A TASTY SANTA FE FOOD TOUR
Returning to Santa Fe has long been on my Bucket List.
My first visit was in the mid-1980s. My love of history lured me here, but an obsession with the fiery flavors of green chile keeps bringing me back. Too many years – 13 -- have passed since my last visit. Cara and I joined my brother, Jeff Scheid, and his wife, Jenny, to mark their wedding anniversary.
Over the years, two memories are seared into my sensory system when Sante Fe comes to mind: the green chile options I deeply missed, and the scent of smoke from the many wood-burning fireplaces so prevalent here. The latter instantly transports me back to my early teens when I was a newspaper boy, plowing through ankle-deep snow along my route in tiny Terry, Montana.
Cara and I arrived on Wednesday after a one-hour flight from Las Vegas. We connected at the airport with her mother, Jan Roberts, of Lincoln, Neb., and hit the road in our rental car for the one-hour drive to Santa Fe.
After checking in at the Eldorado Hotel on San Francisco Street, our first must-see destination was Tomasita’s, a five-minute Lyft ride away. While Cara and I ordered a combination platter to split, Jan, no fan of spicy fare, opted for a salad and Tomasita’s legendary sopaipillas, the pillow-like deep fried bread served with honey, a Southwest favorite.
At the entrance of Tomasita’s there’s a warning in bold red print: “The Chili is Hot.” Diners are instructed to “ask your waitperson for a sample or order it on the side. We are not responsible for too hot chile.”
I missed the sign. When our platter arrived I took one bite of the green chile that smothered the enchilada and realized I was a lightweight. Should have asked for the sample. I like heat, but this just short of molten lava, well out of my comfort zone.
We ended the evening with a walk to the plaza and a wine stop at the La Fonda Hotel, famous for its margaritas on the rooftop patio.
Thanksgiving Day started with a 7 a.m., 10-minute stroll up to the city plaza in search of the French Pastry Shop and Creperie near the La Fonda. The hot chocolate and almond croissant made such an impression we stopped there on our way back to Albuquerque on Monday.
Thanksgiving dinner at Rosewood Inn at the Anasazi will be remembered for its jaw-dropping cost: At $95 per person, it was the priciest holiday dinner I’ve experienced. I’m not convinced you would pay that at the toniest restaurant in New York. Wish I could say it was worth it, but I have this old-fashioned idea that Thanksgiving dinner should involve fresh-roasted turkey, not a seasoned turkey roll, and should include those cornerstones of a holiday dinner: potatoes and gravy. The sausage stuffing, covered with a hint of gravy, was a hit but the “leg terrine” left much to be desired. I have a special place in my heart for cranberry sauce and, what little there was, was memorable. I regret I didn’t ask for more. For $94 I want bowls refilled with cranberry sauce.
Dessert was hit and miss: The apple pie with caramel sauce and red chile spiced pinion ice cream was well received, but I craved pumpkin and ordered the pumpkin roll. Alas, it was dominated by an ultra-rich cream cheese mousse.
Full disclosure: I talked Cara into going to Santa Fe because my addiction problem. I am hopelessly hooked on great Green Chili Stew and Santa Fe’s legendary breakfast burritos. At 7 a.m. Friday, I was in Tia Sophia’s for their “Christmas” breakfast burrito (covered in red and green chile sauces). Along with scrambled eggs, it featured hash browns, bacon and cheese. It did not disappoint and was the reason I had three breakfasts there. I returned with Cara and her mother, Jan Roberts, after my rave reviews of the half red, half green chile with chunks of tender beef and potato. I’ve not led a sheltered life so I am perplexed how I missed the latter for all these years.