Santa Fe Food Spotlight: Mole!

Santa Fe Food Spotlight: Mole!

Holy mole! Santa Fe is a foodie paradise—and, no visit is complete without sampling the best mole Santa Fe has to offer.

Sazon, just a few blocks from the Santa Fe Plaza, puts a spotlight on mole. Since 1991, Chef Fernando Olea, a native of Mexico City, has been preparing a variety of signature moles in his Santa Fe restaurant.

Ranging from spicy to sweet, Sazon features a selection of moles made fresh each day, including Mole Negro, Mole Poblano, Coloradito, and New Mexico Mole, which Chef Olea created in 2009, to commemorate Santa Fe’s 400-year anniversary.

A sauce of complex flavors that combines toasted and ground spices, seeds, nuts, chocolate, and chile, mole recipes can include more than 30 ingredients. Every great Mexican cook has their own unique recipe, but mole remains a Mexican cuisine mystery because its exact origins are unknown.

Sazon serves its moles with locally sourced meats and produce, and fish flown in daily. The rest of the menu is full of authentic Mexican fare and a variety of decadent desserts. There is also an extensive wine, tequila, and mezcal list, along with specialty cocktails, some named after famous Mexican artists, like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

With its inventive menu, first-class service, and rich Southwestern décor, Sazon is a destination in itself. You’ll receive a warm welcome and feel like you’re visiting a lifelong friend, as Chef Olea often greets each diner.

The ambience of the restaurant draws you in, with works by some of New Mexico’s finest artists decorating the space. The main dining room features a large mural illustrating all of the ingredients found in mole that was painted and presented to Chef Olea by Federico Leon De La Vega, a well-known artist from Mexico City.

For a taste of authentic mole in a relaxing artistic location, Sazon is a must-visit dining spot when you visit Santa Fe.

And if you don’t feel like venturing out for a meal, our own Agoyo Lounge also has a signature mole dish – our Chicken Mole Tostadas. Enjoy an evening in savoring something from our cantina menu, which offers a wide variety of international tastes and flavors, from mole dishes to our famous Cowboy Hash, Salmon Chipotle Tacos, and even Moroccan Sliders.

Staying in town? See if your favorite spot is available 

A Tale of Two Spanish Cities at Spring

I know both Santa Fe and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico very well. Right now spring is arriving in these mountain valley towns. Here, the beauty is so remarkable that, if you were an artist, you would be helplessly drawn to these magnetic norths of human creativity. But today I want to focus on the incredibly beautiful palate of blooming trees and flowers particular to each town. It is amazing how many species were brought to the New World from all parts of the globe, an area where trade was so driven by the markets in Europe that from there, Spain initially was the country that first brought fruits, nuts, and vegetables from most of the world. In fact, trade of any sort with any of the Americas was nonexistent until the 18th century.

At this moment the view from my terrace of San Miguel is covered in the purple blue flowers of the jacaranda tree. This tree can grow to 50 feet and fills out as majestically as any oak I have ever seen. Each year at this time, they burst into an almost indescribably unique purple-blue flower. Not periwinkle blue, not navy, not sky blue. Jacaranda—indescribable. The Spanish brought so many things to the New World: horses, grains (like wheat, oats, and rice), and citrus (from Australia, Southeast Asia, and India). It’s hard to imagine Florida, Southern California, south Texas, and Mexico without lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits. All of this and so much more came here through the ports of Spain, in the days when New Spain held control of access to all of Latin America. But of all the treasures that came to San Miguel, the jacaranda in April is the most amazing.

In Santa Fe, European hybrid grapes for wines and brandy were brought by the monks and settlers, bulb plants of all kinds, lilacs from the Balkans, apricots from Armenia. While no single plant in Santa Fe so completely dominates the skyline (as the jacarandas do for over a month here in San Miguel), spring up north brings a veritable explosion of blossoms of every hue and every variety: lilacs, roses, wisteria, and the same for fruit trees—apricots, apples, pears, plums, and cherries.

How has Santa Fe come to possess such a wide variety of so many plants!?

It was due to an educated and brilliant French bishop named Jean-Baptiste Lamy. This Roman Catholic prelate is credited with giving Santa Fe its unique spring and summer beauty. It is an interesting story, the arrival of Bishop Lamy. After reports reached Europe that self-flagellating extremists from the Catholic Church were moving to the mountain villages of Northern New Mexico, far away from the missions, and practicing an embarrassing, pagan, ritualistic form of Catholicism, the Pope dispatched Lamy and a legion of nuns to re-Catholicize, reform, and educate the people of the Northern Provence capital of New Spain: Santa Fe. With him came huge quantities of dry-rooted plants, bushes, vines, and trees. He knew that beauty and a real feeling for the earth might serve as a small enticement for bringing the scattered flock home to existing towns such as Santa Fe.

