Shabu Shabu

Story by Melyssa Holik/Photographs by Douglas Merriam

This winter—after two years and almost a dozen test runs—Ten Thousand Waves President Duke Klauck and Chef Kiko Rodriguez debuted shabu shabu at Izanami restaurant. Duke has immersed himself in Japanese culture for decades and has longed to bring shabu shabu to New Mexico. “It’s something I’ve experienced all over Japan and I just love it. I love cooking things myself,” Duke says. In their journey to bring this dream to fruition, Duke and Chef Kiko encountered numerous challenges, from cookware difficulty to space considerations. But their perseverance and hard work have finally paid off, and shabu shabu at Izanami has quickly become a Santa Fe sensation.

So what exactly, is shabu shabu? Simply put, it’s a Japanese hot pot meal that you cook for yourself at your table. It’s a marvelous dish to share because it can be personalized for each diner. You can feast on meats and wheat noodles, while vegan or gluten-free friends can enjoy their fill of vegetables and rice noodles. Shabu shabu has multiple steps to it; it’s meant to be savored in unhurried relaxation. Again, this makes it an ideal communal meal. 

The ritual begins by heating two types of broth on a hot plate right at your table. A two-compartment bowl holds soy dashi broth in one side and kombu (seaweed) broth on the other. These broths will be used to cook the meal in a little bit. In the meantime, an impressive array of utensils, toppings and sauces are placed before you in preparation for things to come.

Each diner is given two dipping sauces to season their portion to their individual taste: a yuzu ponzu sauce with daikon and scallions, and a creamy sesame ginger dipping sauce, as well as a bowl of sesame seeds which arrives in a mortar and pestle. As you wait for your broths to simmer, you grind the seeds into a paste, adding salt and/or togarashi spice mix to your liking.

There’s an option to add extras like Angus beef or chicken tsukune, which are seasoned chicken meatballs similar to a gyoza filling. Tsukune is a popular choice in shabu restaurants in Japan, where it’s frequently grilled over charcoal. Although Izamani marks Chef Kiko’s first foray into Japanese cuisine, he has accepted the challenge and has proven himself adept at it. Duke attributes Chef’s success to his experience creating small plates at La Boca, explaining, “Izakaya is to Japan as tapas is to Spain.” As a result, Duke beams, “Kiko’s tsukune is as good as any I’ve had in Japan.” The tsukune arrives raw in a bamboo tube, so your server will scoop out little dollops of the meat and place them gently in the broth to cook.

After a few minutes, the broths begin to simmer, and your patience is rewarded! Bowls arrive stacked with napa cabbage, enoki mushrooms, carrots, bok choy, shitake, tofu and shungiku—Japanese chrysanthemum leaves. Each of these vegetables is locally sourced from farmers here in New Mexico, including Romero Farms, Freshies and Izanami’s own on-site garden located across the street from the restaurant.

If you’ve elected to add it, gorgeously red, delicately sliced Angus beef appears arranged on its own serving plate. Though it’s thoroughly enjoyable for non-meat eaters, the beef is an essential component of shabu shabu. After all, the very name shabu shabu references the sound of the beef cooking. It’s an onomatopoeia; the Japanese equivalent of “swish, swish” and it refers to the sound of a diner swishing the beef around in the broth to cook it. Still, shabu shabu is thoroughly enjoyable for non-meat eaters, too. (Though I’m a carnivore, I found myself particularly delighted by the chrysanthemum leaves, which are at once familiar and exotic.)

With all the components in place, at last, it’s time to get cooking. Each diner takes their chosen meat or vegetables and adds it to the pot to cook. Tsukune takes the longest, while the beef and the more delicate vegetables cook quickly. If all of this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. There’s no need to be intimidated by any of it, the knowledgeable and patient staff will explain everything. They’ll have you swishing and dipping like an expert in no time.

Finally, when your vegetable bowls and meat plates are empty, the meal’s still not over. The final step is the addition of rice and/or wheat ramen noodles (once more, it’s your choice to get either one, or both) which you let simmer, and once cooked, enjoy a noodle soup that’s been flavored along the way with the unique combination of ingredients you and your companions have been leisurely adding throughout the course of its creation.

Shabu shabu provides sustenance for the body, but if you allow it, it can also nourish your spirit. In some ways, it’s an extension of the spa treatments at Ten Thousand Waves. As Duke says, “It’s the perfect spa food because it’s satisfying yet doesn’t feel heavy or weigh you down.” It’s best to enjoy the slow pace, much like you would a soak or any spa experience. So don’t rush through it—luxuriate in the subtle flavors, the many choices in front of you, where you are and the people you’re with.

Sake

Izanami is well-known for their extensive selection of sake, including sake flights, which make a fabulous addition to a shabu shabu lunch. At any given time, Izanami offers about 50 varieties of sake. During the months of January-February, Izanami celebrates its birthday with a weekly series of special sake flights that visitors can record in a sake passport, and earn rewards for collecting stamps. As you’d expect, the Izanami staff can tell you all about what you’re consuming, with an incredible amount of detail. Whether you’re interested in the history, botany, brewing process or geography of a particular sake, they can fill you in on the specifics of which rice varieties were used, the historic brewing techniques, even how the location of a particular brewery might influence the flavor. Sake is a rich subject with as much depth and complexity as grape wine, and Izanami makes exploring it both fascinating and accessible.

Après Slope

(Story by Melyssa Holik; photos by Liz Lopez)

After an exhilarating day on the slopes, one of life’s sweetest pleasures is to relax with friends over a few adult beverages back at the lodge, ensconced by the warm glow of a fire. Unfortunately, Ski Santa Fe doesn’t have a lodge, exactly, and while the on-hill Totemoff’s Bar is lively and fun, it closes at 4 p.m. What’s a winter sports enthusiast to do?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here, we’ve rounded up the best apres-ski spots in Santa Fe, where you can defrost your body and restore your soul. From a funky 1930s inn, to a deeply authentic mezcaleria, to a hyper-local distillery, these locations are ideal for chilling out and warming up.

