Launch Balloon Fiesta Fun in Santa Fe

The first weeks of October are high times in New Mexico, especially for balloon pilots and their friends! The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta began in 1972 with only 13 hot air balloons and has blown up (pun intended) into the world-class festival it is today. This year, more than 600 balloons will launch from a 365-acre dedicated park. Due to a stellar 43-year safety record, visitors can amble among the balloons – which come in every shape and color combination imaginable – for up-close views and a chat with the pilots and crew.

The shapes and colors boggle the imagination at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!. (Photo Credit: visitalbuquerque.com)

The shapes and colors boggle the imagination at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta!. (Photo Credit: visitalbuquerque.com)

The glorious October weather also plays a starring role, with cool mornings giving way to glorious autumn sun. Early risers catch the Dawn Patrol and the evening balloon glows offer an incredible opportunity to admire these majestic “sailboats of the air.” Balloon Fiesta is definitely a bucket-list event, and approaching it from Santa Fe is the insider’s way to get the best of everything.

A balloon glow is a magical moment. (Photo Credit: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta)

A balloon glow is a magical moment. (Photo Credit: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta)

Make Santa Fe Your Home Base for Balloon Magic

Albuquerque hotels will be bursting at the seams Oct. 4-12 during Balloon Fiesta, as the Duke City (Albuquerque’s nickname) welcomes more than 100,000 visitors for this signature event. Those in the know head north to grab a great hotel deal in the City Different. From intimate B&Bs to luxurious spa resorts, Santa Fe offers a tranquil respite from the lively action down south. What’s more, you can’t underestimate the bounty of dining possibilities in our renowned culinary destination.

The Mine Shaft in Madrid, NM is a welcome detour on the Turquoise Trail.

The Mine Shaft in Madrid, NM is a welcome detour on the Turquoise Trail.

Early morning launches mean the drive to Albuquerque includes an unforgettable sunrise over the Sandia mountain range. And after the balloons touch down, you can take the scenic drive up the Turquoise Trail to rendezvous for lunch in Madrid at the Mine Shaft Tavern, one of eight finalists in this year’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown.

Stroll and Shop to Your Heart’s Content

Take the afternoon to wander legendary Canyon Road and you’ll find colors that rival those seen in the balloon ballet above. A self-guided Canyon Road art walk is a must-do for every Santa Fe visitor. No surprise — Santa Fe’s 250 art galleries uphold our reputation as the arts capital of the Southwest. Regrouping for refreshments is a snap; simply stop at Caffe Greco for a potent Lavazza espresso or head to The Teahouse for a cuppa. You can even wind your Canyon Road day right into evening with dinner and live music at El Farol.

Canyon Road is worth some face time when you visit Santa Fe. (Photo courtesy of The Eldorado Hotel and Spa)

Canyon Road is worth some face time when you visit Santa Fe. (Photo courtesy of The Eldorado Hotel and Spa)

Going home with Balloon Fiesta souvenirs is fun, but shopping the Santa Fe Plaza is still numero uno in my book. Whether it’s silver, turquoise or stylish southwest clothing, you’ll find a multitude of choices, from Native American vendors under the portal at the Palace of the Governors to shops showcasing leatherwork or lacy lingerie. Galleries thrive here too, with renowned Native artists like Allan Houser and the Namingha clan ensconced on Lincoln Avenue. And food? The only problem is choosing where … carnitas from Roque’s stand or a visit to The Shed, tucked in the colorful courtyard of Sena Plaza.

The Best of Fall Grows in Santa Fe

Santa Fe boasts a bonus during the first weekend of Balloon Fiesta Oct. 4-5 since El Rancho de las Golondrinas ends its annual series of festivals with the most popular event of all: Harvest Festival. This living history museum takes you back through New Mexico regional heritage with bread baking in hornos (beehive-shaped outdoor ovens) and grapes crushed by hand. This is your opportunity to learn how to string a chile ristra, the ubiquitous autumn décor hanging from portals and porches all over the state. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of fall than a day at Golondrinas!Harvest-Festival-ristra-stringers

Look Up at the Skies then Look North to Santa Fe

The ideal launch pad for your Balloon Fiesta adventure, Santa Fe offers all of New Mexico’s beauty with a fraction of the crowds – it’s hard to argue with that prescription for pleasure. Go ahead and get high on Albuquerque’s aerial artistry and let Santa Fe provide the spot for a perfect landing.

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Santa Fe Sip by Sip

With its rich artistic heritage, it’s no wonder that Santa Fe was designated as one of UNESCO’s Creative Cities but creativity here isn’t limited to the canvas. Artists who work in a different medium – mixology – pour their City Different masterpieces into a glass. Intrigued? Let me guide you forth with these insider’s tippling tips.

I’ve Got a Secreto

There’s every reason to smile when you’re in on the secreto.

There’s every reason to smile when you’re in on the secreto.

Margaritas and the Land of Mañana — it’s a winning combination. But any Santa Fe mixologist worth his or her salt has a twist on that mix. Chris Milligan of the Secreto Lounge at Hotel St. Francis definitely had our sagebrush scenery on his mind when he created his Smoked Sage Margarita. Shake up a margarita memory with this blend of Republic Anejo Tequila, orange-infused 03 liqueur, fresh lime juice and smoked sage in a glass with a hickory-salt rim. It’s smokin’ all right, and it’s ample evidence for why locals voted Secreto as Best Cocktails winner in the 2013 Santa Fe Reporter’s Best of Santa Fe.

Lovin’ Life at Loretto

The infuser is the secret weapon for the Living Room’s smoky offering.

The infuser is the secret weapon for the Living Room’s smoky offering.

What happens when you invite a Smokin’ Nun to the bar top? A good story, of course. Sister George, a nun of the Loretto order (for whom the hotel is named), liked to enjoy her evening cocktail with a cigar. In honor of this sippin’ sister, the Inn of Loretto (a Travel + Leisure World’s Best), mixes Knob Creek rye, muddled orange, brandied cherries, Grand Marnier and orange bitters with a smoker light infusing this robust cocktail. Nothing like relaxing in the living room with a cool drink and a couple of sisters!

