My Grandma and Her Impeccable Palate

(Story by Erin Wade / Photos courtesy of Erin Wade) 

In the 1980s, my grandma drove a Plymouth Champ. It was one of those tiny two-doors with good gas mileage—like a Gremlin or a Pacer—that was churned out in the aftermath of the oil embargo. Hers was brownish yellow, the color of good Dijon. One spring afternoon, my mom and grandma were cleaning the house for garden club when my mom realized she was short coffee mugs. These were the early, heady days of Martha Stewart—paper cups freshly shunned—so Grandma took off for her apartment to get the good mugs.

A mile into her journey, Grandma and the Champ were broadsided by a carload of teenage drivers who ran a stop sign. The Champ was totaled. Undeterred, my whiplashed grandma unfolded herself, spoke to the police, and hitched a ride from the nice gentleman who witnessed the accident—first to her apartment for the coffee cups, then back across town to our house, just in time for the party.

The fact that I share genes with someone who managed to get the damn party mugs even after she was T-boned in a tin can, is perhaps why I have survived, thus far, in the restaurant industry.

But I’ll never be as tough as my grandma. She was from that generation that was born into war, came of age in the Great Depression—when people saved bits of string and patched their underwear—and entered adulthood just in time for another war. On top of this, my grandma’s husband—the love of her life—died of cancer not long after they had moved away from her closest friends and family.

Despite it all, I never heard her complain. But she wasn’t particularly fawning or lovey-dovey. What we think of as nurturing, nowadays, usually involves talking about our feelings, working them over like bread dough. Grandma didn’t go there: She rubbed your feet and made you a good meal—fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and chocolate cake, if you were really broken-hearted.

A lot of people bandy about the expression “food is love,” but they don’t exactly mean it. My grandma would never have said something namby-pamby like that, but cooking was how she loved. Mealtimes during the holidays, with my mom and aunt and grandma crowded together in the kitchen, squawking about what they were making and would make, peppering one another with cooking questions they already knew the answers to, was when she was happiest.

Nowadays, we might say she had an impeccable palate—and she did—but it was more than that. It was more a matter of ethics. She had a quirky, stubborn sense of right and wrong in all matters pertaining to food. You could always tell how much she liked something just by looking at her face.

A few of the things that turned up her nose: potatoes cut in large or sloppy chunks, mostly in soup but also in potato salad; too-thick soups, which were dubbed “wallpaper paste;” the dubious spice, mace; floury or pale gravy; under-seasoned anything; the liberal use of cinnamon; overly sweet desserts; fussy food; funky liqueurs; muddled flavors.

Some things she loved: pan-frizzled pork chops with a salty crust; Manhattan clam chowder; a bowl of posole at La Fonda; platters of tomatoes and scallions sliced open and simply salted; kolaches with California apricots; slightly tart fruit pie with a flaky crust; sauerkraut; mayonnaise; chocolate.

But she didn’t fetishize food or put cooking on a pedestal. She cut onions in the palm of her hand, and apples for her pies with her thumb as a backstop. Cooking was an everyday affair meant for everyone—unpretentious and real.  “If you like to eat, and you can read, you can cook,” she used to say.

Of the staple dishes she made hundreds or perhaps thousands of times in her life, she expected near-monastic purity and straightforwardness. She didn’t like any “guff.” But as Marcella Hazan says, “Simple is not the same as easy.” Which is why she never stopped critiquing her cooking—usually aloud and while you were eating it.  It was, occasionally, exhausting. Sometimes, you just wanted to enjoy the pie, not hear about how it needed more lemon juice or a few minutes longer in the oven.

My grandma died before I opened my first restaurant, Vinaigrette, in Santa Fe, but I like to think I’ve inherited her palate and good food sense (all of the ladies in my family have), and that they’ve kept me out of trouble. But in the years since I opened my first restaurant, the food world has gotten harder to navigate. There is a relentless hunger for whatever is new and exotic, even if it’s ridiculous. The other day, I caught myself considering offering a Wheatgrass Latte for the cafe at Modern General, until Grandma’s face flashed before my eyes, with an expression that would have curdled nut milk.

And while working on the menu for the wine bar and bistro we were opening on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, I felt my clarity faltering. Everything I came up with was, in my grandma’s words, a bunch of malarkey. It had no soul. Trying to root out the one undone thing in the ever-expanding cosmos of food feels a fool’s errand, like riding a treadmill of trying-to-be-cool. I needed to get back to solid ground.

I about-faced to the dishes my mom and grandma made when I was growing up: Chicken Chasseur, Spare Ribs with Sauerkraut, Deviled Stew. I craved the way that food made me feel: cared for, safe, part of something.

