Santa Fe Food Carts

Santa Fe, NM, is definitely a town on the radar of foodies everywhere for fine dining and unique regional cuisine. But sometimes, a street snack is just what the tummy ordered. Given the significantly smaller size of  the City Different, it hasn’t graduated to the status of another state capitol, Austin, TX with its impressive food cart scene, but you can definitely get a good feed on the fly.

The One and Only Roque

The grand-daddy of them all – and we know for a fact that he is indeed a well-loved abuelo – has to be Roque’s Carnitas, grilling  on the Santa Fe Plaza for over twenty years. Roque Garcia and partner Mona Cavalli continue to cater to locals and visitors alike with beef and chicken carnitas packed with grilled onions, peppers and spicy secret sauce. You can get tasty tamales, pork or vegetarian green chile, and a refreshing homemade “Jamaica,” a Mexican sweet iced tea, which Roque brews himself with hibiscus flowers. A recent visit found me enjoying fresh grilled corn on the cob, one of the summery joys of street eats. Roque’s Carnitas parks on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and East San Francisco Street, Wednesday through Monday.

Roque’s Famous Carnitas

Chicken Fajita from El Molero

Yum, Yum, Grilled Corn = Summer!

A short hop to the opposite end of the Plaza, on West Santa Francisco Street and Lincoln Avenue, you’ll find the competing grill of  El Molero Fajitas, similar to the carnitas, but sluiced with sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and salsa instead of onions and peppers. Tamales are available here, too, along with fresh lemonade.  While Mona and Roque head south to their Mexican home to feed the ex-pats over the winter, the El Molero grill crew reliably toughs it out on the Plaza most of the year.

Slurp Up Some Savory Soup

Le Pod!

Buckwheat Crepe with Chicken

French food sound good? It did to me, and I could have eaten that delicious buckwheat crepe even without the juicy filling. Le Pod, another rehabilitated Airstream, is parked in the parking lot at the southwest corner of Paseo de Peralta and the Old Santa Fe Trail. A selection of hot andwiches, filled crepes, frog dogs (hot dogs with a French twist), and a daily soup selection ensure a variety of choices. And the natural Rieme sodas from France are a refreshing change of pace in a Coca-Cola society.

The Nile Cafe Cart

A Heroic Gyro

If you find yourself out of the Plaza area looking for a quick feed, head for the Nile Cafe cart @NileCafe on Rachel’s Corner at the northeast intersection of West Alameda and St. Francis Drive. I had hoped to try the waffle fries with chipotle hummus that I have heard so much about, but alas, out of waffler fries! I settled instead on a classic gyro and was duly satisfied. Juicy and thick with plenty pf sauce, this was a lunch. Gigi mentioned that she is opening up an Egyptian breakfast and lunch cafe in the spot on the Old Santa Fe Trail where the Dish and Spoon was located, and that is something worth anticipating! News is sure to follow on their Facebook page.

And if you simply want dessert and a seat on the Plaza, let your nose lead you to the sweet smell emanating from the Kernel’s Kettle Korn Kart…just be sure all your dental work is current.

Dessert, Anyone?


Santa Fe Living, Water Loving!

Earth Day 2012 found us thinking about water, especially since the Santa Fe River has a gentle flow right now, thanks to the late spring snows and subsequent melt that we have so fortunately received. The Inn has a perfect Santa Fe location right across from the river, so we are participants in the Adopt-a-River program of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, and we are especially cognizant of times when the water flows.

The Santa Fe River is Right Across the Street!

Water use in the dry Southwest is inextricably tied to the acequia (pronounced a-SAY-key-a) system, a community-operated irrigation method born in the arid regions of Spain and transported to the Spanish colonies of the new world. Generally engineered to carry snow-melt and runoff to distant fields, acequias bring communities together to preserve precious resources. The state of New Mexico, including the City Different, has a long history of water challenges, which is why the acequia system was, and still is, so critical to regional farming.

The historic Acequia Madre

The Acequia Madre, the Mother Ditch that fed the Santa Fe farmers of yesteryear, is just around the corner from the Inn on, you guessed it, Acequia Madre street. Whenever spring melts permit, the Acequia still runs through town, both above- and below-ground, down through the Railyard and all the way to the southwestern end of Santa Fe.  So far, the Mother Ditch is dry, but with the 402nd cleaning scheduled for this Sunday, April 28th, we expect to hear the acequia burbling its liquid song again soon.

Not Quite Ready to Run!

Waiting to Open!

Most of the northern NM villages have functioning acequia systems, and those who live along the ditch and hold water rights are responsible for keeping the acequia clear of debris and impediments throughout the growing season, so that each user has ample flow when it is time to water. For an in-depth historical view of functioning acequias, you can head to El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, Santa Fe’s wonderful living outdoor museum.

A functioning acequia at Las Golondrinas

You’ll notice when you arrive just how dry our high-desert air can be, so Santa Fe travelers, remember to drink water, and plenty of it! It’s the life blood of the the Southwest, and we appreciate every precious drop.

Santa Fe Independent Bookstores!

