Something miraculous happened last week – 5 days with no performances at the VPAC! Hence – let’s get out of town. Last Tuesday we decided to go on a last minute Valentine’s getaway to Santa Fe! It’s only about 5 hours south of here. It’s “warm” (anything in the double digits is considered warm at this point), I’d never been, and it sounded fun. So we went! And it was FABULOUS. We had a ball. It was just 3 days of eating amazing New Mexican food and tapas, drinking sangria and margaritas, looking at art, shopping for turquoise, visiting museums, and making John take pics of me standing in front on doors.
The drive started in a bit of a blizzard but soon cleared up as we made our way south. We drove through rural middle of nowhere Colorado until we finally hit New Mexcio.
Taos was our first stop. We contemplated skiing and had all of our gear, but decided to forgo a ski afternoon and get to Santa Fe. We had a lovely lunch at Orlando’s New Mexican Café which was a great intro to the food ahead. We shared a chile relleno and some guac and salsa. I even had avocado pie for dessert. It was like key lime pie but with an avocado-smooth texture. John was traumatized; I loved it.
We made it to Santa Fe after cruising past 100000 Indian casinos and found our hotel. It was by no means the Ritz but it was buy 2 nights get one free and had free wifi. It was about a 10 minute walk downtown to the Plaza etc. We headed there and found a wonderful area full of shops, restaurants, museums, galleries, etc. Loves it.
It being Valentine’s Day, we were on the hunt for a great dinner spot and we scored the 2 last seats at the bar at El Meson, a tapas restaurant right off the plaza. I love me some tapas and some Spanish food (excluding anything my host family in Valencia tried to feed us. That doesn’t count.) We shared lots of tapas including friend artichoke hearts stuffed with goat cheese, lamb brochettes, scallops, and ate a delicious chocolate dessert. They even brought us chocolate covered strawberries with our check. It was a perfect way to start our time in Santa Fe.
The next day started with high-class motel breakfast. John loves making hotel waffles. Then we headed back to plaza to explore some more. We started at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum which was exhibiting its first day of an Annie Leibowitz traveling show called “Pilgrimage” where she photographed different famous people’s personal items. Think Freud’s couch, O’Keeffe’s pastels, the other John Muir’s plant collection, etc. We took the docent tour (so sophisticated) and learned all about O’Keeffe’s life and love of New Mexico. It made the experience quite profound. Then it was time to eat again.
I got a recommendation to eat at Santa Café and am so glad we did! It’s a bit hidden but worth the hunt. I drank a pomegranate marg and ate a plate of tamales, chiles, and enchiladas. But dessert was the star! Coffee Ice Cream w/ Piñon Crisp & Cajeta Caramel. It was so good. Wow. I don’t really know what a pinon crisp is but I recommend you find one and try it.
Friday evenings in Santa Fe are spent walking Canyon Road, home to 100 art galleries and studios in a mile-long stretch. Galleries stay open late on Fridays for people to pop in, enjoy a glass of wine, and see what new art has appeared this week. We were there in somewhat of an off-season, so not too much was going on but we did find a few galleries with open doors and free booze.
We also got a recommendation for dinner from some friends. I’m glad I made the reservation bc this place was JUMPING. It’s the place to be. Café Pasqual. No trip to Santa Fe is complete without it. During the day they serve breakfast til 3 PM and people line up outside to wait for a table in this small, quirky restaurant. They do accept dinner reservations, but be flexible! Our 8:30 reservation had us seated closer to 9. We started with Napo’s Papusa : a Griddled Golden Corn Masa Cake with Zucchini, Corn, Jack and Green Chile with Roasted Tomato-Jalapeño Salsa and an Escabeche of Cabbage, Carrot, and Beets. We devoured it. Then we shared the Plato Supremo which had an Anaheim Chile Relleno, and a Mole Enchilada with Organic Chicken and a Tamale. We were stuffed. And we missed the last hotel shuttle so we sauntered back to our hotel somehow after many libations and too much food.
Fun fact: In New Mexico, they cover just about everything with red or green chile. Or you can get both by saying you want “Christmas”!
Saturday morning we went to the Farmer’s Market in the up and coming Railyard area. We perused the vendors, bought some tamales, and went outside to watch local musicians. We had a late lunch at La Boca, a hot tapas place that’s won a handful of James Beard Awards. It, like most restaurants in Santa Fe, is tiny – only seating maybe 50 guests. We shared great tapas – grilled artichokes with mint, truffle fries, a mushroom bruschetta with cream sauce and a poached egg on top. And the best part may have been the blood orange sangria. Divine.
We did our final lap around the plaza. I caved and bought a vest made of a Pendleton blanket. And a turquoise ring and some earrings. I look like such a blonde New Mexican! (Prime example of photos I made John take of myself).
For our last evening in Santa Fe, we were a bit overfed by tamales, etc. so John granted me the pleasure of accompanying me to a salad restaurant called Vinaigrette. I think this was my favorite. It’s in a a small, modern house near our hotel. The menu is about 20 different salads that you can man-up with duck confit, steak, chicken, etc. I had a pear salad with duck and John a grilled Cesar with steak. It was so refreshing! They grow all their own produce in Nambe outside of town. After 3 days of fried chile rellenos, it may have been the best salad ever. And they serve drinks in Mason jars. Sold.
There was a Whole Foods next to our hotel. We had resisted it this whole time, but finally caved and went and bought lots of little desserts to take back to our hotel. Sometimes, you just can’t beat the Whole Foods.
Something special about John/Char road trips is that the best parts are usually the drives there and back. We’ve done some major driving in our time together to the South and back from Vail. The drive home, we took a different route to go up through western New Mexico and it was so worth the extra 2 hours. I felt like I was in Northern Argentina! Beautiful red rock cliffs, blue skies, sparse green. We stopped to take pics like a 100 times. And John figured out the camera timer so we got some couple’s pics! We walked around Ghost Ranch and just pulled over anytime we saw a good view.
Now we’re back! It’s President’s Day week here which is a major week for vacationers, so we’ve got 6 shows at the VPAC to entertain the resort guests. I’ll be thinking about Santa Fe as I sit in the box office selling tickets to “Dogs Gone Wild”….
John’s favorite bumper sticker.