We named the bistro The Feel Good. Copies of old, battle-tested recipes, splotched with oil and sauce, yellowed with years and crammed full of my grandma’s slanted, baroque cursive, hang in the hallways and behind the bar. This tidbit about Stuffed Green Peppers came from a letter to my aunt:

I take the tops from pepper and take out seeds.  You can either leave whole or cut in half. I usually buy large peppers and cut in half. I used to always put in large pan and par boil, but have almost quitthe only advantage is it makes the peppers not quite so strong tasting. For my meat mixture I just dump. I usually make a big batch so I usually use about 1 ½ lbs of meat, cracker crumbs (about 15-20 single) (depends on how much you want to stretch the meat)

It goes on—confusing and ambiguous the whole way through, regaling my poor Aunt Judy with every detail of her endless tinkering. For my grandma, a recipe was a living thing, always evolving, but also tethered to its beginnings.

Maybe looking backward is just nostalgia—that rosy perspective on the past that buffs away its harsh edges. Or maybe it’s a kind of acknowledgment that we are here on the shoulders of a whole lot of folks, many of them women, who have quietly held us all together, making now possible.

It feels good to honor that.

Erin Wade is the owner of Vinaigrette and Modern General in Santa Fe; Vinaigrette, Modern General and Feel Good in Albuquerque and Vinaigrette in Austin, Texas. As her website states, “Much of the produce for Santa Fe and Albuquerque is grown on Erin’s 10-acre farm in Nambe, New Mexico. A farm in Gastrop, Texas supports the Austin restaurant. Sustainability is a top priority. Food waste from the restaurants returns to the farm to feed the animals, and also gets composted back to the land to feed the healthy soil.”

The Making of a Chocolate Champion

(Story by Lynn Cline / Photos by Jane Phillips)

For Ruben Terrazas and his team of talented chefs, this is a year to remember. The executive chef of Kingston Residence of Santa Fe, Ruben collaborated with his colleagues Pastry Chef Margarita Chaparro and chefs Hector Gaytan and Eric Ceda, to create a stunning dessert. Their Raspberry Chocolate Bombs took first place at the Sixth Annual Divine Decadence Chocolate Challenge, held March 23 at the Eldorado Hotel & Spa. The host of the event is Santa Fe’s cherished La Familia Medical Center.

The competition was fierce, with vying chocolatiers from Jambo Cafe, The Art of Chocolate Cacao Santa Fe, Drift & Porter, Danielle’s Donuts, Eldorado Hotel & Spa, La Casa Sena, and Social Kitchen + Bar. But the Kingston quartet’s Raspberry Cheesecake Bombs—made entirely from scratch—took the cake. The delectable dessert featured rounded cheesecake bites filled with raspberry jam, set in a hazelnut cookie and covered with glistening liquid chocolate. A regal chocolate flourish carefully poised on top provided an elegant touch, and a fresh raspberry nestled in each “bomb,” its color beautifully contrasting the dark, shining chocolate.

“Margarita and I created the dessert together,” Ruben says, relaxing in his office just off the Kingston Residence kitchen, joined by two members of his team, Margarita and Hector. “We checked different recipes and chose this one. I never tried to make the dessert before and it turned out great. It has an amazing flavor, with the raspberry, the hazelnut cookie and the cheesecake.”

Executing this impressive dessert required multiple steps and first-time experiences. Margarita for instance, had never before made raspberry jam. She also worked to perfect the liquid chocolate that covered the Raspberry Chocolate Bombs and to create the decorative chocolate piece on top. “I was so happy when they said Kingston won first place,” says Margarita, who started working at Kingston 13 years ago as a server and became pastry chef two years ago. “ I was really, really crying, I was so happy.”

Hector, who’s been a chef at Kingston for about seven months and has 25 years of experience cooking in Santa Fe, was also delighted to be on the winning team. “The dessert is beautiful,” he said with a grin. “It’s yummy. And now, we are the best.”

Divine Decadence guests and organizers were impressed by the efforts of Ruben and his team. “On behalf of La Familia Medical Center and the Divine Decadence Committee, I wish to extend our congratulations to Chef Ruben Terrazas and his team for their exemplary chocolate dessert,” Gloria Martinez, development director of La Familia Medical Center and Divine Decadence organizer, says. “The dessert was delicious and a beautiful presentation.”

This wasn’t the first time Ruben and his chefs at Kingston Residence won a culinary competition. They also wowed the crowd last February at the Food Depot’s Souper Bowl XXV, when Ruben’s Thai Coconut Seafood Soup took home the trophy for Best Seafood Soup. “It was the first time I competed in the Souper Bowl, and the first time I won,” Ruben says, with a beaming smile.

While taking first place in these popular Santa Fe culinary competitions thrilled these Kingston Residence chefs, they were equally happy to know that their work in the kitchen makes a difference in the community. Kingston Residence, an assisted living and memory care community, provides three meals a day in three dining rooms, which keeps the kitchen staff busy. To streamline their workday, the kitchen crew works closely together. “I have a lot of support from Margarita, and I learn a lot from Margarita,” Ruben says. “She has more experience than me. She helps me with the schedules and also in the kitchen, cooking.”

Hector says, “It’s good to help people,” and Margaret and Ruben nod enthusiastically. “It’s why I’m here, at Kingston Residence,” adds Ruben, who has cooked in some of Santa Fe’s top restaurants over the last two decades, including Geronimo, the much-missed Ristra and 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar. “There are a lot of residents at Kingston who don’t have family anymore, so they’re part of the family for us, here. It’s good to take care of people here and outside of Kingston. My whole team here, they work very hard for this community…We are cooking for 93 people right now and we also make food for the employees, so that’s maybe 120 to 140 people.”

