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Posts Tagged ‘green chile’



Living Santa Fe: The WSJ’s Take on Santa Fe & Taos

by Alexandra Eldridge

I Long –Alexandra Eldridge

Reading an outsider’s take on a city I know well sets me a tad on the defensive, especially when that outsider hails from a large, sophisticated city. Will she  judge Santa Fe against the standards of a major urban center or burrow for context, measuring Santa Fe against itself and its aspirations? In her Wall Street Journal travel piece,  Take Monday Off: Santa Fe & Taos, author Kate Bolick shows a good understanding of Santa Fe’s perennial appeal: the pheromone cocktail of wide-open vistas, maverick charm, and the promise of personal reinvention.

Her eclectic roster of picks range from the pricey but sense-dazzling Inn of the Five Graces to the down-home NM diner, The Pantry. I favor Andiamo over La Boca and haul more out-of-towner’s to The Museum of International Folk Art than to The Georgia O’Keeffee Museum, but that’s just a matter of taste– or a mark of the Western transplant’s assertion of independence that got me here in the first place.

Given one, tight longish weekend in Santa Fe, where would you go?  What’s your must-do cultural experience?  Must eat food?  Canyon Road, The Plaza or The Railyard? Green, Red or Christmas. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

**Image courtesy of Alexandra Eldridge.  Please visit: AlexandraEldridge.com

Dining Santa Fe: The Green Chile Cheeseburger

NM Dept of Tourism Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail“No state is more passionate about its burger than New Mexico,” states The New Mexico Department of Tourism, a claim that Texas, California, Illinois or half-a-dozen other burger-loving locales might dispute.  But the Land of Enchantment can call first and best for the marriage of burger and green chile.

Chile is what makes New Mexican food New Mexican, versus Mexican or Tex-Mex. Red and Green chile come from the same plant, harvested at different times. Red chile, made from dried, ground pods, has a sweeter, slightly smoky taste. Green chile is to me what pesto was to Genovese sailors: it holds the bright, fresh essence of New Mexican sunshine in a taste.

New Mexico’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, put together by the New Mexico Department of Tourism, is a”[selection of] some four dozen of the state’s outstanding green chile cheeseburger restaurants, cafes, drive-ins, and joints.”  Below– in alphabetical order, not order of preference– are our recommendations for the best local spots in downtown Santa Fe.

Bert’s Burger Bowl: Our usual order is a green chile cheeseburger with a side of sweet potato fries and spicy sauce, but the flavorful gourmet burgers, such as lamb, Kobe Beef and Ostrich– are what really set Bert’s apart. Service is perfunctory. Outdoor seating options are tables on busy Guadalupe or in a plastic-windowed shotgun patio without atmosphere or adequate heat for cool weather. Also note that the Arnold Palmers are made with Sprite, not lemonade. Still, for quick, filling, savory and cheap, Bert’s is a good bet. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’ Guy Fieri visited Bert’s in November of 2009. Watch the YouTube.

Bobcat Bite: This small, ever-busy, no-nonsense diner is a perennial Santa Fe Reporter “Best of Santa Fe” winner that has reaped kudos from sources as diverse as GQ, Bon Appetit and The Chicago Tribune.  The thick, juicy 10 ounce burgers are made of choice ground choice whole boneless chuck or sirloin served on a toasty, cornmeal dusted bun.  Homefries extra. Well-worth the 15 minute drive. 420 Old Las Vegas Highway Tel: 505.983.5319 Winter Hours: 11-7:50.

Cowgirl Santa Fe: The Cowgirl’s half-pound choice burger comes with fries and slaw, topped with your choice of cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss or Blue Cheese. Add a dollar for green chile strips and the Cowgirl’s burger is still a bargain relative to other sit-down restaurants.  Plus, the Kaiser Roll beats the typical tasteless, super-soft white bread bun by a yard. Feeling adventurous? For a few dollars more, you can get an Elk, Buffalo or Venison burger, smothered in Green, topped with cheddar, with a salad on the side. Tel: 982.2565; 319 S. Guadalupe St. For hours and Directions, click here.

