Santa Fe Holiday Food Fun!

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

Santa Fe Opera Here and Now!

The Santa Fe Opera, Highway US 84/285

For tickets: Box Office 505-986-5900 and 800-280-4654, or by email boxoffice@santafeopera.org

The Santa Fe Opera: Photo by Robert Godwin

It’s a fact that some times of year are just more exciting than others. And for Santa Fe and its myriad of opera-lovers, that time of year is right now! A July 1st opening night found this opera fan (who, it must be noted, is not a music critic) delighted to be in attendance at the Santa Fe Opera‘s first-ever performance of Charles Gounod’s Faust. A devilish tale of life lessons, laced throughout with haunting melodies, Gounod’s grand opera premiered in Paris in 1859 with a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Based on Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, which was in turn fashioned after Goethe’s Faust, Part 1, this is the story of an aging philosopher, who re-discovers the passion and excitement of youth, just as he is ready to take a suicidal exit from his wearying existence. How to get that new lease on life? Simply forfeit your soul to the devil! A cautionary tale indeed, since the result is “the torment of eternal remorse,” as Faust himself so tellingly puts it.

Energetically conducted by Frederic Chaslin, at the beginning of his first full season as the Opera’s Music Director, Faust came to life with an orchestra that sounded rich and sprightly throughout, and Craig Smith’s loan of an electronic organ was nicely worked into the staging. The production was inventive and exciting, the costumes were appropriately evocative, and the incidental music was choreographically well-served. Mark S. Doss cut an impressively commanding figure as Mephistopheles, and Bryan Hymel’s interpretation of the title role was nuanced and assured. Ailyn Perez sweetly voiced the role of Marguerite and sorrowfully embodied her character’s tragic fate, in the face of repudiation by her brother, Valentin, portrayed with honesty and strength by Matthew Worth. Jennifer Holloway, memorable as Price Charming a few seasons back, sang the role of the young lover, Siebel, with passion and grace (I confess, I do love a pants role). One leaves the theatre with deep satisfaction after such an engaging premiere, especially when the 3.5 hour running time seems to pass so quickly! Bravo!

Yes, The Devil Made Them Do It! Santa Fe Opera Photo: Ken Howard

Dancing Beauties are Dazzling in Faust! Santa Fe Opera Photo: Ken Howard

Founded in 1957 by the late John Crosby, a young conductor and devoted Richard Strauss fan (Strauss’ Arabella returns for the 2012 SFO season) from New York, the Santa Fe Opera was born out of a desire to give American singers an opportunity to learn and perform new roles in a peaceful rural setting with plenty of time to acclimate to the mountain air and rehearse accordingly. While Mr. Crosby himself spent plenty of time in the pit, engaging young conductors have been welcomed by the orchestra and the audience alike. From its humble beginnings, with wooden benches and a roof-less stage, over the course of the last 54 years, the Santa Fe Opera has grown into a powerful cultural and economic engine for the Land of Enchantment. Its reputation for daring new productions and commissions attracts both artists and patrons to the tune of about $200 million annually. That’s not chicken feed, particularly for a state rich in culture if not in cash!

Opening night is always a wonderful event, not only for the performance, but also for tail-gating parties and those who like to observe and learn from them. From a simple pair of TV trays to white linens and crystal flutes, it’s all out there in the parking lot, and we have our beautiful outdoor Crosby Theater to thank for this opportunity to dine al fresco. Bring your own or reserve a picnic, either way, it’s a whole lot of fun. One may conceivably be able to wolf down a sandwich on the fly outside Lincoln Center, but it’s not quite the same as sitting down under a beautiful sunset enjoying fine food, favorite friends and the frisson of excitement generated by the knowledge that the orchestra is tuning up and the lights are about to go down.

