Painting the Plate Red in Santa Fe

Guess what? Summer is literally one month away! The Santa Fe Farmer’s Market is blossoming with fresh produce, baked goods, and authentic flavors. There is, however, one missing crop that won’t appear until later in the year and it’s one that locals really anticipate––green chile! Having to wait for our signature food makes me see red––not because I’m getting angry. I simply mean that my daily chile fix is being administered via savory red chile.

New Mexico Chile is a Classic

Chile has been a cornerstone of New Mexico cuisine for hundreds of years. Whether or not you’ve made a Santa Fe visit (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), you’ve no doubt seen a colorful picture of red chile ristras hanging along a portal. Before the days of canning jars and refrigerators, the season for eating fresh green chile was lamentably short. Green chile ripens rapidly into red, so the homey solution for keeping chile flavors on the table resulted in handsome scarlet strings adorning New Mexico haciendas. Once the ristras are strung and hung, all Mama has to do is collect a handful for cooking up a spicy family meal––breakfast, lunch or dinner.

ristras
A long line of rich red chile ristras is a sight that warms a New Mexican’s heart! (Photo Credit: Nicole Curtis Ammernan)

Red Chile is the Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast, you ask? You bet! No matter how eggs are prepared, they brighten up with a generous smothering of red chile sauce. While Tia Sophia’s (celebrating its 40th anniversary) serves a wicked good breakfast burrito daily, if you want your fair share of homemade Sunday chorizo inside it, I suggest an early arrival. As for huevos rancheros, bright yellow yolk melds with red chile to flow over a mound of black beans at Café Pasqual for a truly sublime morning experience. Brave adventurers can break their fast on the southside of town by testing their mettle at the Horseman’s Haven, renowned as Santa Fe’s hottest chile––you’ve been warned!

Café Pasqual is a delicious rainbow of colors overhead and on the plate. (Photo Credit: Café Pasqual)
Café Pasqual is a delicious rainbow of colors overhead and on the plate. (Photo Credit: Café Pasqual)

Midday Magic on the Plate is “Red-y” and Waiting

Lunchtime is a colorful munch-time for me. If I’m downtown, I make a beeline for The Shed or if I’m roaming, its sister restaurant La Choza. Either way, I know that I’ll feel that rosy glow of red chile as I clean my plate. Texas-style chili (that’s how they spell it) will be a distant memory once you’ve tried The Shed’s chile con carne, packed with potent red chile, ground beef and beans and served with their signature garlic bread (okay, you can still order a tortilla). La Choza (Spanish translation: hut or shack) serves a classic Frito Pie­­––that’s all you need to know!

La Choza is a locals’ favorite snack shack.
La Choza is a locals’ favorite snack shack.

Santa Fe Paints the Town Red at Suppertime

After watching the setting sun saturate the sky with carmine clouds, it’s easy to build up an appetite. End your day by sating your hunger at Atrisco with a ruby-hued platter of carne adovada (slow-cooked chunks of pork marinated in red chile) that packs a powerful punch. Atrisco has a sister restauraunt, too, and her name is Tomasita. Long the hub of Santa Fe Railyard dining, Tomasita’s does red chile proud with an ample stuffed sopaipill­­a––meat, beans or vegetarian––draped in melted cheese and guaranteed to please.

redchile
Every red-blooded foodie should add a stuffed sopaipilla to the repertoire!

Get Red Chile Credentials in Santa Fe

While every chef has a secret recipe, no one can really agree on whether dried whole pods or dried ground chile makes the better sauce. What everyone can agree on, however, is that mastering the art of red chile is a skill worth having. And more to the point, it’s best to acquire this particular skillset with an education from the experts. Aspiring chile chefs can learn how to handle the hot stuff––safely––with a Red Chile Workshop at the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

 

Get ready for red with a chile workshop at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe School of Cooking)
Get ready for red with a chile workshop at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe School of Cooking)

Hot Stuff can be a Sweet Treat

I’d be remiss if I didn’t close on a sweet note since red chile plays a delectable role on the Santa Fe Chocolate Trail. Kakawa Chocolate House’s Mesoamerican sipping chocolates are laced with chile as is the tempting selection of dark chocolates crafted with fiery flare. C. G. Higgins chocolates also receive props for piquancy and their Red Chile Caramel Corn is the perfect snack to bring home for movie night. Red chile chocolate pâté from The ChocolateSmith is a souvenir that never disappoints, and speaking of souvenirs, Señor Murphy’s red chile jelly does triple duty as a marinade, a glaze or in an appetizer.

Yes, you’re seeing right–––those ARE chocolate covered ancho chiles on that plate! (Photo Credit: Kakawa Chocolate House)
Yes, you’re seeing right–––those ARE chocolate covered ancho chiles on that plate! (Photo Credit: Kakawa Chocolate House)

Put the Roses in Your Cheeks with a Red Chile Adventure

Red chile doesn’t just taste good–––it makes you feel good! For centuries, chile has been a feel-better-fast cure-all. The capsaicin that gives red chile its heat acts as an anti-inflammatory and the bright color signals the presence of immunity-boosting vitamins A and C. Happy and healthy is all the excuse a girl needs for dosing herself with New Mexico’s finest flaming flavors until the green chile harvest is in. That’s what I’m doing during Santa Fe’s Summer of Color––and crimson copycats are welcome!

 

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