The Kingston residents, Margarita points out, will now get to enjoy Raspberry Chocolate Bombs every so often. “We’ll serve these at Easter for residents, their visiting family and staff,” she says. “On a special day, we will put this on the menu here.”

In a similar way that Ruben and his team of chefs nurture the Kingston community, La Familia Medical Center works to help the Santa Fe community by providing health care to all Santa Fe residents, regardless of ability to pay. The Divine Decadence Chocolate Challenge plays a big role in raising funds for La Famila’s mission. “La Familia Medical Center is dedicated to fostering community well-being and building partnerships with our patients by providing excellent, accessible, family centered medical, dental and behavioral health care,” Gloria says. “We are the healthcare safety-net for the community. In 2018, we served over 17,400 patients, with 86,000 patient visits between our two medical centers as well as our Dental Clinic and our Health Care for the Homeless clinic.”

La Familia’s critical patient services and programs are supported by funds from the Divine Decadence Chocolate Challenge. For example, La Familia’s patient fund provides bus money for people who need help getting to their appointments and it also helps people who need lab work. “Other funds go into our health education programs, so patients can learn about diabetes, vaccinations and other topics that are vital in our health education,” Gloria says.

The annual competition draws hundreds of people eager to taste chocolate concoctions created by some of Santa Fe’s top chocolatiers and then vote for their favorites. A panel of judges also selects their top choices. Guests can bid on silent auction items, too, from art and jewelry to vacation getaways and other items. Every ticket sale and silent auction purchase supports a medical center that is indispensable to so many Santa Fe residents.

After his first experience at Divine Decadence, handcrafting hundreds of Raspberry Chocolate Bombs and designing a display that featured fresh flowers and elegant wine glasses, Ruben is already thinking about next year, and the feat of winning trophies at two top Santa Fe culinary events has inspired him. “It was amazing, and I’m going to be there next year, for sure,” he says, smiling impishly. “And I’m going to win.”

Eating Words with John Sedlar

(Interview by Mark Oppenheimer/Photos by Ramsay de Give) 

In the Summer 1974, armed with the basics of French technique, which he learned at a café in Santa Fe, John Sedlar made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles to undertake the rigors of learning the French kitchen by apprenticing to Chef Jean Bertranou at L’Ermitage.

Eventually, John struck out on his own, opening Saint Estéphe in the South Beach area of Torrance, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Under-financed, failing and unaware of the culinary history unfolding all around him, the young chef explored an idea that not only saved his restaurant, but deemed him forever the creator of Modern Southwest Cuisine, thrusting him out of obscurity and into the burgeoning limelight of the Los Angeles restaurant landscape. This new concept was the natural ‘fusing’ of Southwest ingredients with traditional French cooking techniques, and it was received to great acclaim.

John Sedlar is a restaurant provocateur, a Renaissance man, a food visionary, a chef who unknowingly became an essential, vital part of restaurant history and food lore; he was among the first of those who later came to be known as celebrity chefs.

Four decades later, in 2015, fascinated by what is still left to learn, unafraid to fail and unwilling to copy himself, John opened Eliosa in Santa Fe, where he continues interpreting and fusing cuisines in a way only he can. Humbled by time and experience, with an infectious curiosity, John’s quest to unravel a food’s essence and serve his customers the mystery of flavors and tastes is our good fortune.

Mark Oppenheimer: What feeds you and what do you feed?

Chef John Sedlar: I have a very symbiotic relationship with my customers. My customers, as they like to say, are well fed. I’m not talking about quantity, but rather, people who are very interested in food; they’re constantly traveling the world, they’re very knowledgeable. We have a relationship where I challenge them and they challenge me—and they want to be challenged, as well as I want to be challenged.

I’ve gone to the Middle East to research ingredients and techniques and traditional foods to understand a food’s journey from there to the Santa Fe kitchen, as well as including holy foods and sacred foods found in the Holy City. Food can be very political, and there’s very powerful meaning in those foods that we’re eating. They mean a lot to people, to chefs, and they really pull people together.

Mark: You have a natural feel for the spectacle of presentation, the theatrics and the story of a meal, immersing the customer in a total experience in which you excite all five senses—sound, smell, taste, sight, touch—as well as emotions.

John: Being trained in a French kitchen, there is an immersion into everything seasonal, engaging all the senses, as well as the visual sense of what the plate is, what food vessel the food is served from, and a dramatic flourish of unique ingredients. Aromas are very important. One of my favorite meals these days is “The Essence of the Southwest,” which is a menu inspired by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe and it’s designed to engage all the senses. The menu comes to the table, it’s a tasting menu, and has to be ordered by the entire table. The menu is 24-30-inches across and it opens up with vistas of Ms. O’Keeffe’s summer home in Abiquiu, and her winter home at the Ghost Ranch. It has vistas of her garden, and what she was growing there. The first page you open up is a huge picture of Ms. O’Keeffe’s eyes. Georgia O’Keeffe is considered to be one of America’s greatest women artists. The menu reflects how she saw food and the prism that she viewed and appreciated the canvas of a plate—in a very similar way to the way she saw a canvas when she would paint the desert strewn with bones of the Southwest.