Tailgating Deluxe and Delicious

Also making its opening appearance over the weekend was Giacomo Puccini’s perennially popular La Boheme. Premiered in Turin in 1896, with a richly emotional libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, this enduring favorite was based a set of tales by Henri Murger entitled Scènes de la Vie de Bohème. Performed in ten previous seasons at SFO, this lyrical opera never fails to thrill, from the first notes right through to the sad denouement. What’s not to love about a love story? Especially when when it’s an Italian opera conducted with passion and verve by an Italian conductor, Leonardo Vordoni, leading a cast of beautiful voices, headed by tenor, David Lomeli, and soprano, Ana Maria Martinez! Although mine was a dress rehearsal experience, no one held back – Mr. Lomeli sang ardently, and Ms. Martinez’ performance was touching and tender. The role of Musetta was ably sung by Heidi Stober, familiar to Santa Fe audiences from her role in the amusing production of Platee in 2007. Reprising his 2007 Boheme role as her on-again, off-again lover, the artist Marcello, Corey McKern painted his portrayal boldly. This particular tale always resonates in a city like Santa Fe, where artists of all types come to pursue their passions, although with our adobe architecture, we are rather short on garrets.

Vive La Vie Boheme! Santa Fe Opera Photo: Ken Howard

Love Can Bloom, Even in a Garret Santa Fe Opera Photo: Ken Howard

With a total of five operas programmed each summer, there are three other choices in the repertoire, thoughtfully chosen to appeal to the eclectic tastes of opera fans. And with the adventurous spirit that SFO has always demonstrated, two more are premieres for the company! Noted director Peter Sellars returns to Santa Fe to conduct the first U.S. production of Antonio Vivaldi’s Griselda, with Meredith Arwady in the title role, Paul Groves (last year’s Hoffmann) as her husband Gualterio, and as Roberto, the exciting countertenor, David Daniels, returning to the Santa Fe stage for the first time since 2008. The light and lyrical touch of Gian-Carlo Menotti will be on display in a witty new production of his opera buffa, The Last Savage, also a first for the company. The final piece to make an appearance onstage (with only four performances, so reserve tickets soon) will be Alban Berg’s powerful masterpiece, Wozzeck, with Richard Paul Fink making his SFO debut in the demanding title role.

Gronk Making the Set for Griselda, Photo: Santa Fe Opera

One of the consistently remarkable features of the Santa Fe Opera is the stellar apprentice program. At the time the Opera came into being, esteemed founder Mr. Crosby had the foresight to create an environment designed to nurture and cultivate young singers who have in turn blessed the company with their youthful enthusiasm. Many talented singers whose names can be found in the programs of the world’s leading opera houses enhanced their singing careers with a summer in Santa Fe, and well over 1000 aspiring artists have been part of the summer program. Some may continue with professional singing careers, and others might morph into voice teachers or coaches who pass the torch on to others. In 1965, an apprentice program for the technical aspects of theater was added, and it too has developed through the years into fine training tool that complements the performing arts, thus enriching both sides of the stage. You can get a sneak peek at the stars of tomorrow on August 14 or August 21 by attending one of the two apprentice showcases, excellent opportunities to introduce younger family members to the joys of opera without a deep commitment of money or time (you can just leave if the kids get fidgety).

Visit the Cantina for a Preview Buffet Santa Fe Opera photo: Robert Godwin

The Crosby Theatre Santa Fe Opera Photo: Robert Reck

In conjunction with the training programs at the Opera, there is a broad set of informative community outreach programs and amenities aimed at creating future audiences by ensuring that opera is accessible and appealing to a new generation.  The very unique Pueblo Opera Program welcomes Native American youth from the nineteen pueblos and three reservations located throughout New Mexico. Opera attendees also get educated;  rather than distracting super-titles above the stage, the Crosby theater is one of the lucky few with unobtrusive opera titles – in either English or Spanish (translated by the erudite Fernando Mayans, well-known to many local Spanish language students) – on individual screens right in front of each seat, enhancing appreciation of the stage action. And there are other educational benefits for visitors, from daily backstage tours beginning at 9:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday to prelude talks before performances, as well as a series of community events. If you don’t have time for the theater tour, just hop onto the Opera’s new blog for a sneak peek at what’s happening on the back deck!

All Ages and Sizes are Welcome!

