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Santa Fe, NM


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A few notes from this lovely city:

Santa Fe Bite, a rather sterile looking diner in a mid-range hotel lobby, delivered the best green chile sauce ever. I had it on chicken enchiladas, friend had it on a breakfast burger served on a cheddar biscuit. OMG. Spicy, smoky, very slow-cooked flavor. On Alameda, a few short blocks from the historic square.

Maria's is hidden in strip mall hell off of Cerritos Rd, about 1.5 miles from the historic square. It's not a bad walk if you start at the railyard area (weekend farmers' and crafts markets are a pleasant diversion), which transitions to a greenspace that is pedestrial friendly much of the way. However, on foot you have to cross a very busy intersection, which I would not attempt after dark. The restaurant looks ancient, and it seems the more modern chain stuff just grew up around it. You can see the ladies making tortillas from one of the dining rooms. The building is adobe and beams and wide plank floors. It's worn but extremely clean.
I had the New Mexican specialty of blue corn tortillas stacked with ground beef, Christmas style. The red chile sauce was so delicious. It will spoil me for all the versions, especially in the mid-west, that call a tomato-based sauce "red chile sauce." It was pure roasted chile, plus garlic and onion maybe...the server said it was vegetarian, so no meat stock. Friend had huevos rancheros that disappeared in record speed. Maria's serves chips with a good, slow-burn salsa, and then brings hot sopapillas with lunch. It's a lot of very good food at reasonable prices.

The Pink adobe has a lively bar that delivers a respectable green chile stew, perfect on a cold night after sightseeing. It's cheap for a huge serving, full of tender pork and potatoes.

The italian cafe right across from the Inn at Loretto, Mangiamo Pronto, is pleasant for a cappucino or glass of wine in a sweet brick patio. Terrible bagels, though!

Kaune Food Town on Old Santa Fe Rd at Alameda, about 10 minute to walk from the historic square, is a convenient, expensive stop for in-room or picnic provisions. It's got a decent wine selection, fresh produce, a deli, and some gourmet groceries. It's hard to find a convenience store in the historic center of town, so if you want fruit or other snacks this is a good option. They also sell hard liquor.

Will report back in after our remaining 2 days here.

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The communal table at Cafe Pasqual.  Four visits with the last two years ago.  As much about the experience of sharing and who you will meet as the exemplery food.  From their website:

"Café Pasqual's received the James Beard Foundation award for America's Regional Classics Award. Chef Kagel has also been nominated by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef: Southwest."  I've also made a half dozen recipes out of one of her cookbooks.  Interesting to taste them there and compare with what can be done at home.

FWIW I still wear both of the T shirts that I bought there.

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Some more:

It's been too cold to try to food trucks. Even with the glorious New Mexico sun the wind has been fierce...next visit! We've done Pasquals, and loved it.

The Shed: We rushed in just after opening to snag two seats at the tiny bar for lunch and were immediately surrounded by locals who ordered food without looking at menus, and who each asked for some custom creation that didn't faze the server or, apparently, the kitchen. We had lovely salads (a rare find in this city!) and the famous green chile stew. The heat level is serious. I loved it my my nose was running. Deserves all the accolades. The rest of the food we saw coming looked and smelled delicious. By the time we left, the place was mobbed and people were packed into a small lobby waiting. Easy to see why this place is popular. Would like to return during warmer weather to eat this lovely food on the shady patio.

Tomasitas: a giant factory of a place at the Railyards, with very decent New Mexican dishes and hot sopapillas for all. I liked it more than I though I would, given its size and newish, corporate feel. Good place for large groups. It, too, was slammed we we finished our early dinner on a Monday evening.

The French pastry shop in the lobby of the venerable La Fonda hotel is nice for coffee and crepes or sandwiches. Cash only.

Terra Cotta Bistro: we stopped in for wine and were entertained by a sassy staff of women who clearly loved what they were doing. A longish wine list, some interesting options but lots of grocery store stuff, too. Food we saw looked great, but we had just eaten. I would definitely try dinner or lunch if I was in the mood for non-New Mexican options. Near the Georgia O'Keeffe museum.

Rio Chama on Old Santa Fe Trail has a lovely fireplace with comfy sofas in the bar area if you need to warm up with a cocktail, as we did.

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Wow, long time no posts, well I will add some flavor, I will do a second report later with more places:

Santa Fe

Blue Corn Cafe: This place is casual, but the food is good.  I think they put a tiny more care in their ingredients than some other places.  I got a shrimp tostadas that were really nicely spiced and flavored.  Other had tacos that were good- not per se super special, but very good, Hubby said the homemade tortillas were quite good.  We also liked their beer- Hubby had an amber and one other, I had their sour, and a apricot wheat.  I enjoyed both.  They also made a good margarita.  This is a good stop right in the center of town for a meal that isn't super high end, family friendly, not as hard as some other places to get in, good for big groups, slightly lower on the budget side. I can't remember what everyone had- a few salads, green chile stew I think, generally people liked their meal.

