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njduchess

Albuquerque and Sante Fe Restaurants

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Husband and I are meeting friends from Wisconsin in New Mexico in early May. We will be spending the arriving night and departing night in Albuquerque with three nights in Sante Fe in the middle. We are set with flights and rooms. Now it's time to think about dinner reservations and other dining options and we need some help and guidance.

The two places mentioned for Albuquerque are Graze by Jennifer James and Prairie Star. When I looked through New Mexico threads here, I find no mention of either of these. Are they worth a stop or are some of the other places a better bet?

As for Sante Fe, we thought we would spend one day in Taos and go to Joseph's Table. We also thought about Coyote Cafe. Is it tired and passe or still a good choice? I think Mark Miller has some other restaurants. Are any of them better?

Even if we go with Joseph's Table and Coyote Cafe, we still have a third night to fill in the Sante Fe area.

As for lunches, I have found many good suggestions in earlier NM topics. I'll bring a list and we'll choose, based on where we find ourselves during the day.

Our hotels all include breakfast, but we can certainly skip that a morning or two. What are the best breakfast places these days?

Thanks for your help.

Marie


NJDuchess

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In ABQ liked both Jennifer James places I went to two years ago. Also had a good meal at Artichoke Cafe.

Last summer in Santa Fe, I loved Trattoria Nostrani (pricey Italian, great wine list), Kasasoba (for dinner), don't miss Pascual for breakfast or lunch or both, The Shed for New Mexican food, and I had a really good meal at Railyard (steakhouse, but reasonably priced; interesting wine list). There are many, many other options, and I'm sure you'll hear from people with differing opinions, but there you have my two cents. I've tried Coyote twice in the last three or four years and been disappointed. I'm sure you know this, but I think it's always worth mentioning that flatlanders should remember to hydrate and take it easy on the booze the first night or two (it's high and dry).

I can almost smell the green chile, and I'm green with envy.

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In Albuquerque, Jennifer James only has Graze now and it is very good. (Her other restaurant, the more formal/fancy Restaurant Jennifer James closed when the building owner decided to tear it down for some sort of "other" commercial space.) Graze is somewhat "spare" or modern for atmosphere; not at all Southwestern but we don't eat/drink atmosphere. She is probably the most talented and inovative of the several talented chefs in ABQ in my opinion.

As for Santa Fe, Coyote Cafe is neither "tired" nor passe. For whatever reason, though, the local residents seem to leave it to visitors. Santa Fe has many extremely good, top-of-the-list restaurants. Some to consider...

- Geronimo is generally considered the best of the best; on Canyon Road

- SantaCafe has been around for years and is simply excellent

- The Compound also on Canyon Road

- Anasazi (in the Anasazi Hotel just off the Plaza) home now of chef Martin Rios who previously was at The Old House in the Eldorado Hotel. An exceptional chef.

- Ristra is a classically trained French chef set loose in the Southwest. (My favorite of these six, btw.)

Detailed menus can be found for all of these places and for Joseph's Table in Taos on- line I believe.

Note all of these places but Coyote and Ristra are open for lunch and lunches are real bargains, if simpler in restaurants in Santa Fe. Sometime near Memorial Day (as it warms up) Coyote Cafe will open their Coyote Cantina on the rooftop for lunches/appetizers and generally terrific all-day eating.


Edited by fyfas (log)

Bob Sherwood

____________

“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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I've had several very nice dinners at Praire Star. The food was creative but not gimmicky and I would recommend it. The atmosphere is quiet; a nice place for dinner and conversation. A friend who works at the university often takes important visitors there for dinners and has never been disappointed. I remember an especially good elk dish there.

I've only eaten at Restaurant Jennifer James's when it was open a few years ago and have not gotton a chance to try Graze yet. We thought that Restaurant Jennifer James was little rough around the edges for the price and its ambitions, but that was her first restaurant and I've heard good things about Graze.

For one of your Albuquerque dinners you might consider Casa Benavides; a nice classic New Mexican restaurant. With the warmer weather you might enjoy sitting in the lovely outdoor garden area.