So when you arrive at the Inn on the Alameda and have settled in, you will immediately be struck by our landscaping and its wonderful impact on the setting and property. The outdoor patio of the Agoyo Lounge is covered with hanging wisteria, bright ornamental crabapple (accented by blue bee bushes), and colorful ivies and aspens. Come on in, sit down and enjoy the menu, staff, service, and great quality of the food.

Joe and Mike’s Blog: Onward Spirit Soldiers

Pilgrimages are as old as most religions, tied together by and sharing a similar goal and a path to follow to get there.

 

And as defined, somewhat, by Eleanor Munro in her book On Glory Roads: A Pilgrim’s Book About Pilgrimage, there are often several processes involved. The most poignant one being that pilgrimage is linked to our need to orient ourselves in the universe, a way to fix ourselves to the motions of the heavens. We find ourselves a polestar and we get ourselves to it. If not at least once then regularly. Why? Because this particular type of ritual connects us to the cosmic order, which in turn connects us to ourselves and each other.

 

Most religions have recognized the value of this type of physical experience, the way it creates a sense of shared journey with others of like beliefs. But one need not be of any particular religion to go on a pilgrimage or find value in going on one. There are probably just as many secular pilgrims as religious pilgrims.

 

But the paths they walk—or the reasons for walking these paths—often are the same: they are physical manifestations of a spiritual commitment each pilgrim feels is needed to enhance his or her life.

 

Certainly, pilgrimages go back centuries—to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, to Lourdes in France, and the Santiago de Compostela in Spain (which is 1,000 miles long and takes over two months!). Even hikers along the Appalachian Trail, or the path taken by Cheryl Strayed up the Pacific Crest Trail for her memoir, Wild, haven’t been out there merely to enjoy nature and be outdoors. They’re there to get at something deeper, or higher.

 

These are all routes people—pilgrims—have taken for centuries, sometimes millennia. And along the way, villages arose, often spaced a day’s walk apart and founded to feed, house, and encourage travelers—and sell them mementos and religious artifacts as signs of their accomplishment or objects of inspiration, items such as shells from the ocean at Santiago, or small handmade crosses and figurines of Jesus or the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico.

 

New Mexico has its own famed pilgrimage: Santuario de Chimayo. Leading up to Easter weekend, you’ll see people walking from as far away as Albuquerque, Raton, Taos, or Socorro. Some alone, some in groups, usually along the highways and county roads, young, old, too young, too old. People who look like they’ve never walked further than their driveway. All sharing a common goal: to make it to a remote church built by Catholic friars hundreds of years ago in the tiny town of Chimayo, 28 miles north of Santa Fe.

 

At this location, the Santuario de Chimayo, there was a mysterious spot that the Native Americans long ago recognized as having special healing powers. Mysteriously, fine sand endlessly appeared in a hole in the earth. Sand that seemed to replenish itself. The Spanish interpreted this as a sign from God and associated it with His power to cure illness through faith. As often was the case, the Spanish, like so many conquerors, then built their church directly on top of the indigenous peoples’ shrines.

 

For whatever reason, though, the Spaniards did not entirely eliminate the physical or spiritual presence of the Natives’ sacred spot. (They did, however, name the spot out of which the “tierra bendita,” the “good earth” came from: El Pocito—the Little Well.)

 

Instead, the Native Americans’ healing place not only survived but transcended its transformation into a Catholic church. And not unlike the Native Americans who’d been there before them, the peoples of Northern New Mexico found themselves drawn to the Santuario’s mysterious healing powers.

 

Today, signs of the Santuario’s healing powers are everywhere: the walls and ceilings are adorned with discarded crutches and canes, braces for arms, legs, necks, and backs, and even collapsed wheelchairs! And both inside the church and outside, in the porticos ringing the church, are hundreds of photos, most of family members standing next to or hugging their loved ones who’ve been cured by their faith in the holy sand.

 

While not for the fainthearted, today’s Chimayo pilgrimage offers a sense of rebirth and health for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, providing spiritual and communal bonding for all its participants.