A Recipe for Lingering at La Posada

 

Nason’s Fancy is guaranteed to draw admiring glances at La Posada.

Nason’s Fancy is guaranteed to draw admiring glances at La Posada.

La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa has Julia Staab as resident ghost but personally I’m more interested in discovering how The Staab House lounge fantasizes about the margarita. La Po’s recipe gets creative with a potent mix of hot and cool and the result is worth savoring slowly. Nason’s Fancy goes down nice and easy: Patron Silver with charred chile agave, orange bitters and fresh lime juice in a glass rimmed with smoked sea salt. More than one and I probably would see ghosts!

Anasazi’s Rock (Salt) Art

Zozobra looked approvingly over Loralee’s shoulder when she put Defiance in a glass!

Zozobra looked approvingly over Loralee’s shoulder when she put Defiance in a glass!

When the bar manager at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi issued a challenge to his staff to get creative, this is what he got: Defiance. No, not the stuff of staff revolts but Defiance, an elegant cocktail designed by one of my favorite mixologists, Loralee. Her response was a rye-based reward served in a martini glass (martini or not, that glass always makes me feel so elegant!). The Taos Lightning single-barrel rye whiskey (I’m all in for the liquor being local and so are the experts), Salerno blood orange liqueur, a dash of BBQ bitters and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice made a very pretty — and very tasty — potion!

Spirits Lift at Santa Fe Spirits

The long and the short of it? Head for Santa Fe Spirits!

The long and the short of it? Head for Santa Fe Spirits!

Hand-crafted spirits are all the rage and thanks to Santa Fe Spirits, I find them right here at home since this craft distiller’s downtown tasting room features five unique local products. Two different malt whiskies, apple brandy and vodka all have pride of place but my recent summer sipping has been gin-focused. Despite her name, my BFF Candy doesn’t like it sweet so she opted for their classic Wheeler’s gin and tonic. My imagination was captured by the Fresa Fresca, a blend of gin with muddled strawberries and basil, a dab of honey simple syrup and lemon and lime juice. Simply divine.

Sipping Signature Santa Fe

After a day spent discovering the magic of our city, I suggest you and your besties relax into evening with an hour or two of laughter and libations. You’ll be delighted to find that Santa Fe’s inventive mixologists have made sure the magnificent reds, oranges and yellows of our sunsets can also be captured in a cup.

 

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Santa Fe Is the Fabled City of Gold

With the sun shining daily in a bright blue sky and dramatic sunsets nightly, Santa Fe summers are simply the best. But as end-of-season beauties like tall, yellow native sunflowers bloom and wave in the breeze, it’s obvious that summer is about to give way to fall. And that’s fine with me, because it means the hillsides and valleys are about to turn daytime into glorious shades of autumn that rival our evening colors.

Santa Fe’s fall colors are above and beyond beautiful.

Santa Fe’s fall colors are above and beyond beautiful.

Santa Fe’s Fall Foliage is a Fantasia of Color

Santa Fe leaf-peepers are about to be rewarded. Our colors are as distinctive as they come, with native trees turning shades of crimson and aspen-covered mountaintops drawing the gaze upwards to a host of golden hues. With some pre-hike research, it’s easy to find trails that fit your eyeballs and level of expertise. The Santa Fe National Forest’s aptly named Aspen Vista offers a moderately challenging four-mile trek up a well-marked road to an 11,000-foot summit with awesome 360-degree views. You can do it on your own, but going on a guided hike with Outspire or Santa Fe Walkabouts adds a plethora of fascinating botanical, geologic and historic notes to the adventure. Either way, wear good footwear, bring water, and most important, have your camera fully charged because the unforgettable scenic panorama means many stops along the way.

Just point and shoot: The autumn views are all around you in Santa Fe.

Just point and shoot: The autumn views are all around you in Santa Fe.

 Skedaddle Up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin for Scenic Excellence

Discovering all the scenery an autumnal heart could desire is a breeze with an eye-popping trip by car up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Rounding each curve brings yet another breath-taking vista, and the views just keep coming. The Ski Basin is hosting some fun fall family activities too. On two successive Saturdays, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, the Ski Shop rolls out a blowout sale on last year’s goodies with a beanbag toss and a kids’ treasure hunt to spice up the action. The Beer Garden will be open and there’s live music to accompany the brew and the beautiful vistas.

No wonder the conquistadors thought they found El Dorado, the City of Gold.

No wonder the conquistadors thought they found El Dorado, the City of Gold.

 

And once you get up to the top of the mountain, opt for a bird’s eye view by climbing aboard the Ski Santa Fe Super Quad Lift. This inspiring ride on weekends Aug. 30 through Oct. 1 grants you the advantage of seeing the whole panorama from a completely new and utterly fantastic perspective.

 

Picture Memories of Santa Fe at the Canyon Road Paint Out

Peek over an artist’s shoulder during Canyon Road Paint Out and you might fall in love with a painting.

Peek over an artist’s shoulder during Canyon Road Paint Out and you might fall in love with a painting.

May I suggest a great tradition for catching the fall fantasia of Santa Fe? Attend the October Canyon Road Paint-Out! With more than 150 artists lining this historic street on Oct. 17-18, it’s a snap to score a work of art that will remind you of the warmth of Santa Fe when the depths of winter hit. Creating artwork en plein air (working outdoors onsite) gives an immediacy and freshness that perfectly captures the creative essence of the City Different. You’ll find artists working in media of every sort up and down Canyon Road, along with how-to demonstrations, gallery openings, musical performances and refreshments along the way. And there’s even a festival parade from the Santa Fe Public Schools Music Education program on Saturday afternoon.

Color Your Season with Only-in-Santa-Fe Adventures

Fall is such a great time of year to travel … but somehow I never manage to leave. Santa Fe has so much to offer in don’t-miss moments that staying right here for the awesome autumn action is a choice I make again and again. But nothing should stop you from packing a bag for a getaway to discover why – once you’re here, Santa Fe’s golden magic will surely work its spell on you.

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Santa Fe: We Like It Hot!

