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D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  June 2012

Red or Green?

Rustic Gourmet

The new Little Toad Creek Inn and Tavern offers dinner, brunch,
tavern food and, soon, its own beer and vodka.

by Peggy Platonos

 

 

There's a new restaurant in town — well, not actually IN town, and it's more than just a restaurant.

toad
Little Toad Creek Inn and Tavern owners David Crosley and Teresa Dahl-Berdine stand outside the tavern entrance on the ground floor of the main building. The restaurant is located in the floor above. The couple have completely renovated the exterior of this building and the adjacent “bunkhouse” building since purchasing the property in December. (Photo by Peggy Platonos)

Little Toad Creek Inn and Tavern is located on the upper end of Hwy. 35, where it joins Hwy. 15 — a scenic half-hour drive from Silver City. In its previous incarnations, the place has been known as Grey Feathers Lodge and the Breathe Inn. But those who have visited those restaurants in the past will hardly believe their eyes when they pull in now. The exteriors of both the restaurant building and the adjacent "bunkhouse" building have been totally and tastefully re-done, and I don't know of anyone who has caught a first view of the result without breathing a spontaneous "Wow!"

The restaurant is still located on the upper level of the main building, but it too has been beautifully remodeled in a simple yet classy style that reflects the character of the food being offered — a culinary style that executive chef Russell Mortensen says he and owners David Crosley and Teresa Dahl-Berdine have decided to call "rustic gourmet."

It's a style that is designed to appeal to the eyes as well as the taste buds. And this is true of the items on the brunch menu, as well as those on the very different dinner menu.

Dinner is served from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The menu ranges from "The Bourbon Cowboy" for $29 (a 12-ounce ribeye steak served with bourbon maple demi-glace) to the "Sapillobella" for $13 (a portabella mushroom stuffed with herbed goat cheese and sautéed spinach) and the "Vaquero," also for $13 (a New York strip steak sandwich served on a grilled baguette with caramelized onions and gorgonzola sauce).

The dinner menu also includes char-broiled New York strip steak in three sizes; chicken stuffed with green chile, cheddar and bacon; pork chops rubbed with spices and stuffed with grilled apples; and a "fish of the day" selection.

Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Options range from New Mexico-style biscuits and gravy ($6.95) to chicken-fried steak with eggs and green chile sausage gravy ($10.50). In between, price-wise, you'll find basic breakfast eggs with bacon or sausage, blintzes, "eggy" tacos, a daily frittata and house-smoked salmon on a whole-wheat bagel.

There's also a wide assortment of sandwiches available for brunch — all creative and pretty upscale, including "The Carvery" ($8.95), with in-house roasted turkey, homemade cranberry chutney, herbed cream cheese and seasoned stuffing on a fresh baked baguette; the "Upstream" ($8.95), with house-smoked salmon, caper cream cheese, caramelized red onion, crisp romaine and cucumber slices on toasted rye bread; and "The Cliff Dweller" ($8.50), with a marinated grilled portabella mushroom, herbed goat cheese, spinach and roasted red bell peppers.

A variety of appetizers and salads are available for both brunch and dinner, as well as dessert options that include ginger crème brûlée, tiramisu, apple crumble and New York cheesecake.

 

Well, that's just the restaurant. On the ground floor of the main building, there is now a tavern open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The tavern features a "decently wide" selection of New Mexico beers, according to David Crosley, as well as a number of wines from La Esperanza Winery in the Mimbres Valley. There are also wines from Italy and California available, and name-brand beers and lagers.

The food in the tavern includes soups, salads, sandwiches, wings and house-specialty Scotch eggs. Prices range from $3.50 for a Scotch egg to $8 for a prime rib sandwich. (Prime rib is also served in the restaurant all day on Sundays.)

For Teresa and David, all this is only the beginning. The couple's plans, in addition to their own wedding in September, include the establishment of a brewery and distillery on-site. They are currently in the process of procuring the necessary licenses, and hope to have everything in place by July.

"After that, we'd like to specialize in three brews, with an additional four specialty, seasonal brews," David says. "It's amazing how many ways you can make beer, and each produces a slightly different flavor and character. And that's just the basic beer. You can then infuse beer with other flavors, as well. And that, to me, is going to be a lot of fun."

Then there will be the distillery. "Once our licensing comes through, we'll be only the third distillery in New Mexico," David says.

Vodka will be the first product they will be aiming to produce. "It's simply a matter of logistics," he says. "Vodka takes only 10 days to produce, from grain to glass. We'll be making whiskey, too, but it has to spend three years in barrel before you can legally call it whiskey. And we'll be experimenting with gin."

No tequila, however — "because blue agave, the only thing used to make tequila, is a protected species," David explains, adding, "protected by guards with machine guns hired by private growers."

The couple's plans also call for setting up an event center by the end of July, complete with lawn and pavilion, and completing renovation of the conference room in the main building by the beginning of July.

"We really just wanted to live out in this area, in this environment. Here, the idea is to have so many businesses in one place that kind of integrate and help each other keep alive," Teresa says.

With their energy, enthusiasm, creativity and vision, it's hard to imagine David and Teresa will do anything other than succeed.

Incidentally, "Little Toad Creek" is simply the English translation of the name of the creek that runs by the property: Sapillo Creek.

 

 

For more information about Little Toad Creek Inn and Tavern, call (575) 536-9649.

 

 

Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for restaurant reviews
at platonos@gilanet.com or call (575) 536-2997.

 

 

 




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