My favorite breakfast places in Santa Fe are: Cafe Pasqual, Tia Sophia's and Harry's Roadhouse. There are also very nice French pastries including excellent almond pithiviers available at the bakery that is on the street facing the cathedral and right outside the Hotel La Fonda. All of these are right downtown except for Harry's Roadhouse. Cafe Pasqual has great creative, new New Mexican inspired breakfasts/brunches and it has a very nice atmosphere. It is very popular and is sitll one of my favorite places to eat in Santa Fe. Tia Sophia's is more hearty and simpler food; it reminds me of a New Mexican version of a great New England diner. Their breakfast burittos are great. Last time time I had an excellent chorizo, potato, egg and chile burrito there. Harry's Roadhouse is also one of my favorites in Santa Fe---great classic breakfast and brunch dishes with some New Mexican accents. They also have a selection of very good homemade pies including an excellent coconut cream pie. Lots of locals eat here and it has beautiful places to eat, inside and out. I like all these places so much that it is always extremly difficult to choose between them when I'm up in town.

I think fyfas is spot on re: Coyote Cafe. Locals seem not to go there as much these days, including my friend who lives in Abq. He went again recently after not being there for several years and was still very impressed. This could be a great place to go to on your first visit to Santa Fe. For higher end dinners I'm also a big fan of Ristra and Geronimo's. (Ristra does have their menu on their website, I believe. I was just checking it out a few months ago.) The atmosphere is very nice and evocative of the region at all these places as well.

I mentioned this recently in another Santa Fe thread recently, but we had an excellent lunch at the restaurant inside La Fonda. The restaurant is absolutely beautful during the daytime as well with all the light streaming in and surrounded by the handpainted artwork. (Step in and check out the La Fonda lobby and restaurant even if you don't eat there).

I've only eaten at Joseph's Table once but we had a very nice dinner that I wrote up in the Joseph's Table thread. There were some very nice creative touches. I've had several very good meals at Doc Martin's as well. It is a little less 'innovative' but provided excellent execution and nicely designed dishes. The last time I was there was 3-4 years ago. Maybe someone else has a more recent experience to share. We also really enjoyed checking out the Anaconda Bar at El Monte Sagrado Resort which is a few mintues from the Taos plaza. They have nice cocktails and wine by the glass and the decor is spectacular.

The drive is so gorgeous between Santa Fe and Taos. If you have time and the weather cooperates, consider driving the "high road" on the way up and drivng back in the canyon on the way back. Other things I would do on a one day trip to Taos: Millicent Rogers Museum and the Rancho de Taos Church. If there is time, the Taso Pueblo is also fascinating and spectacular.

Please report back on your dining experiences if you have time; it is always great to have updates and insights on places.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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There are also very nice French pastries including excellent almond pithiviers available at the bakery that is on the street facing the cathedral and right outside the Hotel La Fonda. 

i agree with all the recommendations for pasqual and the compound and i'd add my personal favorite, la choza. great patio, great new mexican food. i loved this reference to the la fonda pastry shop!

long, long ago, when my wife and i were first living together, we'd run up to santa fe for the weekends, in large part because we could get pastries at the la fonda. they were unlike anything i'd ever tasted (granted, i was pretty much of a winchell's eating sportswriter at the time). years later, during a long drunken lunch with my friend michel richard, he started talking about how much he liked santa fe. i said "santa fe, when were you in santa fe?" turns out, he started that pastry shop and was the one making those pastries. he has certainly gone on to bigger, though perhaps not better, things (there's not much better than those pastries were).

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Thanks so much for all the input. It is a lot to think about. I will let you know what we decide after considering all of your suggestions. And, of course, we will report back after the trip.

Marie


NJDuchess

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[...

long, long ago, when my wife and i were first living together, we'd run up to santa fe for the weekends, in large part because we could get pastries at the la fonda. they were unlike anything i'd ever tasted (granted, i was pretty much of a winchell's eating sportswriter at the time). years later, during a long drunken lunch with my friend michel richard, he started talking about how much he liked santa fe. i said "santa fe, when were you in santa fe?" turns out, he started that pastry shop and was the one making those pastries. he has certainly gone on to bigger, though perhaps not better, things (there's not much better than those pastries were).

Great story, thank you for sharing it.


