Getting Your Just Desserts in Santa Fe

Santa Fe’s culinary scene is renowned the world over mostly for its fiery chile. But a bevy of bakeries and chocolatiers are sweetening up Santa Fe’s dining scene. From unusual cupcakes to creative caramels, Santa Fe’s sweeter side perfectly complements our fiery cuisine—and sometimes combines with it. Chocolate chile, anyone?

Gluten-free is Full-Flavor at Revolution Bakery

Behold the sticky bun at Revolution Bakery where gluten-free is a revelation.
Behold the sticky bun at Revolution Bakery where gluten-free is a revelation.

Life is uncertain – eat dessert first. I honor that saying by starting healthy at Revolution Bakery. My mother raised a family of sticky bun devotees, and I follow Mom’s recipe to the letter when I bake at home. Revolution Bakery’s version of this classic breakfast goodie is made with a mix of brown rice, tapioca and sorghum flours and speckled with chopped pecans and cinnamon. Everything at the Bakery is 100-percent gluten-free and 100-percent delicious. It’s no wonder there’s always a line at this revolutionary restaurant. Mind you, I’m a good girl – I do wait to open the box of gluten-free cookies until after lunch!

Be Sweet to Your Body at BODY Café

Bright eyes are a bonus when your daily dose of carrots comes from BODY Café’s raw vegan carrot cake.
Bright eyes are a bonus when your daily dose of carrots comes from BODY Café’s raw vegan carrot cake.

I admit to a sweet addiction but I also want to make wholesome choices. Fortunately, these two goals are not mutually exclusive when I satisfy my yen for something yummy at the BODY Café. This vegan-friendly dessert destination is on my short list for afternoon delights. I’m happy to lunch on raw carrots but raw vegan carrot cake? Now that’s a discovery! Coated with macadamia nut frosting and healthy as can be, it proves why raw food lovers flock to desserts like this. BODY’s vegan cookies are always at the ready and as for the gluten-free chocolate ganache torte – I’m not sharing!

Find Your Chocolate Fix at Kakawa

Treat a friend to a chocolate from Kakawa.
Treat a friend to a chocolate from Kakawa. Photo Courtesy of: Kakawa

Chocolate is on my list of the best things in life (thank goodness research finally concluded it’s good for you). When I’m in the mood to linger over a liquid dessert, Kakawa Chocolate House satisfies the urge. Voted one of the top places in the world to drink hot chocolate, Kakawa takes your tastebuds on a trip around the globe. From Thomas Jefferson’s own sweet 1790s recipe to rich Meso-American elixirs with deep dark flavor, the only problem is choosing just one. Fortunately, Kakawa’s knowledgeable staff will pour a sippin’ sample to help fulfill your fancy. And if a sip is not enough, I suggest salted chocolate-covered caramels to go.

Good luck choosing at C. G. Higgins!
Good luck choosing at C. G. Higgins!

Truffle Hunting is Easy at C.G. Higgins

When I want my chocolate to go – or when it’s time to send a signature treat to friends and family – I’m grateful C.G. Higgins (known locally as Chuck’s) has two spots in Santa Fe to pick up a box of succulent sweets. It’s hard to argue with handmade truffles in exotic flavors. Of course, chile makes an appearance! As a fudge fan who watched longingly as Mom dropped molten chocolate into cold water to test its readiness, I can report that Chuck’s does fudge proud. Santa Fe souvenirs should include chile caramel corn or piñon nut brittle, as both honor New Mexico’s agricultural heritage. And after wandering the downtown galleries, I look forward to a pick-me-up of Taos Cow’s piñon caramel ice cream – mmmmm!

Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake, Bake Me a Treat

More than one means Swiss bliss at the Swiss Bakery and Bistro.
More than one means Swiss bliss at the Swiss Bakery and Bistro.

With the Farmers’ Market and an active gallery scene, I spend plenty of time in the Santa Fe Railyard area so it’s nice to have a go-to for goodies. The Swiss Bakery and Bistro is open all three meals of the day, but I’m happy to graze when it’s time for dessert. At this altitude, a successful croissant or Napoleon is a notable achievement, and the Swiss Bakery has perfected them both. I never (I mean never) say no to an éclair, and I make no apologies for ordering two of the mini versions. Fresh fruit tarts come full-size or miniature, but I have switched my dessert allegiance to the petites because that means I can sample raspberry and strawberry and apricot too.