Even for those who are not die-hard opera fans, the Santa Fe Opera should be part of a Santa Fe vacation. It is one of the real jewels of the City Different, and like all precious gems, its lustre shines brightest when you see it in person.  As always, tickets are selling fast, so don’t delay! Dress up in your finery (with a warm wrap for changeable high desert weather) or come in your jeans, but don’t miss out. As Mimi sings in La Boheme “I love enchanting things…,” and this is truly one of the most enchanting ways to spend a night in the Land of Enchantment!

Don’t Miss Out on an Enchanting Night at the Opera!

Santa Fe Opera Photos courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera, All Rights Reserved

Diet-Wise Dining in Santa Fe

This week, the Authentic Guide welcomes guest blogger, Billie Frank, of The Santa Fe Traveler, a Santa Fe concierge and travel-planning company. Billie is here with a Santa Fe visitors guide to finding the best places to eat when special diets are in effect. Thanks, Billie!

 


Eating away from home can be challenging and never more so than when you have dietary restrictions. There are all sorts of special diets; heart-healthy, vegetarian or vegan, gluten and dairy intolerances, food allergies, weight loss plans, religious dietary restrictions; the list goes on and on. Here are some tips to make travel to Santa Fe, or anywhere, easier for the food-challenged.

  1. Plan ahead: When you have any sort of dietary issues, planning is essential. You can’t just walk into a restaurant and expect them to be able to accommodate special needs unless those needs are really simple (i.e. you need a grilled meat and steamed vegetable). Although more restaurants say they are catering to gluten-free diets on their regular menus, it’s always good to check in advance.  If you’re a vegetarian, and there’s one meat-free dish on the menu and it’s not to your liking, you may be able to get something you’ll enjoy if you talk to the restaurant in advance. Vegans should definitely make plans in advance unless the restaurant is known to be vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Any place can steam a vegetable and put it on pasta or rice, but you can do much better if the place is prepared for your needs.
  2. Research: Speak to someone at the Inn, consult with a travel planner knowledgeable about Santa Fe dining spots for appropriate restaurant recommendations for you or research on the Internet. Once you have recommendations, check the menus and reviews at websites like Open Table and Yelp. Read between the lines. Reviews can be tricky; good ones can be written by the restaurateur or their friends, bad ones by competitors. Open Table, at least, verifies the person writing the review has dined at the establishment they are writing about.
  3. Contact the restaurant(s) in advance: Once you choose the restaurants that interest you, contact them at least a few days ahead to make sure they can accommodate your special diet; not all can or will.
  4. Email or fax them your diet: Once you know that the restaurant can meet your needs, send them your dietary dos and don’ts so that there is no confusion in the kitchen. When you make your reservation, make sure it notes that you have special dietary needs and remind them when you arrive at the restaurant. Getting them your food needs in advance gives the chef time to review them and make sure he has the ingredients he needs and perhaps be more creative.
  5. Breakfast and lunch are easier than dinner: This may not always be the case, depending on your special needs, but if fruit and salads work for you, they are a good fallback. You may want something more elaborate for dinner.
  6. Pick a more upscale place: You can’t expect any kitchen to cope with really complicated special needs. You want a place that has a chef rather than a cook. The better the chef, the better your dinner
  7. Bring your own food: If you have highly specialized dietary needs, sometimes it’s easier to avoid restaurants for breakfast and lunch. If you don’t want to travel with your food, Santa Fe has a number of natural grocery stores and a Trader Joe’s which can make eating on your trip a lot simpler unless you really want the restaurant experiences. The Inn on the Alameda provides an ample breakfast. Let them know in advance what your dietary needs are, and they’ll try their best to provide appropriate foods.

You probably know that if you’re on a special diet, depending on how restrictive it is and what the chef has to work with based on your foods, your experience will differ from that of a person eating the menu choices. The truth is that some ingredients simply make food taste better.

Here’s a list of some Santa Fe restaurants that will accommodate special diets and do so gracefully. Unless noted, contact the restaurant in advance and make arrangements.

315 Restaurant and Wine Bar: Owner Louis Moskow says the restaurant is almost totally gluten-free and is willing to work with other special dietary needs. Chef Ryan Mann will rise to the occasion.