"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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i agree with all the recommendations for pasqual and the compound and i'd add my personal favorite, la choza. great patio, great new mexican food. i loved this reference to the la fonda pastry shop!

long, long ago, when my wife and i were first living together, we'd run up to santa fe for the weekends, in large part because we could get pastries at the la fonda. they were unlike anything i'd ever tasted (granted, i was pretty much of a winchell's eating sportswriter at the time). years later, during a long drunken lunch with my friend michel richard, he started talking about how much he liked santa fe. i said "santa fe, when were you in santa fe?" turns out, he started that pastry shop and was the one making those pastries. he has certainly gone on to bigger, though perhaps not better, things (there's not much better than those pastries were).

Ahh... The French Pastry Shop! One of my earliest memories is about this place. My family was staying at La Fonda and my sister and I were exploring the hotel. I was about four, she was eight. When we found the pastry display, we must have stood there - jaws dropped, I'm sure - for at least ten minutes ogling the treats. We'd never seen anything like that before. Rows and rows of beautiful pastry! Finally, the person behind the counter took pity on us and gave us each a cream puff. The memory of it has been stuck in my head ever since. I still make a pilgrimage there every time I visit Santa Fe. It hasn't changed much in thirty years.

Over the years I've eaten at dozens of Santa Fe restaurants and I honestly don't recall a bad meal. Right now I'm recalling some chile rellenos I had at some place on Canyon Road. Roasted green chiles stuffed with Montrachet and walnuts. Sublime. Can't get good chile rellenos in Texas. They insist on using poblanos here. :sad: Don't get me started on Tex-Mex. If I were to move back to NM, it would be for the food. And the mountains. Also family, of course. The weather is nice too. (101 degrees in Dallas yesterday - yes, really) And the people are great. Hmmm... where's my luggage?


Edited by Lee Ratliff (log)

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i agree with all the recommendations for pasqual and the compound and i'd add my personal favorite, la choza. great patio, great new mexican food. i loved this reference to the la fonda pastry shop!

long, long ago, when my wife and i were first living together, we'd run up to santa fe for the weekends, in large part because we could get pastries at the la fonda. they were unlike anything i'd ever tasted (granted, i was pretty much of a winchell's eating sportswriter at the time). years later, during a long drunken lunch with my friend michel richard, he started talking about how much he liked santa fe. i said "santa fe, when were you in santa fe?" turns out, he started that pastry shop and was the one making those pastries. he has certainly gone on to bigger, though perhaps not better, things (there's not much better than those pastries were).

Ahh... The French Pastry Shop! One of my earliest memories is about this place. My family was staying at La Fonda and my sister and I were exploring the hotel. I was about four, she was eight. When we found the pastry display, we must have stood there - jaws dropped, I'm sure - for at least ten minutes ogling the treats. We'd never seen anything like that before. Rows and rows of beautiful pastry! Finally, the person behind the counter took pity on us and gave us each a cream puff. The memory of it has been stuck in my head ever since. I still make a pilgrimage there every time I visit Santa Fe. It hasn't changed much in thirty years.

Over the years I've eaten at dozens of Santa Fe restaurants and I honestly don't recall a bad meal. Right now I'm recalling some chile rellenos I had at some place on Canyon Road. Roasted green chiles stuffed with Montrachet and walnuts. Sublime. Can't get good chile rellenos in Texas. They insist on using poblanos here. :sad: Don't get me started on Tex-Mex. If I were to move back to NM, it would be for the food. And the mountains. Also family, of course. The weather is nice too. (101 degrees in Dallas yesterday - yes, really) And the people are great. Hmmm... where's my luggage?

there is a little mexican restaurant here in denton over on south locust street across from the family dollar store. the place doesnt look like much on the outside but on the inside the food is pretty good. authentic mexican cuisine, and my finace and i have had many a good dinner there in the last year...and the prices are very reasonable. And while ive tried many things on the menu i have yet to try theor chili rellenos but i am told it is quite good. the place is called La Mexicana. you should check it out some time and see how their chili rellenos compares. Next time im there i fully plan on trying theirs.


a recipe is merely a suggestion

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We just returned from a most enjoyable trip to New Mexico. We thank everyone for their suggestions and tips. We managed to squeeze a lot of good eating into six days.