The first course that comes is an aromatics course, foods that you only smell. A plate of various herbs and fruits arrive at the table that you can smell and pass around to each other. The idea is, being in Santa Fe, at the restaurant Eloisa, we transport the guests to Abiquiu. We ask, what’s the chamisa? What’s the sage? Where are the chiles from up there when they’re roasted? What does the piñon smell like when it’s toasted? So we pass these aromatics to all the guests and show them pictures of the Abiquiu region where Miss O’Keeffe lived and had her garden. So, there’s an actual picture, an engagement; it’s hard to describe, but it’s a very contemporary and modern garnishment for modern cooking. 

Mark: When I consider your life’s work as a chef and restaurateur, I think of you as not only a chef exploring and mining the world’s tastes and flavors, but as an anthropologist seeking to uncover the mysteries of a civilization by investigating its ingredients, cooking methods, presentation and growing practices, all the while preserving the rich culinary histories of cultures.

John: There are many civilizations represented in the Santa Fe kitchen—influences from many civilizations. During my recent trip to the Middle East, I was exploring some of the basic ingredients like figs, dates, pomegranates and spices like cumino and pimenton that have made their way across North Africa into the Iberian Peninsula and across the Atlantic to New Mexico into the Santa Fe kitchen.

The culinary roots of the ingredients of the Santa Fe kitchen lexicon really go much further back than we originally realized. Originally, we thought they only went as far back as Portugal and Spain, maybe even Morocco, Marrakech and North Africa, but in fact, they go back much further and are much older than we originally realized. My experience with cuisine around the world has inspired me to think about the way that food exerts a powerful effect on people, from the basic to the artistic and sublime. Looking at the way different cultures experience food is a profound examination of the human condition. To share food with people is to become acquainted with one another on a deeper level. We are beginning to realize that gastronomy is a cultural force, and an artistic force as well.

Mark: It’s been said that mathematicians and scientists do their best work in their 20s and 30s. In 1995, you were the youngest chef to ever receive the Silver Spoon Award from Food Arts magazine. Is there a similar window when a chef is at the height of their powers?

John: That’s a good question. I had extremely good success as a young chef. But now that my role is changing—I’m not a line cook anymore—I’m very very fortunate that I get to cook when I want to. I think that I’m at the zenith of my creative expression because of the knowledge that I have. The older I get, the more I understand that knowledge is layers upon layers of flavors, history, textures, color, and it’s just more fun than ever to cook and create menus. It’s quite fascinating because I understood the building blocks of the Santa Fe kitchen. With age, it’s all actually gotten better.

Mark: Fifteen years ago, you had the courage to walk away from your restaurants, and the bravery to return 15 years later. What was that experience like?

John: It’s not so much that I changed, but that the world changed. Kitchens change, and leaving the kitchen for 15 years and then coming back, the market is greatly enhanced, the people are eating very differently, and the community is always changing—and the pageantry of the dining table, the tablescape, it was very different, very stimulating and new. I challenge my customers and my customers challenge me. There’s various ways to eat that are new and stimulating. The world changes so fast that, in a blink of an eye, things are brand new.

Mark: What does the relationship between a chef and farmer look like to you? How does the chef inform the farmer and the farmer inform the chef?

John: That’s a very fundamental relationship that requires each to actually talk together on a regular basis. It’s wonderful when something is planted, grown and harvested especially for you. Animal husbandry and nose-to-tail programs are very specific now. One of the biggest problems is that as a restaurant chef buying produce, many times, there isn’t enough. You have enough for 10 or 20 specials, but when it’s something that you can put on your menu three months out of the year as it comes into season, you put it on your menu, it peaks in flavor, and as it wanes, you choose something else that is coming into season. Potentially, there’s a lot of constructive dialogue and communication that can happen between farmer and chef that will continue to inspire one another.

Mark: Does the farm-to-table philosophy or approach to cooking make sense to you—especially in a place like Santa Fe, which has a short growing season?

John: It’s a complicated question and a complicated answer. Farm-to-table speaks metaphorically as to whether it’s the freshest fish—is your meat aged, and humanely butchered? Are you near sustainable farms or does it take a lot of resources like petroleum to get the farm-fresh vegetables to you? It’s a very good concept and there is nothing that compares with locally grown, certified organic, sustainable, fresh produce. In that context, it’s the most delicious you can eat. Local and sustainable is ideal. But now, for better or worse, it’s a global market, you can buy things in any season from some place in the world, and it’s available. Does it burn a lot of environmental calories in order to ship it? Yes, it does. You have to weigh the benefits against the environmental and quality downsides.

One of the problems chefs have today is that there are too many ingredients available, too many premium ingredients that are peak flavor of the season and peak ripeness. It’s a global market, and we have many choices of such wonderful, deep-flavored ingredients.