Photo by Liz Lopez

The place: Secreto Lounge

Behind the bar: Evan Schultz, Bar Manager

Secreto Lounge at Hotel St. Francis made a name for itself as the leader in garden-to-glass craft cocktails back when the movement was just gaining momentum in Santa Fe almost a decade ago. Today, the bar still specializes in classically inspired cocktails crafted with fresh local and seasonal ingredients, and Bar Manager Evan Schultz has picked up where Chris Milligan left off, while bringing a revitalized spirit of playfulness to the Secreto seasonal menu.

There’s no doubt Evan is up to the task—after all, reinvention is what he does best. He’s managed cocktail programs at Pranzo Italian Grill, Agave Lounge at Eldorado Hotel & Spa, Cowgirl BBQ and most recently opened the bar at Meow Wolf. Over the course of his career, he’s created more than 100 cocktail lists in total, and he really likes to innovate cocktails and invent new flavor combinations.

Evan started bartending in Richmond, VA, first at a Cuban bar called Havana 59 and then a  Brazilian restaurant called Dora’s. He spent many of those early years creating labor-intensive muddled cocktails (think Caipirinhas and mojitos), which left a lasting impact on his meticulous bartending style. He’s not afraid of putting in the extra work to create something extraordinary.

“This style of bartending is not for everyone,” he says. “There’s a lot of extra prep, a lot of craft that goes into our cocktails.” Some of it, Evan admits, may seem fussy—even unnecessary—but he explains every choice the bar staff makes is considered. Creating drink components themselves gives them the ability to tweak flavors more precisely. A perfect example is the house-made marmalade they use for Old Fashioneds. “We wanted more Santa Fe flavor, and it just wasn’t available in the marmalade you buy. We wanted more sage, more lavender—those flavors of the Southwest. If you’re really specific about what you’re looking for, you’ve just gotta make it yourself.”

Evan’s an avid snowboarder so he has a very clear idea of what makes Secreto an ideal après-slope bar. “Our current seasonal cocktail menu is fall and winter friendly without being aggressively fall. For example, for our Palabra Dorado, we use turmeric and sumac which are warm, comforting flavors, while still being new and interesting.”

Secreto has a ski lodge feel, too, with dark wood furniture lit by candlelight, small-scale spaces and a quiet atmosphere that won’t test your tired body’s nerves. It currently has myraid whiskey-centric drinks on the menu, and many—like the Alpen Valor—are based on traditional mountain drinks that are meant to be warming. The result is a serene locale that’s relaxing yet invigorating.

Featured Drink: Palabra Dorada

Photo by Liz Lopez

A take on a classic Last Word, the Palabra Dorada starts with high-quality gin, which Secreto infuses with turmeric and sumac for warm fall flavor. True to the classic version, chartreuse and maraschino liqueur provide complex herbal flavor along with the gin. For a seasonal and local twist, the Secreto version is finished with a sprig of rosemary and rosemary olive oil from a local specialty shop, to add a fun, unusual texture and mouthfeel — and the finishing touches look pretty cool, too! Watch Bartender Evan craft this sought-after, après-slope cocktail!

Secreto Lounge is located at 210 Don Gaspar Ave. in Santa Fe, 505.983.5700, hotelstfrancis.com/secreto-lounge

Photo by Liz Lopez

The place: Tonic

Behind the bar: Winston Greene, Owner/Principal Bartender

Tonic stands out in Santa Fe as one of the latest of the late-night spots in town. The entire bar is a single room styled with 1920s and jazz-inspired decor, where punctiliously prepared cocktails transport visitors to earlier days.

Tonic’s name was also carefully chosen for its layers of meaning. Most obviously, it’s a reference to Tonic’s live music and jazz-inspired decor. Tonic’s owner Winston Greene explains, provide the melody and framework for a song. But Tonic also refers to medicinal drinks designed to make you feel better (think Gin and Tonic), and to the French word tonique that describes a small restorative dish intended to improve your health. With that in mind, Winston carefully selected each element, from the color of the walls to the chairs, the music, the level of service and each and every ingredient that goes into a glass. “We wanted everything in the room to have a tonic effect,” he explains. “Bartenders have a special power. No one walks in here with something small.” Whether it’s a celebration, shaking off a difficult day, or replenishing yourself after a day on the slopes, Winston recognizes the importance of each person’s experience. “As bartenders,” he says, “we get to be at this intersection where people can have a better experience moving forward by how we treat them and what we put in their glass. What we do gets to be a tonic.”

Before opening Tonic in 2017, Winston lived in Santa Fe on and off since he was 12. His first bar gig was as a barback at Milagro, where he realized the work suited him. By the age of 23, he was a manager at Rouge Cat, where he learned not only how to make a drink, but also the subtle arts all bartenders must master: how to deal with different personalities, diffuse conflict and avoid overserving. He learned how to create a great experience for each person who walked in the door.

Next, Winston was invited to Hotel Chimayó de Santa Fe to build a cocktail program from scratch. Though he doubled sales in the first year and built the atmosphere that endures today, wanderlust won out and Winston left the Southwest once again. After a two-year stint honing his craft with outstanding bartenders all over New England, he returned to Santa Fe as food and beverage manager for Eloisa and Bar Alto at the Dury Plaza Hotel. In 2017, he struck out on his own and opened Tonic. Today, he applies the same logic and thoughtfulness to spaces and rooms as he does to cocktails. Every aspect of light, the colors of the upholstery, it all becomes the “cocktail” of the room.

Early in the evening, the overall effect is almost soporific. As the hours get late, though, this place gets pretty hopping, especially on the three nights a week they feature live music. Best of all, they never charge a cover. “People should feel free to come in and enjoy the music. It’s another level of comfort people can come in and enjoy something like that,” Winston says.

