Santa Fe is a hybrid culture, a unique blend where the parts make up a greater whole. The traditions and foodstuffs of the pre-Columbian peoples, the stylistic influence of the Hispanic culture (both recent and hundreds of years old) and the modern fusion of contemporary upscale dining, all combine to form the distinctive and delicious elements of modern Santa Fe food.
The Puebloan peoples that inhabited the area we now ca3l Santa Fe were, in many ways, defined by their diet and their farming activities. Other tribes and peoples that relied on subsistence hunting and gathering were forced to engage in a constant migration as they followed the brief periods of seasonal abundance, while the peoples who engaged in agriculture were able to become settled and develop agricultural surplus. These factors led to the complex society we call today Anasazi with its later development into the myriad Pueblo peoples that make up New Mexico.
The Puebloan diet was dominated by their staple crops of corn, beans, various gourds and chiles. Seeds and nuts such as acorns and pine nuts would be gathered to supplement the Anasazi diet. Despite domestication of the turkey and the dog, neither of these species seemed to have made up a significant source of dietary protein. Meat seemed to come predominantly from small pest species like mice and rabbits, with larger prey like deer or bighorn sheep being rarer.
Food required a great deal of preparation. Corn would be processed into a more nutritious form through an alkalization process that involved repeated soakings and boilings in solutions of lime chloride requiring significant amounts of labor. Following the process, known as Nixtamalization, the kernels were ready to be ground. Daily hours were spent grinding dried corn or seeds into flours which could be cooked over hot flat rocks, forming the precursor of today’s tortilla. The usage of pottery in cooking indicates that stews, soups and porridges likely made up most of the prepared diet. During the harsh New Mexico winters the Puebloans would rely on their stored and dried food, predominantly corn.
The Spanish brought with them their own cultures and food habits. They introduced multiple species of domesticated animals which greatly increased the proportion of meat in the native diets. They introduced crops like rice and brought the technology of cheese making with them.
The dominant Hispanic culture, with its emphasis on meats and cheeses, influenced the native cuisine and was, in turn, influenced by the agricultural innovations of the native people. Hybrid cuisine developed. The New Mexico enchilada, for example, is a prime example of this fusion. Traditional indigenous chili sauces and corn tortillas were melded with European foods such as cheese and chicken or pork to create a delicious hybrid cuisine.
For nearly 300 years the New Mexico territory was a largely neglected colonial backwater of New Spain, which led to isolation and the development of local culture and cuisine. This isolation accounts for the differentiation between New Mexico cuisine and the more familiar hybrids found in California and Texas.
The evolution of tastes and dining following the incorporation of New Mexico into the United States provided the final element in the hybridized cuisine of this region. Throughout the 20th century, new people brought their tastes and left their imprint on the diets of Santa Feans. In 1944, for example, Rosalea Murphy brought elements of traditional French and American cooking to Santa Fe in the form of the Pink Adobe. French Onion soups and Tournedos of Beef met Chili Rellenos and the resulting fusion cuisine continues to be popular. In 1978 Upper Crust Pizza brought the Italian-American classic to the city, incorporating local elements like Green Chili and Piñon nuts. Many chefs have brought their unique perspectives and influences to Santa Fe and have left their mark on the tastes and appetites here.
Today we like to think we exemplify this hybrid cuisine at our Agoyo Lounge restaurant. We pride ourselves in producing a well-balanced menu based on locally grown regional cuisine, presented artistically, to assure a memorable and nurturing dining experience. Regional classics like the chicken enchilada or empanadas with mole sauces meet dishes like the Alsatian Tart or the baked encrusted goat cheese. Specialties like the New Mexican Cobb salad coexist next to excellently realized classics like Caesar salads or onion puffs. Come visit us, say “hello” and experience Santa Fe’s “Food Done Fine!”
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
Thanksgiving is a day usually filled with remembrances of smells of turkey and pumpkin pie, uncles and aunts, cousins, football and fall weather. But a review of the underlying history of Thanksgiving reveals a story that is far from the Norman Rockwell image of Dad carving a turkey at the dining room table in some imaginary New England home.
The real Thanksgiving celebration most likely only occurred once…and lasted three days. Neither turkey, nor potatoes, nor pumpkin pie were on the menu, but waterfowl and venison were – oh, and unsweetened cranberries (as no sugar was yet available in New England). This Thanksgiving was a very appropriate one. The first English pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 with hardly any survival skills suited to their new land. Most died during that first winter from starvation and exposure to the elements. 1622 proved no different; in fact, it wasn’t until 1623 that the harvests became more reliable and bountiful. If it were not for a sole Patuxet Native named Squanto, colonization would likely have been set back by decades.