Santacafé: I haven’t had their Green Chile Cheeseburger and, frankly, this isn’t the sort of fare I seek out at this upscale restaurant known for its American-Southwest-dash-of-Asian fusion cuisine (the Calamari with 4 Chile Lime dipping sauce is a must-try.) But if you want your burger in slightly more sophisticated surroundings, Santa Cafe is a good bet.  The courtyard is a wonderful setting in fair weather. 231 Washington Avenue Tel: 505.984.1788

Second Street Brewery:  The half-pound choice burger can be topped with green chile and cheese for an additional $1.75.  Homemade fries or chips are included, or you can substitute slaw, onion rings, soup, stew or a salad of mixed greens– my usual choice. Quality, handcrafted beers and frequent live music are among the reasons Second Street made the list. The newest location in the Railyard, is walking distance from the Plaza, and hard by Box Gallery and SITE Santa Fe, two of our favorite places for Contemporary Art.  Tel: 989-3278 The original Second Street Brewery is located at 1814 Second Street, near the Pacheco Street Arts District. Tel: 982-3030 The new Second Street is brand new and a tad swankier, but the old building has Ernie– as sensitive and savvy a waiter as you’ll find at any price point.

I put the vote for best Green Chile Cheeseburger out to my friends on Facebook.  The swift and rich response included plugs for Albuquerque eateries (Lumpy’s, Five Star Burger, Duran’s and O’Neill’s) as well as both confirmation (Bobcat Bite) and counterpoint (Rio Chama, Del Charro, Horseman’s Haven, San Francisco Bar & Grill, and El Milagro) for our Santa Fe lineup.

Have an opinion?  Leave your comment below.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

READERS NOTE: Through the end of the month, you can nominate your favorite candidate for best New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger.  Follow this link to fill out the brief nomination form. Voting runs from March 1st through March 31st, so be sure to check back and cast your vote.

UPDATE:  The burgers made famous by John and Bonnie Eckre at the Bobcat Bite can now be enjoyed at their new location Santa Fe Bite, at the Garrett’s Desert Inn, in downtown Santa Fe on Old Santa Fe Trail.

Santa Fe Daytripping: Taos

Taos is tiny.  The population of the entire county is well under half that of the city of Santa Fe. But like Santa Fe, Taos packs a powerful per capita punch of  character and appeal. People know Taos for the world class skiing, Taos Pueblo, and the famous Rio Grande Gorge. But you won’t taste the full flavor of Taos with your first sip. It’s a rural, rooted, art-centric intersection of Spanish, Native, counterculture hippies, recreationalists and ranchers: much too much to capture in a single draught.

For good, general information on what to see and do in Taos, consult the Taos Vacation Guide website. Following are a few tips from our recent visit.

Start your day at one of two standout breakfast spots. At Doc Martin’s, the coffee is strong and the fare filling at a reasonable price.  Locals recommend the Kit Carson (poached eggs on a yam biscuit with red chile.) Gutiz, with its Latin-French fusion cuisine, is an absolute “must-try.” I ordered the Tortilla: a Spanish Frittata with potatoes, onions, cucumber salad and savory tapenade. Excellent, though the tidy, tapas-sized portion might not sate a heartier appetite. Joshua picked the Taoseña (eggs, red beans, green chile, potatoes), also quite good. The orange-cinnamon battered French toast with strawberries and bananas is a reputed treat. Plus, the staff was over-the-top pleasant and welcoming.

The Plaza is a point of orientation and good for a sit or stroll, but less imaginative for shopping (though admittedly, we are not power shoppers.) One exception was the upscale consignment boutique, Re-Neux, at 126 B West Plaza Drive. With modest prices relative to quality, Re-Neux is a destination of merit for current women’s fashions, designer labels and vintage.  If you’re a book lover, don’t miss independent icon Moby Dickens Bookshop, on Bent Street, offering rare and out-of-print Western and New Mexico titles on site, and the willing ability to hunt down your desired treasure.

15 minutes north of Taos, on SR 150, is the tiny town of Arroyo Seco. The Taos Cow Ice Cream Scoop Shop, Cafe and Deli has creekside outdoor seating in clement weather. Across the street is our pick of the town’s shops, Rottenstone Pottery: an eclectic gathering of wood-fired pottery in an inviting studio/gallery.  There’s no website at present, so check out Scott Rutherford’s Facebook Page for up-to-date info on events and hours.

We ended our day at the luxe Anaconda Bar at El Monte Sagrado–easy walking distance from our outstanding VRBO rental, Artists Atelier. Anaconda’s Perfect Margarita was a little sweet for me, but pleasantly strong. We ballasted with a plate of Kessler Calamari served on a bed of Moroccan aioli, green olives and cilantro, rich enough to ruin us for dinner.  Before heading back to our digs, we took a quick walk around the hotel’s fragrant, lusciously humid atrium. I found and bruised a Bay Rum leaf. Its warm, spicy redolence is at once nothing and everything like Taos: sensuous, different, restorative and well-worth seeking out.

