Savoring the Sights and Flavors of Sante Fe

A fascinating tour of culture and cuisine with Chef Jackie and the International Caterers Association

Seeking a travel adventure that includes food, culture and friendship, I recently signed up for a tour with the International Caterers Association Educational Foundation. This group comprises caterers and food service professionals who travel the globe to find the best restaurants and places for sightseeing. I met up with Chef Nettie Frank of Food Network fame and author of the “Beyond Glazed” cookbook and explored some of New Mexico’s finest cuisine and adventuresome venues.

Day 1

Our event began at the Gruet Winery Santa Fe Tasting Room, a perfect setting for getting acquainted. The wines are produced in Albuquerque, with roots originating from Gilbert Gruet’s Champagne house in Bethon, France. We were off to a great start with pulled pork masa cakes, green chili bisque and a few tasty meat skewers. Our catered tapas were blue corn blinis with onion jam, goat cheese with blueberries and red chili drizzle.

Day 2

Just north of Sante Fe, we visited the sculpted caves of Ra Paulette. We were fortunate to go inside one of them, though they are normally closed to the public—truly a must-see when in this part of New Mexico.

Next to one of the caves is the celebrated NOSA restaurant set in the scenic Ojo Caliente River Valley. Chef Graham Dodds curates a menu that seamlessly marries global influences with Santa Fe’s vibrant flavors. The setting is exquisite as it overlooks the majestic Jemez Mountains.

Day 3

At the heart of Santa Fe’s culinary identity lies a small restaurant called Joseph’s Culinary Pub. Here we enjoyed Chef Joseph’s flavorful duck fat fries sprinkled with Tajin salt; then on to his delicious pozole tamales, and for dessert—cloud cake.  All dishes were pared with a mocktail or wine. A few of us wanted to smuggle out his tasty chips for later snacking!

New Mexico has a fascinating spot called Santa Fe Railyard Arts District. We visited La Lecheria, where the green chili flavor ice cream makes my mouth water even now.

We visited Altar Spirits where Caley Shoemaker, co-owner and master distiller, creates a spectrum of creative, enticing drinks. Its signature whiskey, BNK, stands for Big Nose Kate, a frontierswoman who dated Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone just teamed up with Altar to invest and promote this product.

Caley says, “The scent of northern New Mexico was my inspiration for this gin. I really wanted to bottle the essence of our landscape—the prevalent botanicals juniper, sage and pinion.”

We stopped at the Coyote Café, a culinary icon, with Chef Mark Miller at the helm—a great place to sit outside and enjoy chips and salsa, beverages and great food.

Day 4

Another highlight of Santa Fe is the James Beard award-winning restaurant, Sazón. Under Chef Fernando Olea’s meticulous guidance, this discriminating restaurant transports diners on a journey steeped in cultural history. Here we were given a degustation menu, a tasting menu featuring the talents of the chef or specialties of the region. The original word “degustación” is French, and refers to the careful curatorial tasting of several small portions over leisurely courses. We enjoyed this meal for more than 4 hours and 9 courses, beginning with dessert, because as Chef Olea says, “the palate is the freshest.” Each bite tells a tale of indigenous flavors and Spanish culinary craftsmanship. Libations are an important part of the experience. Sazón’s co-owner, Lawrence Becerra, carefully paired a complementary drink to Olea’s menu.

Day 5

I extended my trip to visit the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, comparable to many European cathedrals, built between 1869 and 1886, and where I enjoyed a private concert with two concert pianists.

Next, I visited the Santa Fe School of Cooking, housed in a magnificent building. I failed to book a class earlier, so it was sold out when I arrived. I did, however, acquire many spices to enjoy at home.

As I meandered through the streets, I discovered the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The museum has a collection of O’Keeffe’s cookbooks and her personal cooking notes she had kept, hoping someday to write her own cookbook. It seems culinary delights and pleasing art harmonize brilliantly!

The Ultimate Takeaway

Santa Fe’s food scene remains a testament to the city’s rich heritage and culinary innovation. Visionary chefs create a highly palatable journey where visitors and locals alike savor the vibrant flavors and gastronomic delights of this enchanting city.

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