Whenever we head to Santa Fe, there are several dining spots we like to repeat, because the food and service are so remarkable. We also like to try a new spot or two, and if it passes muster, add it to our rotation.
On our last trip to Santa Fe, we started with a late lunch at one of our regular spots, Clafoutis. They have the most amazing quiches and pastries, and we enjoy their outdoor patio dining in the late spring and early summer. This trip, we arrived after the lunch rush, which we found out was a huge mistake. We ordered our favorite quiches, only to find out that they had already sold out. After careful deliberation, we chose alternates, and began our meal. I had my eye on the pastry cases, as they had some almond macarons remaining, and they were calling to me for desert. However, just as we finished our meals and began to order desert, another customer walked up to the pastry counter and snatched up all the remaining almond macarons. I was heartbroken, but rapidly recovered by ordering some vanilla macarons. Even when they are almost out of food and pastry, Clafoutis has a lot of great items to offer.
After visiting with some of our favorite Gallery owners on Canyon Road that afternoon, we decided on a light dinner for the evening. My selection was the restaurant attached to the Inn of The Anasazi, just north of the Plaza. They have had a sopaipilla desert with three dipping sauces that I absolutely adore. We happily walked into the restaurant, and were warmly greeted by none other than the Executive Chef, Peter O’Brien. This very talented and affable man seated us, and I described the desert I was seeking. His face fell, and he said that they didn’t offer that any more. Typically, when an Executive Chef moves to another restaurant, the new Executive Chef puts his own spin on the menu, which is what Peter had done.
Sensing my disappointment, Peter went out of his way to give us a very special evening. Even though he is charged with running the kitchen, Peter frequently came out to chat and see how we were doing. Over the course of the evening, I noticed that he did this with other diners as well, making everyone in the restaurant feel quite special.
He brought out three moles with some dipping wafers, and I tried each of them. The traditional flavor was quite good, but then I tried the green chile mole. It was divine. Instead of a normal heavy, peanutty consistency, the green chile mole was very smooth and filled my tongue with a startling complexity of flavors.
Later, Peter brought over the head bartender, George, as I had indicated a desire to sample some tequilas to find the perfect sipping tequila. After consulting with George, who had been at the Inn for over a decade and a half, we tried three different types of tequila. The first was a regular “silver” tequila, which was very smooth but didn’t have a lot of complexity. The second was a reposado, which means it had been aged in Kentucky oak bourbon barrels for six to twelve months, giving it a golden hue and a slight oak taste. It is what one thinks that tequila should be – bold and assertive. The third was an anejo, which means it has also been aged the same way, but for over a year. This was the immediate winner, as Michael and I sipped the anejo and were quite impressed with the smoothness and complexity of flavors on the tongue.
Peter came back and we inquired as to what deserts he had available. He asked what we wanted, and I piped up that he should surprise us. With a twinkle in his eye, he headed back to the kitchen, and after a bit returned with two dishes. The first was a rice pudding served in a corn husk, with bruled banana slices on top, and sitting on a dark chocolate sauce. It was amazing. Then we tried the second desert, a banana pudding with a small scoop of ice cream on top. One bite, and I was in heaven. This may be, without any exaggeration, one of the absolute best desserts I have ever had. That was the perfect ending to the day, and we headed to the hotel for pleasant dreams.
If you haven’t been to the restaurant of the Inn of the Anasazi hotel, put it on your Must Do list, and try out the banana pudding. You will not be disappointed by any means. The restaurant gives the feel of authentic Santa Fe inside, richly decorated with vigas, stacked stone, nichos, and bancos throughout.
We started the next morning at the Pantry, one of our favorite dawn to dusk restaurants. They have blue corn pancakes, and I am a blue corn aficionado. Blue corn onion rings, blue corn enchiladas, blue corn anything, and I am in. We are always warmly greeted with a cheerful smile and a hot cup of delicious coffee to start the day.
That afternoon, we headed over to Santa Fe Antiques to visit our dear friends, John Valdes and Everet Apodaca. They always have really neat treasures coming in from their several dozen booth renters, and it is fun to walk through and see antique furniture, vintage jewelry, and collectibles of almost any kind. We had arranged to have dinner with them that evening after store closing, and needed to settle on a restaurant that was open on a Sunday evening – no simple task in Santa Fe. After consulting TripAdvisor and checking out reviews and menus, we decided on a new place that none of us had visited – Joseph’s of Santa Fe.
Arriving at the restaurant, we realized that they shared a parking lot with the church across the street, and Sunday evening mass was still going. But we found a spot, and headed on in. We greeted our friends, and rapidly began diving into the types of conversations that are had when friends connect.
The menu at Joseph’s is quite inventive and locally sourced, and even The New York Times has given this restaurant a glowing review. They combine flavors in ways that one would not expect, and make them harmonious on the plate. Michael, for example, ordered meatloaf – bison, venison, and wagyu beef – that was outstanding. Of course, as we tend to do, all four of us were rapidly sharing tastes from each others plates, all getting a sample of Chef Joseph Wrede’s talent. Following dinner, we indulged in some desert plates, again sharing tastes with each other. John had a chocolate marquis cake that was extraordinarily smooth dark chocolate, and Michael tried the Italian meringue cloud cake. All in all, a wonderful evening with two great friends and a new dining spot to enjoy in Santa Fe. Following lots of hugs in the parking lot, we headed back to our respective abodes, and our journey to Santa Fe drew close to an end. Early the next morning, we got on the road to beat the predicted heavy rains and winds, arriving safely back at our Texas home with lots of great memories in tow.