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Jan 31, 2011 06:00 AM

Santa Fe and environs

I'll be visiting Santa Fe and the surrounding area in late April early May. This is my first trip to the area and I've been looking forward to it for years. I'd love some suggestions for great local specialties and/or just great food. Trying to avoid the Chamber of Commerce recommendations if you know what I mean. I'm looking for places where I can eat good solid 'authentic' (whatever that means) regional food without too many tourists around. We'll be taking day trips too so anything along the trail is also fair game for good things to eat. Thank you, fellow Chowhounds in the great Southwest.

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  1. Hi there, and welcome in advance.

    Northern New Mexican food is a regional cuisine largely left over from when this area was part of Mexico. Most of the Mexican restaurants around here serve some form of it, with green chile (semi-spicy large chiles roasted, peeled, diced, and sometimes put in a sauce or salsa) being the quintessential ingredient.

    "Where can I get good local chow" is easily the most asked-for question on the board, so definitely do a search and you'll find tons of great choices. To get you going:

    As part of a day trip, I'll also specifically recommend el Rancho de Chimayo. The whole menu is good, but they're specifically known for their outstanding red chile.

    10 Replies
    1. re: finlero

      Thanks for all those great links, finlero. I'm just a little confused about something. You mentioned el Rancho de Chimayo as part of a day trip but where is it?

      1. re: micki

        El Rancho de Chimayo is in...Chimayo. :)

        It's about 40 minutes north of Santa Fe. Makes a nice stop before or after checking out the Santuario. Perfect half day trip on its own, or could be easily combined with a visit to Los Alamos or Taos.

        1. re: finlero

          Thank you once again, finlero. I've been reading about the Sante Fe Farmers market. Any vendors there worth a visit?

          1. re: micki

            Late April/early May is a tricky time for NM produce, kind of a crap shoot in terms of how much will be available by then. I'd just go and wander around and see what looks good; it's not that gigantic. I really like Gonzales Farms, but it's as much for the great family who runs it as for their produce.

            One caveat: a fair number of the vendors don't display their prices. Being a reasonably well-dressed white dude with a low tolerance for haggling, I tend to avoid these stands, as the odds of my getting a decent price are pretty slim. I don't begrudge the farmers for it, you can run your business however you choose, but I do try to vote with my feet.

            1. re: finlero

              Since I won't have a kitchen when I'm in Santa Fe I was thinking more along the lines of bringing home dried chilis, etc. Can do? Any suggestions for vendors on that front?

              1. re: micki

                Again, not really. Just browse and see what looks good. Also, know that all the grocery stores in the state carry that stuff too, although of course it's cool to support the local vendors directly.

                1. re: finlero

                  Thanks for your help and suggestions. My trip will be all the richer for them.

            2. re: micki

              It won't be full-on chile season, but I think there will be enough prepared and easily transportable foods at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, plus handicrafts and so on, to make it worth a stop on a Saturday morning. You'll also see a nice cross-section of Santa-Fe-ers there. My Mom got a ginger and local peach jam from Crumpackers that she still talks about a year later. Intergalactic Bakery has great stuff to eat right there. I get their whole grain bread pocket filled with market greens first thing for breakfast when I reach the market. Outrageous.

              1. re: ninrn

                Thank you, ninrn. I'm making a list!

                1. re: micki

                  I'm a list-maker too. Here are a few more great stalls at the market:
                  >> Stahmann's Farms -- NM has a long history of growing pecans, and this farm is one of the oldest producers.
                  >> Old Windmill Dairy and South Mountain Dairy (artisanal goat cheeses. If you like blue cheeses, OWD's has an amazing one)
                  >> Pasta Divina (organic handmade pastas and sauces)
                  >> Heidi's Raspberry Farm (jams)
                  >> Lavender grows beautifully here, so you pretty much can't go wrong with the lavender products many people are selling.

                  Some non-Farmer's Market Suggestions I don't think I saw on the great links finlero posted:
                  >> Kakawa Chocolate House - It's not NM regional, but it's an unusual shop. The owner brings cacao beans back personally from different places in South America and has done a lot of research into Mayan and Aztec traditions of chocolate preparation. It's expensive (truffles are $3/ea, and bulk chocolate runs $36/lb) but I've never tasted purer chocolate, and it's so intense, you really only need a little. (My sister and I just get a couple of ounces of the plain bulk dark with nibs and we're good for the day.) And if the owner is in, which he usually is, you can get a whole chocolate education plus lots of free strange hot cocoa samples. I think it's a must-visit if you or anyone with you likes dark, dark, dark chocolate.

                  >> The posole at La Plazuela in La Fonda Hotel

                  >> Anything smothered in red chile at La Choza or The Shed (same owners, same red chile; La Choza is cheaper)

                  >> Ohori's Coffee - Best coffee in Santa Fe, roasted right on site.

                  >> If you go to visit theTaos Pueblo, be sure to try some fry bread. Even their regular white, bread baked in the communal oven, is good.

                  >> NM produces some nice wines and most of the wineries offer tastings. One of my favorites that's sort of off the beaten path is La Chiripada in Dixon <>

                  >> 315 Wine Bistro has a 3-course fixed price dinner for $18 that's probably one of the best deals in the city. The FP menu changes weekly and most of the ingredients come from the Farmer's Mkt. Also, the owner, Louis Moskow, is often out in the dining room talking to customers. He's been on the Santa Fe food scene for a long time, knows a lot about food and loves to talk. If you go there early in your trip, he could probably steer you to all kinds of great stuff to eat (if he does, please do post about them here).

                  Hope you have a great time.

                  Kakawa Chocolate House
                  1050 Paseo, De Peralta Santa Fe, NM

                  La Choza Restaurant
                  905 Alarid St, Santa Fe, NM 87505

                  La Fonda
                  100 E San Francisco St, Santa Fe, NM 87501

      2. Best regional food - Casa Castro on Cerrilos, Atrisco in DeVargas Mall, The Shed on the Plaza (although there are always tourists in The Shed; but their "red" is one of the best in Santa Fe), Maria's for Margaritas. Always ask for Sopapillas, although in the aforementioned, you'll always get them.
        Rancho de Chimayo is good in Chimayo and so is Leona's (her pinocha pudding -very locally traditional is the best as are her tortillas). She's under the trees next to the Santuario.
        I am a local San ta Fean - trust me!

        Atrisco Cafe and Bar
        193 Paseo De Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501

        1. Oh! A couple of other suggestions: for the VERY BEST dried chile powder in the state to take home with you, check out the Medinas in Chimayo right across from the El Nino Chapel near the Santuario AND must go to Orlando's in Taos - just about the tastiest chiles and enchiladas etc in El Norte! One more thing - breakfasts in the Taos Inn (Doc Martin's) are huge and good! The sweet potato chile biscuits are fabulous and the place is very reasonable (less than $10.00).
          Enjoy your stay in our beautiful part of the state. You're coming at lilac time!

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