Don’t Desert the Dessert Course

Santa Fe has a sweet way of going straight to your heart.
Santa Fe has a sweet way of going straight to your heart.

Did I make you yearn for only-in-Santa-Fe treats? I hope so, since every word is delectably true. Put dessert on your list of what to do in Santa Fe and you can discover just how sweet it is to be here.

Burritos: Santa Fe’s Breakfast of Champions

 I’m a believer – a breakfast believer, that is. The first sip of coffee lets me know I’m awake and the first meal of the day primes me for action. Let the English have their muffins and the French savor their croissants, we Santa Feans know we have the best of the bunch with that first bite of a breakfast burrito! Hand-held or smothered in chile verde or rojo (that’s green and red, for the uninitiated), there’s nothing like the spicy flavor of the Southwest to get the day off to a great start.

santa fe, new mexico, food, breakfast
Eating like a New Mexican is easy when you head for El Parasol.

El Parasol Cooks It Up On-the-Go for Those in the Know

When I’m on the go, I head straight to El Parasol. A Santa Fe Reporter  Best of Santa Fe best breakfast winner, this joint has three Santa Fe county outposts. Translation: You’re close to one no matter where you are in Santa Fe. Stuffed with eggs, potatoes, cheese and a choice of red or green chile, this is a hand-held honey. You can also order it smothered in red or green, maximizing that fantastic chile flavor.

santa fe, new mexico, food, breakfast
Oh, that Pantry burrito is a potent plate of goodness!

There’s Something Savory Waiting in the Pantry

Speaking of smothered with chile, The Pantry has you covered. This favorite locals’ hangout (voted the No.1 breakfast spot by Santa Fe Reporter readers) is always buzzing with breakfast lovers. Count me as one of the faithful. The plate-hogging burrito leaves just enough space for a side of perfectly-cooked potatoes that any Irishman would approve. Both the red and green chile versions are so good that I can never choose – I just order my burrito Christmas-style (half red, half green). The Pantry’s cheerful surroundings and the steady flow of burrito lovers make for a people-watcher’s breakfast paradise. A second – or even third – cuppa joe is accommodated with a smile and encouragement to linger. That’s my kind of breakfast!

 

Take a Breakfast Trip to Tia’s

santa fe, new mexico, food, breakfast
A spicy holiday arrives on the platter when you order a Christmas-style breakfast burrito at Tia Sophia’s.

A sense of place is an integral part of the Santa Fe culinary experience, and I make a beeline for dining spots that serve up classic Santa Fe ambiance with the meal. Tia Sophia’s is just one of those places. Since there’s no dinner service, insiders know to satisfy their craving when the day is young. Part of the extended family empire that includes Atrisco and Tomasita’s, Tia’s has been a Santa Fe go-to for as long as I can remember – no wonder 2014 Santa Fe Reporter readers voted it No. 3 for both best breakfast and best breakfast burrito. You can celebrate Christmas on the plate all year long, but if you want that Saturday morning chorizo burrito special, you’d better go early!

santa fe, new mexico, food, breakfast
A big burrito and a good buddy are all you need for a great breakfast –or lunch – or dinner – at Santa Fe Baking Company.

 

Santa Fe Baking Company Goes Beyond Baked Goods

Eating local is an integral part of my dining recipe, regardless of the time of day. If a restaurant is going to use Santa Fe in its name, I expect it to deliver – and the Santa Fe Baking Company does. When I order a breakfast burrito, the plate that arrives on my table is a welcome delight along with the all-I-can-pour Aroma Coffee. Breakfast burritos are wrapped in a white or whole wheat tortilla, and the veggie selections are a delicious addition to the variety on offer. I often grab the classic version to go, but I like to make time to savor a burrito invitingly perched on a plate swimming in chile. Since the Baking Company serves breakfast all day, if you missed morning at Tia’s, you can still get that burrito fix at day’s end.

Why Not Wake Up to Breakfast in Santa Fe?

I know you’re probably looking at your bowl of oatmeal wistfully now, but I can’t say I’m sorry for sharing the yummy truth. While you might find recipes for homemade breakfast burritos to tide you over, there’s simply no substitute for eating one here in Santa Fe, the true home of the breakfast burrito.

 

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.

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.