Mark: What do you think of the workshop at the International Association of Culinary Professionals on Instagram food photography?

John: I think it’s fantastic. I’m actually hosting a social-media photography workshop in the Eloisa kitchen with local photographer Gabriella Marks. As a chef, I think it’s fantastic [that] people [are] shooting photos of food, every single thing they eat. Sometimes, the food is so interesting and is so good that they think that everybody else needs to know about it. I know that in Los Angeles, Twitter and social media have been a huge, important factor in the success of many restaurants. From a restaurateur-chef standpoint, it’s a lot of fun. And I’m glad IACP is teaching this. They have their pulse on communication.

Mark: Your food has a musical quality, tone, texture, high and low notes. Many chefs simply print up dishes on a menu, but you don’t. Do you compose your meals with an accompanied soundtrack?

John: I think less in terms of dishes, even though the dishes can be considered notes and the tone and tempo that support the orchestra. I think in terms of cuisines. I think in terms of cuisines and regionality. People right now are more than ever interested in the story of a meal than really in an ingredient-by-ingredient analysis. They love the support and relationship of each ingredient to the big story. It’s really the cuisines, these tectonic stories that ask, “What was going on on that continent? Where did it come from? How did it get there, and where did it go?”

Mark: In your blending of traditional French technique with Southwestern ingredients, what do you think you came to understand about each individual cuisine that you wouldn’t have if you’d only given your attention to each one separately?

John: For the European kitchen, flavor is so important, whether it’s from combining many ingredients or if it’s from a single ingredient. New Mexican food is very intense, especially the red and the green chile. To focus and isolate all the great characteristics of this food without diminishing the color, flavor, spiciness, it took the French discipline to do that. The discipline of the two cuisines together and the vibrant bright flavors of Southwest food is a wonderful exercise to go through to understand that. But I think as I named that book and coined those words in the early ’80s, Modern Southwest Cuisine, I now think there’s a new Santa Fe cuisine, it’s a different Santa Fe cuisine than Modern Southwest would be. And it has to do with global influences. It’s very technical, complex and very delicious, really leaning on the high notes of the Santa Fe foundations ingredients. It’s international; it’s on a different solar system.

Mark: How has globalism changed menus around the world?

John: Chefs are first responders to different eating styles and to different and new ingredients. They definitely impact the global market. Part of my goal is as I monitor global, local and regional food trends is I see it’s all in flux and moving very fast. A few years ago, I went to Paris to touch base and check in with the French kitchen. I went to most of the Michelin-starred and the leading gastronomic restaurants. I did some research and exploration, looking into what have the French done in the last 20 years. Where have they come to? I ate and ate and ate, and I realized they haven’t gone anywhere.[laughs]. There’s been more advancement in American kitchens than there have been in the French kitchens. The French developed an incredible foundation, yet their cuisine is fatigued. There’s some very interesting American chefs working in Paris, some of them [are] producing some of the most interesting foods. So that’s just one little region, a very important gastronomic region.

The South American [food scene] is exploding; it’s incredible what raw ingredients are coming out of Brazil. Peru is happening, too, from the ancient ingredients to what’s happening with ceviche. There’s so many layers, variations and kinds of ceviche.

Mark: What’s the most important quality in a chef?

John: I think the full focus of a restaurant is many things. But to a chef, flavor and taste is everything. I’ll answer it like this, as I happen to be in the midst of training the cooks: I’m training them in the foundations—good quality salt, white pepper, black pepper, pink pepper berries, green pepper corns. I train them to understand and know good seasonings—good cooking oil, good salad dressings, fundamental, basic foundations, and we cook at 7,000 feet. We cook very high style, very ambitious, very aggressive, hyper-creative. Sometimes, it’s all teetering on not working. Some of the dishes we make are created and they just don’t work and that’s OK. Then, it’s a matter of tasting everything as they’re cooking—when it’s the final ‘à la minute’—the pulling together of a dish when you have three sauté pans for one dish and you have to taste it, have your supply of spoons at the ready—you gotta give it love, cook slowly, stir it, taste it again, then again. One of my cooks de cuisine would tell his cooks, “Give it love, give it love.” It sounds kind of hokey, but it’s very, very true and it makes such a big difference in every dish that peaks flavor as it goes through the window to the customer. So for me, it’s really taste, making sure it’s balanced, delicious and fresh. You can taste history by eating history.

Mark: How would you like to be remembered? How do you consider your legacy?

John: New Mexico is my home. My family are from here; our family ranch is here, and I love the ingredients and the flavors of New Mexico. I was very lucky that in the ’80s and ’90s, I was literally invited around the world, to bring these foods with me so people could see and taste what Southwestern food really is. It’s a very grand cuisine and the chefs are being extremely creative here in the Rio Grande Valley, and I think that in that area [where] Native American food has come to the forefront very fast, as it’s at once both the oldest cuisine of the Americas and it’s going to be the newest interesting cuisine of the Americas. It will be both the oldest and the newest—and what the ingredients are, how they’re prepared, how they’re being interpreted, prepared and filtered through the eyes and hands of young men and women chefs, probably Native, in the kitchens and the pueblos of the Southwest—it’s going to be very exciting.