What makes Tonic ideal for après-slope? As Winston puts it, “If you spend all day on a white, bright hill, exerting yourself, it’s nice to come somewhere that’s naturally calming. We have calm service, a demure color scheme, the music is soft, you can come in and relax.” But Tonic has more to offer than just great atmosphere. “Your palate is heightened when you exert yourself,” Winston says. “Our cocktails are filled with layers of complexity so you get to come in in this heightened state and taste something magic.”

It’s clear Winston takes pride in bartending.“Cocktails are an American invention,” he says. “So as bartenders, we’re stewards of a whole cultural identity.” With that in mind, he’s developed a program that honors cocktail history while riffing on it in new and unusual ways. The drink menu is rooted in the classics, but influenced by local flavors and Winston’s particular attention to detail. “Every ingredient we use, we think, ‘How can we get a better version of this? Can we make it in-house? Can we get a local version?’ And we do that for every single drink,” he says. “We try to make every ingredient count.”

Featured Drink: Bliss Behind Your Eyes

Photo by Liz Lopez

Tonic’s Bliss Behind Your Eyes starts with sotol, a liquor made from an agave varietal foraged in Mesoamerica that Tonic infuses with damiana, dandelion and local wormwood to impart regional flavor into the spirits. They add a homemade cinnamon syrup made with ceylon true (rather than the more mainstream cassia bark) and hopped grapefruit bitters to create a potable tonic that clears your head and lifts your soul. The dandelion has an analgesic effect, and the damiana lowers blood pressure, and of course, the alcohol gets you a little tipsy. It’s soothing, it’s delicious and it’s truly one of a kind.

Tonic is located at 103 E. Water St. in Santa Fe, tonicsantafe.com.

Photo by Liz Lopez

The place: The Bar at Sazón

Behind the bar: Amanda Morris, Bar Manager

Sazón is best known as a restaurant, renowned for its mole and sophisticated take on Mexican cuisine. Owner and Chef Fernando Olea is originally from Mexico City, and he showcases Mexico’s Indigenous and culinary traditions with modern, unexpected updates. Chef Fernando’s Mexican heritage shows in the authenticity of Sazón’s incredible collection of Mexican art, including a large mural by Federico Leon De La Vega and the faithful representation of new-world cuisine.

In a small room just inside the restaurant entrance, the bar at Sazón is the perfect place to unwind after coming down from the mountain. The rustic wood interior and cozy fireplace are immediately inviting, and the attentive, welcoming service immediately puts you at ease. The bar at Sazón opens at 4 p.m., right when the lifts close, and has a special menu that is definitely not your standard bar fare. There are plates of meat or fish cooked on a hot stone at your table, a savory corn truffle called huitlacoche, and for the adventurous, there are even grasshopper tacos!

In addition to the incredible food, Sazón identifies itself as a mezcaleria and tequileria, so they specialize in agave-based spirits like tequilas and mezcals. Bar Manager Amanda Morris says, “We offer a lot of things people haven’t tried before, that you can’t find everywhere.” But don’t be intimidated; Sazón offers flights so you can sample and learn, and as Amanda explains, “The staff is very knowledgeable about it and happy to explain the differences between the varieties and the histories behind them. We like taking you on the adventure.”

Beyond flights, they also have mezcal and tequila-based cocktails on the menu. “Mezcal can be intimidating, not everyone is ready to sit down and sip on it straight. So the more ways you can introduce it to people, the better.”

When considering why Sazón is great for après-slope she offers, “This place is real, old Santa Fe. The building is 200 years old, and it’s very atmospheric, which gives it a nice, warm ambiance. There’s a friendly vibe in here, and all types of people come in and just start talking to each other.”

Amanda knows what constitutes original Santa Fe vibes. She grew up here and has worked in the hospitality industry all her life. Amanda herself personifies Santa Fe’s laid-back charm, with her sincerely welcoming nature that makes visitors feel genuinely at home. “I’m a direct person, but still friendly,” she says, with the no-nonsense geniality of a seasoned industry pro. Over the years, Amanda has worked at La Casa Sena, Rio Chama Steakhouse and even as co-owner of Skylight. Throughout her career, she’s seen a wide variety of styles of drinks and different crowds, and has learned the trade thoroughly. “I love the interaction with people, and I love learning about wine and spirits. Both are really fascinating to me. Here at Sazón, we have a really eclectic wine list and an eclectic collection of spirits. There are two aspects to being a bartender: the hospitality aspect, and making drinks. The people you interact with are always the first priority. So I strive to always exceed people’s expectations, with service, with quality and knowledge of product.”

Amanda remembers to put people first, and it shows. Whether you stop in to the bar at Sazón for the interesting food, unusual spirits or impeccable service, you’re likely to find yourself thoroughly enchanted by the experience.

Featured Drink: El Caballero

Photo by Liz Lopez

“Mezcal is exploding in popularity right now, everyone seems to want to do a take on the classics with mezcal,” Amanda says. (Though Sazón’s mezcal cred is pretty high up there.) The Caballero is a take on the Old Fashioned, starts with an añejo mezcal base in place of the bourbon and a splash of vanilla infused syrup instead of plain sugar. Chipotle bitters stand in for the angostura, and the whole thing is muddled with Luxardo cherry and finally, garnished with an orange peel.

Sazón is located at 221 Shelby St. in Santa Fe, 505.983.8604, sazonsantafe.com.

Photo by Liz Lopez

The place: La Reina

Behind the bar: Annie Brothers, Bartender

A relative newcomer to the Santa Fe bar scene, La Reina opened in 2018 inside El Rey Court, an original Route 66 hotel that dates all the way back to 1936. Owners Jay and Alison Carroll have stayed true to the inn’s original roots, aiming to evoke the welcoming atmosphere and nostalgia for Route 66 Americana.