Food is full of trinities: Hot dogs, beers and ballparks. PB&J. Wine, cheese and crackers.  But here in Santa Fe we like to think we’ve got the best three-flavor combo of them all: Green chile, plus cheese, plus burger equals pure deliciousness. We’re the Green Chile Cheeseburger Capital of the World and we’ve got the Smackdown to prove it. More than 10,000 green chile fanatics voted in the top six contenders to compete for supremacy in the juried Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown on Sept. 12. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you your finalists!

Look closely: Chef Marc Quiñones adds a little jalapeño challenge on the plate with his green chile cheeseburger.

Look closely: Chef Marc Quiñones adds a little jalapeño challenge on the plate with his green chile cheeseburger.

Luminaria Lights Up Your Palate

Luminaria at the Inn and Spa at Loretto has a secret weapon in the balsamic grilled onions that Chef Marc Quiñones slathers on his picture-perfect entrant. Cheddar cheese is a classic topper that always scores with voters, and the fresh-roasted New Mexico green chile ensures a delicious heat index. The home-made potato chips were a big hit; in our group, serious sleight of hand was required to get a taste before they were gone. With Bibb lettuce and heirloom tomatoes stacked on the juicy grass-fed patty, it’s no surprise that this beefy baby ended up in the final go-round.

 

 

The burger is a thing of beauty at Terra, and so are those crunchy onion rings.

The burger is a thing of beauty at Terra, and so are those crunchy onion rings.

 

The Taste is Terra-ific

A short drive north into the scenic countryside should be part of any Santa Fe experience and the reward for the trip—besides the breathtaking scenery—is the Terra burger at the Four Seasons Resort and Spa (a breathtaking sight itself). Using Northern New Mexico-grown chile, Chef Andrew Cooper demonstrates his ardent farm-to-table support of the Farmers’ Market Institute (the beneficiary of Smackdown ticket sales). Cooper’s innovative style enhances the bread factor, with tidbits of green chile and pepper jack cheese dotting the tender brioche bun. While it is about the burger, that perfect bun ups the yum-factor to superb. Extra kudos to the chef for a spicy bed of chipotle BBQ sauce under the juicy, cooked-just-right local beef. And did I mention the red chile onion rings?

Every good cowgirl needs a good mother, I mean, burger.

Every good cowgirl needs a good mother, I mean, burger.

How I Ate Your Mother(burger)

Chef Patrick Lambert of the Cowgirl BBQ knows how to please Mom, but she needs a hearty appetite to get through his Mother Burger. Cowgirl was the proud recipient of the 2013 Smackdown People’s Choice Award, and no wonder – this mother of a meal boasts a mix of ground buffalo and beef topped with bacon and melted brie. A healthy helping of green chile is layered on top and the chile-cheddar bun adds extra kick to the whole megillah. Every mouthful offers a different hit — one minute beef, one minute brie — and each bite was killer-delicious. Think I ignored the truffle fries and huge selection of on-tap beers? Wrong!

Cheers for the choice of chimichurri on the Anasazi Burger.

Cheers for the choice of chimichurri on the Anasazi Burger.

 

There’s Nothing Ancient History About This Burger

“Wagyu gonna say” about 100% Wagyu beef? I say “bring it on” and Chef Juan Bochenski of Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi does just that. Cooked a la parilla (on a grate), the result is an enviable crust encasing a perfect center. Green chile mixed with chimichurri sauce (piquant chopped garlic, cilantro and parsley) reflects the chef’s Argentinian background and melds beautifully with the slice of avocado on top. Another entrant upping the ante with a fresh-baked brioche bun, this burger features provolone cheese as a creamy palate cooler. The house-made BBQ chips disappear in a flash!

Oh My Amaya!

Oh My Amaya!

It’s Never Too Late to Get In to Win

In Sunday School you may have heard the last shall be first. It could sure happen for Amaya at the Hotel Santa Fe, the Hacienda and Spa, a last-minute entry that shot up in a hurry. The all-natural, half-pound (be hungry, be very hungry) bison burger created by Chef Walter Dominguez boosts the flavor meter to high with a hefty dose of fire-roasted green chile and extra-sharp cheddar cheese. The tempura onion rings are a more-than-worthy accompaniment. And I love the beautiful covered patio and adjacent grassy lawn on which lucky folks like me can see a Pueblo dance.

Even Zozobra (read more about him here) wanted a glimpse of the alien!

Even Zozobra (read more about him here) wanted a glimpse of the alien!

 

Area 51 Comes to Santa Fe

The alien has landed at the Second Street Brewery at the Railyard. Chef Shawn Perry had a close encounter of the third kind when this idea landed in his mind: an all-beef patty topped with a crispy blue-corn-dusted chile relleno. Add richly-flavored stout queso, fried red onions and bacon, and it becomes even more other-worldly. And there’s nothing like a swash of guacamole to balance the heat of chipotle mayo and chopped green chile. Chef had best be careful not to get beamed up to serve the aliens on their home planet!

Don’t Miss the Lip-Smacking Smackdown Coming Up

By now, I expect you’re ready to buy tickets. Doing it soon is my advice, because this is one event that will definitely sell out. And guess what? You’ll be enjoying a bonus addition: The six finalists will be joined by a Lucky No. 7 chosen by local radio host Carlos Duran, turning this burger-iffic night out (with beer included) into seventh heaven!

 

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Fall…in Love with Santa Fe

I love the way one season slips seamlessly into another here in Santa Fe. The added crisp in the air makes the blues of the sky more brilliant, the sunsets deeper shades of red and purple, and the aspen-covered mountaintops rich shades of gold. And if magnificent landscapes haven’t convinced you to hop a plane/car/boat/train/space shuttle/horse, September is chock-full of activities and events for every interest and palate. Here’s a quick peek:

Flex into Fall at the Santa Fe Yoga Festival

Santa Fe’s clean air, abundant outdoor recreation and farm-fresh food all over town attracts a healthy coterie of yoga-loving souls. With studios tucked all over the City Different, like-minded individuals can find a yoga class any day of the week. It all comes together at the first-ever Santa Fe Yoga Festival on Labor Day weekend Aug. 28-31. Taking place in the serene setting of Bishop’s Lodge Resort and Spa (rooms still available), the festival opens with a drum ceremony and blessing, followed with music by Native Spirits to accompany the setting sun. Native drums not your thing? The variety of yoga classes offered is as awesome as the list of instructors. In combination with special dharma talks, musical offerings and even a Zozobra excursion and after-party, this is one mind-blowing, body-centered, soul-fulfilling three-day weekend.

