By Judi Gallagher
While some marvel at Santa Fe’s art galleries, heritage architecture and abundance of silver and turquoise jewelry, the true art form and real jewel in this New Mexico city is the culinary scene.
Chefs from all over trek to Santa Fe, known for its hanging clusters of dried red chile peppers (called ristras) and fiery seasoning. I assumed that most of the regional cuisine would be too spicy for my palate but that was delightfully far from true.
Chipotle, the famous smoked pepper, is often married with cream and butter thus smoothing the finish. It’s perfect for sliced pork tenderloin and corn-crusted soft shell crab.
Coyote Café, an early restaurant leader in the signature cuisine of New Mexico, offers griddled corn cakes with wild white shrimp and chipotle butter and a classic Asian-style seared Yuzu soy flash marinated Hawaiian tuna with pickled cucumbers, Chinese radish, crispy rice and house-made hoisin. Did I mention we were in the heart of Santa Fe?
We found Coyote’s counterpart restaurant, Geronimo (global French-Asian), a little overpriced, especially when service disappeared completely once entrees were served. But do experience Coyote’s grilled salmon with spring onions, and the kitchen’s outstanding dessert presentations. Make reservations because this restaurant is popular.
Friday nights in Sante Fe offer free entrance to some museums after 5:00 p.m. in the downtown area. Georgia O’Keeffe, Museum of History and Governor’s Palace make for a cultural stroll. Finish off with weekend dancing at one of the local haunts.
Chaparral de Santa Fe on the Plaza sells wonderful Santa Fe seasonings and a chocolate jalapeño sauce that makes an incredible topping for vanilla ice cream. Ask for Matt Benyn. He might even share a few of his special recipes while you are there.
Canyon Road is a long, lovely and hilly stretch of galleries, outdoor art exhibits, restaurants and boutiques. Make sure you lunch at The Compound Restaurant, nestled on a slight slope on Canyon Road. James Beard award-winning Chef Mark Kiffin captures the true flavors of the southwest with a creative stacked salad composed of buttermilk dipped free-range chicken and avocado ranch dressing. Finish with strawberry shortcake.
The Eldorado Hotel is an entry to the two-mile or so downtown area. While the hotel is registered as Four Star, it is older and shows signs of wear. The spa, too noisy because of a banging air conditioner, was still well worth experiencing because of the healing hot-stone massage.
The Encantado Resort is a beautiful property near the famed Santa Fe Opera House (about eight miles from downtown). This Auberge property is gracefully manicured and promises sophisticated relaxation. A sunset dinner near the fire at Terra is stupendous.
There’s lots to see in terms of history and architecture in Santa Fe and lots of art and jewelry to buy. But, if you’re a foodie, your best souvenirs of this gracious old city will be taste memories.
-Flavors And More Magazine: August 2009