Geronimo: This is up on Canyon Road and more fancy, very clean interior with lots of curtains.  I had a beet salad to start that was very good, the beets were excellent.  But Hubby's tuna appetizer was definitely the winner with these really good little Buttermilk scallion pancakes, and two type of tuna and multiple sauces.  For entrees, he had the elk and was a little disappointed as he felt the preparation had really taken out the gamey flavor of the elk and it tasted like steak.  I had the prawns with rice cakes- and those were really good, but the entree was a big portion, it could have been smaller, I couldn't finish it.  They were large prawns with a sweet and spicy sauce that was a nice balance of flavors.  The prawns were maybe a touch over done, but still very good.  The rice cakes were crispy on the outside, the rice was pretty much perfect to me, not too wet, not too dry, nice crisp and texture to hold up on the dish. We didn't have room for dessert.  I think everyone liked this restaurant, but I don't think anyone would peg it as their favorite.

La Fonda French Cafe: I forget the name of the french cafe in La Fonda, but they have large pieces of quiche that are great to take to go- I had green chile mushroom.  They also have pastries, coffee, crepes, etc.  I wouldn't really recommend this place, but if you are staying at La Fonda and need a take away option and can't run down to Cafe Pasqual's for a to-go breakfast burrito, this will do.

Eloise: This was maybe the most ambitious menu for the family trip. It is very modern inside.  The main complaint with the starters, is despite having small plates they weren't very sharable, and some were more entree in nature- I think smaller, lower price would be better, but that is just me.  I had the Zuni Tamal- which was a tamal with smoked trout mousse and horseradish crema.  This was interesting.  It tasted good, and was a nice soft but firm texture. But there are better tamale fillings in the world. I think Hubby had a calamari special, with peppers that was good and nice to share.  I think most of the family had one of the safest items- burrata salad.  For an entree I had the lamb chops, they had a lot of good entrees- the seafood stew, duck confit tacos, chile braised brisket, etc. The lamb chops were nicely frenched and delicious, I like the side accompaniments of squash.  The chile stuffed with black beans and crema was interesting, it didn't need the dairy. Hubby had the brisket which was very tender, but still had some texture. The entrees here were delicious, I just didn't think the first of the menu really went with the second half.

Tia Sophia's: As a note they are first come, first serve, which is nice for breakfast, but also hard for a large group, if you don't get in fairly early. This was diner breakfast.  Not bad, not overly good, just as you would expect from a diner.  Fast and friendly.  I had the breakfast burrito vegetarian smothered in Christmas. It was huge, and hit the spot before a long day of hiking. They also have things that don't have chiles if you are sick of that. 

Cafe Pasqual's: This was by far and away my favorite spot of the whole trip- I would have liked to have gone twice.  I had chorizo red chile mole polenta with poached eggs- which was just delicious. We also got the cheese blintzes, which were worth every calorie, but could have had less sour cream on top.  Hubby got a really delicious omelet with sundried tomatoes and I forget what else, I think pesto, it was delicious.  And the homemade wheat toast, which seemed to have a little cinnamon sugar on it that came with his meal was a really good bread, I might try to make something similar at home. The blackberry jam with his toast was also great.  I am glad the portions here were big so I could steal some bites of his food.  This should be on your definitely go list.  It is a pretty small place, and gets busy, but the line moves fast and if you go first thing it is easier to get in.  We couldn't get in with the whole party, so we went on a day that we only had part of the group, as they only have one big table.  Go here. 

The Shed: Old Historic little place right in the center of town that is buzzing.  Good margarita.  The food is pretty normal for the menus around town- tacos, enchilladas, etc.  There are some sandwiches and not chile items. I had a tamal and the Caesar salad.  The dressing on the salad was super addictive, I think it was very lemony in a good way. The veggie tamal was good, but again re-assuring that I make a pretty darn good tamales myself. SIL had a salad with house dressing and we were both going on and on about the dressings.  They serve the meals with texas toast style garlic bread that was good for soping up salad dressing.  Hubby had tacos that again looked really good.


The Abiquiu Inn is supposed to be good; however, if you want to do a quick stop or picnic, Bode's General Store has burritos that despite being in the pre-made hot case, are great- better than Chipotle any day IMHO, tamales, nachos, hamburgers, and a large variety of sandwiches.  They also have a large selection of snack and drinks.  They have salamis and cheese- items that could be vegan, vegetarian.  This is a great picnic lunch stop in this area. 