The menu at La Reina focuses on mezcal and tequila, which, as Bar Manager Jasper Jackson-Gleich says, “is suited to a New Mexico type of Americana; it feels like this place.” While some may think focusing on one type of spirit is limiting, Jasper sees it as a creative stimulus. “By imposing limits on our menu, and constricting yourself like that, you have to be more creative,” he says. Bartender Annie Brothers agrees, explaining that she loves working at La Reina because “it’s not just making gin and tonics or vodka shots all night. Everyone on the team is really into making these beautiful, creative drinks you can’t find anywhere else. I’ve really learned a lot here.

Indeed, La Reina does have a fantastic collection of agave and mezcal, and they’re used in compelling ways in a variety of winter drinks, all of which can be enjoyed as you cozy up to one of their two beautiful fireplaces.

Annie grew up in Santa Fe and has been working at La Reina since it first opened. She’s currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in social work, and her caring nature shows in her bartending style, too. “I approach it the same way—I listen to what people are looking for, and then find a way to meet that need. All our cocktails are all very different. It’s fun to match a drink with people’s tastes and find a way to introduce that palate to them.”

Because of La Reina’s location inside El Rey Court, the crowd ends up being a mix of Santa Feans and visitors to our city. Annie says, “It’s a cool meeting place between locals and tourists, and I get to watch these beautiful conversations that happen as a result. I like being able to facilitate that.”

There’s always something happening at La Reina. If you’re in the mood for music after your ski or snowboard excursion, they have live music every Wednesday and occasionally other nights of the week. They often host small sets for bands that are playing at larger venues like Meow Wolf. There’s a food truck on Thursday and Saturday, and Thursday is locals night when Santa Fe residents can enjoy a 10-percent discount.

On Saturday, they celebrate “La Reina of the Week.” For this honor, anyone can nominate any woman from the community who they want to celebrate. The selected La Reina of the Week is honored with a signature cocktail for the day, (usually a spin on one of her favorites) and is honored on Saturday at the bar. “La Reina is supportive and inclusive to women,” Annie says of the program. “We have all female bartenders, and that tends to be a male-dominated space. So it’s really cool that we’re able to use the bar to celebrate women everywhere. That’s my favorite night at the bar!”

Featured Drink: La Ultima Palabra

Photo by Liz Lopez

The Ultima Palabra is a mezcal riff on a classic Last Word. Instead of Chartreuse, it uses the lighter and milder Génépi to avoid overpowering the mezcal. The herbal quality of this Italian Alps liqueur is ideal for a winter drink and creates a beautiful celadon color. It’s a Last Word with a smoky mezcal kick.

La Reina is located inside El Rey Court at 1862 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, elreycourt.com, 505.982.1931.

Photo by Liz Lopez

The place: Santa Fe Spirits

Behind the bar: Anna Barr, Bartender

Santa Fe Spirits is actually not a bar, it’s a tasting room for New Mexico’s preeminent artisanal distillery. Santa Fe Spirits serves only their own locally made spirits, which are created using local ingredients and flavors to capture the essence of the Southwest.

Bartender Anna Barr is a relative newcomer to bartending and to Santa Fe. Originally from Boston, Mass., she moved to The City Different only three years ago and started bartending at Santa Fe Spirits in April of 2018. She’s always loved to play with flavor and texture in cooking, and her curiosity has served her well as she learns the techniques for making a great drink. “I’ve always been fascinated with building something to consume, and using ingredients you may not expect,” she says, adding that she relies on her intuition. “I really have to listen to my gut, and have confidence in the recipes we have.”

While she hasn’t skied in years, Anna relates to the needs of skiers and snowboarders. She notes, “You want to fully unwind after exerting yourself in a sport like that. This is a place you can really do that.” The small tasting room is snug and intimate, and feels more like the front room of someone’s house than a bar. It’s easy to talk to the bartenders and learn about the distillery and their wares.”

In fact, their spirits are a way to continue your experience of Santa Fe, since they use locally harvested ingredients like cactus flower and osha root to create unique terroir in their beverages. “After skiing in the landscape,” Anna says, “you’re still participating in the landscape here, with the mesquite and botanicals we use in our gin or the local apples, there’s a beautiful relationship between the landscape and our spirits.”

The bartenders at Santa Fe Spirits are accommodating and friendly, and if you’re uncertain what to order, you can rely on their help to choose something that will suit you. In addition to classic cocktails, there’s an ever-changing menu of seasonal drinks. The staff is always busy creating something new, testing it and refining it. The whole team works together to develop new drinks and keep the menu fresh. “It’s fun to have this opportunity to spice things up,” Anna says. “Everyone here has similar goals—they want to make a great cocktail, everyone is committed to everyone having a good experience here. It is hard work to be cooperative, but all of us are really committed to that.”

Featured Drink: Spiced Toddy

Photo by Liz Lopez

Anna’s take on a traditional hot toddy is something she created on the spot for a customer, and it was an instant hit. She’s proud of the way it shows her growth as a bartender, and the work she’s put in to learn about complex flavor profiles and how to properly balance a drink. It starts with the expected lemon, ginger and whiskey, but Anna then adds three different types of bitters, fresh orange and nutmeg before topping it with hot water. What could be more quintessentially après-slope than that?

Santa Fe Spirits Downtown Tasting Room is located at 308 Read St. in Santa Fe, santafespirits.com, 505.780.5906.

Margarita Trail

Coyote Cafe, Courtesy of Tourism Santa Fe

Coyote Cafe, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

(Story by Kelly Koepke / Photos courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe)

Louisville is known for bourbon. New Orleans for the Sazerac. The Singapore Sling was created in the Asian city-state’s Raffles Hotel. Dublin’s the place for a Guinness. Santa Fe is well on its way to becoming known as the place to enjoy a Margarita.

At least that’s what Randy Randall, director of TOURISM Santa Fe, thinks. And the numbers might bolster the claim. Since creating the city’s Margarita Trail initiative in 2016, the agency says over 8,700 people have purchased or downloaded the Trail’s paper passports and new mobile app. More than 80 have completed the entire trail––a 31 Margarita journey through some of Santa Fe’s most inviting restaurants, bars and resorts, each with a different way to enjoy the tequila cocktail.