The Water is Fine: Prime Soaks in and around Santa Fe

Santa Fe’s the #2 Relaxation & Spa destination in the US, according to TripAdvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards 2010 poll. Indeed, the City Different abounds with excellent avenues for shedding stress, from recreational to therapeutic. One of our favorite ways to decompress and counterbalance the effects of  dry desert air is through warm water soaks.  Ten Thousand Waves, tuned to fine perfection over its 30 years of operation, is an exquisite escape just ten minutes from The Plaza. We love the super-premium private tubs, Ichiban and New Ofuro. Each offers low key luxury in a distinctive setting plus longer soaking times for an exceptional spa experience.  But The Waves’ carefully crafted and beautifully tended atmosphere ensures a quality experience for all visitors.  The Communal Tub is a comparative bargain at under $19.00 for unlimited soaking. Note that clothing is optional before 8:15 pm; the clothing-optional Women’s Tub is available daily until 8:15 pm.

About an hour north of Santa Fe, the Mineral Springs Resort and Spa of Ojo Caliente provides a disarming cocktail of physical removal, rustic charm and relaxing, hot mineral baths. We spent a voluptuous 4 hours there a few Sundays ago, breaking up our drive with a lunch of green chile lamb enchiladas at Angelina’s in Española. This local institution is relaxed, reasonably-priced, tasty and well worth a detour. Tel: 505. 753.8543 For a loving, yet accurate review of Angelina’s restaurant, check out Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling) Blogpost.

Read What to Know Before You Go on Ojo’s website for the full low-down on pricing and what to bring. During late Fall and Winter, we recommend taking along two extra towels (one is included with admission) and either a warm robe or sweater for cold weather transit between the pools. Although lockers are available (bring your own lock), they are small. You may want a pack or bag to carry personal items around the grounds.

There are seven public pools: the iron, arsenic, two iron-arsenic combos and soda are open year ’round; the mud pool and large pool are seasonal. At this writing, the entry fee is $24/person. A few private tubs are available for $40/hour–each with a kiva fireplace that can be lit for an additional $10. With a one hour private tub rental, the admission fee is required. Rent a tub for two hours (actual tub time = one hour & 50 minutes), and admission is included: the bargain we chose.

Ojo lacks the polish of Ten Thousand Waves.  The floor of the coed steam room was gritty and cold air blasted away the sauna’s heat every time the door–unfortunately situated directly opposite the building’s exterior door–was opened. Circulating “Shushers” with paddles admonishing clients to whisper were well-meaning, but made us all feel a bit like misbehaving kids. But as the friendly and helpful front desk staff asserted, “the owners are always looking for ways to make the place better” and it shows.  After an hour in the tub, watching the erratic tracings of geese cross the brilliant New Mexico sky, I got where I wanted to go: empty in mind, full in spirit.

~*~*~

UPDATE:

Vote for your favorites at Spa Magazine’s Fifth Annual Silver Sage Reader’s Choice Awards. Voting ends on June 29th, 2011, so act soon.

Dining Santa Fe: Back Street Bistro

Tuesday’s cold front shook the first snowflakes from the sky and turned our dining thoughts to Back Street Bistro.  Soup’s not the only star on the menu at this popular lunch spot.  There’s a good roster of sandwiches (we like the Smoked Turkey with Havarti Dill Cheese) and salads (I’m a particular fan of both the Greek and the Roasted Peppers) but it’s the soups that sing us back time and again. The changing daily selection always includes enticing vegetarian (Sweet Pepper Bisque, Butternut Squash Apple Walnut, Green Chile Corn Chowder) and vegan (Curried Yam, Sweet Creole Lentil) options as well as meat and meat-broth based fare (Mulligatawny, Chicken Gumbo, White Bean and Ham.)  All are served with a small basket of chewy, sourdough bread. If you haven’t tried it, the Hungarian Mushroom is a sensual must, said by Yelp reviewer Jack T. of Denver, Colorado to be “an instant hangover cure, wonderful flu remedy, [that] can probably revive your dead grandma.”

If you can pace yourself for the tasty, freshly made pies and crumbles, do so. Or get one “to go.”

