visclosky, (D-Indiana), opened a frontal assault on the budgets of Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs, threatening hundreds of millions in cuts and scores of lost jobs. Insiders are pointing to bad blood between NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici and Visclosky, chair of an Appropriations subcommittee with billions in budget authority over NM and its labs, as one reason for the alarming cuts that came out of that panel and approved by the full Appropriations Committee.

The Alligators sent us back to a controversial phone call between the two Pete's earlier this year in which our Pete allegedly hung up the phone on Indiana's Pete who became the new subcommittee chair when the Dems took over the Congress. But there are other reasons beyond personal pique. Insiders say Domenici is under the gun by the D's and even some House Rs who think the labs were over funded when Pete and the R's were in charge. The Dems also want Los Alamos and the energy budget to emphasize energy independence programs.

It's early in the budget process and no one expects these giant cuts to become final, but they are seen as a warning shot across the bow of Domenici by Chairman Visclosky who remains peeved over his treatment by Pete. Caught in the cross hairs is northern NM Dem US Rep Tom Udall who won a coveted seat on House Appropriations this year and who will be expected to help make the peace so the labs' budgets are not devastated. He says he's working on it, but that isn't stopping NM R's from piling on: "Rep. Tom Udall should be held to account; he bragged incessantly about being placed on the Appropriations Committee, and when push came to shove, he bowed to the liberal house leadership-and his district is now at risk.” Charged the state GOP.

Meanwhile, ABQ GOP US Rep. Heather Wilson is getting in on the action, bellowing that 2,000 jobs would be lost if this initial budget were approved. Dem Senator Bingaman and Domenici will make sure that doesn't happen, but New Mexico could still take some kind of hit. One suspects that our senators will be mindful of their telephone etiquette in dealings with their House counterparts as they work to avoid a budget cataclysm, and that Rep. Udall may want to buy Chairman Visclosky a nice lunch.


With the coming of summer New Mexicans will hit the highways and many of them will find themselves in the Big Duke City, seeking the latest food flavors and places to dish up the latest happenings in their beloved La Politica. Here's some of our pics and pans offered up for your summer entertainment planning.

BARELAS COFFEE HOUSE--This is a perennial favorite of politicos of all stripes. It hasn't changed. The New Mexican cuisine is still top-notch, and so is the political chatter. On our last visit gringo Martin Heinrich was trying to score some points with the locals for his ABQ congressional run. But staffers of ABQ GOP Congresswoman Wilson are no strangers to this ABQ landmark where the lines can grow long, but where the patience is rewarded. Throwing caution to the wind? Then it's a bowl of juicy chicharrones for you, and a free check in at the NM Heart Hospital.

BRAVO! CUCINA ITALIANA---This is a new addition to the scene, located in the hip Uptown shopping center near Winrock. It's a chain and a relief from the tired Macaroni Grill. Bravo! rates a solid B+ as well as its exclamation point. Your favorite Italian dishes are all here, as is a yummy grilled salmon. Reasonably priced too, but call ahead. They stay busy.

YANNI'S--It's had its peaks and valleys over the years, but Yanni's is peaking again with consistent cuisine. It's another favorite politico dining and watering hole, especially since the addition of the Opa bar. The parmesan encrusted sole is the big hit. Greek offerings remain favorites too. Owner Nick will likely be at the door when you go. If it's late night you just might find Big Bill himself cutting into a rib-eye and plotting his latest moves with a table full of acolytes.

PADILLA'S--This one is tucked away at Girard and Indian School. They don't stay open late for dinner (last seating at 7:45 p.m.) but Padilla's Mexican Kitchen is the real article for New Mexican food, especially the enchiladas. Area politicos like to hang here, including Dem State Rep. Gail Chasey and husband, former NM Attorney General and now gaming control commission member Dave Norvell. It's hard to argue with their taste.

FLYING STAR CAFES--They are all over town and after 20 years Flying Star is still a great place to meet up. But the food is overrated and a bit overpriced. Stick to the coffee, desserts and the political conversation.


--This genuine and homestyle French restaurant is in Journal Center. A great patio complements a finely appointed dining room where the French onion soup is as popular as the homemade bread and pastries. Cafe Voila sports a full dinner menu of high quality ingredients with entrees hovering below the $20 level. How's that for a summer treat?

LE CAFE MICHE--If you want to step it up a notch in the French category take a couple of C notes and stop by Le Cafe Miche where they are back in good working order. It's a classy and romantic spot with spot-on service and surprising specials. The homemade ice cream is just right for June and July.

OUR STEAK OUT--Maybe we're particular, but we don't find the steak scene in ABQ that compelling. The addition of the Gruet Grille at Nob Hill brought USDA Prime dining to local dinner plates, but the over-the-top prices are not justified by the service or the set-up. The steaks, however, are the real deal. For Prime Rib, the best in the area is at old stand by Paul's Monterey Inn. It's a trip back to the 1950's with big leather boots and no nonsense waitresses, and that's good. Want exotic Kobe beef? Try locally owned Damon's on Eubank. This fine dining restaurant is hitting on all cylinders, and the secret is not out.

Bon Appétit, politicos and Alligators. Drop us an email from the link at the top of the page and let us know how our hot spots worked out for you.

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