Just in general terms, I was hoping for a bit more Southwestern influence in the upscale restaurants. This was particularly true of Geronimo, Joseph’s Table, and The Compound. Although we had many wonderful dishes, we could have been dining in any city in the country. I was hoping for more sophisticated dining with a regional spin. That being said, we ate very well and enjoyed ourselves.

Here are the highlights:

Prairie Star: Their “regional” selection the night we were there was Southern. Obviously, we skipped that. The outstanding appetizers were Bison Meatloaf and 3 Cheese and Shrimp chile rellenos. Other choices were good. The winner entrée was Salmon that was cold smoked and grilled. The bison tenderloin was also good.

Gold Street Café for Breakfast: The breakfast burrito was outstanding as was the chile glazed bacon. The chile and corn biscuit with eggs and mascarpone was good but the biscuit itself could have been more tender. It softened up as it sat.

Geronimo: Although we had been warned, we were overwhelmed by the prices on the wine list. The food was all good and it would be difficult to say one thing was better than another. The regional touches were missed. The dishes that we rated very good or excellent were the Fois Gras, the duck salad, lobster poaches in a cream sauce, and the scallops.

Leona’s: We took a drive up to Taos and stopped at Chamayo. Leona’s was open (it was Sunday and we thought she would be closed) so we stopped for a snack of tamales and burritos. They were outstanding. Later on, we stopped at Rancho de Chamayo and were underwhelmed. The prickly pear lemonade was good.

Joseph’s Table: The steak tartare and risotto cake were voted the best. The lamb shank, quail, and buffalo ribeye were all quite good. We also enjoyed the lemon meringue tart and blackberry napoleon.

On Monday, we tried to get a burger at the Bobcat Bite, but found it was only open Wednesday through Saturday. We stopped at Harry’s Roadhouse for some very good buffalo burgers instead.

Café Pasqual: We all enjoyed our breakfast here. The house-made chorizo was outstanding over the polenta. The breakfast quesadilla with added chorizo was also delicious.

The Compound: All 4 appetizers were outstanding: Fois Gras Terrine, Fresh Lacquered Bacon, Crab Louis and fresh English Pea Soup. Of the entrees, the lamb rack and veal cheeks were quite good. The other two: the halibut and roast chicken with Fois Gras pan gravy were good, but not great. The tiny burnt caramel chocolate tart on the cookie plate was memorable.

Bakery: After walking around the center of town in the afternoon, we were continually disappointed that we could not find the bakery with the plithiviers. On our last day, we went out in the morning, and there they were. They must get sold out before noon. It is the bakery that is part of LaFonda . They were worth the hunt!

Cantina at the Cayote Café: We stopped for lunch and enjoyed decent mojitos with Fundito – cheese and chorizo with fresh tortillas for dipping. The ribs got mixed reviews while the fresh tacos with pork and tacos with fish were very good as were the accompanying salsas. We were there on May 9th, so they do open prior to Memorial Day.

Graze: After all of the great eating, we had a rather light meal on our last night at Graze. We ordered just 5 small plates – with two bottles of a very nice Spanish Red. All of the 5 dishes were just perfect:

Polenta fries with 3 ketchups (we loved the onion one)

Cheese plate with roasted tomatoes, micro greens and Tillamook

Spanish Plate with Serrano, bright green olives and Manchego

Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms – simple and delicious

Mushroom Bread Pudding – my favorite being a carb-freak

The boys had root beer floats and the girls enjoyed green tea ice cream to finish.

It was a most enjoyable trip. The good company was made even more enjoyable by great food. Thanks so much for the input.


NJDuchess

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Leona’s:  We took a drive up to Taos and stopped at Chamayo.  Leona’s was open (it was Sunday and we thought she would be closed) so we stopped for a snack of tamales and burritos.  They were outstanding.  Later on, we stopped at Rancho de Chamayo and were underwhelmed.  The prickly pear lemonade was good.

A pity, since Rancho de Chimayo used to be quite good.

What kind of regional spin were you hoping for, overall?

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My wife and I also have just returned from Santa Fe.

The city itself is interesting being almost entirely focused on tourism.