Savory Scallops at 315: Photo by Steve Collins

Coyote Café: Sara Chapman, one of the four owners of the restaurant Mark Miller made famous, says that Executive Chef (and her husband and co-owner) Eric DiStefano can accommodate most diets with advance notice.

Galisteo Bistro: Executive Chef and co-owner Rob Chickering and his wife, co-owner and pastry chef, Marge, are very welcoming to people with special dietary needs. Call Rob and let him know what you need; they’ll graciously accommodate you.

Epazote: Chef/Owner Fernando Olea is one of the most accommodating people in Santa Fe and he loves to feed people. He uses the foods of the New World to create a unique Mexican cuisine, but of course, your dietary restrictions will define the meal.

Las Fuentes: This restaurant has an almost gluten-free menu (just skip the crab cakes). Executive Chef, Chris McLean, will work with other special diets with advance notice. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Raaga: This new entry to the Santa Fe Dining scene offers Indian food and does a great job of it. The personable owner, Pramod “Paddy” Rawal, will gladly accommodate your dietary needs, and there are vegetarian entrees galore and vegan options, too.

Mouth-watering Mussels in Coconut Curry at Raaga: Photo by Steve Collins

Restaurant Martin: Owner Jennifer Rios, who runs the front of the house here (her husband and restaurant co-owner Martin is the Executive Chef), says no advance notice is necessary for special diets; just bring your food list. She says they are seeing more and more people who cannot eat off the menu. If you have a very unusual diet, contact them in advance to make sure they have the foods you need.

Terra: Executive Chef Charles Dale is the man who allowed me to think it’s possible to dine out on a very restricted diet. He said any chef should be able to deal with special dietary needs with advance notice. He loves the challenge and he delivers. Terra is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Compound: General Manager, Matias Guillen says that wheat-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diets can be accommodated without notice. If the vegetarian option on the current menu doesn’t speak to you, contact the restaurant, the Beard Award-winning Chef, Mark Kiffen, will create a dish using foods that are more appealing to you. Other diets can be accommodated with advance notice.

Vanessie: This restaurant, popular for its piano bar can accommodate special dietary needs with advanced notice.

If you have special dietary needs, you can travel to Santa Fe with the comfort of knowing that there are restaurants that care and will do their best to create a meal that meets your needs.

As a side note from the Inn’s vegan General Manager, you can also find vegan and gluten-free menus at Annapurna, the Treehouse Cafe and Bakery and Body Cafe of Santa Fe (which has a vegan chocolate ganache that will make you simply swoon with delight!).

It’s a Collard Green Burrito at Body Cafe of Santa Fe!

Billie Frank has over twenty-five years experience in sales, marketing and customer service. In 2004, she began a career in the hospitality industry at a small inn outside of Santa Fe, NM. After leaving that position, she worked as a concierge at two Four-Diamond hotels in Santa Fe for over four years. Billie is co-owner of The Santa Fe Traveler, a travel concierge and trip-planning service. She writes a travel blog, Santa Fe Travelers. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Authors note: As a long-time concierge in Santa Fe, the writer may have dined as a guest of some of the restaurants mentioned. Their generous hospitality has not influenced this post in any way.

Vegetarian Santa Fe

True confessions: I am not so mindful as to have given up animal protein, but I do enjoy my healthful veggies along with those who are working their admirable way towards a higher consciousness. This kind way of eating is right in sync with the Santa Fe aesthetic, so it’s a pleasure to report that our little town has some big options for those who forego the way of the flesh.