 

Upon returning to Santa Fe, pilgrims in want of more earthly spirits are always welcome here at the Inn on the Alameda. The Agoyo Lounge, in particular, offers sojourners and guests alike a seasonally changing menu of regional foods, cocktails, and wines. Our staff is always ready to share their evenings with you in our small, intimate Inn. And though we may not be the Santuario de Chimayo, we consider many of our guests as pilgrims—many of whom come back to the Inn on the Alameda more than once, often in search of our humble hospitality, a place where they can orient themselves in Santa Fe if not the universe.

How Time Slips Away in Santa Fe

The Inn on the Alameda stands poised to begin its 30th year of business in Santa Fe. During that time I have gone from my latter 30’s to my latter 60’s, and my son Michael has grown from 2 to 31. What fortunate blessings have been bestowed upon us and our property. What began as a 36 room limited service property has now doubled in size, abandoned its little portable lobby bar, enclosed the outdoor patio and risen in national stature and recognition. The Agoyo Lounge is now where that patio was, and a new and improved bar will be installed this coming early spring.

Agoyo is a Tewa Pueblo word for star or under the stars which was used by an early Pueblo employee for the patio’s nickname before it was enclosed. Then the night skies were darker since Santa Fe was much smaller and the stars more brilliant than even today, which is hard to imagine. We enclosed the patio because we had completely underestimated the seating capacity at breakfast on inclement rainy or snowing days, when few guests wished to enjoy the town until the early chill had gone. Cramming 72 guests in the small lobby was an impossibility and we always relied on the outdoor patio. Our front Sun Room was leased to the Galisteo News, a very cool espresso/coffee/ croissant precursor to Starbucks, so unlike now, it was unavailable for guests’ breakfast.

Agoyo LoungeThose were very exciting days for many reasons, but the best being was being named by USA today in 1986, our first year, as one of the top 10 romantic destinations in the country. With the brilliant guidance of Alice Marshall, our New York City based publicist, we began garnishing top 100, 200 and 500 hotels awards and acclaim from Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure. Along side our staff and location Alice stands as the 3rd leg of the stool for our amazing climb to even international recognition. Our breakfast room proudly displays the most astounding and notable covers of these two magazines.

As our 3rd decade ends, it is hard not to feel nostalgic looking back at all the wonderful people that have shaped the Inn. Kathy Lynch, our night auditor, has been here since we opened, and many of our people have stayed for more than 20 years. This has allowed a familiarity, warmth and even friendships to grow during this time. As we regularly see in write-ups of guests’ experiences that it is “like coming home”. So at this holiday season, a time of family gatherings, we welcome all of our guests to enjoy a hot drink in the Agoyo Lounge, bundle up, and stand under the brilliant night skies and thank the powers that be for all there is that is still good in the world.

Day of the Dead = Dia de los Muertos

This fascinating two-day celebration at the first of November is not only the oldest American ritual honoring the dead, but the most popular holiday in all of Mexico. The native peoples that inhabited Mexico before the Spanish conquest in 1521 had a deep connection with death and dying. While modern western medicine cannot explain what happens after death occurs, neither could the old healers tell anyone what truly lies beyond the veil of life. So when Catholicism became the religion forced upon the Indigenous People, the Church already had two special days of recognizing and remembering the dead: All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

 

The appealing concept and imagery of this special day remembering the dead helped the merging of the Catholics’ and the Indigenous Peoples’ histories and beliefs.  Dia de los Muertos formed a perfect common and similar union between Catholicism and Mexican traditional days of celebration. Ironically, this is a day for the dead with little focus on the Church, Jesus Christ, nor the trilogy. Instead, candied skeletons, skulls, marigold flowers and photographs of the deceased family members adorn the beautiful and personalized shrines and altars throughout Mexico.  It is an invitation from the living to the dead to come and share a meal. Often on display can be found tequila, beers, cigarettes, tacos, mole: whatever each individual dead honoree enjoyed the most.

 

It is widely believed that the American tradition of Halloween stems from the blending of these two traditional celebrations of the dead’s lives. However, as one might expect from a culture of consumerism, Americans buy our children costumes of spooks, ghosts and skeletons and hustle them off to scare people and ask for candy. One can certainly see the American propensity to commercialize what was at one time a day to honor and remember your people now passed over. On the Day of the Dead, one sees all over Mexico activities such as building altars and shrines, cleaning and decorating graves, listening to strolling musicians, telling funny stories about each deceased relative, now again living for two precious days a year in the cemeteries through the energy, respect and honor of their families. The energy is always joyous, never gloomy. It is ironically a celebration of Life, this Day of the Dead!

