Europa Coffee.Tea.Bakery Mixes Farm-raised Fare with Finds from Abroad

By Joanna Manganaro Toto · Photos by Stephanie Cameron

Left: House-made savory quiche. Right: Soup of the day.

Thomas Dollahite, proprietor of Los Lunas’ Peculiar Farms and Europa Coffee.Tea.Bakery, speaks in paragraphs, not sentences. He peppers his lively conversation with improbable questions (“Have you ever been to Latvia?”), surprising tidbits about his life (“I’ve probably done twenty-something archeological digs in Israel”), and obscure trivia (“The honey quality in Bulgaria is amazing because they have the best-preserved forests left in Europe!”). A person so well-traveled, culturally astute, and keen on talking about it can easily come off as condescending or pompous, but Dollahite does not. Instead, his genuine enthusiasm for learning about other cultures and sharing their artisanal goods is contagious, and it is palpable for anyone who enters Europa Coffee.Tea.Bakery.

The structure in which the café is located was once used as a milking barn for the cattle Dollahite and his family have raised for generations. Exposed beams on the ceiling give it an airy feel, as do huge south-facing windows that look out onto the fields of Peculiar Farms, where cows languidly graze. Robin’s-egg blue walls are stylishly accented with fresh, white subway tiles and dark-stained wood. The center of the café’s main room houses a small market, with shelves full of items Dollahite has discovered through his travels: intricately crocheted necklaces from Cappadocia, Turkey; date spread from Israel; stuffed animals from Bulgaria; currant jam from the U.K.

At the café’s counter, one can order espresso drinks as well as charcuterie plates, sandwiches, quiches, and soups made with seasonal ingredients, most of which come from the adjacent farm. The menu is small and satisfying now, but a new, much larger kitchen, scheduled to be in place in early 2019, will allow the ambitious Dollahite more space to expand his offerings.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, a carload of chattering middle-aged folks walked into the café. They were a local couple taking visiting friends out to lunch. One’s accent revealed she was French. Another’s hard consonants suggested German origins. They excitedly discussed the menu, questioning the friendly young man behind the counter about the lox dish and the house-made soup.

Dollahite notes that cosmopolitan guests are not out of the norm at Europa, despite its rural setting. He says, “There’s a lot of people—I think because of the cost of living—who have moved down and settled here, who are from all over the place.” Illustrating his point, several minutes later, a stylish sixty-something woman from New Zealand popped her head into the back seating area to say hello to Dollahite. She went on to station herself at the counter facing the fields of cattle, pulling out a skein of yarn to work on a knitting project.

Left: Amanda and Thomas Dollahite with their three children. Right: Salmon lox with tomato, cucumber, capers, and labneh cheese.

Dollahite has made a concerted effort to create a welcoming space for his knitting friend and all of his other customers. His travels inform this aspect of the restaurant, as well. He says, “There’s a chain in Israel called Café Café, and their slogan is ‘take your time.’ At the average coffeehouse, there’s a point where you can kinda tell you shouldn’t be there anymore, and sometimes you’re treated like you’re a fool if you ask a question. [At Europa] I wanted staff that was over-the-top hospitable. I wanted people to feel like they’re at home and to settle in and feel like they can stay here for a long time.”

Europa Coffee.Tea.Bakery is less than thirty minutes from downtown Albuquerque, and Dollahite says that many customers enjoy making the scenic drive down. However, Europa’s most fervent fans seem to be from Los Lunas. “In our community—nothing at all disparaging about New Mexican food—but that’s mainly the offering, so you have a lot of New Mexican restaurants, and that’s it. So to offer something in Los Lunas with a little more variety and a little more of an international flair, it gives people options, and that’s wonderful,” Dollahite says. He adds, “The one thing I’ve been surprised by is how many people have approached me to say ‘Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have this specific type of place.’ That’s been neat to see.”

In addition to expanding Europa’s kitchen and menu, Dollahite, father of three children under the age of five, has a head-spinning number of plans for his property and beyond. He hopes to build a 12,000 square-foot greenhouse that will allow him to grow more vegetables, add an Airbnb space to the two he currently runs, launch a floral service to add to the amenities he offers for weddings and events, lead biannual culinary/archeological tours of the Holy Land, and cultivate relationships with the artisans he has met near the properties he and his wife, Amanda, own in Bulgaria. Though a list like that would give the average person an anxiety attack, Dollahite might just have the energy and drive to pull it all off.

Europa Coffee.Tea.Bakery
2105 Highway 314 NW, Los Lunas, 505-328-3874,
foodfarmfestival.com

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