Looking out at the Greenery at Body

Definitely on the list for its ability to satisfy vegetarians and vegans alike, Body is located at 333 West Cordova Road.  Not just a cafe, but also a spa and purveyor of soft and clingy clothing, Body boasts a completely organic menu that both tastes good and is good for you. And if you are a raw food purist, this is the place, with seven raw entrees on the menu! Everything we’ve tried so far at the Cafe has been appetizing in appearance, preparation and portion, and meat eaters can add chicken or fish to pump up a dish to their taste. You wouldn’t imagine that a collard green burrito would be on your list of things that are must-try, but for vegans, it’s a great choice, the collards tender and not bitter and the nut cheese creamy and dotted with cashews. The ambiance is soothing, with warm earth-tones and large picture windows that frame the outdoor greenery. Service is friendly but relaxed, with no pressure to hustle you on out when your plate has been collected. And once your plate has been collected, make sure you don’t ease out the door without dessert. This is chocolate that should be consumed without guilt, rich, dark, creamy and, in the case of the chocolate ganache with raspberry sauce, vegan! If you share a piece of this deeply delicious dessert, you can feel more virtuous when you admire the clothing on your way out, since the fit is one that makes sure you’ve been paying attention to your sweet calories!

A Collard Greens Burrito at Body Cafe

Another new gem that still seems to be largely undiscovered so far is Louie’s Corner Cafe, perched right on the NE corner of West Alameda and Galisteo Streets, a location that was just waiting for the perfect food fit. Named for a beloved pooch, this spot is unlikely to see a doggie bag, as everybody seems to clean their plates with gusto. The vegetarians in my family love the “fakin bacon” in the BLT, and the non-vegetarian was well contented with a juicy grilled Reuben sandwich with a refreshing cucumber salad on the side.  For those who like breakfast at dinner, try the migas (cheesy eggs scrambled with tortilla strips), which are divine; there was no question of what to order when I saw the look on the friendly server’s face after asking whether it should be the omelet or the migas! Speaking of omelets, however, there are a number of choices, including both Johnny-Be-Good and Johnny-Be-Bad versions, a nod and a wink to the clever entree titles scattered throughout the menu. Although a bit more for vegetarian palates than those of vegans, there is a vegan breakfast burrito, as well as several salads and sandwiches, along with a build-your-own sandwich option. Their strawberry tea is a refreshing treat to enjoy out on the patio while you’re watching the world stroll by, and a beer and wine license is now in place.

Louie’s on the Corner

Shohko’s Sushi

If you are hankering for fresh Oriental flavors, you can’t do better than Shohko at 321 Johnson Street! Continuously in business in Santa Fe for 34 years, this place does it right. Vegetable tempura is light and crisp and includes a chunk of green chile, and the bento box lunch gets veg-friendly when you order tofu instead of chicken or salmon. Vegans and vegetarians both do fine with the seaweed spinach salad and a few selections from the vegetarian sushi menu, and you can even order a sake flight if you know what you’re doing. Add in the serene atmosphere and Shohko’s presence in the kitchen, satisfaction guaranteed!

Veggie Chalupas at Atrisco

Of course, you ARE in Santa Fe so you have to try some sizzling green chile at some point, whether it’s coating a burrito or pooling on a plate of cheesy enchiladas. As much as we love several well-known downtown spots for local cuisine, crowds at the doorway can be a deterrent, so find your way over the the innocuous DeVargas Mall (Paseo de Peralta at Guadalupe Street) to settle in at Atrisco. The location makes getting a table easier, and including many locally grown foods is part of their mission. Vegetarians who love cheese are naturals for New Mexican cuisine, and vegans will enjoy the Veggie Especial, which has three incarnations, an enchilada plate, burrito or stuffed sopaipilla, with veggie chalupas on the menu for lighter appetites.

Real Food Nation

Finally, if you want to get out of the city and take a short drive to delicious, head for Real Food Nation, on the Old Las Vegas Highway at the junction with I-25 North (exit 292). Mostly organic, with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices like roasted beet salad or creamy tomato soup, and gluten-free pizza by the slice, this spot is popular with the locals who live tucked in against the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos. You can check out the Meal of the Day postings on their website, then eat in or take it to go for a picnic in the mountains. You have to give kudos to a restaurant that has its lettuce garden in full glory outside the front door, along with five acres of on-site produce – now that’s farm to table!

Between these options and the Inn’s breakfast, with organic cereals, dairy and coffee, you can put your vegetarian palate at ease. You’ll eat as well as the others do, no sacrifices needed!