New Mexico calls to you. Visit once and you find yourself planning your return trip before you’ve even left the state. So utterly unique in landscape, architecture, art, vibe and much more, New Mexico offers a bounty of treasures, especially for those who venture off the beaten path and seek delicious, adventurous, yet accessible food.
Taos Ski Valley and Arroyo Seco
At the end of the box valley is the small ski town of Ski Taos and its new heart, the Blake Hotel. The hotel’s restaurant, 192 at the Blake, aspires to be a food destination worthy of the drive up the narrow canyon from Taos. Head Chef Patrick Gharrity sources locally and combines passion for quality ingredients and simple, yet expert preparation. The wood-fired pizzas are perfectly chewy and crispy with toppings that have fresh-off-the-farm flavor–because they are!
The tiny artist colony of Arroyo Seco is a must-stop on the road to or from Ski Taos. Full of one-of-a-kind shops, galleries, and cafes, this is also a real place where locals live. Hidden down a flowery path is SOL Food Natural Market, a sweet little hippy grocery store that also happens to prepare one of the best panini sandwiches we’ve ever tasted. Even the fresh side salad, which came with the sandwich, was delicious, topped with a simple vinaigrette. Improbable, yes, but seek SOL out for a simple, healthy and delicious lunch. For dessert, head across the road to Taos Cow Ice Cream Company, named one of Bon Appetit magazine’s top 10 great ice cream shops, serving all natural rBGH-free ice cream: Try the local Cherry Ristra flavor with cherry ice cream, dark chocolate soft chunks and piñon nuts.
The storied plazas, caminos and calles of Santa Fe abound with eateries from simple pub grub to pizzerias to ultra-elegant dining. To get the scoop from a local, try the Wander New Mexico food tour and find spots overlooked by tourists. On our tour of The Railyard District, we discovered La Choza. Locals love La Choza for the dependably delicious New Mexican family recipes, easy parking and shorter wait times than their sister restaurant, located on the Plaza, The Shed.
A 10-minute drive from the Plaza, Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen is the place for people who care equally about flavor the quality of ingredients, and their nutritional content. Fluffy pancakes prepared with buckwheat flour (hand milled daily on-site!) and Paleo breakfast wraps (more crepe than tortilla, topped by rich red chili sauce) are examples of the passion proprietresses Fiona and Soma have for healthful food.
Venturing out of the city toward the northern pueblos, detour to the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado for a splurge treat at their restaurant, Terra. With a patio that overlooks the distant valley and mesas, enjoy views as you enjoy delicious, thoughtfully prepared food. Afterward, stroll the grounds or even take a quick hike into the surrounding hills.
Oft neglected by well-heeled travelers seeking the more rarified air of New Mexico’s capitol city, Santa Fe, and known more for Breaking Bad than haute cuisine, Albuquerque has sprouted delicious food options worth exploring.
Hotel Chaco is an architecturally stunning blend of ancient native architecture and modernity. Opened in June, 2017, located on the edge of Old Town, we enjoyed a most delicious breakfast in a most unlikely spot; the lobby bar, Equinox Café & Bar. A pair of affable hotel employees offered local sightseeing tips as we enjoyed a modestly-priced Prairie Frittata (a layered egg torte) with side salad. We purchased locally-baked treats for the road – an expertly prepared flaky croissant “puff” with cheese and berries, chorizo and cheese scone, and the best banana muffin made for a decadent snack later after taking the Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway!
Next door to Hotel Chaco is the more traditional Spanish Colonial splendor of Hotel Albuquerque. We attended the Tablao Flamenco Albuquerque for a night of flamenco cabaret (fantastic!) and delicious tapas. The duck Albondigas, drizzled in a complex and rich sauce with hints of orange, went perfectly with the red Sangria (one of several options). Plates of olives and platters of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie made for a perfect late meal. After the show, an evening stroll in the lovely gardens and fountains reminded this traveler of the gardens of Sevilla, Espagne.
Close by Hotel Albuquerque, another surprise awaits – St. Clair Wine Bistro. Serving a wide array of wines grown in their own New Mexico vineyards, this spacious and friendly tasting room/restaurant has a great history (read the menu notes) and serves a wide variety of food. We enjoyed a Salade Nicoise (perfectly prepared tuna) and a hearty dish of Meatloaf (perhaps the best ever) with mashed potatoes. A flight of six wines is available from only $6 (tasting bar only); our Premium Flight of three wines at $8 was still a bargain.
To the north, following the Rio
Grande, the area of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque is a tranquil setting of horse pastures, haciendas and lanes shaded by huge cottonwoods. Hidden at the end of one of those lanes is Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Urban Farm. With a storied history dating back hundreds of years, this is an idyllic setting for the on-site restaurant offering high end cuisine at dinner, prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan Perno and his team, as well as more down to earth fare at breakfast. The tasty, simple fare is served in an historic light-filled room accessed through a dreamy courtyard with old-growth vines and a relaxing, tiled fountain. It’s more like visiting your wealthy abuelita’s grand country home for breakfast than a business! Be sure to allow time to stroll the impossibly romantic grounds and visit their gift shop stocked with lavender products, produced from their own fields. Better yet, stay the night in a spacious casita-like-setting to fully immerse yourself in the experience.
New Mexico is full of treasures, both those meant for tourists and the locals. You’ll be generously rewarded for straying off the beaten path, discovering delicious food in unforgettable settings. – Story and photos by Courtney Drake-McDonough, RFTContributor