Hold the pose and reach for the sky at the Santa Fe Yoga Festival! (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Yoga Festival)

Hold the pose and reach for the sky at the Santa Fe Yoga Festival! (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Yoga Festival)

Fusing Food and Fun is a Santa Fe Specialty

Once I’ve fused myself into fall mode via yoga, I’m heading for FUZE.SW, a deliciously enticing Sept. 12-14 celebration of food and folklore. A potent mix of James Beard Award-winning chefs blends with a tasty, coast-to-coast recipe of authors and food historians offering demonstrations and leading discussions. And of course, there’s food —Friday night at the Green Chile Smackdown (tickets sold separately) pairs with Fuze DineAround specials at local restaurants and Saturday offers food-truck lunching and a Five & Dime Frito Pie finish.

Chefs like James Campbell Caruso of La Boca stir up discussions, insights and more at FUZE.SW

The Thunder Hits Santa Fe in September

After pairing food fantasies with facts at FUZE.SW, running it off is in the offing thanks to the Santa Fe Thunder Run. For me the Sept. 14 half-marathon is wishful thinking, but I’m up to speed for the 5K. And a one-mile walk gives couch potatoes an excuse to get out into the countryside. The half-marathon starts in the heart of Santa Fe on a scenic course, dropping 1,000 feet downhill through Tesuque Village, passing the Santa Fe Opera, Tesuque Pueblo and Camel Rock before reaching the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino finish line. The feel-good extra? The non-profit Global Running Culture uses race proceeds as the primary income source for local and global programs empowering youth through fun and fulfilling sports activities.

Kenya’s Oyugi set a course record in the 2013 Santa Fe Thunder half-marathon. (Photo Credit: Katharine Egli for The Santa Fe New Mexican)

Kenya’s Oyugi set a course record in the 2013 Santa Fe Thunder half-marathon. (Photo Credit: Katharine Egli for The Santa Fe New Mexican)

Game of Thrones Fans Get Medieval in Autumn Since “Winter is Coming”  

Speaking of fun, with September comes one of Santa Fe’s most fanciful events, the Sept. 20-21 Renaissance Faire at El Rancho de las Golondrinas.  If you’ve never visited El Rancho, you owe it to yourself to wander the grounds of this living history museum as locals in medieval garb pursue creative capers.

Juggling fire is all in a day’s work when Clan Tynker clocks in at the Renaissance Faire. (Photo Credit: El Rancho de las Golondrinas)

Juggling fire is all in a day’s work when Clan Tynker clocks in at the Renaissance Faire. (Photo Credit: El Rancho de las Golondrinas)

You’ll be awed by Clan Tynker’s feats of magic and musical mayhem and an assortment of sword-fighting swashbucklers will thrill Game of Thrones fans. I’ll be keeping a sharp eye out to see if local resident/author George R.R. Martin makes an appearance! It’s a certainty that their majesties King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella will be there to hold court over this benefit for the Interfaith Community Shelter. Sixteen food vendors and a host of arts and crafts stands help make this a memorable weekend of bedlam and buffoonery.

 

Wind Your Way into Autumn with Wine and Chile

There’s a different kind of bedlam when the big tent goes up at the Santa Fe Opera for Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta. Fine wines and fiery foods take center-stage Sept. 24-28 with a long list of tastings, seminars, demonstrations and wine dinners at Santa Fe’s best restaurants. Take the inaugural Gran Fondo Bike Ride to burn off extra calories as you stop at food stations for caloric indulgence before finishing with a champagne brunch. The Gruet Golf Classic pairs six signature wines with food from 10 terrific restaurants at Buffalo Thunder’s Towa Golf Course. And the Grand Tasting? I guarantee that once you partake in this truly grand experience, you’ll come back annually for the taste of Santa Fe!

There’s always more to pour and sample at the SFWC Grand Tasting. (Photo Credit: Kate Russell for the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta)

There’s always more to pour and sample at the SFWC Grand Tasting. (Photo Credit: Kate Russell for the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta)

Fall Under Santa Fe’s Autumn Spell

The flow into fall is packed with delicious adventures for those lucky enough to live here or smart enough to get here for the magic. Whether it’s flexing your body into cobra pose or testing your palate at the west’s best wine festival, Santa Fe has it made. I’m up to this tempting task — how about you?

 

 

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Eat Local: Head South

Know how it feels to unearth a hidden gem? Lately, hunger for the new has led me to the places locals love and visitors love discovering. Santa Fe dining gets plenty of good press, but maybe southside Santa Fe is a new concept to you. Thanks to a lively downtown that managed to fill in all the empty spaces over the last 400-plus years, the City Different has been expanding towards the south. Where there are residents, there will be restaurants. And where there is food, you’re going to find fun. Let’s take a trip down south, shall we?

Santa Fe finds great food and Southside festivities at San Isidro Plaza. (Photo Credit: Michael Dellheim, courtesy of San Isidro Plaza)

Santa Fe finds great food and Southside festivities at San Isidro Plaza. (Photo Credit: Michael Dellheim, courtesy of San Isidro Plaza)

Music, the Southside Appetizer

I have been raving about (and delighting in) the weeknight Santa Fe Plaza Bandstand Music Series. I can never get enough of the sounds of summer and my favorite bands and dear old friends have all made an appearance. But no one I know is singing “Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody” because we head south to the other Plaza for Saturday night performances. From 7-10 p.m. through Aug. 30, every local music hound is rocking to the beat on the San Isidro Plaza. And when you combine a night of free music and dancing with dinner at any of my secret haunts, your Saturday night will be extra-special!

Miraculous Meals are at El Milagro

Author Wayne Dyer says, “I am realistic — I expect miracles.” He should head for El Milagro (translation: The Miracle) to prove that thesis on a plate! Tucked inside San Isidro Plaza, this is the spot to bite into a tortilla burger. Smothered in red, green or both, it’s El Milagro’s New Mexico twist on an American standard. I dare you to try passing on the jalapeno poppers.