At times treading a fine line between a sort of "Disneyworld of the Southwest"

and an upscale shoppers paradise with an emphasis on art of all sorts.

There is a charm to it all though--I was also reminded of places like Marin County in California and towns like Sonoma (replace the wine with art).

Most of the "natives" were folks from somewhere else and were extremely friendly.

As for the food--

The median level for quality is quite high. Our only regret is we "missed" the Compound."

IMOP "Southwest" cuisine involves a sort of fusion --Mexican, Tex-Mex, California (a touch of Pacific Rim, American (meatloaf/burgers, game etc).

I'm sure someone else here will have a better handle on this.

I also believe that the best expression of Southwest cuisine was found at a long defunct New York restaurant--"Arizona 206"

Anyway--The dining highlight was Geronimo.

We had a dinner and a wonderful leisurely lunch on the front porch (highly recommended).

The service was top notch (a slight quirk here is that any of the very professional servers can assist/serve any table at any time. If you need something the nearest server will provide it).

The wine list was a bit pricey though not out of line with restaurants of this level in any major city. Wines by the glass seem to be priced high but the pours are very generous--in fact you get a small carafe of wine that equals two glasses. The wine service is very professional. (in the end a good deal).

The food was inventive and well executed (my only negative comment is some dishes would have benefited from one less ingredient.

The "Southwest" influence was present-more in some dishes less in others. The Mexican white prawns was probably the most "Southwestern cuisine" item on the menu--it is wonderful.

The peppered Elk also very good. The salads are inventive and excellent. The seafood also very good. My wife had a marvelous seafood salad at lunch.

the cooking here is very inventive striking a nice balance between creativity and whimsy and staying true to basic flavors and showcasing high quality ingredients.

as for Coyote cafe

We had dinner and also a lunch at the cantina.

If one could eat in only two places (one lunch and one dinner in each) in Santa Fe--I would recommend Geronimo and the Coyote cafe/cantina.

They represent two distinct ends of the spectrum. There were other fine restaurants (Santa Cafe was nice) but all were variations on the theme.

The cantina at Coyote cafe is fun the drinks are well executed and the food is good.

(if you are having lunch don't plan an elaborate dinner--this food is very rich and filling!).

Mark Miller pretty much "summarizes" the whole Southwestern cuisine here.

The main restaurant the Coyote cafe is good--the food is not as inventive as that at Geronimo but is satisfying--it can be a bit "heavy". service is professional and the ambience is nice--have chips and salsa and a drink at the cafe before dinner here for a nice evening.

We loved the Galleries (Geronimo and the Compound) are both on Canyon Road where some of the best are located so a walk before dinner or after lunch is in order.

(most galeries and retail shops close at five pm in this town).

All in all a very nice relaxing visit with some very good food!

I would definitely go back.

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Terrific report ! And, thanks for taking the time to do it.

Your comment about the food, good as it was, not having any regional characteristics/sensibility is a good one and a thought I had not really had until you mentioned it.

Twenty years ago I visited Santa Fe specifically to enjoy excellent meals that were "different". Now, living in Santa Fe, the meals are still very good but, somehow, a bit more generic; many a fine meal could be from, say, The Union Square Cafe in Manhattan just as well as from SantaCafe here. Not sure if I could tell were I blindfolded. One minor thought though... while in many cities steak is the expected red meat on the menu, here in the western states one is likely to see buffalo and/or elk in addition to beef as a red meat option. The differences, still, are very minor and the variations from menu to menu are largely sauces and accompanying items.

Your take on Rancho de Chimayo is right-on (imo), too. It has a long history but it is now only notable as a convenient lunch IF you are nearby to see the Santuario; if I'm taking visitors from out-of-town in other words. It IS a nice old building; feels great inside; I personally dislike the patio area everyone else seems to love.


Bob Sherwood

____________

“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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IMOP "Southwest" cuisine involves a sort of fusion --Mexican, Tex-Mex, California (a touch of Pacific Rim, American (meatloaf/burgers, game etc).

I'm sure someone else here will have a better handle on this.