The first to complete the entire Trail were Audrey Horton and her husband Joe Gonzales. Taking the honor only took them a few months, considering that trail riders were limited to two stamps in their passports per day. They often combined their bar hopping with visits to museums or shopping or simply exploring Santa Fe.

“It started as a great way for us to get to know the town that I was gone from for 40 years,” says Joe, a Santa Fe native whose military career took him around the country. Audrey’s from Kansas. The couple moved back in 2016 to be closer to Joe’s aging parents. “When we moved back here, we started going to all the places I hadn’t been to in ages,” he says. “Now, we’ve been back to many of them several times.”

Rancho de Chimayo, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Rancho de Chimayo, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Low N Slow, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Low N Slow, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Beyond merely sampling the signature Margarita from each of the bars or restaurants (as if that weren’t incentive enough), Trail greenhorns who obtain five stamps for trying five different Margaritas receive a Margarita Trail T-shirt to show off their passion for the cocktail. Those who reach 20 stamps earn a signed copy of The Great Margarita Book: A Handbook with Recipes by Al Lucero, former owner of Maria’s and an expert on tequilas. Randy says about 120 people have earned the book so far. Everyone who finishes the Trail receives a Margarita bartender kit.

As the first to document having tried all 31 Margaritas from places like La Fonda on the Plaza’s Bell Tower Bar and Secreto Lounge at Hotel St. Francis, Gonzales and Horton were feted by the city with a ceremony and gifts presented by then-Mayor Javier Gonzales. “We finished at Maria’s and the ceremony was there,” Joe says. “Traditionally, for me growing up, that was the place for Margaritas. We were pleased and surprised by the recognition of having done it first, but we didn’t do it for that reason.”

To keep cocktail lovers like Horton and Gonzales engaged and interested along their journey, and even after they’ve completed it, TOURISM Santa Fe announced the new Margarita Trail mobile app and the Margarita Society in February on National Margarita Day. The new app includes an interactive map, with directions to the closest Margarita Trail location. The app tracks enthusiasts’ collection of virtual stamps and sends notifications of progress toward earning rewards. Similar to the original paper passport, the app provides location descriptions, recipes for each Margarita, and a discount for each drink purchased.

La Fonda, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

La Fonda, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

La Terra, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

La Terra, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Santacafe, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Santacafe, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Osteria, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Osteria, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

“There was a lot of excitement and a flurry of participation when we launched the Trail in 2016, but we realized that there wasn’t recognition for levels between five and 20 stamps,” Randy says. “So we created the Margarita Society to incentivize them.”

Now, when participants reach 10 stamps, they become provisional members of the Margarita Society and receive a silver pin and membership card. Full membership, a gold and turquoise pin, certificate and the Margarita Society newsletter comes at 15 stamps. Members are invited to periodic events, seminars and tastings with mixologists to build camaraderie and enthusiasm for the Trail. Because stamps don’t expire, and because of the two-stamp limit per day, the newsletter is a way to keep visitors engaged and interested in continuing along the Trail when they return to town again.

To redeem awards, participants must visit the Plaza Visitors Center at 66 E. San Francisco St., and any of the three Santa Fe Visitor Centers can assist with questions about the new app or transfer existing stamps from a paper passport to the app.

Although the paper passport limits Trail riders to the Margarita listed, with the app, restaurant and bars can periodically change out the particular Margarita offered for the stamp. This encourages people to return to favorite places to try different drinks, Randy says. “The app also has a feature to rate the Margarita, as well. But you can’t use the app to cherry pick the trail,” he explains. “You can’t see other ratings until after you’ve gotten your own stamp and rated it.”

La Choza, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

La Choza, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Del Charro, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Del Charro, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Blue Corn Cafe, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Blue Corn Cafe, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Bar Alto, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Bar Alto, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Audrey and Joe had a few favorites from the Trail, which they continue to order now. “Secreto Bar’s Smoked Sage Margarita is delicious and it’s fun to watch them make it. We also really like La Fonda’s and have been back many times. Another was The Agoyo Lounge. The Margarita there has fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice––the bartender squeezed it right in front of us!”

Rachel Preston Prinz, who got her paper passport when the Trail was announced in 2016, is five stamps short of finishing. Some of her favorite places are ones she already liked or that were close to work (for happy hour): Coyote Cantina, Del Charro Saloon, La Fonda, Terra and Rancho de Chimayó. “I love the idea and thought it was a great boon for tourism,” she says.

Joe agrees. “During the time we were on the Trail, we talked to locals and tourists,” he says. “We had fun meeting all kinds of people, including the bartenders. We would run into people with the passports, too. Many would ask about Santa Fe and we would tell them what we knew. And we’d bring friends and family along. We’d tell everyone, ‘If you really want to get to know what this town is all about, go, have a Margarita and get a stamp. You’ll have a blast.’”

Inn of the Anasazi, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Inn of the Anasazi, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Agoyo Lounge, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Agoyo Lounge, Courtesy of TOURISM Santa Fe

Hit the trail! santafe.org/margaritatrail.

The Mighty Buzz

(Story by Mia Rose Poris)

ALBUQUERQUE

Spring is a comin’ and so is the heat. The 30th annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, March 2 – 4, brings the spice to the Duke City. The event, held at Sandia Resort and Casino, boasts more than 1,000 products—from hot to BBQ, from award-winners to first launches, from near and far—to taste or take home. Highlights this year include “Dr. BBQ” Ray Lampe and renowned BBQ cooking show host and Chef Rick Browne, plus the 505 Food Fights, contests that pit New Mexico chefs against each other to benefit New Mexico Kids Matter, a volunteer advocacy group that works in the court system to provide a caring and consistent adult to focus on the well-being of a single child in foster care. And Fiery Foods Show Founder Dave DeWitt will debut his new book, First Skin 500 Squirrels: The Eyewitness History of Barbecue. Visit fieryfoodshow.com to check out the Food Fights chef line-up.