Agoyo Lounge Guacamole

 

Modern American culture has morphed this wonderful celebration of life into children screaming “Boo!” as if the dead came back on All Saints Day to scare people. Give me candy or we will “trick” you somehow in revenge. The real trick would be to somehow culturally re-connect Halloween with the wonderful aspects of the Day of the Dead.

So this Halloween, or the Day of the Dead, please stop by the Agoyo Lounge at the Inn on the Alameda in Santa Fe for a celebratory meal and drink and toast your past family members; and through your memories, celebrate their lives on earth.

History of Los Alamos: Cliff Dwellings to the Atomic Bomb

Anasazi Cliff Dwellings in Banadalier National Monument, Los Alamos, NM

Anasazi Cliff Dwellings in Banadalier National Monument

Just 45 minutes away from the Inn on the Alameda is the birthplace of the atomic bomb. Located high on the Pajarito Plateau, Los Alamos is a secluded mountain town named after the Spanish word for cottonwood trees. But before the Spanish, the Pueblo Indians, and the Atomic Bomb made their mark, the area was inhabited by Anasazi Indians, a.k.a. “the ancient ones.” The Anasazi occupied the area in 1300 AD, but their restored cliff dwellings can still be seen from Bandalier National Monument.

Los Alamos’ transformation from ranch town to scientific hot spot began in 1917 with the creation of the Los Alamos Ranch School. The school was founded by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous Rough Riders, the volunteer cavalry who participated in the Cuban Invasion of the Spanish-American war. Nestled in the heart of the Jemez Mountains, the school was built to “toughen up” Easy Coast boys by exposing them to a vigorous, outdoor life-style.

22 years later, during the beginning of World War II, Albert Einstein learned of Germany’s efforts to build an atomic bomb. Encouraged by his fellow scientists, Einstein informed President Roosevelt of Germany’s intentions, and the Manhattan Project was born. With assistance from Britain and Canada, the US Department of War began work in various areas throughout the country, but when it came time to bring the research together, secrecy was of the utmost importance. As a boy, Robert Oppenheimer, the eventual director of the Manhattan Project, spent time in a family cabin on the Pajarito Plateau. Years later, Oppenheimer suggested Los Alamos for the creation of the atomic bomb, and in 1942, the US government purchased the Los Alamos Ranch School.

Jemez Mountain Wilderness near Los Alamos

Jemez Mountains Wilderness

In 1943, scientists, families, and military personnel descended upon Los Alamos (a.k.a. “The Hill”) under the control of General Leslie Groves. While the scientists and their families originally occupied the school’s dormitories, they eventually moved into new army barracks. It’s said that when you arrived, you were told was where to hang up your coat and the time of the next meeting. The area shocked many wives and mothers who moved from university communities to a top-secret location in the Jemez Mountains complete with dirt streets. After arriving in Santa Fe, families were told to stop at a small office on Palace Avenue, whose only address was P.O. Box 1663. At the time, all Los Alamos mail was delivered to that address. The address was even listed as the birthplace of all Los Alamos children born during the War.

Los Alamos proved to be well suited for the construction of the first atomic bomb, or the “the gadget” to use its code name. It’s said that the secret of the Manhattan Project was so well kept that Harry Truman didn’t know about it when became President. Russian spies, however, were able to learn the secrets of the Manhattan Project. In 1955, the Rosenburgs were executed for passing atomic secrets to Russian agents. The Rosenburgs delivered their information underneath the bridge at Alameda and Delgado, 100 yards away from the Inn on the Alameda. Ironically, the US government mistakenly spent significant resources to prove that Oppenheimer was the spy.

Atomic Bomb Museum, Los Alamos, NM

General Leslie Groves & Robert Oppenheimer

On July 16th, 1945, the gadget was successfully tested at the Trinity Site near Alamogordo, NM. The explosion occurred in the early morning, and its light could be seen across many parts of the state. Awed at the results of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Vida. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.“ Shortly thereafter, the US dropped its remaining atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th. Japan surrendered almost immediately thereafter. Los Alamos and its fascinating history was the beginning of our WWII victory in the Pacific as well as the subsequent arms race between the US and Russia.

To see all that Los Alamos has to offer, start your day trip after breakfast. After your midmorning arrival, we recommend a tour of Bandelier National Monument and the Anasazi Cliff Dwellings. Then after lunch, visit the Bradbury Museum of Science and the History Museum in Los Alamos. If you’re new to northern New Mexico, Los Alamos offers you a look at prehistoric dwellings as well as the birthplace of the atomic age.

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