I also believe that the best expression of Southwest cuisine was found at a long defunct New York restaurant--"Arizona 206"

forgive an old new mexican for getting snarky, but what in the world could you possibly be thinking about? for any kind of fusion cuisine to work, it must be based in the regional flavors of the area. Mexican, Tex-Mex, California, Pacific Rim ... none of those things have anything at all to do with New Mexican food. Granted, New Mexican food may be more interesting if it did (as the only restaurant critic in the state for four years, i did get tired of my only dining options being what filling for my enchilada and which sauce, red or green).

as much as i respect mark miller as a cook, when he opened coyote and started the whole "southwestern fusion" thing in santa fe, it was purely a restaurateur's fantasy ... shrimp, tomatillos, chipotle peppers, cilantro ... none of those things had anything to do with new mexican food (well, dried shrimp are sometimes pounded and used in a kind of lenten beignet).

(actually, mark started doing the research for coyote when I was still in new mexico and his original intent was to base it on new mexican cuisine. i helped him pull together some of the historical research on what had been served in new mexico, back to pre-territorial times, but in the end he decided there weren't enough ingredients of interest ... probably a wise move commercially.)

If you complain that wherever you go, restaurants serve the same cuisine (a complaint with which I enthusiastically agree), then you need to do a little more homework about the native cuisines of the region you're visiting (and not just the trendy chefs).

the only chef i can think of who actually got new mexican cooking right in a creative format was john sedlar, who had the lamented st. estephe in manhattan beach here in southern california. it was no accident that sedlar had long roots to new mexico (iirc, his aunt was georgia o'keefe's chauffeur). john was able to distill the flavors of new mexico to their essences and then re-present them in surprising ways while still being true to tradition. i vividly remember a posole he made that was essentially a perfectly clear consomme that tasted exactly like the best new mexican posole you've ever had, accented with only a few sprigs of tarragon, which melded so perfectly with the flavor of the hominy, it made you regret the herb was too tender to grow well in santa fe.

sorry for carrying on so long and so loud, but this is one of my pet peeves and you obviously touched the wrong nerve this morning.

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Actually your post was what I was hoping for when I said hopefully that "someone else will probably chime in with a better handle..."

I guess I was refering to "Southwest Cuisine."

vs New Mexican or a "native" cuisine.

I would say that the bowl of Green Chile "stew" with pork that I had at a small non descript place in Santa Fe (I forget the name of the place--but I remember the food

vividly) was probably closer to "authentic" New Mexican cuisine than anything I ate at the upscale spots in Santa Fe.

The discussion of what chef's do in terms of intrepretation of local cuisines is an interesting one. I think).

At some point a chef can move far enough from what would be considered a traditional cuisine into what some would label fusion or even something as close to unique as one could get.

I think we are moving into an area that warrants its own thread though.

I would say that your post made me realize that I left out what was one of the more satisfying food experiences during my trip--that bowl of green chile.

I was clearly something not found easily outside of NM--possibly one of the more authentic Mexican places here in New York--I am not sure. It has made me mre anxious to try to find that experience though.

thanks!

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thanks for taking it in that spirit john, re-reading my post, it could have come across as over-the-top. but i was raised on that food and love it dearly. it is very different from mexican food, or tex-mex, or ariz-mex or cali-mex, with its own set of ingredients and history (read traveler's accounts from the 1600s and you will recognize that bowl of green you loved).

i'm pretty spoiled as far as good eating goes, but i so much look forward to my n.m. trips and gorging for days on end on enchiladas (stacked, blue corn, cheese, either red or green depending on the season and the restaurant, and with an over-easy egg on top). there are times i'd rather have that than oysters and pearls.

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thanks for taking it in that spirit john, re-reading my post, it could have come across as over-the-top. but i was raised on that food and love it dearly. it is very different from mexican food, or tex-mex, or ariz-mex or cali-mex, with its own set of ingredients and history (read traveler's accounts from the 1600s and you will recognize that bowl of green you loved).

i'm pretty spoiled as far as good eating goes, but i so much look forward to my n.m. trips and gorging for days on end on enchiladas (stacked, blue corn, cheese, either red or green depending on the season and the restaurant, and with an over-easy egg on top). there are times i'd rather have that than oysters and pearls.

Thanks for your posts. I was eavesdropping.