I’d like to be remembered for helping evolve Modern Southwest Cuisine.

Eloisa restaurant is at 228 East Palace Avenue in Santa Fe. 505.982.0883. eloisasantafe.com.

New Wow Factor at the Anasazi

(Story by Amy Morton / Photographs by Douglas Merriam)

“You ready for the ride?” Chef Peter O’Brien asks, introducing himself simply as Peter. “Because there won’t be any oxygen dropping down to help you!” he says gleefully, as my partner Kevin and I arrive for a lavish, multi-course tasting of some of his favorite spring dishes.

As the new executive chef at Santa Fe’s renowned Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, an award-winning, small luxury hotel just steps off the Plaza, Chef Peter has quickly established himself as the lively face of the refined yet relaxed 40-seat Anasazi Restaurant.

“It’s really all about having a good time, and making sure you feel so welcome here,” Peter says. “The service—and this is a chef talking here—is 80 percent of it. It’s about the experience and creating a connection and creating trust. When you’ve done that, you’ve gone to a whole new level.” Indeed, the chef’s ebullient personality, thoughtful food and relationship-oriented service philosophy have already made waves among guests, locals and staff since he came on board in December 2018.

“I’ve never worked with a chef that engages the tables like he does,” says Restaurant Supervisor Raymond Mendez, who has worked at Coyote Café, Geronimo and The Compound Restaurant, among others. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner, he’s out here.” In addition to greeting and sending off diners, Chef Peter delivers dishes, checks in for feedback, chats up shy kids and their parents, takes photos with admiring fans, gives recommendations for other great places to eat in Santa Fe, and generally leaves a trail of laughter and smiles across the dining room, which is tastefully decorated with beige, gray and stone accents, and highlighted by the gorgeous viga-and-latilla ceilings found throughout the Inn.

Between visits to other tables––which the extroverted chef calls doses of “battery juice”­­­–Chef Peter brings an endless array of delights for us, starting with an amuse-bouche at the Inn’s signature “tequila table,” a large wooden high-top with eight bar seats that can be reserved for tequila and mezcal tastings. “We always have a little gift,” he says of the amuse-bouche, designed to be the first of many “wows” for guests. Tonight, it’s a plump, ever-so-lightly fried shrimp that gets polished with embarrassing speed. “We use togarashi, which is like Chinese five-spice with sesame and some chiles,” Peter explains. “Then we make a beer batter and just tempura the shrimp. And underneath it is our salsa verde, some pico de gallo and a little bit of microgreens from Santa Fe’s Urban Rebel Farms.”

Next up is a trio of house-made moles along with accompanying tequilas. Kevin and I exchange wide-eyed looks, as clearly we are going to need to pace ourselves. Between the sweet and earthy manchamantel mole, piquant mole verde, and dark and traditional mole negra, there are myriad complex flavors to dissect, but for me, the mole verde stands out, especially when washed down by the Inn’s own private-barrel, oak-aged tequila, the Código 1530 Añejo, with its remarkable smoothness and vanishing finish. “For the verde mole, we use all fresh chiles,” Chef Peter shares as we swish it around. “We use jalapeño, poblano and Hatch, and we stew those with onions, tomatillos, cilantro and lime. Then we finish it with white chocolate and almonds, giving it a little lushness.”

Behind us, guitarist Jesus Bas, who wears black from head to toe, including black shades, is now beginning the soft, acoustic Saturday night music. We move to a table with a full view of the restaurant’s striking wall murals, and Chef Peter jumps in to rotate the table, so that we “lovebirds” can sit together on the cushioned banco.

Having now affirmed Chef’s extraordinarily high standards, as well as his irrepressible humor, we pivot to a selection of starters with European influences and locally grown ingredients. “I’ve worked in French restaurants, Italian restaurants, at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, which is a Southwestern restaurant,” he says of his formative fine-dining experiences in Texas, where he worked for not one but two James Beard-winning chefs, the legendary Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles. “I use my background to create dishes that reflect the Southwest but use Old World techniques,” the Dallas native says. “We are a melting pot of goodness, so I take what I can get that looks great from here.”

One upstart New Mexico product that has Chef Peter particularly galvanized is a rather surprising one. Albuquerque-based Perle de Blanc, founded by wine industry veteran Lori Anne McBride, is now cultivating escargot­—the exact same species of snails prized in France. As a result, Chef Peter has introduced an escargot pasta starter to showcase this rare local ingredient. “The difference between fresh snails and canned snails is huge,” he says. “Normally, you just have them basting in garlic butter. But to honor the snail, we use just a pinch of fresh garlic, leeks, champignons, a little bit of cayenne––and pan fry it in butter tossed with our housemade tagliatelle.” Impressed, we take our first curious bites of the silky snails, which the chef has paired with a citrusy, medium-bodied 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Merry Edwards, the acclaimed female vintner in the Russian River area of Sonoma.

