Santa Fe. Chili
Red. Green. Or Christmas.
One of the top reasons we go to Santa Fe is for the food.
Everyone has their favorite “hole on the wall” and/or fancy-ancy place. Restaurants are everywhere. And not just those serving New Mexican cuisine.
We have our favorite quick stop. The Plaza Cafe Southside. Easy to get to. We can pick something up on our way out of the city on our way to our Air B&B and eat in the comfort of the surrounding arroyos and ravens and piñons. This restaurant also caters to vegans. And they have a warning on their menu that they are not responsible for your reaction to the heat of the chilis. So choose wisely, my friend. Remember that in Santa Fe, the green chili is not for the faint of heart. Seriously.
Then there is Jambo. African-Caribbean Fusion. Oh, my. And, yet again, know your heat level. The sweet potato lentil stew with coconut rice was incredible. Here, too, vegans are happily and deliciously accommodated. I came home with the curry spices for that soup, plus black bean curry, and some sumac. Oh, the lemony lusciousness of sumac. I should have bought their cookbook.
Inspired by the chili beef stew we had on a whim in Taos and the Plaza Cafe’s flat enchiladas, we picked up some ground chili at the farmers market from the sweetest abuela ever. We are excited to use these and play around. One hot hot – she said it depends on your ability to withstand heat as to whether or not you will like it. And a bag of medium. We’ll let you know. We’re going to use a recipe from Rancho Gordo.
Then there is Sazon. Be still my heart. A lovely intimate restaurant where you are surrounded by huge paintings – many of them of Frida. You’re treated like royalty, even if you are in jeans.
We haven’t really eaten at very many high end restaurants in Santa Fe, except for Sazon. Chef Olea is genius. Solidly New Mexican, but with a contemporary update.
I only used my camera for the flashlight to read the menu. Yes, I’m at that age. 🙄 So I don’t have any photos.
Think about this – four exquisite mole sauces as an amuse bouche – starting with the sweetest deep chocolate to a sweet apricot to a green chili to the smokey red chili with three mini flour tortillas to scoop up all that deliciousness while you sip your cocktail and decide on what will grace your plate. I’ll be writing a post about the cocktail. My introduction to mezcal. Oh. My.
Sopa de Amour…chef Olea’s gift of love. A silky creamy poblano chili soup with a touch of sweetness, topped with crab meat, topped with a cream foam (a thick one and, I know, I’m not a fan of foam but this one…oh, this one) and then brushing of cinnamon. The server tells you not to mix it up but spoon a bit of everything in each bite. I wanted to lick the bowl, but the young French couple next to us were the mentors that kept me in line.
My entree. Not only was it delicious, but the plating itself was gorgeous mahogany and bright green with touch of white – it did look like Christmas. Raising the humble enchilada to this level takes a deft hand that understands flavors and textures. Corn tortillas run quickly through hot oil, layered with sweet potato cream, topped with luscious duck breast perfectly cooked and then topped with the deepest, richest, sweetest of Chef Olea’s moles. Two thin rings of fresh white sweet onion on top and sides of quick pickled spiraled baby beets and a jasmine rice with baby, baby cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro, you just might like the baby ones. It was incredible.
Dulce Sinfonia for dessert. A “savory” dessert that was not savory but extremely rich. A creamy lovely pale green avocado ice cream topped with a white ginger sauce. It sat in a sweet deep pink beet sauce with jalapeños and roasted piñons.
In New Mexico when you order your chili Christmas, you get both red and green chili side by side on your burrito. At Sazon Christmas has an entirely different appearance.
Well, off to make dinner. Bubble and squeak out of the last of the leftovers. Turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, green beans with an egg and some gravy coated in panko bread crumbs and baked – not fried in oil as the British do.
It may not be Santa Fe cuisine, but a person cannot live by chili alone…..