I'm going to Santa Fe next week on business. Modest expense account. I'll be there for 8 days. I don't want food with a college education (modest expense account) nor do I want Italian food (I live in southern NJ).

If you were coming to Philly I tell you go ahead and eat a cheesesteak at Pat's if you must and be done with it. Then I'd tell you about Tony Luke's Roast Pork Italian...

I'd like someone to do that for me regarding Santa Fe. I'd like NM food and not any trendy (con)fusion from a superstar chef nor texmess which is everywhere.

Would someone be kind enough to share a description of their favorite local dishes with me in addition to places to get them?

I don't want a 5 star dining experience this time (which seems to be the beginning of the thread.) Just good authentic local food.


Dum vivimus, vivamus!

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easy enough: the true new mexican menu is basic in the extreme. you've got enchiladas, which can be made with yellow or blue corn, rolled or flat (blue is usually flat because of its delicate texture), filled with cheese, chicken or beef, and served with either green chile or red chile sauce. sopaipillas, which are usually served for dessert, are also served enchilada style "stuffed". burritos. tacos are almost always hard-shelled and filled with hamburger (why bother?). you can get red chile or green chile stew. sometimes you'll fine quelites, which are stewed greens, or calabacitas, which is summer squash. that's usually a very good sign of someone who is trying something other than tourist food. also desserts like natillas, which is a custard dusted with cinnamon.

the good news is that limited as it is, this is extremely delicious food and very, very affordable. figure about $10 to $12 a person with beer.

if you're going to be in santa fe, my favorite place (as i mentioned above) is la choza. but there are several other good places for this kind of food.

and if you want to step up a notch, do visit cafe pasqual, which is always very, very good if somewhat "college-educated".

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russ parsons stated:

...the only chef i can think of who actually got new mexican cooking right in a creative format was john sedlar, who had the lamented st. estephe in manhattan beach here in southern california. it was no accident that sedlar had long roots to new mexico (iirc, his aunt was georgia o'keefe's chauffeur). john was able to distill the flavors of new mexico to their essences.

This statement is so true. The rest of the Modern Southwestern Cuisine bunch: Del Grande, Miller, Fearing, Pyles, and Greer, were all California trained or influenced (Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower) and it showed. Menu item: Duck Tamales with Maple Syrup and Ancho Glaze along side Shrimp and Chorizo Bread Pudding. Please.

Interesting how tastes change and evolve. In 1990, when the Southwestern Cuisine was in full bloom the restaurant guide Gayot had Coyote Cafe rated as one of the Best 40 Restaurants in the USA, now the guide has the Cafe rated 10/20, as mediocre.

There are many places in the Santa Fe area that do enchiladas and chiles very well, but the best of today's Southwestern cuisine has been re-simplified and narrowed back to that which Sedlar cooked...


Edited by BigboyDan (log)

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I have family in New Mexico, spent every summer there as a child, and I LOVE the food. You aren't really going to find "authentic" New Mexican food in the upscale places. That is going to be "Southwestern Cuisine." There is a huge difference, although they both have their merits.

For really New Mexican food in Santa Fe, the restaurant of the La Fonda Hotel, right on the square is about as authentic as you'll get and it's an upscale, very lovely, environment. The best thing is the green chile enchiladas. Stacked. When they ask if you want an egg on top, the answer is "yes."


-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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I like the restaurant in La Fonda also, especially for lunch when the light is streaming in. I agree that you shouldn't miss La Choza and Cafe Pasqual.

Green chile enchiladas and a bowl of green chile are musts as mentioned. Posole is also very traditional, athough not served at as many places. The posole can be "red" or "green" and will often have pork in it. Carne Adovada or Adobada is cubed pork slowly roasted in red chile sauce. Excellent as a stew or as part of an enchilada. The fried egg option for enchiladas is not always mentioned on the menu but is, as mentioned by others, a great addition. Bizcochitos are an old traditional New Mexican cookie flavored with anise and topped with cinnamon sugar. I like the New Mexican version of natillas and order whenever I get a chance. Unstuffed sopaipillas will usually be served with honey. Try to eat them soon after they come fresh to your table.