General Notes:

We REALLY enjoyed the home and studio tour of Georgia O'Keefe, in Abiquiu, I would highly recommend that, the tours can fill up in advance due to the small numbers, so reserve in advance.  Also note, that it may be cheaper to become a member (and then your whole group gets the discounted rate and this also gets you into the museum), so potentially explore this option, especially if you are in a group of more than two.  And if you are going to do it, I would do it before the Museum in Santa Fe.  Going to Ghost Ranch was a bit of a let down.  It was really small and not what I thought it would be.  It was worth seeing some of the landscape perspectives that O'Keefe painted, but think of this more as a good place for a quick stop if you want to stop. 

I also loved Bandelier National Monument.  The main hike is really very easy- the path is well maintained and the whole trail back along the creek is very flat. The only difficult thing is climbing to Alcove House, which is only difficult if you are afraid of heights.  Again, well worth it. I had never been to cliff dwellings, these had some you could go in and it was a lot of fun.  I wish we could have fit Tent Rocks in, but it was a family vacation, with different interests to meet.

La Fonda in Santa Fe is really a nice hotels, the rooms were very spacious.  Cleaning staff could have been better, but it wasn't bad, just not the level of service I expect from that sort of hotel (for instance they didn't take away Hubby's old breakfast, we had to sit in the hall, one day they just stacked new towels in the bathroom without putting them away, they would roll the carts down our hall super early in the morning and be quite loud (6:30 am)).  The pool and hot tub were nice, the rooftop bar closes WAY to early.  The restaurant in the hotel smelled delicious and opens quite early which is nice if you want to get out of town to hike/explore. We had a seating area and desk which was nice if one of us woke up and needed to work. Everything in town was only a couple blocks away which was just great.  I didn't know the history of the Harvey hotels or Harvey girls, but that was fun to learn.  Conceirge was helpful. 

The Georgia O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe is quite small, worth a gander.  The Native American Museum of Modern Art was also small, but had a nice collection and was something to-do on the day it was supposed to rain.  We also did the New Mexico Museum of History which I thought was very well done for a small museum. 

Canyon Road was quite fun if you like art, we went up on one of the Friday nights that some galleries are open later with wine and etc. 

The Road Runner between Santa Fe and Albaquerque is a very affordable option, and good for groups, it doesn't run all day, but does have a fair amount of times, but you can get an Uber between the two places for about $92 if you need a quicker option and don't want to rent a car.  You don't need to reserve the Uber in advance, it is a pretty frequent route. 

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To finish up:

Coyote Cafe: This was a nice somewhat fancy dinner. The restaurant is really modern- we didn't have a chance to drink at the cantina.  But those who got a margarita were very impressed with the egg white salt foam on the top.  The rolled Caesar salad looked really cool from across the table.  They also had some non-green chile type dishes with homemade pasta and seafood that looked delicious. For dinner, I wasn't up for a starter, so I got an elk tenderloin with potatoes, morels and peas (it was much fancier than it sounds) and it was really delicious after all the enchiladas and etc. The duck leg confit looked great, I didn't have a bite.  I did have a bite of the huge tomahawk pork chop Hubby got which was also very good.  We split a dessert at the table of the caramel bread pudding tamal.  It really wasn't a tamal, but was a really delicious bread pudding.

El Farol: We had dinner here so we could see the Flamenco show.  Again, a nice break for the fam from New Mexican food, which I don't think they appreciate quite as much as me.  We ordered about every tapa on the menu, and there was nothing bad, nothing that stood out as exceptional for which we were fighting for the last bite either.  We did finish the garlic shrimp before anything else. The Flamenco was actually really good, and our parents really enjoyed the show, so that was great. We had drinks here another night on the big patio in the back. This seems like more a touristy place to go, or somewhere to eat if you are sick of tacos.  But it was fun!

Plaza Cafe: Hubby and I had lunch at the Plaza Cafe, he got stuffed sopapillas, I got the fry bread taco with squash. My fry bread was ridiculously large.  I am glad I got the vegetarian filling, it was very tasty and made me feel better about the overwhelming amount of chili, cheese and sour cream.  It was really good though.  I didn't have a bite of Hubby's as ours were pretty similar in concept but his was stuffed inside instead of on top.  We also had the trio of salsas, which were really good.  The smokey red chile salsa was quite good. 

We had drinks at: The Crow Bar (not quite a dive bar, but kind of feels like it), Blue Corn Cafe, Inn of the Anasazi (it was open when other things were not). We had a wine tasting at Gruet tasting room in Santa Fe, which was fun.  I like Gruet and get it here, so we enjoyed that.

We also went on an architectural walking tour- this was fine, but going on any history/architectural tour with a Hubby who works at Mount Vernon and FIL obsessed with Thomas Jefferson is a challenge for any tour guide trying to talk about historical architecture. 

We also enjoyed Meow Wolf, well Hubby and I did.  I am not so sure other people really got it. I was so sad to miss Tent Rocks. I found the shopping in Santa Fe to be pretty expensive, although once you get outside the plaza and tourist sections it does get better. I did buy a piece of jewelry made by a local artist for my Mom, and a handmade and painted dish and bowl for myself. 

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