In an age where we’ve become inured to the news of one huge company swallowing up another, a streak of independence will shine brightly. While Amazon may be convenient, there is nothing quite like walking into a bookstore to hold a book and leaf through it before buying. Santa Fe has always been a book-loving town, one that appreciates and supports its independent booksellers, as well as its authors and their output. And you can hone your interests ahead of your book-buying in what we believe is the prettiest library reading room in the southwest!

The Southwest Reading Room at the Santa Fe Public Library

Need a book on the southwest or Santa Fe itself? Check! Engaged in a philosophical search for the meaning of life? Got it. Just want a quaint children’s book for a present? No problem. Santa Fe Cookbooks? Easy as pie!

Garcia Street Books, on Garcia Street, Of Course!

Not only have our independent bookstores survived the economic downturn, they have also broadened their horizons to include readings and book-signings by local and notable authors alike. Collected Works Books, right in the heart of downtown, hosts the Muse x Two Poetry Readings, particularly vibrant in April, which is National Poetry Month. Tucked away in a residential neighborhood, The Ark brings spiritually-inclined authors in person to elucidate on matters sacred and profane. Nicholas Potter Books will help you find that out-of-print Southwestern tome you’ve been seeking. Garcia Street Books is conveniently located next to one of Santa Fe’s most popular independent neighborhood coffee shops, and the adjacent Photo-Eye Gellery, has an online bookstore that features over 30,000 fine-art photography books. The Travel Bug, right next door to the Inn, puts world travel at your fingertips, with travel guides and maps galore. All of the Museum of New Mexico gift shops have a section of books that mirror the exhibitions they host. And if you have a car, and you’re simply looking for airplane fodder to get you home, Book Mountain has thousands of used paperbacks you can read and leave on the plane for the next hapless traveler.

Collected Works Books…and Coffee Too!

And, as befits such a dedicated reading town, we also have the good fortune to have the Lannan Foundation Readings and Conversations Series, which has treated the City Different to appearances by a broad spectrum of authors, from poets like W.S. Merwin to the multi-faceted film auteur, John Sayles.

John Pen LaFarge Dissects Santa Fe

If you’re a book-lover, this is definitely your kind of town to visit… after you settle in to your Santa Fe hotel for a relaxing weekend, pick out something special to read, turn left at the sleeping dog, and head to our sunny Plaza for a literary escape!

The Santa Fe Plaza, a Perfect Place to Perch

Las Posadas: A Santa Fe Holiday Tradition

The holiday tradition of Las Posadas takes place on Sunday, December 11, at 5:30pm at the Palace of the Governors

So much of the holiday season seems so familiar and so relentlessly repetitive, and once-only experiences are becoming a rarity. That’s one of the reasons that Santa Fe loves Christmas Eve and the annual farolito display, a quietly moving spectacle that those who have come to the City Different over the holidays have no doubt seen.

Farolitos Light the Way

Less well-known, however, is the unique tradition known as Las Posadas, also a one-night-only event. A re-enactment of the Holy Family’s search for lodging, this annual holiday happening takes place each year in and around the historic Santa Fe Plaza. While the Plaza hardly looks Biblical, having already been lit with holiday lights and a Christmas tree, and the staging includes some details not found in the usual account, the story nonetheless comes to life in a very local way.

The Santa Fe Plaza Dressed in Snow

Originating in Spain as a religious observation, Las Poasadas is actually a novena, a nine-day event, occurring from December 16 through December 24. Although celebrations of Las Posadas are not uncommon in Northern New Mexico towns, places deeply rooted in the Spanish Catholic tradition, the one-night Plaza re-enactment grew out of a 1970’s era neighborhood campaign against development that sparked an annual celebration, which subsequently outgrew its original San Antonio Street location and moved to the Plaza.

Costumed participants portray the mortals who, in the biblical account, refuse lodging to a humble young pregnant woman and her carpenter-fiancé. As the couple circumnavigate the Plaza from the Palace of the Governors (the oldest government building in the U.S.), seeking rest and shelter, they stop on each corner to seek lodging and comfort, finding instead denial and disappointment.

Taking Off Winter’s Chill by a Luminaria at the Palace of the Governors

The devil, who ridicules and taunts the seekers from perches on the portals on the Plaza, is in turn treated to the boos and hisses of  the assembled crowd, their faces illuminated by candle light. The supernatural power possessed by the devil purportedly allows him to magically appear at each of the Plaza locations designated as the “inns” where the couple tries to obtain a warm and dry spot in which to shelter. Four mortals portray the tormenting demon, crawling out of second-floor windows to discourage the weary travelers.

After numerous refusals stating that there was no room at “the inn,” thanks to the appearance of an angel who blesses the crowd and provides guidance, the couple and their entourage finally find respite from the chilly night in the courtyard of the Palace of the Governors for the denouement of this holiday event. Once inside the courtyard, the procession warms up with hot cider, cookies, and a round of Christmas carols.

Sound interesting? It is! Just be sure to bundle up, since the winter Santa Fe weather has definitely arrived, and it’s nothing like Bethlehem temperatures. This year, Las Posadas takes place on Sunday, December 11, 2011, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Please note that the New Mexico Museum of History will close early at 3:00 p.m. to prepare for and accommodate this holiday tradition.

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola

And if you cannot attend, you can still create a special holiday reading tradition, thanks to noted author/illustrator, Tomie dePaolo, proof that an unusual event like this is indeed inspirational!