Obviously we love food. Every time we determine where we're going to go for vacation, or even for a quick trip, we have to ask "will we eat fantastic food?" It's actually been a surprisingly fun aspect of our marriage, our common love of finding and trying new places to eat and new recipes to try. We've eaten in some very nice places, but more often than not we're trying fun little hole-in-the-wall joints. (It took quite a while to talk Sharon into trying the little taqueria here in town, however. She's not a fan of what she calls "sketchy burittos." We always look to see if any dogs are missing outside. So far, so good.
So when we were discussing if we wanted to go on a vacation this summer obviously the opportunity to try new and fun food was high on the list. New Mexico is famous for their unique, "New Mexico Mexican" cuisine. New Mexicans are very quick to tell you that their food is definitely not Tex-Mex, it's got its own particular twist on things that is probably much more authentic to Mexico. Every restaurant seemed to have lengthy discussions on their menu about the perfect elevation New Mexico enjoys in order to grow perfect chili peppers. And everything has chili (sauce) on it, either green chili or red chili. The green chili is made from fresh peppers and is a little hotter. Red chili is made from dried peppers and has a smokier flavor. Or, if you want to talk like a local you can have both on your plate. That's called "Christmas style." (Red and green, get it?) Sharon preferred the green chili and Matt preferred the red. Forget chips and salsa, that is not done in New Mexico. But you can count on sopapillas for dessert. After dealing with the "happy heat" of all that chili, the sopapillas were definitely welcome!
The Blue Corn Cafe
So here's where we went first, a fantstic place right on the edge of the square called the Blue Corn Cafe. We ate there our first night in town and it was wonderful, but we forgot to take pictures of the food! So here is our meal from lunch the very next day (we really liked this place, and it was reasonably priced! Hard to find in Santa Fe.) Sharon is enjoying huevos rancheros (this was actually probably Sharon's favorite for the entire trip, she loves loves loves heuvos rancheros.) Matt is showing off what's left of chicken tacos in blue corn tortillas.
Santa Fe has a pretty significant Spanish history. And because of that their food is strongly influenced by Spain. So we decided to try a Spanish tapas bar to get a taste of Spanish food. Spanish tapas are sorta like appetizers, only for dinner. The idea is to order several small items and share. That way everybody gets to taste, and you get to try a bunch of different things. So we started out with an heirloom salad with goat cheese and basalmic vinaigrette. After that came the "main course" tapas. We had chili-marinated grilled lamb skewers (awesome, Sharon was surprised at how much she liked them), oven-roasted red potatoes with a red chili sauce and garlic aoli dipping sauce, and ridiculously tasty shrimp sauteed with red pepper flake and garlic that came out in the cool little ceramic bowl. You can probably still see them bubbling in the picture. El Meson was also a winner.
Coyote Cafe - Rooftop Cantina
The Coyote Cafe is a pretty swanky restaurant in Santa Fe and, after our El Meson experience, we figured we should tone it down a notch. So we went to their rooftop cantina instead. It had a fun vibe and they get pretty creative with their interpretation of New Mexican food. It helped that the night we went was stunningly beautiful, so being on a rooftop outside in Santa Fe was a great place to be. Here's pictures of both of us enjoying the evening, and then one picture that captures both dinners. Sharon got a Navajo Taco (pretty crazy, it had buffalo, beef, and chicken on it) and Matt had a chimichanga. The chimicanga was definitely better, to be honest.
We were off to Taos after three days in Santa Fe with a recommendation to try Orlando's. The manager of our B&B in Santa Fe had lived in Taos for 25 years and said it was the best in town. We didn't get a lot of time to try everything to see if she was right, but it would be hard to top the grub we put down in Orlando's. Sharon liked it so much she bought a t-shirt there! Matt got a big ol' stuffed buritto and Sharon got more huevos rancheros, this time with blue corn tortillas and pasole (the hominy side dish.) To quote Sharon, it was "freaking amazing." Orlando's kinda had a dive feel to it (no website to point you to on this one), but man the food was amazing. If you're ever in Taos, go to Orlando's!
We decided to finish off the trip with a fancy dinner, and did we ever hit the jackpot. El Meze is owned by chef Frederick Muller who is sort of a chef/historian. He's done years of research on the food of Northern New Mexico and discovered that its influenced by quite a few different groups, including the Spanish Moors (Arabians.) So he's created a restaurant and menu that pulls from Arabic, Spanish, and Mexican tastes and is really amazing. It's pretty rare to get to eat at a place where you sit back and think "this guy is probably one of the best in the world at what he does." Well, El Meze was one of those places. But not too full of itself, either. Chef Muller came out about 3/4 of the way through our dinner and just sat down and had a cup of coffee. He asked us what we had and when Sharon told him crab salad he said, "oh yeah, I was craving that so I put it on the menu." Amazing food, great place. A picture of the restaurant is included (it's a 200 year old adobe hacienda, just to add to the awesomeness.)
So we started with hummus and olives. Sharon loves olives, so some Spanish olives hit the spot for her. The hummus was great and the pita chips were grilled, very yummy. Matt had a bone-in aged rib eye with Moroccan butter and herbed french fries. The butter should probably be a controlled substance. It was garlicky and minty and amazing with the steak. Sharon had (as mentioned) crab salad with big ol' huge chunks of crab in it. She was very happy with her choice.
We ended with dessert, even though we were stuffed. Matt had lavender-infused creme brule, and Sharon had cardamom doughnuts with a chocolate caramel sauce. Sharon wanted me to put a caption under the picture saying "check out my wife's doughuts." But since this is a family blog we won't do that. At the end is a picture of us after dinner, fat and happy. So to sum up, if you get a chance to go to Northern New Mexico (and it is absolutely worth the trip) go hungry!