To paint a more balanced picture than Norman Rockwell’s, it is rarely mentioned that in 1614, English explorers initially returned to England in ships loaded with as many as 500 Patuxet Indian slaves bound for market. This was the hapless tribe that happened to be at ground zero of these European explorers’ arrival. Later, when New England’s first settlers arrived, only one Patuxet remained alive, English-speaking Squanto, who had survived slavery in England and returned later to New England thanks to the graces of a befriended Englishman. During the first two horrible years of near starvation, the Pilgrims were taught by Squanto and the neighboring Wampanoaga people how to grow corn and to survive in this new land. Squanto also negotiated a peace treaty for the Pilgrims with the nearby and very large Wampanoaga tribe. At the end of the hardships of the first year, there indeed was a 3-day Thanksgiving feast honoring Squanto and their new neighbors, the Wampanoagas, but in reality the harvest was meager and there was little to eat that winter following this thanksgiving.
Despite the continual hardship, the word spread throughout England of this newly found “paradise” in America, so countless new settlers arrived. And as always in such situations, when a more technologically superior people enter a less advanced peoples’ land, tensions increased between races until a state of war for survival arose. And such was the case with the New England Natives and the waves of land and freedom hungry colonists. Unfortunately, soon both governors and clergy began calling for days of thanksgiving following successful victories against the natives.
In 1789, President George Washington called for “ a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favours of God Almighty”. In 1863, during the Civil War, to foster a sense of national unity, Abraham Lincoln set the date as the last Thursday in November. FDR in 1939 set the date as the 4th Thursday of November to add additional economic energy prior to Xmas, and hence the term Black Friday was probably coined, commemorating the day when retailers went from being in the red to being in the black. Our consumer driven culture solidified over the 20th century the iconic foods, settings, and modern traditions of our national holiday.
Now with the history under our soon-to-be straining belts, how better to celebrate Thanksgiving than coming to the land of the ancient Pueblos who had already been in existence for hundreds of years prior to the English explorers’ arrival on this continent?
The Inn on the Alameda’s restaurant, the Agoyo Lounge, traditionally prepares a “reservations-recommended” Thanksgiving dinner for guests and locals alike. We cook up a unique and special menu, which you can view on our website. Please join us around the fires to enjoy a day of thanksgiving for living in one of the greatest countries in the world and certainly enjoying it in one of the greatest and most unique cities in the world.
Yes, it’s summer, and the sunsets have been glorious, as will be the summer arts scene in the City Different.
Santa Fe Sunsets are Memorable
The Santa Fe Opera season opens on June 29th with a gala performance of Puccini’s Tosca. This year’s repertoire should be an opera fan’s delight, with five, count ’em five, new productions: In addition to Tosca, you can enjoy Georges Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger, Giacomo Rossini’s Maometto II, andArabella by Richard Strauss, founder John Crosby’s favorite composer.
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival kicks off on July 15th and runs through August 20th, with many familiar names. The Orion String Quartet will return, as will flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni will take a night off from his opera duties to sing in town. And Santa Fe welcomes Alan Gilbert, conductor of the New York Philharmoic and former Music Director of the Santa Fe Opera, to the stage for several viola performances.
The Santa Fe Bandstand brings free music to the Santa Fe Plaza Monday through Thursday nights at 6pm beginning on July 5. Mondays and Wednesdays also feature concerts at noon, with all performances running through August 16.
The big arts events are all scheduled to return, with the exception of the SOFA show, which was sadly cancelled for this year.
Matluba Bazarova, featured Folk Artist from Uzbekistan
Handmade SilK and Felt Scarves from Kyrgyzstan
The 12th annual ART Santa Fe returns to the City Different from July 12-15. TheSanta Fe International Folk Art Market takes place on Museum Hill on July 13-15, followed shortly by the 61st Annual Spanish Market on July 27-29. And it wouldn’t be August without SWAIA’s Indian Market, with the 91st iteration taking place on August 17-19.
What’s new in Santa Fe? The Santa Fe School of Cooking is moving to its new digs on July 1st, with ground level access and their own parking lot. The new location is at 125 North Guadalupe Street.
317 Aztec has taken over the space of the former Aztec Cafe, bringing a focus on raw salads, juices and vegan/vegetarian items. The sorely-missed Plaza Cafe has yet to re-open, but we are watching the progress on Lincoln Avenue. The Palace Restaurant is definitely back in the saddle, complete with red-flocked wallpaper and the talents of Joseph Wrede, formerly of Joseph’s Table in Taos, headlining the kitchen. And there’s a patio in back!
The Sun-Dappled Patio at La Casa Sena
Speaking of outdoor dining, a patio does make for a wonderful evening, and the patio at Restaurant Martin is as gorgeous as the food. SantaCafe is always a stellar outdoor choice, and La Casa Sena has renovated their menu along with their patio. The patio at The Compound is always peaceful and cool, and the Coyote Cantina (sorry, no reservations) is always a lively scene.