The sopapilla sundae at El Milagro is a towering treat. (Photo Credit: El Milagro)

The sopapilla sundae at El Milagro is a towering treat. (Photo Credit: El Milagro)

A full roster of New Mexican specialties includes the famed Indian taco (frybread base instead of tortilla) so you don’t have to wait for Indian Market to indulge. And leave room for something sweet, because Food Network Magazine ranks El Milagro’s Sopaipilla Sundae as the No. 1 frozen dessert in New Mexico.

There’s More than One Plaza Café to Please Your Palate

When you wander onto the Santa Fe Plaza, you’ll see the Native vendors lined up under the portal on the north side and hungry eaters lined up west outside the Plaza Café. Fortunately for those in the know, there’s an expansive outpost of this renowned restaurant named (easy guess) the Plaza Café Southside.

There’s a table waiting for you at the Plaza Café Southside. (Photo Credit: TripAdvisor)

There’s a table waiting for you at the Plaza Café Southside. (Photo Credit: TripAdvisor)

Locals and in-the-know visitors head south to San Isidro Plaza to munch on old favorites and their dedication has made the southside diner a favorite for the hungry hoards. Diner-style means a huge selection and breakfast all day and the house-made green chile cheddar bread is the perfect foil for fried eggs. And like many diners across the country, the Plaza Café has Greek roots, so the savory Greek Cheese Fries (house-cut fries with olive oil, lemon-caper sauce, oregano, feta & myzithra cheese) are a regular on my radar.

Cap Off a Trip to New Mexico’s Capitol at The Capitol Grill

San Isidro Plaza keeps the food choices coming. And me, I keep coming back to the Santa Fe Capitol Grill for fish and chips. As much as I love our New Mexico cuisine, I am a fish-on-Friday girl and it’s even better if I can find it any night of the week. Appetizers are supremely appetizing — just thinking about the duck nachos makes me hungry. I love the seating here too.

Capitol Grill’s fish and chips are an all-year treat.

Capitol Grill’s fish and chips are an all-year treat.

Quiet booths in the back allow for a cozy dinner with your cookie and the convivial bar area is inviting for a meet-up. Two happy hour opportunities make me and my gal pals perfectly happy to meet for an after-work or an after-dinner cocktail. And those Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Sundays are a very comforting promise on Saturday nights.

Home, Home on the Ranch

Santa Fe’s arts culture is noteworthy, but ranch culture is also a big part of our history. And anywhere there’s a ranch, there’s a ranch house. When I travel south to scan the racks for vintage at Look What the Cat Dragged In, I cross the street for a treat at The Ranch House. If I time my shopping right, I can score a seat during the 4-6 p.m. happy hour for a Pineapple Margarita or a signature Burro cocktail with Taos-made Lightning Bourbon.

Eat in or take-out:, Either way the Ranch House BBQ is smokin’ good. (Photo Credit: The Ranch House)

Eat in or take-out:, Either way the Ranch House BBQ is smokin’ good. (Photo Credit: The Ranch House)

Only two steak brands – New Mexico all-natural or Gold Canyon natural reserve angus – but all four cuts come topped by roasted shallot bourbon butter and crispy onions with calabacitas (New Mexico’s classic squash and chile mix) and baked potato sides. And not only do I love to eat the BBQ in, it’s a to-go lifesaver after work.

Think Outside the Square

Just when you think you’ve eaten at all the best spots, someone you know ups the ante by asking “Did you try that little place south of town?” If you’ve been reading here before eating here, I know you’ve been licking your chops to add some global cuisine or patio dining to your next Santa Fe visit. Now you can also take my Southside Santa Fe secrets for a trip, secure in the knowledge that you have all the answers.

 

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Say ¡Que Viva Santa Fe!

I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but summer’s end is my favorite time of year. The gorgeous weather, a bounty of produce and Santa Fe’s liveliest local festivities offer the ultimate in hometown fun. The Que Viva feeling is alive, and I intend to get in the spirit.

Santa Fe Burns with Devotion to Old Man Gloom

Though I love my old man (okay, he’s not that old), I also love the Old Man, Zozobra, 90-year-old boss of this town. Picture a lovingly-crafted marionette scaled to more than 50 feet tall then set alight in a blaze of glory on a dark summer night.

Zozobra is Santa Fe’s resident hotshot.

Zozobra is Santa Fe’s resident hotshot.

Created in 1924 by artist Will Shuster and gifted in 1964 to the Santa Fe Kiwanis, Zozobra (aka Old Man Gloom) is Santa Fe’s annual cure for disappointment. Stuffed with the community’s glooms—pounds of shredded paper, including report cards, divorce papers and tax returns–he goes up in flames amid fantastic fireworks.

Zozobra’s Aug. 29 burning inaugurates the Decades Project, taking the event creatively back through time with designs mirroring past decades. Tongues are already wagging about his appearance, always one of our city’s most closely guarded secrets. In 2013, the Kiwanis added Zozofest, a family-friendly event (the actual burning can be scary) and this pre-burn fun comes to Sanbusco Market Center Aug. 23, 3-10 p.m. An all-Zozo art exhibition will be on display through Sunday afternoon and a portion of all sales benefits Zozobra events.

With a live entertainment backdrop, Mr. Z’s enormous head will be set up inside for photo ops. Gotta get something off your chest? Zozofest lets you add your gloom in person! And for those who can only be here in spirit, Virtual Zozobra gets your woes inside before The Old Man goes up in smoke! Can’t be there in person? The event will be streamed live here.

Fiestas de Santa Fe is a Centuries-old Party

Santa Fe’s 400-plus-year-old annual Fiestas de Santa Fe takes center stage to mark the 1692 re-conquest of the city following the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. Presided over by a re-enactment of Conquistador Don Diego and his Cuadrilla (think entourage) and escorted by a Queen (La Reina) and her court, Fiesta is utterly local and totally fun. Preparatory activities happen throughout the year and pre-Fiesta entertainment starts on the Plaza Aug. 23, 3-7 p.m. A Labor Day Weekend Arts and Crafts Fair, taking place Aug. 29 through Sept. 1, sets the tone for the upcoming festivities.

