Rob Connoley, Curious Kumquat chef, chops an apple in the kitchen just for the Beat. (Photo by Mary Alice Murphy)
The Curious Kumquat, much to chef Rob Connoley's delight, made the once-a-year Saveur magazine 100 list in the January/February 2013 edition.
Saveur's subtitle is "World of Authentic Cuisine." Connoley explained that about 20 of the list of 100 are restaurants. "The 100 indicates things that the editors are excited about," Connoley said. "Saveur is one of the top three food magazines. It's a foodies' magazine."
He said he is a subscriber to the publication, and he uses it to decide what to cook over the year. "It gives me ideas of things to try."
"A subscriber, who had already received his copy of Saveur, drove over from Phoenix last Friday to have dinner, because he had seen the Curious Kumquat in his magazine," Connoley said.
Connoley said he could not be a chef in a restaurant where the menu is the same every night. "I can't do the same thing night after night. Restaurant work is grueling, but I find it interesting, because I can experiment."
"Once the restaurant became my own, it got me excited," Connoley, who owns the restaurant with his partner, Tyler Connoley, said. "I wake up in the morning with new ideas. Sometimes, I dream about dishes to try."
He said the previous night's (Monday, Dec. 17) dream had him thinking about what he could do with hackberries. "This morning I raced out to pick hackberries. My challenge is that things that I regularly forage, because of the drought and a hard winter this year, the birds have already picked them over."
So Rob Connoley's thinking has switched to cholla fruit. "I find it a pleasant, but slightly dirty, sweet, citrusy flavor. It's not the easiest thing to work with, but I'm thinking sorbet."
'"It's very important to me to convey that the food we serve is very accessible," Rob Connoley said. "For instance, my special this week is pork loin, and I'm cheaper than the other restaurants in town."
He said he was told the reason the magazine had The Curious Kumquat in this year's 100 was that the food was unusual, but accessible.
"I'm not cooking New York," Rob Connoley explained. "I'm cooking Silver City, but with fun, exciting things people here haven't tried before."
He chooses to use locally grown products in his dishes, where he can.
"I would rather have one out of 10 dishes bomb, than to make the food so obvious and easy that it's just mediocre," he continued. "I'm an ego-driven chef. I need to get out and talk to my customers while they are dining, so they tell me they enjoy my food or they give me ideas. That's my paycheck."
His competition, he said: "is me versus me."
Rob Connoley reserves his "really crazy stuff for the tasting dinners and experimental dinners. The rest of the menu is the mainstay of my food offerings, and some of the crazier things make it onto the menu."
Dinner is not the only item to be found at the Curious Kumquat. Rob Connoley is also an accomplished chocolatier, and the huge cookies look scrumptious. The Beat recommends a delightful honey-saffron chocolate treat that is smooth on the tongue.
He will head to a chocolate sculpture competition in Rio Rancho in March. He said he did well last year, but this year he wants to win. The theme is "Enchanted," and he's already developing his idea.
The Curious Kumquat is at 111 E. College Ave. Meals are served Tuesday through Saturday, with lunch beginning at 11 a.m. and dinner later in the afternoon, with the last seating for a full meal at 8:30 p.m. Dinner reservations are encouraged at 575-534-0337.