It’s not every day that a high ranking federal government official drops in for dinner. But it happened earlier this month at Indigo Crow in Corrales, spiced with a taste of mystery.
U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland dined at the popular Corrales restaurant the evening of Jan. 13. Sources say Haaland, an enrolled citizen of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, was joined by her husband, Skip Sayre, formerly sales and marketing director of Laguna Development Corp. now running his own marketing firm, and another couple whose identity is unknown.
“They looked like they were good friends,” General Manager Victoria Padilla of Indigo Crow told Corrales Comment.
But the real mystery is who came up with the secret sauce when the woman appointed by President Biden to oversee the management of federal lands and natural resources asked for A-1 steak sauce on the side to go with her order of New York strip steak.
It’s not a condiment Indigo Crow stocks.
“It threw us,” Padilla admitted.
But “somebody in the kitchen” came to the rescue, producing just enough A-1 from a “stash” they had to accommodate her request, she said.
Chef Matt Sepnieski couldn’t confirm that. His focus was on cooking the steak, he said.
There was also the suggestion that the sauce wasn’t A-1 at all, but something concocted in the kitchen using secret ingredients.
The server, Shaun Cooks, said he didn’t know anything about it and deferred to Padilla.
Too early to tell if the Republican-majority U.S. House will launch an investigation into the matter.
There’s no dispute among the Indigo Crow staff that the raven-haired Haaland deviated from the menu by requesting French Fries in lieu of potatoes.
The New York Strip comes with caramelized shallot red wine demi, whipped garlic potatoes and vegetables, according to the menu.
Cooks said one of Haaland’s guests ordered mussels (garlic-green curry and coconut milk broth, carrots and spinach) as an appetizer.
The couples split the check. Cooks said nearly a week later he couldn’t remember the check’s total, and he recalled the tip being about 20%.
The restaurant's owners, Don and Gina Raber, also claimed ignorance of the secret sauce, offering alibis on the night of the meal.
They’ve owned the restaurant for 21 years, celebrating the anniversary just two days after Haaland’s visit.
“It’s pretty cool,” Don Raber said of Haaland’s visit.
Coincidentally, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller was there two days earlier.
“It was like politico week for us,” said Raber, who said celebrities who have dined there before mostly include actors and film industry execs.
Morgan Freeman ate there three times. Joe Pantoliano. Bo Derek and John Corbett when they first started dating.
Derek may have been a 10, but they’ve never had anyone as high ranking as Haaland dine at Indigo Crow.
The Secretary didn’t just drop in. The restaurant was contacted days in advance about Haaland’s planned visit. A security team showed up a day in advance of the dinner to stake out the place, so to speak, They identified entrances, where the bathrooms are, and picked out a table for Haaland’s party, as well as another table a distance away but with a direct view for three male members of her security detail.
“They were cool,” Raber said.
Padilla described the trio as “very nice.”
Table 5 is the one they reserved for the party. Padilla said it’s one of her favorites. Set off in one of the dining rooms with a fireplace, the table sits in front of a large window overlooking Corrales Road.
There's no know photographic evidence of Haaland dining at Indigo Crow. Other diners were politely told not to point cellphone cameras in the direction of Haaland's table.
Raber said Indigo Crow doesn't have a "wall of fame" of celebrities that have dined there. They also want to respect the privacy of their guests.
"We try to let them be. They don't always have a lot of opportunity to be normal people," he said.
The first Native woman to serve in Congress as a representative of New Mexico and in a federal cabinet position, Haaland made the trip back home days ahead of the opening of the 2023 state legislative session.
The dinner reservation, at 7:45 p.m. Friday the 13th, ended an eventful week for Haaland and the Department of the Interior. It was announced that week that Haaland was creating an office to oversee a $4.7 billion program to plug orphaned oil and gas wells and clean up surface facilities all over the country.
The day before the dinner Haaland, who once served as an administrator at San Felipe Pueblo in Sandoval County, announced that five places in California, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas previously named with a racist term for Native American women had been formally changed.
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