Be prepared for lines and waits at peak times. Service ranges from excellent to overwhelmed, but the host and owner do try to fill the gaps.  Note that the restaurant only takes cash or checks.  No credit cards.

Find the full menu at The Back Street Bistro on Menu Pix.

Back Street Bistro is located at 513 Camino de los Marquez, at the corner of Marquez Place near the junction of Cordova and St. Francis in downtown Santa Fe.  Tel: 505.982.3500. Hours: weekdays, from 10-2:30; Saturday from 11:00 to 2:00.  The restaurant runs changing exhibits of art and photography for a serving side of local culture.

UPDATE

Backstreet Bistro was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in their All Kinds of Gobble, Gobble episode (Season 18, Episode 8) airing now –November, 2013. Catch it on The Food Network.

Dining Santa Fe: Best New Mexican

Last week, The Santa Fe Reporter released its much anticipated Best of Santa Fe issue, the results of an annual reader poll ( SFReporter.com.) While we share a number of favorites, our short list for best New Mexican does not include this year’s multiple-category winner, Tomasita’s (although they do make fine sopapillas and fabulous honey butter.)  Check them all out and  send us your vote.

The Shed: Dependable excellence and charming atmosphere make this downtown spot just a block off The Plaza a mainstay for locals and tourists alike.  Good selection of non New Mexican fare if your party includes both the chile seeking and the chile adverse. We like the #10–one, blue corn, cheese enchilada and one, blue corn taco with chicken or beef.  The Chicken Enchilada Verde, with roasted chicken, is also quite good.  Carne Adovada with its deep red chile flavor is a popular item. The chile–especially, the red, is hot. If your palate or stomach favors milder fare, try the excellent Grilled Chicken, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad, or the mushroom soup– light, creamy and nicely textured with bits of fresh mushroom.  Garlic bread is a surprisingly but pleasant side. Posole is regretably bland.  Expect a wait of at least 40 minutes for dinner, a little less for lunch, but don’t let that deter you from trying what is arguably Santa Fe’s best New Mexican restaurant. * Lunch: 11:00-2:30; Dinner: 5:30-9:00 RESERVATIONS RECOMMENDED * 113 1/2 E. Palace Ave. * 982.9030

Marias: Famous for its 100+ margaritas, Maria’s  takes the crown for the best local posole: full flavored, not too spicy, graced with chunks of braised pork and slivers of menudo.  We like the open faced tacos with beef and chicken as well as the enchiladas. The fajitas, served on a sizzling iron platter, have bright, deep flavor, and come with sides of tasty guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, and house made flour tortillas. The Garlic Butter New York (steak) also gets high marks.  Vegetarians have a few options, including cheese enchiladas, bean burritos and guacamole tacos.  Re: margaritas: Maria’s consistently wins polls for best margarita,  even earning the moniker “The Motherlode of Margaritas” from the Seattle Times. The range and variety of offerings bedazzle, like the flashing legs of a chorus line, but it’s the quality of ingredients that really brings home the accolades.  Maria’s only uses “real” tequila (made with at least 51% agave juice, although I’ve never had a Maria’s marg made with less than 100%) distilled and produced in Mexico and shuns mixes and flavorings in preference for freshly squeezed lemon juice and triple sec, etc. To avoid watering down the final product, the margaritas are shaken, not blended.  Denizen’s of lower altitudes, be forewarned, Maria’s margaritas are strong. Drink with restraint and respect.   555 W. Cordova Rd. *983.7929

Dining Santa Fe

We love good food. We spend a lot of time on the run.  Fortunately, this combo results in our eating out at least five times a week in Santa Fe, a city abundant with good restaurants in a range of price points.  Off the top of my cranium are five choices that vary substantially in cuisine, price and atmosphere, presented in alphabetical order. Watch for more to come.