There are often food vendors on the Plaza. It's a little early, but a tasty snack is roasted corn on the cob served with condiments like red chile and lime.

As mentioned on a few other threads, Tomasita's is another pretty good place for New Mexican food and Tia Sophia's has nice hearty New Mexican style breakfasts. A classic breakfast burrito may be filled with bacon, potatoes and egg and smothered in either green or red chile.

Green chile cheeseburgers while not "classic" old New Mexican food are definately classic newer New Mexican food. I usually get them in ABQ but there are two places I've heard mentioned several times up in Santa Fe. Maybe someone will have a comment on either of them:

Horseman's Haven and Bert's Burger Bowl.

It's easier to bring dried ground red chile home if you find yourself enjoying it. The green chile is more difficult to transport as it will be sold roasted and frozen this time of year. (You can get it fresh roasted in the autumn but it needs to refrigerated also.)

I had never heard of the quelites before. I found this little blurb online:

click

New Mexicans also eat quelites or wild greens during Lent and traditionally cook them with dried red chile and beans.

"Traditionally, these were gathered from roadsides or canal banks, and they're actually pigweed or lamb's-quarters. Like other greens, quelites are very high in folic acid and fiber. Nowadays, many people substitute spinach and therefore we can enjoy quelites all year round."

If you need a bite to eat in Albuquerque on your way in or out, you could also stop at El Patio near the University for great New Mexican food.


Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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if you're going to be in santa fe, my favorite place (as i mentioned above) is la choza. but there are several other good places for this kind of food.

and if you want to step up a notch, do visit cafe pasqual, which is always very, very good if somewhat "college-educated".

I second these. I lived about fifteen steps from La Choza for a couple of years and didn't eat there until just before my lease ended. A tidal wave of regret washed over me and I started eating there regularly after I moved a couple of miles away.

I love Cafe Pasqual, but only in the early mornings. Their sausage and chorizo is made on the premises and the chorizo burrito is great. If it's past 9 and the rush has begun to sweep in, I go to The Pantry for a consolation breakfast of their signature Buenos Dias.

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Question for Russ Parsons:

You mention John Sedlar and his restaurant in Manhattan Beach, St. Estephe. I loved it, too, and thought it, then, the very best in the Los Angeles area...

His partner in that place was (I believe) Estevan Garcia; another New Mexico native who now owns Cafe San Estevan in the Guadalupe district. While he does offer higher-end menu choices than those that are the gist of the conversation here now, he does always have some New Mexican dishes too.

In all of the discusions of the Geronimo/Ristra/SantaCafe/Compound type restaurants that usually begin with some sort of question about "the best meal/experience - cost is no object - in town, Cafe San Estevan often gets overlooked.

Curious what you think of the place (I like it though I'd never say it is the "best in town"). Also wondering if you'd shed some light on the dynamics of St. Estephe back then... where/who was the genius ? Or, were they both ? And, finally, what's Sedlar doing now ? I remember a book and the beginnings of a sort-of-fast-food concept in the food court of Century City; long gone now, I think.

If you'd rather not answer publically, of course, I undertand.


Bob Sherwood

____________

“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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Graze looks like a winner but I'll be traveling and pretty casual. If I stopped in for a weekday lunch in shorts or jeans (and a top as well, of course :rolleyes:) would I be ok?

Any particular favorites from those who've dined there? Anything to avoid?

TIA.


Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Question for Russ Parsons:

....

i have only eaten at cafe san estevan once and had a very good meal there. it was several years ago. i really liked the new mexican stuff i had. kind of reminded me of a sadly departed sf restaurant called rincon del oso, if i recall correctly. new mexican food, but with the slightest bit of polish.

i run into john sedlar every once in a while. he is running a business making a gourmet line of tamales that is available in high end stores here (and maybe elsewhere) and is involved in a long long long-running project to open a tamale museum dedicated to the foods of the sw.

and dear ludja, boy is my face red. how could i have forgotten posole? every year at christmas i make a huge batch of it to serve at an open house! and carne adovada... the real stuff is absolutely amazing. i used to live in the rio grande valley in abq and there was a little mom and pop grocery store around the corner that sold marinated pork ready to be made into carne adovada. 1,000 pardons for forgetting those two favorite dishes.

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