If your tongue’s a-tingling from various spicy sauces, hit up High and Dry Brewing to put out that fire. High and Dry, which touts great beer, small batches, conversation and food trucks (could one ask for anything more?), opened its doors at 529 Adams St. NE last month in the Highland neighborhood. A Feb. 12 Facebook review raves, “Great family atmosphere, great beer and really is a place for everyone! It was so nice to see families and furry friends at the brewery today!” Check them out on Facebook or at highanddrybrewing.com.

Speaking of high and dry…the University of New Mexico is looking to be a lot less dry in the near future, due to last month’s approval of a $650,000 taproom project, according to a Feb. 14 UNM press release. This month, representatives will present the proposal to the Higher Education Department, before construction commences in the summer. In the release, Chris Vallejos, associate vice president of Institutional Support Services at the university, said the addition of the taproom is part of recent initiatives to make the campus a “destination university.” Watch for an August opening in the Student Union Building.

There’s yet more news in the realm of brews in the Que, too: Award-winning La Cumbre Brewing Company is opening a Westside taproom on the corner of Coors Boulevard and Montaño Road, next to the Sprouts Farmers Market. As of press time, opening dates were yet to be announced, but if you’re dying for a taste of some of that Elevated IPA (and beyond) straight from the source, head to 3313 Girard NE; they open at noon—lacumbrebrewing.com.

And word has it the old Albuquerque Brewing Co. spot at 8620 Pan American Freeway NE, is soon to be home to Ninja Fitness Academy. From cold beer to hot bods, right? In the genre of the TV competition American Ninja Warrior, Ninja will incorporate “training styles like obstacles, rock climbing, and weight lifting,” according to the gym’s website, along with “all the tools to have fun, and stay healthy.” Burn off that beer, baby, just in time for summer—look out for an April opening.

And from beer to beans, in the land of caffeine, Rio Grande Boulevard is soon to be home to Cutbow Coffee Roastology, the culmination of the 25-plus years experience of a nationally renowned artisan coffee roaster and New Mexico native, Paul Gallegos. “Coffee lives and breathes, especially while being roasted,” the Cutbow website reads, and so do the trout from which came Cutbow’s name. A portion of proceeds from every bag of coffee sold is donated to the Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance, which works to assure quality water in some of Paul’s father’s favorite fishing holes. Cutbow Coffee Roastology is located at 1208 Rio Grande Blvd. NW. When open, the roastery/tasting room/coffee bar will hold public cuppings every Friday at high noon. Cutbowcoffee.com.WEBIsleta-John_Pierre_Vincent

Another new addition to the culinary the scene—Isleta Resort & Casino’s Embers Steakhouse has a new chef! A warm welcome to Executive Chef John-Pierre Vincent, who “brings to the Embers kitchen an unparalleled zest for cooking, fostered by a childhood spent helping his French grandmother prepare nightly meals,” according to a press release. The Venezuela native—he speaks five languages!—worked in fine-dining establishments as well as world-renowned, even Michelin-rated locations across Europe and the U.S. We’re thrilled he’s made New Mexico home, and look forward to visiting with Chef John-Pierre at Embers for their fine cuisine and awesome views of the Bosque. For reservations, call 505.244.8288.

WEBGMCherie-04Congratulations to Cherie Montoya and her local staple, Farm  & Table restaurant! Last month, the beloved, local field-to-plate eatery was featured on The Travel Channel show Food Paradise in an episode in homage to sumptuous steaks, vegetables and farm-to-table restaurants. We’re proud of Cherie and the folks at Farm & Table for keeping it local while reaching the globe. Visit farmandtablenm.com and travelchannel.com.

Should your evening of March 3 be open, and if you’ve been hankering to hunker down in some Old Hollywood Glamour (that’s the theme), The New Mexico Philharmonic’s Red Carpet might just hit the spot. The sixth annual gala benefits the NMPhil and the Young Musician Initiative, and Delphia and her Deltones provide the tunes. You’ll dance, you’ll bid at the silent auction and you’ll feast and sip wine…and all for a great cause. Tickets go for $150; visit at nmphil.org.

 We’ll end our visit to the Que with a dabble in dessert and coffee. March 17 and 18 bring to town the Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest, a festival dedicated to, well, chocolate, and coffee and gourmet foods galore, of course! The event brings to Expo NM the finest chocolatiers, coffee roasters, candy makers, bakers, breweries, wineries and beyond, plus live entertainment, professional cooking demos and a zone for the kiddos with free activities. Delightfully delicious. Visit chocolateandcoffeefest.com for more info.

 SANTA FE

WEBJG_01This just in, folks—breaking news on the Santa Fe culinary scene: According to multiple sources in the know, Chef Colin Shane left his position at Arroyo Vino toward the end of February for a position at a swank and trendy Nappy Valley/Sonoma-area restaurant, though lips are closed as to which one. And the departure falls amidst the James Beard Award finals, to boot—see below; Colin was named a semifinalist in the “rising star” category. Arroyo Vino Restaurant Manager Brian Bargsten, who was in the middle of negotiations as of press time, did not confirm who the new chef might be…We’ll be excited to see who steps into Colin’s legacy. And the very best of luck in your California endeavors, Chef!

Of only two cities across the globe, Santa Fe was recognized in the Best Food/Beverage Destination Experience category in the annual FoodTrekking Awards, which were introduced by The World Food Travel Association in 2015 to recognize the excellence of food experiences afforded to customers and visitors by industry stakeholders. The capital city’s nomination was inspired by the success of the Santa Fe Margarita Trail, which highlights 31 tequila cocktails offered by various restaurants and bars around town. You can pick up a Margarita Trail passport at a TOURISM Santa Fe visitor center or at a participating restaurant. Visit worldfoodtravel.org for the complete list of the FoodTrekking awards.