A taco on four legs takes a stroll at the Fiesta Pet Parade.

A taco on four legs takes a stroll at the Fiesta Pet Parade.

The Lensic hosts two Sept. 3 Mariachi Extravaganza performances; nothing like a few gritos to get you in the mood! Weekend food booths (yum!) set up Sept. 5 with an assortment of free entertainment on the Plaza Bandstand throughout. And two parades! Desfile de los Ninos (better known as the Pet Parade) provides “awwws” and paws Sept. 6 at 9 a.m. and Desfile de la Gente (the Hysterical-Historical Parade) amuses on Sept. 7 at 1 p.m. I’m the one yelling ¡Que Viva la Fiesta!— just answer “¡Que Viva!”

Be Green Burger-Wise

Who better than Old Man Gloom to sample the heat in a green chile cheeseburger?

Who better than Old Man Gloom to sample the heat in a green chile cheeseburger?

Food fits anyone’s agenda and personally I’m savoring the return of the Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown. Santa Fe takes mixing chile and burgers seriously and everyone’s invited to sample and vote. Contenders are vying to reach the finals and group burger-crawls are being spotted all over town. Voting closes Aug. 15 when six talented finalists pause until the Sept. 12 chow-down cook-off in the Santa Fe Railyard. Burger-lovers be warned: The 500 tickets for this taste test (beer included) will sell out!

If a burger and a beer don’t ring your bell, save your palate for the Sept. 24-28 return of the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Festival. Glad I can attend both (hint: so can you)! Ninety wineries and 75 restaurant partners put their heads together to create a stunning set of pairings, with signature events happening over five days. The blend of seminars, wine dinners, tastings and demonstrations will keep you sipping. And it all culminates with a Grand Tasting on the grounds of the Santa Fe Opera.

Chef Charles Dale of Bouche Bistro offering an amuse-bouche at the Grand Tasting. (Photo Credit: Kate Russell Photography, courtesy of Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta)

Chef Charles Dale of Bouche Bistro offering an amuse-bouche at the Grand Tasting. (Photo Credit: Kate Russell Photography, courtesy of Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta)

Taste the Best of Summer in Santa Fe

Dying for a taste of Santa Fe? No apologies — that was my intention! I’m Santa Fe’s biggest summer cheerleader, and every one of these events is a winner in my book. Meet Old Man Gloom, shake paws with a pup dressed as Pikachu and grab a zesty bite of green chile — there’s plenty to go around and everyone’s invited to this summer party.

 

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Santa Fe: Native Treasures and Artistic Pleasures

Even with its long days, summer is a season that simply seems to fly by. But here in Santa Fe, our numerous arts events prove summer has yet to reach its peak. I’ll be taking my vacation off-season and enjoying the great weather at home, because August is an amazingly artful month of can’t-miss experiences.

Indian Market

SWAIA Indian Market is the largest Native Arts festival in the country.

Santa Fe has a centuries-old history of Native art and culture. Baskets and beads, paintings and pottery, jewelry and clothing — all are part of an artistic legacy that grew from usage. And over time, these items grew more beautiful and desirable to collectors. SWAIA Santa Fe Indian Market has history, too, and Santa Fe is primed for its 93rd appearance Aug. 18-24.

The whole town dresses up for this party. And even after years of attending, I can’t wait to show up in my finery. Seeing the crowd decked out in its silvery best sends any style-hound hunting for a Concho belt or dangly turquoise earrings.

Turquoise earrings come in every shade.

Turquoise earrings come in every shade.

The Market hosts artists from coast to coast so you’ll find both Penobscot baskets and Pueblo pottery. Haida carvings find a home near Hopi katsinas, and Navajo rugs and colorful paintings are also part of the mix. Bring your collector’s eye and you won’t be disappointed.

Meet a Native Art Star on the Page and in Person

One of the West’s most celebrated painters makes a special trip to Santa Fe during Indian Market. Kevin Red Star, a Crow native from Lodge Grass, Mont., delves deep into family experience and heritage to create contemporary works prized by collectors. One of the first students of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Red Star also received a scholarship to the San Francisco Art Institute.

Imagine seeing a painting like this on your wall – this one is available. “Dancers (The Red Star Brothers)” by Kevin Red Star (Photo Credit: Kitty Leaken)

Imagine seeing a painting like this on your wall – this one is available.
“Dancers (The Red Star Brothers)” by Kevin Red Star (Photo Credit: Kitty Leaken)

The experience provided exposure to political and social concerns that affect Native life and continue to inform his work. Red Star notes “I hope to accomplish something for the American Indian and at the same time achieve personal satisfaction in a creative statement through my art.”

Meet Red Star Aug. 20 at Collected Works Books where he will sign copies of the gorgeous new book Kevin Red Star Crow Indian Artist by Daniel Gibson and Kitty Leaken; all proceeds that day benefit SWAIA. An opening reception for Red Star’s new exhibit and another book signing are at Windsor Betts Gallery Aug. 22.

Get Familiar with IFAM

IFAM, the Indigenous Fine Art Market, sets down roots in the Santa Fe Railyard Aug. 21-23. This new festival runs concurrently with Indian Market, giving visitors double the reason to be in Santa Fe. IFAM’s mission is to provide exposure for artists whose work may not fit SWAIA categories or regulations. There are over 565 registered Native American nations and IFAM’s palette of participants includes a host of Canadian First Nations and indigenous Hawaiian artists. It’s no surprise that the artist list has grown quickly!

Kevin-Red-Star-by-Daniel-Gibson-Book-Cover

Between the historic pictures and the fascinating story, this is a book to cherish. (Photo Credit: Kitty Leaken)

And IFAM hosts a special event Aug. 21 called Red Star, Rising Star with — you guessed it — Kevin Red Star. Red Star is mentoring George Alexander, a young Muscogee artist, and together they’ll do a live paint accompanied by music from Brian Frejo. The resulting artwork will be raffled off and a book signing at the event both benefit IFAM. The Market runs both days 10 a.m.–5 p.m., with entertainment on the Railyard stage noon-10 p.m. Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday.

Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams Are a Perfect Pair

Speaking of indigenous Hawaii, I heartily recommend the O’Keeffe Museum’s killer exhibit Georgia O’Keeffe & Ansel Adams: The Hawaii Pictures Exhibit. Both artists had a special connection to New Mexico, so pairing them makes sense, especially as they also shared a natural ability to let native flora create an authentic sense of place.

Georgia O’Keeffe always had an eye for beautiful trees. “Papaya Tree, Oil on Canvas,” collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art; Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Georgia O’Keeffe Museum)

Georgia O’Keeffe always had an eye for beautiful trees. “Papaya Tree, Oil on Canvas,” collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art; Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Georgia O’Keeffe Museum)

It’s amazing to think of O’Keeffe as a hired art-hand for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which commissioned her to create ad illustrations in 1939. O’Keeffe’s compositional ability is always remarkable, and her tropical blossoms and landscapes offer a lushness that contrasts with her Southwestern works. Adams was also in Hawaii on commission; his 1948 government assignment was followed by a 1957 bank commission. Adams’ love of the outdoors and deep connection to the land are always at the forefront of his images and this stunning compendium is no exception. See this one before it closes Sept. 17.

Wrap Up Your Summer With Only-in-Santa-Fe Experiences

Summer’s beauty is far from over. And Santa Fe can prove it, with a bounty of treasures ripe for the picking. There’s no place like here to tuck an artistic rendering of colorful memories into your bag. When the arts of August arrive, just get here and let Santa Fe do the rest.

 

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Artful Adventuring Awaits in Santa Fe

Summer is in full bloom–flowers blossoming and bees buzzing on long days ripe for enjoyment. I’m buzzing too, with excitement about the artistic riches in our hive. Santa Fe is always top 10 for creative cities, so we don’t need to go looking. Art and artists abound here!

The New Mexico Museum of Art is blooming outside and in.

The New Mexico Museum of Art is blooming outside and in.

See Beyond the Flower to a Colorful Career in Santa Fe

After her 30 years in residence, it’s apt that the new Judy Chicago exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Art is titled Local Color: Judy Chicago in New Mexico 1984–2014. As the artist notes, New Mexico attracted her for the same reasons it draws so many:

“What I wanted was the freedom to work. And that’s what New Mexico has given me, far away from the centers of the art world where the international art market presses down on artists and makes it difficult to pursue a personal vision like my own.”

 

Judy Chicago: Return of the Butterfly, 2008 Lithograph from the Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art (Photo Credit: New Mexico Museum of Art)

Judy Chicago: Return of the Butterfly, 2008 Lithograph from the Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art (Photo Credit: New Mexico Museum of Art)

 

 

The exhibit focuses on works made in New Mexico, where Chicago shares studio space with her husband in an old hotel they renovated. A gamut of media is represented – cast bronze and needlework, stained and painted glass, works on paper and painted porcelain in themes both intimate and universal.

 

Far East Art Styles in a Southwest Setting

Our serene Santa Fe Botanical Garden provides seasonal color and form for plant-loving people. But those who love get an extra twist on the outdoors with Origami in the Garden. This large-scale installation of folded metal forms by artist Kevin Box is up until October. Each time I visit, I choose a different time of day, so the magic of light and weather always lets me experience these unique works anew.

Cranes come to life in the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

Cranes come to life in the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

The artist considers origami a “simple metaphor for life. We all begin with a blank page, what we choose to do with it is what matters and the possibilities are endless.” Though fascinated by this intricate Japanese art form, Box was struck by the natural impermanence of the paper traditionally used to create origami. His re-envisioning led to 15 evocative cast and fabricated sculptures thoughtfully situated throughout in the garden’s graceful setting. The garden has been a great addition to the City Different and installations like this prove it!

Kevin Box’ Origami in the Garden started in one dimension and ended in three. (Photo Credit: Kevin Box)

Kevin Box’ Origami in the Garden started in one dimension and ended in three. (Photo Credit: Kevin Box)

The Artistic Landscape is Unlimited at SITE Santa Fe

A visit to the cutting-edge SITE Santa Fe is de rigueur. From the day it opened, the quality has remained sharp, with thought-provoking exhibitions that validate Santa Fe’s credentials as an arts capital. The project, SITElines: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas, is a six-year series of linked exhibitions showcasing contemporary art of the Americas, and the museum-scale SITE space kicks off the project with Unsettled Landscapes, opening on July 17.

SITELines uncovers the past with Pablo Helguera’s performance of Nuevo Romancero Nuevomexicano. (Photo Credit: SITE Santa Fe)

SITELines uncovers the past with Pablo Helguera’s performance of Nuevo Romancero Nuevomexicano. (Photo Credit: SITE Santa Fe)

Organized by a curatorial team from throughout the Western Hemisphere, Unsettled Landscapes is the first of three biennial exhibitions taking place. Sewing together the themes of landscape, territory, and trade, the exhibit is laced with political and historical narratives. With artists from Nunavut in the northernmost reaches of Canada to Chile’s Tierra del Fuego, the artistic spectrum covers a lot of territory. I’m ready to embark on this journey July 18 with Pablo Helguera’s Nuevo Romancero Nuevomexicano, a multi-disciplinary performance based on the forbidden card games of New Mexico’s Mexican era.

 

Bring On the Blues

Anyone who knows me knows that Turquoise, Water, Sky: the Stone and Its Meaning at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture has me enthralled. My turquoise fandom has me ooh-in and ahh-ing at this remarkable compendium of artifacts from the Museum’s collection. Not simply a semi-precious gem, turquoise has been honored as a sky and water stone, bringing blessings, good fortune, protection, good health and long life.

Cerrillos turquoise is stunning, even “in the rough.” (Photo Credit: Museum of Indian Arts and Culture)

Cerrillos turquoise is stunning, even “in the rough.” (Photo Credit: Museum of Indian Arts and Culture)

Cherished for its beauty and extensive range of hues, this “fallen sky stone” hidden in Mother Earth was a Southwestern adornment long before Columbus landed. Each individual stone’s color depends on the minerals in the area where it was mined. More copper means a bluer stone, more iron a greener one. Ancient mines dotted the Southwest, and the resulting variety of color and design is mesmerizing. And the history of turquoise in the Southwest is just as spellbinding. The museum has done a yeoman’s job of scouring the archives for examples, and an afternoon here means you’ll probably be shopping later to add to your own collection.