Since your time may be better spent enjoying a daytrip, we are always happy to discuss dining options or make dinner reservations for you; you just need to call us at 888-984-2121 for suggestions or assistance.
Take a Daytrip into Beautiful New Mexico, Photo by Eric Swanson
Let us be YOUR Santa Fe!
You’re invited to dinner in Santa Fe! In fact, we’re suspecting that you probably have a favorite Santa Fe Restaurant in mind, and we’d like to know what it is. Perhaps YOU will be the winner of our Facebook holiday contest!
Vegan Polenta from Galisteo Bistro
TripAdvisor recently named Santa Fe as one of its Top Ten US Food Destinations…..of course, we agree! And if you agree, we invite you to tell us so and possibly win a gift certificate to your favorite Santa Fe restaurant! Simply tell us in 30 words or less about a restaurant in the City Different that you especially enjoy, and if you post a photo of your meal, so much the better, since a picture piques the palate!
Our winner will be the person whose entry receives the most “likes” on Facebook, so be sure to make your entry descriptively delicious! The winner will receive a $200 gift certificate to their favorite Santa Fe restaurant. And be sure to vote as well, because we’re sweetening the pot by awarding a $100 gift certificate to one lucky voter, to be chosen at random by our contest administrator.
Breakfast Burrito at Tia Sophia
Please take time to read the contest rules on our Facebook page in order to avoid disqualification of your entry. ONE ENTRY PER PERSON, please, but you can vote as many times as you like. The winner will be determined by the total number of “likes” that the winning entry receives on our Facebook page. Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011, you can find the contest on the left-hand column of our Facebook page. Just click on the icon called “Promos” to enter. Please remember, a tasty 30 words or less! And while restaurant professionals are most definitely welcome to enter, we respectfully request that you refrain from entering your own Santa Fe restaurant.
Sorry, but those who have won a gift certificate of any kind from the Inn in the last twelve months are not eligible to win, although we welcome their votes.
We thank you for entering and posting your entry on our Facebook page, beginning on Thanksgiving morning when our contest goes live! This culinary quest runs through the food-filled holiday season, from Thanksgiving Day, 11/24/11 through New Year’s Day, 1/1/12, but don’t delay…the sooner you post your tempting tidbit, the more time you’ll have for people to like it! Good luck, good eating and good holiday cheer!
A Collard Greens Burrito at Body Cafe
The Santa Fe School of Cooking is located at 116 West San Francisco Street , Santa Fe, NM 1-800-982-4688 or 505-983-4511 On Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SantaFeSchoolofCooking?sk=wall
When people think of Santa Fe, frequently the first thing they think of is the food. And with good reason! While both chile and beans may be ingredients in regional food around the world, our New Mexico cuisine is definitely like no other. Once you’ve tasted it, you’re hooked, and the next logical step is learning how to bring it all back home with you. And no one in Santa Fe has done more to help foodies bring the taste of Santa Fe to the home kitchen than Susan Curtis, founder of the Santa Fe School of Cooking and her daughters, Nicole Curtis Ammerman, currently managing the school, and Kristen Curtis Krell, who runs the team-building unit, Cookin’ Up Change. The Authentic Guide took some time this week to speak with Susan and Nicole about the school’s 20 years of sharing the flavor of Santa Fe.
Nicole Curtis Ammerman
How did the Santa Fe School of Cooking come into being, and what were the early years like?
Susan Curtis: The birth of the cooking school was the result of a SERIOUS midlife crisis. My last child was going off to college and what was I to do with the rest of my life? The early years were terrifying, but determination carried me through.
Since 1989, the Santa Fe School of Cooking has been whipping up a delicious experience for travelers in search of spicy tastes. Ever wanted to take a relleno and replace that gooey cheese filling with something new? You can learn! Perhaps the sustainable cooking traditions of the Native American culture intrigue you; if so, time in the kitchen with Lois Ellen Frank should be on your agenda. With classes that range from tasty home-made tortillas all the way to a lime-marinated salmon, the schedule has something to offer to both novices and experienced home chefs.
What are some of the most popular recipes the school has prepared through the years?
Nicole Ammerman: Our most popular recipes are the really authentic traditional New Mexican ones, such as our carne adovada, chiles rellenos and our red and green chile sauces. We also do a smoked pork tenderloin with an apple pinon chutney that is fantastic!
Were you surprised that both your daughters have kept the cooking flame (pun intended) burning in their lives?
Susan: No, I would have been surprised if they did not make food an important part of their lives. I grew up on a ranch where we raised and aged our meats (pork, beef, sheep), raised chickens, had a dairy farm, and planted a huge garden. I knew where food came. As a result, good food has always been important to our family both at home an in our travels.