And many a-bravo to our James Beard Award semifinalists for doing it yet again! Chef Colin Shane was named in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category for his role at as executive chef at Arroyo Vino (a position he’s since left; see above), and Chef Martín Rios of Restaurant Martín was named in the Best Chef Southwest category. Both talented chefs were named in these categories last year, too. On March 14, we’ll learn who the finalists are…so visit jamesbeard.org then; and the winners will be chosen in May. Fingers crossed, and congratulations to both chefs!WEBJGMartin-Rios-EDIT

Last month marked the 24th annual Souper Bowl, presented by the Food Depot, a local food bank that works to create “healthy, hunger-free communities in Northern New Mexico.” This year, folks sampled delicious soups from beloved local chefs who competed for Best Soup in four categories—Cream, Savory, Seafood and Vegetarian, not to mention the coveted Best Soup category. Every year, local businesses sponsor the event and restaurants donate their time and talents…and hundreds of gallons of soup. Drum roll, please, for the winners…Best Overall Soup and Best Savory Soup: Nath’s Inspired Khmer Cuisine, Chef Kim Nath Nau, Chicken Tom Yum Soup; Best Seafood Soup: Chef Andy Barnes, Dinner For Two, Lobster Bisque; Best Vegetarian: Chef Antonio Quintana, Kingston Residence of Santa Fe, Cold Pistachio Soup; Best Cream Soup: Chef Ahmed Obo, Jambo Café, Curry Roasted Garlic & Coconut Cream Bisque. Last year’s Souper Bowl served some 160,000 meals that might otherwise been missed. So if you missed this year’s Bowl, mark your calendars for 2019.

And every Monday this month, you’ll find Chef Kim Nath Nau of Nath’s Inspired Khmer Cuisine at Milad Persian Bistro. If you didn’t get a chance to try her winning soup at the Souper Bowl, you won’t want to miss checking out her pop-up dinner creations (and if you did try the soup, you know what we mean). Chef was born in Cambodia, and while she grew up surrounded by Khmer—or ethnic Cambodian, cooking—her Thai great grandmother was a restaurateur, and her Vietnamese grandmother cooked for festivals in Buddhist temples. Her inspired Thai-Khmer fusion dinners are held March Mondays from 5:30 till 9:30 p.m. Visit chefnath.com/pop the Wednesday prior to the dinner to see that week’s menu and make reservations. See you there!

A couple months ago, we buzzed that Beestro, formerly on Marcy Street, had closed its doors…and to stay tuned for its reopening. Well, they’re back! “We’ll bee opening in the Plaza Galeria at 66 E. San Francisco St., in the former Subway,” reads a Jan. 26 mailing list email from Greg Menke, Devon Gilchrist and the whole Beestro team. “We’re shooting to open mid March of 2018.” Stop by mid-March and the doors of the beloved sandwich shop just might bee open. “On your next walk to the plaza stop by our new building, Plaza Galeria. Many years ago, the building was a JC Penney. And long before that (1760-1859) it was the site of Chapel of the Lady of Light. A plaque, left of Native Jackets display windows, commemorates the Chapel,” the Beestro folks say. Such cool stuff. We’ll bee there.

Let’s take a little stroll to the Baca Street-area Railyard District, with its contemporary architecture and old-school neighborhood feel, where there’s a fresh addition in the hood. Not far from Counter Culture and Undisputed Fitness, Opuntia, located at 922 Shoofly St., is an awesome spot to relax, sip tea, nibble avocado toast(!) or get some work done. More next month!—as one Jan. 11 Yelp review puts it, “the atmosphere is super zen.” Serving a variety of teas and treats (from savory sandwiches and salads to breakfast fare), Opuntia, which means prickly pear, also offers what they call botanical curiosities. A Dec. 3 Facebook review puts it like this: “Ok, my new favorite spot! This space is absolutely gorgeous, calm, botanical curiosities captivating….” If you haven’t paid them a visit, stop on by for a relaxing reprieve. Visit opuntia.cafe or check out their Facebook page.

Over by the tracks, two East Coasters have settled happily in at the Railyard Artisan Market every Sunday, with their gorgeous, delicious pastries—gluten free!—and savories, to boot. “We also have a wide range of vegan options to make our food accessible to all groups,” Matthew and John of Drift & Porter tell us in an email. “Drift,” they explain, signifies “the ‘drifter in all of us,’ the ‘one with no roots.’” And “Porter” symbolizes the “’server,’ not only to ourselves and the community, but to the grand universe…” Stop by and say hi to these two sweeties and pick up a treat on Sunday. Your taste buds will thank you.

WEBGMarks-L-Olivier-06Oh la la, L’Olivier! The World’s Greatest French Dinner is coming to town… Seriously. Dubbed the greatest such dinner, Goût de France is “a fun celebration of the vitality of French cuisine, forging ties between chefs around the world,” according to a press release. In restaurants across the globe—150 countries—on March 21, France is on the menu, and L’Olivier was the sole New Mexico restaurant chosen to participate. The menu features an aperitif with a starter, two main courses, a cheese platter or a dessert, accompanied by French wines and champagnes. Inspired by Auguste Escoffier, who launched the Dîners d’Épicure initiative in 1912, Goût de France involves international chefs and embassies to serve French-style dinners on the same day in various cities all over the world. Call L’Olivier at 505.989.1919 to make reservations or for more information.

TAOS

Did you know? Earlier this year, TripAdvisor named Taos (along with the City Different) among 2018’s top destinations. The reasons? Well, top among them are its events—Music on the Mesa festival, to name a fun one—and Taos Pueblo, Georgia O’Keeffe and the glorious Rio Grande Gorge Bridge…not to mention a growing and inspired culinary scene. Hey, Taoseños, what makes Taos the delicious, special place it is for you? Where’s your favorite spot for a drink, a bite, a stroll, a view? Buzz us on Facebook.

Ah, An After Dinner Drink

cognacbackweb(Story by Caitlin Richards)
romance: noun
a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.

