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The phrase ‘saving the best for last’ may be the wrap up sentiment for this trip, though there have been so many wonderful morsels along the way it’s impossible to say. I woke to a gorgeous morning. Blue skies, cool breeze and the beat on a great new breakfast place. I had researched online, looking for a punctuating southwestern experience and felt confident from the menu review, The Guadalupe Café would be it.
A short stroll from the Plaza area wound by intriguing businesses and buildings. We arrived at the café at 8:30 to no wait. There were happy morning diners strewn throughout rooms of the converted house, all bathed in warm light streaming in through the many windows. Despite my love affair with Café Pasqual’s that will never end, the missing angst about the wait and getting a table was a welcome reprieve.
Cesar was our server and a total ray of sunshine. A friendlier, happier chap there has never been. Beaming with enthusiasm for the food, his job and quick to warm my coffee. Loved that. Making a selection was challenging as so many things looked the perfect New Mexican breakfast. Ultimately I chose Blue Corn Breakfast Enchiladas (two stacked blue corn tortillas with generous amounts of chile and cheese. Served with home cut potatoes and pinto beans. Also toast or muffin though I got fruit instead). It was nothing short of perfect.
We also ordered a side of Jalapeno Mesquite Sausage feeling the trip would not be complete without sampling something so delicious sounding. It came with a side of blue corn tortillas. I’m mad about southwestern flavors as you have gathered by now and feel it can be tricky to harness the flavors and not overpower with the heat. The sausage was ‘to die for’. Beautiful flavors of slight smoke, heat and quality meat. I have to admit part of my assessment criteria is how I feel after I eat it. You can tell the ingredient quality if you walk away from a meal feeling purely sated with no after effect of lard, sugar, processed ingredients.
The other dish at our table was Sausage and Cheese Enchiladas (two blue corn tortillas rolled with sausage and cheese, ladled with chile and oven-fired. Served with home-cut potatoes and toast/muffin). I tasted it and felt it too was a ‘Best of Santa Fe’ contender. The star being the red chile (which was gluten free at Guadalupe Café; the green chile has flour). I think if you have not been to the Southwest your sense of a true chile sauce (not to be confused with ‘chili’, the stew) might vary from how it’s made. It definitely has some heat, but a sneaky, smoldering heat; not the kind that blows smoke from your ears to the sound of a train horn as on cartoons. It’s rich with smoky flavor and depth, a serious sauce, thick in the most gorgeous orangey-red ever (red chile that is). Love the taste of coffee when eating a red chile dish too. Really a more perfect start to the day there has not been. We loved it so much we ordered a portion to bring home to Colorado!
422 Old Santa Fe Trail. Santa Fe, NM. 87501. 505.982.9762
With a few hours to spend, a walk around, taking in the last sights of Santa Fe was the perfect preface to a several hour drive back to Colorado. A first stop (and a ‘must’ stop for anyone visiting) was to stroll the wears of the Native Americans selling their jewelry outside at the Palace of the Governors across the street from the Plaza. By 10 the lineup was full. Spirits were high, everyone friendly.
I must admit I always feel a bit uncomfortable perusing an artist’s wares in front of them. I don’t want to offend anyone, set false expectations if I’m not ready to buy or feel on the spot. I will say unequivocally all the artists were completely friendly, happy to answer questions or just chat. One in our party was wearing a shirt from Roswell and one of the artists asked if we’d seen any aliens, then confessing those in Santa Fe think all living in Roswell are aliens!
There was the usual show of artfully crafted Native jewelry, with stones and without, in traditional designs and modern. Those we spoke with were from the San Ildefonso Pueblo made famous originally for their beautiful black pottery. We picked up a beautiful hair tie, a few guitar picks (so clever) and bookmarks made of silver and brass, stamped with symbols the artist explained with turquoise on the bent top (so when the book is closed you still see the stone).
Five and Dime General Store. Exactly what you would think of as an old school ‘5 and Dime’. This curio shop used to be a Woolworth’s that held its ground for years. It’s been replaced by a great stop for any souvenir or post card you’d hope for. I bought southwestern themed socks for a gift and Pinon Coffee.
58 East San Francisco St. Santa Fe, NM. 87501. 505.992.1800.
Oleaceae. I trolled the window of this store several times when it was closed absolutely smitten with these salt holders. Fortunately for me they opened before I hit the road north. The shop is impeccably ordered and organized. It specializes in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. You might not imagine how many high quality options there would be for these items and I had my eyes opened wider as well. Limited on time I bee lined for the salt. I did a tasting (one or two kernels of salt convey a big flavor) and was amazed at the variation in flavors. The shop’s selection is broad and representative of all corners of the earth. I selected Black Truffle Sea Salt (the inhale of it is out of this world), a pink flakey Murray River Sea Salt and Trapani Sea Salt for a more everyday use. The list contained well over 20 salts all with their own personality and are unrefined. I can’t wait for a return trip to sample the balsamic vinegars and olive oils. THEY SHIP!
· La Fonda Hotel. 100 E. San Francisco St. #H. Santa Fe, NM. 87501. 505.795.7780
The Spanish Table. A friend tipped me off to this shop carrying authentic food items from Spain and Portugal. It turned out to be a block from my hotel. ‘Amazing’, a highly over used word I know, but truly applicable to this store’s offerings and does not even begin to cover it. This is one of four shops around the U.S. carrying everything from tangines (almost bought two purely for the colors), other pottery, professional paella pans ranging from itty bitty to probably 4 feet in diameter, books/cookbooks, any and all foods one would use for paella and any other dish from these regions. I was overwhelmed. I spoke with the manager at length vowing to come back with a list but in the meantime could he help me with some unique things to take home for making paella. He packed me up with some fully cured ‘intense’ Spanish chorizo (a little goes a long way), manchego cheese steeped in brandy, a spreadable Sobrasado sausage (this is U.S. made). I also bought some Sumac (not the poisonous variety) having seen some in recipes of late but never having used it.
109 N. Guadalupe St. Santa Fe, NM. 87501. 505.986.0243. www.spanishtable.com/
Sun Country Traders. This shop is full of Native American hand-crafted wares. I’m mad for these Navajo artist carved pigs. Bought a herd of them. Nothing to do with food. Indulge me.
123 East Water Street. Santa Fe, NM. 87501. 505.982.0467. www.suncountrysantafe.com/
This has been a great trip. So many adventures and so much delicious food. I appreciate you coming along with me, your generous comments and enthusiasm. I hope you’ve enjoyed living vicariously but more so might take a spin down into this beautiful, delicious part of the U.S. It is unique and should not be missed!
Lastly I’d like to personally thank friend Colleen for the 24 hour/day co-piloting via text and email, guiding on quick course corrections, ‘must see’, ‘don’t waste the time’ recommendations, conferring about Alien hypothesis and more. The trip would not have been nearly as successful without you!
I’ll leave you with some parting shots of Santa Fe…..