After you “put on the apron” to lead the school, Nicole, what new ideas excited you the most?
Nicole: I have had a really fantastic time in the last 5 years implementing some fun new programs. I started running the Restaurant Walking Tours five years ago. The concept is that one of our chefs leads a tour on foot through downtown Santa Fe to visit four different restaurants where you meet the chef and taste some of the food that is made especially for our group. Our guests spend the afternoon eating, drinking and meeting some of Santa Fe’s top chefs….how can you beat that? We now have four different routes, so we are working with 16 of Santa Fe’s top restaurants!
Walking - and Eating - Your Way Through Santa Fe
As a veteran of the walking tour, I have to say that this is an excellent way to encounter some of the best Santa Fe restaurants without having to dine at each one individually, especially if your schedule only permits a short Santa Fe getaway. The tour literally gives you fodder for dining choices on your inevitable return visit to Santa Fe. For those with three nights to stay, the Inn’s Taste the City Different package combines the walking tour and a demonstration class into a culinary double-header. If a two-day hop is all you have time for, our Muy Sabrosa Cooking Experience can give you a taste of what’s cooking in Santa Fe.
Can you describe an event at SFSoC that was even more perfect than you hoped? Or one that simply did not go as planned?
Susan: I really can’t think of one event. I am so deeply grateful that the school has been so popular and made so many people enjoy our local food and culture. On a funny note, one of the most memorable experiences was when somehow salt got placed in the sugar container, and our dessert was made with salt rather than sugar. The reaction by our guests was as you might expect.
A Chile Amor Class at the School
What are the hottest- (again, pun intended) selling items in the market store?
Nicole: We pride ourselves on selling the finest quality chiles and herbs. They are the same ones we use in the classes….so they are great and a lot of interesting varieties. We also really promote local New Mexican farms and products, so we sell lots of posole, blue corn meal and specialty food products. Also, the black clay cookware is so beautiful and functional, and we can’t keep those in stock!
The Santa Fe School of Cooking has always included supporting local, New Mexican businesses at the core of its mission. From the wild-crafted herbs available at the School’s Market to the sell-out Santa Fe Farmers Market classes, visitors will always find new paths to discovering New Mexico’s unique culinary traditions. The beautiful black cookware is oven to table – no surprise that it is often out of stock!
What adult beverages complement our spicy cuisine?
Susan: I like margaritas and wine that is not too dry with spicy food.
One of the school’s good friends is Dan Murray of Southern Wines and Spirits. For white wine lovers, he recommends a German Riesling such as J.J. Prum or Urban-Ohff or an Oregon Pinot Gris such as Bethel Heights. Red wine fans should simply seek out a Beaujolais. For those who have a margarita in their sights, Dan suggests Chamucos Blanco for a smoother taste or the Reposado for more tequila flavor and bite.
As a working mother, what’s your go-to menu for the kids after a work-day already spent in the kitchen, so to speak?
Nicole: I will admit that I am not very creative with my dinners at home, but my kids don’t really like their food “mixed’ with any other ingredients. So lots of roasted chicken, broccoli, rice and pasta. I do really pride myself on how healthy my family eats. My kids have never had fast food. No matter how tired I am, I always get a healthy dinner on the table for us!
If you could meet one famous chef, living or dead, who would it be why?
Susan: Julia Child, however, I did meet her at an IACP conference. I was speechless I was so intimidated.
If you could eat at one fabulous five-star restaurant, anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
Nicole: The Thomas Keller restaurant, French Laundry in Yountville, CA – wine country! I think I must be the only person I know in the food biz that hasn’t eaten there….and I have heard people I know say it was the best meal of their lives!
Private Dining at the French Laundry, Yountville, CA
The New Mexico state question: Red or green, and where?
Nicole: Christmas, of course! I like the green chile at The Guadalupe Café and the red chile at Atrisco!
Susan: I love both red and green. I ALWAYS stick with red at the Shed and green — there is a little road side take out place in Embudo called Sugars. They have the best green chile burrito that I have ever had.
Both the Shed and the Guadalupe Cafe are withing walking distance of the Inn, and our Front Desk can give easy directions to Atrisco and the village of Embudo, in northern New Mexico.
Red Chile - We Love it!
Green Chile - Hotter than It Looks!
Drooling yet? We are! Food talk always gets the juices going, so if you’re intrigued, check the Inn’s website for more information about either of our two cooking school adventures. And be sure to say “buen provecho” to our friends at the one and only Santa Fe School of Cooking!
Photos from the Santa Fe School of Cooking by Eric Swanson, all rights reserved.
Photo of the French Laundry, courtesy of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, all rights reserved.