As for seasonal produce, the beet terrine starter is an eye-catching example, with its split-level layers of golden and red beets from Silver Leaf Farms in Corrales. Flavorful on its own, the terrine gets a boost from an unusual pistachio pesto and a satisfying arugula side salad dotted with Old Windmill Dairy’s “Virga blue” goat cheese, the closest thing to Humboldt Fog that you’ll find made in New Mexico. Yet perhaps the most comforting appetizer we try is the classic endive and frisee salad, with succulent pork belly, Old Windmill Dairy chèvre, local greens, and a warm aged sherry dressing made by deglazing the pan used to crisp up the pork belly. It’s a salad that demands a little bread to sop up the rich dressing, and fortunately, the Anasazi’s bread basket––filled with buttery Parker and onion rolls––is at hand.

“This is the most beautiful salad because it’s so simple,” Chef Peter says. Yet a lot of preparation goes into getting the pork belly––which comes from New Mexico-raised Duroc and Berkshire breeds that are sourced through La Montañita Co-op––so very perfect. “We cure it in a Cryovac bag, then we have a combi oven that cooks it with steam and convection,” he says. “We cook it with like 80-percent humidity in the bag at like 95 degrees––slowly, slowly, slowly––until it’s ready to fall apart. Then we dice it and get a real hot pan with extra virgin olive oil and fry it with a little salt and pepper.”

With two entrees and dessert still to go, Chef takes us on a seventh-inning stretch around the intimate, three-story Inn, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016. We check out the library, a chic and inviting space for unwinding, as well as one of the 58 well-appointed guest rooms. Along the way, he regales us with stories about cooking for oil tycoons and country music stars, skiing for 63 days straight in Telluride (where he and his family lived for several years), and taking a midlife sabbatical last summer to figure out what he wanted to do next. As he and his wife Cara face becoming empty nesters––the younger of their two kids is about to graduate high school––Peter is starting to embrace the next chapter. “Quite honestly, I’m ready to tiny home it!” he says with a laugh.

After recent stints doing consulting and operations, it’s clear he’s also thrilled to be back in the kitchen, as well as out on the floor. “I feel completely rejuvenated,” he says. “I’m 52, and I’ve got this whole new energy. I’ve also got the most talented kitchen in the world. These guys are so much fun to work with. Things came together perfectly, and I couldn’t be more blessed.” Indeed, with an average tenure of 13 years, and a number of staff members at more than 20 years, the Inn of the Anasazi staff is extremely seasoned, which allows Chef Peter more time to interact with guests and brainstorm new ideas for “wows.” Recent additions include warm cookies dropped off with every lunch check (the white-chocolate green-chile cranberry is his favorite, but it changes daily) and helium-filled balloons that hold a floating basket of chocolate truffles for hotel guests who’ve booked the ballooning package. “It’s changed the whole dynamic of the place,” Peter says of his mission to double the number of “wows.”

Yet even when he’s developing memorable new experiences or hobnobbing, he’s still keeping tabs. Case in point: Chef Peter communicates nonstop with his team via text, email and WhatsApp to resolve service issues and share success stories. “You just can’t over-communicate,” he says. This three-platform approach to seamless service is something he also implemented at The Club at Las Campanas, Santa Fe’s exclusive private country club, where he was the director of food and beverage from 2013 to 2017. And it must have worked pretty well given that many of the nearly 400 Las Campanas members have followed the affable chef to his new establishment. Christmas Eve saw 46 members dine at the Inn, in fact. “They’re like, ‘The Anasazi is back on the map!’” Chef Peter says. “That’s important to me because you only have so much time to make your credibility.”

Back in the dining room, it’s time to “loosen those belts!” Chef Peter cracks. We dive into two entrees that are both a visual and gastronomic feast, thanks to a multitude of flavors, colors and textures. Even though winter is still rattling around, the chef says these dishes are his way of hinting at the promise of spring. The first is the Sea Bass Posole, a riot of pink and green hues enveloping a filet of sea bass from Santa Fe’s Above Sea Level, which sources it from the Sea of Cortez. “What we’ve done is a really rich green-chile shellfish broth,” Chef Peter says. “We’ve added shrimp to fatten it up, and then there’s pink posole. It’s heirloom, a beautiful pink, and it puffs right up. Then the sea bass is pan-fried and basted in olive oil, and on top, watermelon radish to garnish.” Both the pastel-pink posole and bright fuchsia radishes are sourced from Squash Blossom Local Food, a Santa Fe-based local food distributor.

Next is the Bison Short Rib, an architecturally dazzling dish centered around a massive cut of grass-fed, humanely raised buffalo from Santa Fe’s Beck & Bulow. “We have a Brussels sprout, kabocha squash and redskin potato hash underneath,” Chef Peter says. “All around, we have some cured tomatoes. We take rosemary, salt and pepper, and heirloom roma tomatoes, and we dehydrate them lightly, slightly. And on top, we have a pickled cucumber, onion and jicama salad, just to give it a cool crunch.” While unexpected, the fresh, tangy topping delivers a palate-pleasing burst of contrasting temperatures and textures. Adding to the copacetic situation, Raymond has reappeared with another fitting wine pairing: a ripe, jammy 2014 Malbec from the Mendel winery in Mendoza, Argentina.