 

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?

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Painted Skies are Perfectly Santa Fe

Santa Fe skies make a remarkable canvas for Mother Nature’s artistry.
Santa Fe skies make a remarkable canvas for Mother Nature’s artistry.

I’ve watched color fill the skies overhead wherever I’ve traveled but I believe Santa Fe’s palette rivals them all. Our low-profile, adobe architecture offers the ideal skyline for the celestial creations in our clean, mountain air. With no humidity or bugs, we can linger outside to our hearts content. The sun’s dawn through dusk performances make life in Santa Fe feel just about perfect.

Rose-colored Glasses Not Needed Here

Ever notice that historic cities all have one place that’s been welcoming travelers for ages? In Santa Fe that place is La Fonda on the Plaza. With its Harvey girl history, dedicated, local ownership, and storied Plaza location, La Fonda has hosted starlets, diplomats, family reunions and everything in between. And as soon as weather permits, it’s time to ride the elevator up to the Bell Tower Bar.

Bidding the sun adiós from La Fonda is a Santa Fe tradition.
Bidding the sun adiós from La Fonda is a Santa Fe tradition.

Meeting atop La Fonda’s Pueblo-style edifice means you can admire the western sky from one of Santa Fe’s most spot-on sunset perches. It’s heavenly to sip a Bell Ringer Margarita, nibble on Hatch green chile sliders and watch the sun slip slowly beyond the city’s horizon.

Howl for the Moon Not to Come Too Soon

Rooftop roundups are a tradition wherever weather is wonderful and Santa Fe meets the climate requirement with ease. So it’s no surprise the Coyote Cantina is a summer go-to for locals. Fantastic food? Check! Creative cocktails? Check! Convivial crowd?  Of course! Add in streaks of magenta and gold across the sky and, well, you get the picture.

Colors linger in the southwest where our sunsets are the best.
Colors linger in the southwest where our sunsets are the best.

You can pair jalapeno shooters or a cool cerveza with Baja-style fish tacos. The black sesame, honey white shrimp act as the perfect accomplice for a Señorita Margarita. I have yet to try the $100 margarita but a 100-year-old Grand Marnier sounds worthy of sunset’s extravagantly rich hues.

The Santa Fe Sun Gives a Great Performance

The multitude of colors in a Santa Fe sunset meets its match with the multitude of voices at the Santa Fe Opera. There’s nothing like combining nature’s glorious handiwork with that of Handel or Hindemith. And there’s nothing like the state-of-the-art outdoor theatre where you can catch the best of both. I recommend getting to the opera early to avoid that I’m-afraid-we’ll-miss-the-overture feeling, since once the music begins patrons aren’t seated until the first real break.

Santa Fe Opera sunsets are music for the eyes.
Santa Fe Opera sunsets are music for the eyes.

If you’re an early bird, relax over a tailgate party. Pick up a picnic to go (I‘m partial to ample salads from Vinaigrette paired with a bottle of New Mexico’s own Gruet Brut) or order a picnic in advance from the Opera’s catering partner, Bon Appetit. You can also opt for a preview dinner, which comes with wine and an informative dessert course talk about the performance. As you settle into your seat, nature’s skyscape solo welcomes the conductor to the podium. The sunsets are guaranteed to be just as dramatic as any final act.

Sometimes the sun’s parting note is best relayed through a messenger. That’s when I turn to Santa Fe Walkabouts for a sunset tour. Weather permitting, Walkabouts’ open-air off-road Pinzgauer vehicle winds up a scenic dirt road and deposits you in a green mountain grove. From there an easy hike takes you to memorable vistas, with fresh mountain breezes and rustling aspens creating a beautiful backdrop. This three-hour adventure will linger in your mind long after the sun’s lengthy farewell.

When Walkabouts take you to the top, the colors never seem to stop. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Walkabouts)
When Walkabouts take you to the top, the colors never seem to stop. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Walkabouts)

 

Santa Fe Knows Sunsets…and Sunrises Too

I love it when the birds start chirping early because they wake me up with enough time to admire the morning’s colors. Early-to-rise days find me watching the sun peek over the Sangre de Cristo range at the Cross of the Martyrs. Erected in 1920 to commemorate 21 Franciscan friars slain during the 1680 Pueblo revolt, the Cross also provides a bit of early morning exercise via a climb up the steps to the hilltop.