Clafouti: The owners hail from Dijon, so it’s only right that they should make the transcendentally best French bread in town. My taste in pastries runs away from the sugared, so I can’t speak to the quality of the many visually luscious offerings in the case by the cash register but the mildly sweet brioche are meltingly soft.  The Salad Charlotte is my lunch preference; Josh favors the Cubano sandwich  but the Croque Monsieur merits attention as a far grander, more voluptuous version of the classic sandwich than any I ever sampled across the pond.  For breakfast, I like Le Speciale: 2 eggs, any style, plus bacon or ham and a bread basket. My alternate favorite: the omelette provençale.  The waffles and French Toast are well worth a try for their generous amounts of fresh fruit–no stinting on berries. Order the large coffee if you tend to drink your first cup quickly as the refill process can be painfully slow (wait staff must carry your cup up to machine in the front to pour a fresh cup.) Overall, Clafouti is one of our favorite restaurants for food quality, panache and the bright charm of its owners.$-$$ 402 N. Guadalupe * 988.1809

Cowgirl Hall of Fame Restaurant: If you’ve got the hankers for good barbeque in a lively, no fuss atmosphere, Cowgirl’s your ticket. Known for its heaping plates of mesquite smoked ribs, brisket and chicken, the Cowgirl also offers tasty and filing vegetarian fare. The cheesy, butternut squash casserole with its substantial side salad is a standout. Jerk Chicken and bourbon salmon platters are other savory options. As for appetizers, the best value is the nacho plate: a gargantuan nest of color, texture and flavor. The burgers are respectable, but stick with the regular fries as the sweet potato versions are a limp disappointment. For teetotalers, the Texas Sized sodas are two-fisted monsters of abundance. Even Arnold Palmer lovers are generously entitled to refills at no extra charge. For those seeking a stiffer brew, there’s a full bar with a good selection of tasty margaritas and tequilas. Be forewarned that the bar can be slow. Indeed, service can be a weak point, but if you have the time and patience to drop your spurs for a spell, the cowgirl delivers. Kid friendly; nice outdoor patio; live entertainment. $-$$ 319 S. Guadalupe * 982.2565

Pyramid Cafe: The first time we peeked in the windows of this nondescript storefront, we were put off by its emptiness and imagined a meal of stale pita and withering vegetables as the owners attempted to stretch out days of uneaten food.  Nothing could be further from the character of this bastion of fresh flavors.  We have dug deep ruts towards the same 2-3 offerings: Joshua tends to get the Gyro Sandwich and I am wed to the Roasted Leg of Lamb Salad, but any excursion off the path has been equally rewarding.  Meat is nicely seared: juicy with a hint of charing.  Salads are crisp and well-seasoned.  And while daytime ordering takes place at the counter, the man who usually greets us, takes our order and brings it to the table has a warmth and presence amidst the bustle that make us feel like genuinely honored guests.  For good value and reasonable prices, Pyramid is a staple.  North African, Mediterranean and Greek Cuisine. $$ 505 Cordova Rd. * 505.989.1378, Open 7 days a week, 11-9 PM continuously

Shoko Cafe: For many years, Shoko was the only Asian restaurant in Santa Fe, and my affection for it runs deep. Over time, its food and atmosphere have become more polished with an attendant rise in prices that sometimes seem a step ahead of its value. Solo diners should sit at the sushi bar to experience the deft artistry and hospitality of the chefs in attendance.  The fish is fresh and beautifully presented,  Indeed, most plates are a visual delight.  The Omakase Chef’s Choice sushi/sashimi special, however, lacked the range and sophistication we might have expected for the price. Vegetarians have strong options with excellent salads and vegetable appetizers (seaweed sesame and spinach sesame are two of our favorites), as well as entrees such as vegetable tempura, udon with vegetables and Tofu steak. Bento boxes are bountiful and beautifully balanced.  There’s a good selection of sakes, beer and wine as well as non-alcoholic drinks.  Avoid the overpriced lemonade and Arnold Palmers. Sushi and Japanese. $$-$$$ 321 Johnson St. * 982.9708

Upper Crust Pizza: Voted “Best Pizza” in the Santa Fe Reporter’s reader poll from 1995-2010, Upper Crust has competition from purveyors of wood-fired thin crusts, but those who favor a traditional American pizza will be pleased with the quality and value of this local institution. The whole wheat crust with its softly chewy texture and sweet, nutty flavor gets our vote over the perfectly respectable white. Choose your own toppings, or opt for one of the classics. Our favorite, the veggie combo, is loaded with tasty toppings, including a mild-leaning green chile that is as affectionately entwined in my memories of New Mexican pizza as Madelines were in the remembrances of Marcel Proust. Salads are a bit soggy with dressing but don’t lack for flavor. A good selection of brews and a pleasant outdoor patio make this a nice, affordable summer stop. Opt for pickup over delivery, which can be spotty. $-$$ 329 Old Santa Fe Trail * 982.0000

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