The sky stone comes to earth at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. (Photo Credit: Kitty Leaken, courtesy of MIAC)

The sky stone comes to earth at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. (Photo Credit: Kitty Leaken, courtesy of MIAC)

Santa Fe Creates an Especially Artistic Summer Experience

Having this rich mix of the traditional and the new means there is a pleasurable palette of experience for all. That’s why my adobe abode is summer visitors’ central! Creativity has been at the forefront of Santa Fe for centuries, so make your artistic pit stop here and you won’t go wrong.

 

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Take a Table Outdoors in Santa Fe

Al fresco! The words evoke the taste of what they promise. Dining outside is a welcome summer enjoyment, and we’re blessed with a bounty of options in Santa Fe. The temperate air beckons, so I’ve made it my business to see what’s cooking. Won’t you take a trip outside with me for patio pleasures?

Their Casa Is Your Casa

Old-World style courtyard construction styles brought beautiful open-air designs to the New World. Nowhere is this more evident than Sena Plaza, whose flower-laden courtyard hosts La Casa Sena. Tucked under 100-plus-year-old trees (look at the trunk size), Sena Plaza is one of the oldest surviving Santa Fe haciendas.

La Casa Sena’s patio is one of Santa Fe’s scenic beauties.

La Casa Sena’s patio is one of Santa Fe’s scenic beauties.

The building speaks volumes about Santa Fe history, and dining here is laden with taste and tradition. The menu hews to rich traditional New Mexico flavors (hello, chile and chimichurri) while crisp white tablecloths and seamless service lend a lovely air of elegance. Patio popularity means reservations suggested, but the 3–5 p.m. dinner gets you to the Plaza for 6 p.m. free music.

A Café Courtyard That’s Unforgettable

Love of historic buildings and fabulous food inevitably lead to SantaCafe. The kitchen never stumbles in the historic Padre Gallegos home north of the Plaza. The Padre himself had some mid-1800’s stumbles, having been defrocked for allegiance to the Bishop of Durango rather than New Mexico’s Bishop Lamy.

Head to SantaCafe for the spring rolls …

Head to SantaCafe for the spring rolls …

Gallegos’ gracious adobe home served as a boarding house, government offices and briefly, an Episcopal church. You can still look down into the home’s stone-lined well. I’m particularly fond of spending happy hour in the cool courtyard, noshing on vegetarian spring rolls that thankfully never leave the menu. I always hope the green-chile lobster roll is available for a gal-pal lunch, and supping on succulent lamb-chops is a divine beginning to nights ending at our outdoor Opera.

 … and enjoy summer dining on the SantaCafe patio.

… and enjoy summer dining on the SantaCafe patio.

 

Meet for a Meal by a Master

Fabulous things happen when a great chef finds a home of his own. And Restaurant Martín is the perfect illustration. The husband-and-wife Rios team has a recipe for success that shows on the plate, especially outdoors. The airy patio is a delight and the recent expansion upped the ante. Sunday Brunch was my Mother’s Day treat and was I glad! I’m a sucker for the smoked salmon eggs Benedict, a dish that never disappoints. James Beard-award winner Chef Martín’s focus on freshness is pointedly assured with this bill-of-fare note: “Menu is subject to change due to Chef’s creativity and the seasonality of ingredients.” Be sure to leave room for dessert, because nothing says summer like house-made sorbet.

Cool stones, warm wood, green leaves rustling, flowers blooming … the patio at Restaurant Martin has all the ingredients.

Cool stones, warm wood, green leaves rustling, flowers blooming … the patio at Restaurant Martin has all the ingredients.

A meal at Restaurant Martín always ends on a sweet note. (Photo Credit: Restaurant Martín)

A meal at Restaurant Martín always ends on a sweet note. (Photo Credit: Restaurant Martín)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Art Hotel for Artful Outdoor Dining

I’m lucky — I live here. But you’re lucky too when your hotel stay includes an ample patio and a terrific restaurant. You’ll find both at La Posada de Santa Fe, and I’m always ready to meet for a meal by the Fuego fire-pit. LaPo (its local moniker) may be best known for Julia Staab, the ghost who visits her former mansion, but for me, it’s the six acres surrounding this art-filled hotel that make mealtime memories.

Fire up Santa Fe memories on the patio at Fuego.

Fire up Santa Fe memories on the patio at Fuego.

Fresh handmade tamales appear on Fridays and Saturdays; other days, the grapefruit and jicama salad insistently begs to be ordered. The menu is a thoughtfully balanced mix of traditional, New Mexican dishes and classics like Filet mignon. And on live-music nights, the historic Staab House bar creates a lively backdrop that’s signature Santa Fe.

Go To Burger Heaven Under the Blue Skies of Santa Fe

Are you surprised I haven’t mentioned our world-famous green chile cheeseburger yet? There’s a multitude of choices, but my go-to patio patty is the Santa Fe Bite. It was hard to score a seat at petite Bobcat Bite, its former incarnation, but its move into the heart of town easily accommodates new fans. Take time to work your way through this big burger, since no one makes you feel rushed as you watch the world stroll by.

The Santa Fe Bite does burgers right.

The Santa Fe Bite does burgers right.

 

The Bite grinds their own meat so honor that homemade ethic with their crunchy and delicious homemade chips. Veggie burgers are a hit, and New Mexico specialties round out the menu. Fish’n’chips appear on Fridays, and the beer and wine list is pleasingly well-rounded.

 

 

 

Include Dining Outside When You Dine Out in Santa Fe

There’s simply no better way to enjoy our superb climate than to dine in it. I’ve probably made you hungry so I’ll be kind and stop here, but Santa Fe’s outdoor dining scene deserves in-depth discovery on your part. Azure skies yielding to glorious sunsets, cool evening descending, a good wine and dear friends together for a great meal — this memorable mixture guarantees all the smiles of a summer night.

Take a delicious bite of outdoor dining in Santa Fe.

Take a delicious bite of outdoor dining in Santa Fe.

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