These stunning Santa Fe hues will make anyone a morning person. (Photo credit: Alex Sneiders)
These stunning Santa Fe hues will make anyone a morning person. (Photo credit: Alex Sneiders)

I feel close to history and fortunate to live here as I survey the city awakening below. And the easy access means I can end the day with sunset views in the exact same spot.

The Frank Ortiz Dog Park is one of my secret haunts for greeting the sun early or late.

My dog is not a morning person. We missed the early colors but we still got the views!
My dog is not a morning person. We missed the early colors but we still got the views!

The dog-lovers are a friendly bunch and it’s a snap to get there in time to watch the sky change color. The dog-less are just as welcome to see the sun come up or go down in this 360-degree location. A car to get there and two legs for an easy stroll do the trick.

 

 

 

Don’t Let the Sun Rise or Set without a Visit to Santa Fe

If you want to escape to nature’s wonders, just look up.
If you want to escape to nature’s wonders, just look up.

The sun has been a generous friend to Santa Fe, giving us a gorgeous setting for centuries. With more than 300 days of sun per year, days of sun, sunrises and sunsets galore are guaranteed.

Make tracks for the City Different but make sure your camera is fully charged – I promise your Santa Fe picture album will be colored in every hue.

 

Santa Fe: It’s Summer-Sensational

Seven weeks of spring, and already I’m yearning for the next season. Impatient, I know. That’s part of spring, though, that anticipatory feeling that bids you to hop out of bed every morning, brain bursting with ideas. I’m grateful the days are getting longer, because my list of this year’s what-to-do is getting longer too!

St. John’s Music on the Hill is a Santa Fe thrill. (Photo credit: St. John’s College)
St. John’s Music on the Hill is a Santa Fe thrill. (Photo credit: St. John’s College)

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

It’s possible – Rodgers and Hammerstein might get jazzed up or Latin-inflected, but you’ll have to set aside Wednesday evenings to find out. From 6-8pm, June 11 through July 25, St. John’s College’s hosts Music on the Hill, and this ever-so-pleasant way to enjoy Santa Fe skies with a musical backdrop is an ever-so-popular midweek outing.

Six concerts (none on July 2) in this ninth season offer great sounds on the grassy lawn, and you can either bring a picnic or feed the family via Walter Burke Catering at the venue. Parking is limited, so take the free shuttle and settle without a hassle.

 

 

 

Strike Up the Band (Stand)

Carve a spot in the crowd at a Santa Fe Bandstand Concert.
Carve a spot in the crowd at a Santa Fe Bandstand Concert.

I’m an aficionado of public spaces like our beautiful Plaza, and when free entertainment is part of the scene, I am so there, especially for the Santa Fe Bandstand Concerts. What could be better than totally free music in the heart of town as the City Different invites us all to Tune into Santa Fe? Nightly performances June 23–August 28 bring time-tested favorites such as Joe King Carrasco and local legends like the Santa Fe Chiles Dixie Jazz Band; some of the 2014 New Mexico Music Awards finalists are also on the bill.

Picnic blanket or a pair of chairs; choose your seating on the Santa Fe Plaza for a Bandstand Concert.
Picnic blanket or a pair of chairs; choose your seating on the Santa Fe Plaza for a Bandstand Concert.

Absolutely my favorite summer party, the Bandstand concerts let locals mingle with neighbors who hibernate in winter, and visitors get that insider’s intro to Santa Fe’s resident talents. All you need is a picnic blanket, a nosh, and a swing partner.

Sultry Singing, Stravinsky, and Sun Yat-Sen

It could only be the Santa Fe Opera! Anyone who knows me knows I can’t wait to see the sun set over the stunning Crosby Theatre. Although each two-month season presents repeat pleasures, there’s always a thoughtful new repertoire. It’s true again, with six all-new productions, including one double-the-treat double-bill.

Sit, settle, and let the sun set before you’re swept away by the music at the Santa Fe Opera.
Sit, settle, and let the sun set before you’re swept away by the music at the Santa Fe Opera.