Step aside, hipster cocktails; take the empty wine bottles away, it’s time to make space on the table for an after dinner drink (or digestif). Why? you ask?  Because there is nothing more enjoyable, more romantic, more of a remoteness from everyday life, than extending the intimacy. In these times of fast food, meals on the fly with electronics in hand (remember in the 1970s when Amy Carter made headlines for bringing a book to the dinner table?), and skipping mealtime altogether, sometimes, we need a reminder to slow down, to stop and smell the cognac. To allow ourselves to linger.

The digestif was created to be taken at the end of a hearty meal in order to aid digestion. To simply look at it that way, one might just take an Alka-Seltzer and call it a night, but where is the romance in that? Just as there’s a language to flowers, there’s a language to dining. Everything from where you dine to what you wear to dine sets a mood. So when you’ve had the perfect meal, the table set with linen, flowers and candles, Louis Armstrong in the background singing “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” and the evening is drawing to a close, (Too soon, too soon!) what do you do? This is the time to look into someone’s eyes and suggest an after dinner drink, and to have that suggestion means, “I am here with you now, and there is nowhere I’d rather be.” And to accept that offer is to say, “Nor am I ready for this night to end. Let us linger on.”

But as everything romantic is at once simple and impossibly hard, so, for the novice, is this choice. What do I choose? Bitters and herbals are traditionally known for their ability to aid in digestion (bitters is often called “the bartender’s Alka-Seltzer”). Our ancestors used to eat bark and bitter herbs as a regular part of their diet. Later, the herbs were made into a liquid and put in a bottle, and were known as restorative tonics; now, they are gaining popularity as something to sip rather than an ingredient in a drink which is mixed to mask their bitter taste. On the other hand, dessert wines are often thought of as too sweet, and people can shy away from pairing them with a sweet dessert thinking it might be too much. (Not so.) Then, of course, there is Cognac, steeped in romanticism, bringing to mind Downton Abbey with women draped in pearls, men in dinner suits, secret liaisons all around and evenings that lasted late into the night.Camus_XOweb

Time for a few suggestions from some experts. Mark Spradling and Karen Easton of Kokoman Fine Wines tell us they have a huge amount of digestifs to offer, many unusual and hard to find. A few of their favorites are Jan Becher Becherovka, a Czech herbal liqueur, with its own romantic story that includes princes and pirates; Sibona Amaro, Amaro is Italian for bitter—though there are similar products made throughout Europe, only those from Italy can be called Amaros; and a Mexican herbal liqueur, Fernet-Vallet created by Henri Vallet who emigrated to Mexico from France. They like Gaston Rivière Pineau des Charentes as a dessert wine, “not too sweet, it has some tart as well!” And they suggest Nocello, a walnut liqueur, which the better-known Frangelico aspires to be. For Cognac, Mark says Camus Borderies XO is “absolutely incredible, why drink any of the others after trying this.” (It’s $175.00 a bottle, that’s why.)  They also make a VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) and VS (Very Special) at a lower price. (The other Cognacs and digestifs mentioned are in the $25 to $40 range.)

Jasper Jackson-Gleich and Aline Brandauer of Susan’s Fine Wines and Spirits also had some suggestions: Green Chartreuse, which is “syrupy and herby” (and made by monks, who seem to know their alcohol); Amaro Montenegro, which Jasper describes as a “beginner’s approach” to Amaro.  Fernet Branca from Italy; and Noble Dame Calvados (France). Calvados is an apple brandy that can trace its roots back to Charlemagne in the 8th century. Their Cognac pick is Delamain, which Aline describes as “light and refined’” ($117.99) Delemain is one of the oldest Cognac producers.

Back to our evening around the table (it doesn’t have to be a table for two): Louis Armstrong is singing “Cheek to Cheek” in the background, the candles are getting shorter, the dinner plates are gone, the wine is empty, it’s getting late but we don’t notice because the company is good, the conversation is flowing, the evening is not ready to be over, yet it doesn’t feel right to open another bottle of wine. Or let’s imagine ourselves dining al fresco in Tuscany on a warm summer night, or at a tapas bar in Madrid. Or in fancy dress at Downton Abbey. Our phones are put away because the only people we want to share our evening with are at the table with us, and everything else can wait for the moment. Or let’s go further back, to our ancestors who have just discovered fire, to the first man who handed a piece of bark and some herbs to his dining companion. Let’s embrace the feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life, because that is romance. Let’s linger. And back at the table for two, which one of us will look the other in the eye when the wine is gone and the plates are cleared, when what remains is the yearning to linger, and wonder, as did T.S. Eliot in his “Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Pro Party Tips – What the Caterers Know

LL-Blue Plate01If you’re anything like me, your holiday dance card is full of late-afternoon, early evening and dinner-time parties. Plus, the occasional brunch or all-day open house. And that doesn’t count the shindig you’re throwing yourself! ’Tis the season for grazing, drinking, gobbling and noshing.

How will it all get done, you ask? Professional caterers seem to keep their cool, even when practically every day arrives with a new menu to create, dishes to deliver, setup, serve and clean up. The pros must have secrets to pulling off a casual get-together or a swanky soiree with ease, grace and finesse. So I asked them how to avoid the overwhelm when putting on anything from an informal open-house to a fancy sit-down dinner yourself.

Mindie Huntington, Rebecca Montoya and Catherine Lind keep Blue Plate Catering humming along all year. Their calendar is booked with breakfast, lunch and dinner events ranging from elaborate dinners to low-key receptions.

“Appetizers, smaller foods and finger foods are definitely the trend this year,” Huntington says. “People can walk and mingle more.” Blue Plate’s finding variety is in demand, too: gluten-free and vegetarian options like stuffed mushrooms, tomato caprese on skewers with balsamic drizzle, and cranberry compote on flatbread with goat cheese. Bite-size is the watchword for desserts. They say they like to pass around little cookies, cheesecakes and mini brownies. Huntington says, “It’s a way for people to indulge but not feel like they’ve overindulged during the season.” Continue reading