Seductive solos start June 27 with Bizet’s Carmen, a sell-out whenever the sets go up and the lights go down. Laughter follows tragedy with Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, sure to offer stupendous comic relief. Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, a mighty tale employing a ton of talent, brings new Chief Conductor Harry Bicket to the podium. The aforementioned double-header pairs Mozart’s witty opera, The Impresario, with Stravinsky’s exquisite one-act Le Rossignol. SFO’s annual mission of presenting premieres is completed with the U.S. debut of Huang Ro’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, a mix of classical and folk styles from East and West.

The Strings are the Thing

Classical music has deep roots in Santa Fe, and I assure you it doesn’t stop with opera. Now in its 42nd season, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival is the epitome of a summer music must-do. Brahms, Handel, Mozart – you’ll hear music from all the masters, with concerts almost nightly from July 22 through August 25. And the weekly noon-time offerings are my special secret for a musical lunchtime escape.

Sit, settle, and let the sun set before you’re swept away by the music at the Santa Fe Opera.
Bravura “bowmanship” is at its best at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Reporter)

Performers are top of the line, with a mix of professional chamber ensembles like the Orion String Quartet, and a gathering of talents brought together to play specific concerts. Faithful piano lovers are rewarded with Yefim Bronfman and Joseph Kalichstein taking to the keys. And personally, I’m psyched that new music is on the scene at a concert of new works by young composers, performed by the Flux Quartet.

Get the Scents and Sights of the Santa Fe Scenery

Whew, let me catch my breath from singing Santa Fe’s musical praises and head outdoors! Santa Feans spend mucho tiempo en el campo, meaning we cherish summer outside. My choice for country charm is El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the 200-acre history museum south of town. From May through October, weekend events reveal the unique culture and traditions of New Mexico. Golondrinas embraces its educational mission seriously, but always makes it fun and fascinating.

El Rancho de las Golondrinas is the essence of all things New Mexico.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas is the essence of all things New Mexico.

Once summer is officially here, fresh herbs grace the stalls at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, and summer scents rule at Golondrinas’ June 21–22 Herb and Lavender Fair.  You’ll come away with fresh ideas for a home herb garden via tips from professional cultivators. Just walking the grounds is a distinct pleasure; you can discover how an acequia (New Mexico’s fabled watering system) works or learn about traditional village life. An integral part of my summer activities, a jaunt to El Rancho is my way of re-visiting New Mexico’s historic heritage.

In New Mexico, where water is precious, an acequia gate controls the flow.
In New Mexico, where water is precious, an acequia gate controls the flow.

Taking Pride in Santa Fe

Santa Fe is known for warmth and welcome, extended to the LGBTQ community long before there was an acronym. Many global cultures are home to individuals with diverse gender identities, and New Mexico is no exception. Santa Fe is doing a brisk business in gay weddings, and that’s a source of pride for the City Different.

Santa Fe shows its pride of place at the June Pride parade.
Santa Fe shows its pride of place at the June Pride parade.

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate our equality activists at Santa Fe Pride on June 28. This annual event, organized by the Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance, opens with a colorful parade from the Roundhouse, our State Capitol building, to the Railyard, ending with food, fun, and all-day entertainment. I’m planning on breakfast at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, before grabbing curbside space for parade viewing. Bring a parasol or wear a hat and sunscreen if you plan to stay all day.

Why Wine? Why Not?

If you crave the whisper of terroir from wine, note that New Mexico is the nation’s oldest wine-growing region. Long before the union of states, settlers tended vines and crushed grapes in the Land of Enchantment. When summer ends, we welcome fall at the Santa Fe Wine and Chile Festival, but we also save a slice of the July 4th weekend for the Santa Fe Wine Festival.

Get a taste of Santa Fe and New Mexico wines this summer. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Wine Festival)
Get a taste of Santa Fe and New Mexico wines this summer. (Photo Credit: Santa Fe Wine Festival)

At 21 years, the Wine Festival is “old enough to drink,” as the organizers cleverly put it, and there’s plenty to sniff before sampling. Vintners from all over the state will pour their best for our appraisal, and there will be food – look for me at Roque’s Carnitas. The roster of arts, crafts and unique products is too long to list; suffice it to say, there will be no lack of entertainment!

 

Read It Here Now, Relax Here Later

So what ARE you doing this summer? If you’re craving a unique summer adventure, then Santa Fe should surely be on your itinerary. Slip some of our signature events into your vacation, and you won’t be disappointed. And check back next week for the rest of my round-up … you didn’t think this was everything, did you? Oh, no, the fun here lasts all summer!