It’s now a little after 9 p.m., and as the dining room begins to quiet down, Chef Peter, still at full wattage, sits down with us to enjoy a tequila espresso. He says the dishes we’ve tried will be on the menu through May, but he’ll be changing the menu at least five times a year. Currently, he’s getting excited about the products about to come in: New Mexico stone fruits, foraged bolete and chanterelle mushrooms from Colorado, and Perle de Blanc’s flagship product Caviar d’Escargot, or snail eggs, which resemble white pearls and have a neutral flavor. For the latter, he’s thinking of using this “over the top” caviar with blue corn blini or a chocolate cake. “We’re playing around with it,” he says.

Speaking of dessert, an enormous sampler tray arrives, and our eyes nearly pop out of our heads. Chef Peter insists we try a few accompanied by the Inn’s house champagne, the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. “This is one of the most elegant champagnes,” he says of France’s longest-running family-owned champagne producer (established 1729), and it is indeed sublime. We can’t resist a flute as we begin digging into the decadent desserts, despite our fullness. Favorites for creative presentation include the Rice Pudding Tamale with caramelized bananas in a cornhusk “boat” and the Cheesecake Basilica, a rounded homage to Santa Fe’s iconic Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi with a New Mexican wedding cookie crust and a shimmering crown of sugared cranberries set in crystallized sugar. “We tried to make it as Roman Catholic as we could!” Chef Peter jokes.

Sated, wowed and utterly pampered, we say goodbye to our exuberant new friend Chef Peter. Undoubtedly, like many diners before and after us, the question soon becomes: how long before we can get another hit of this infectious charmer and his spectacular food?

Anasazi Restaurant at the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is located at 113 Washington Ave. in Santa Fe, 505.988.3236, rosewoodhotels.com/en/inn-of-the-anasazi-santa-fe/dining/anasazi-restaurant.

Sixty-Six Acres

(Story by Ashley M. Biggers / Photographs by Liz Lopez)

Sixty-Six Acres is a menagerie of locally minded creations—from the handful of purveyors who provide ingredients for made-from-scratch dishes, to the slate of craft brewers and distillers filling out the beverage menu, to the proprietress herself. Owner and native Albuquerquean Myra Ghattas continues a tradition of nurturing children and businesses in New Mexico. “I’m rooted here. I’m raising my family here. My parents owned a business here. My sister now owns that business. It’s meaningful to me,” she says.

When Myra launched her first restaurant, Slate Street Cafe, in 2005, she felt like a nobody in the Albuquerque restaurant scene. But she was hardly an upstart. Her father, Robert Ghattas, purchased Duran Central Pharmacy in 1965. She grew up working alongside her family in the pharmacy/gift shop/diner. Her sister, Mona, now runs Duran’s. Her brother operates Duran’s Station, the restaurant. Myra spread her wings beyond Albuquerque working for Hyatt Hotels for 14 years, including in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, Calif., but she returned to the Duke City to open her first restaurant. “I could have opened anywhere, but I chose to come home. Coming home was a big part of my success. I came to where I had a support system,” she says.

Myra self-financed Slate Street with savings, a bit of money from family and a hearty helping of debt. “When people ask me what I would have done differently, I say ‘Have more money!’” she laughs. It was a gutsy move in the tumultuous restaurant industry where many eateries fail. “Restaurants are hard,” Myra says. “It’s very challenging to make a living and you’re under a microscope all the time. People connect with food, so you gotta get it right.”

She also often wishes she had a partner when starting out. Although technically she’s the sole owner of Sixty-Six Acres, she opened the restaurant in January 2019 in an entirely different landscape. After nearly 14 years with Slate Street—which also has a successful catering arm and satellite cafe at the Albuquerque Museum—she’s now a bold-faced name in Duke City restaurants. She’s married and says her husband brings numerous assets to table—for one, the company he works for built out the space for Sixty-Six Acres. Myra also had a team of 50-some employees from Slate Street who have supported the new addition.

Myra wasn’t looking to open a new restaurant, but entrepreneur that she is, she’s always open to new opportunities. And she found just that in Avanyu Plaza, a new development across the street from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Indian Pueblo Marketing Inc., a for-profit corporation owned by the state’s 19 pueblos tasked with generating revenue for the center and pueblos, is turning its acreage along 12th Street into a citywide hub with restaurants and hotels. The more Myra learned about the development—and the more support she received from the developers—the more enticing opening a new restaurant became.

Sixty-Six Acres sits within a stone’s throw of green-chile-cheeseburger mecca Laguna Burger, the only Native American-owned Starbucks in the country and two hotels. The Holiday Inn Express is already standing; a Marriott TownePlace Suites extended-stay hotel is still in the planning phase. All sit on land formerly belonging to an Indian boarding school, and the name Sixty-Six Acres nods to the parcel’s history. “To reconnect with that history really grounded me,” Myra says.

With hotels and one of the Duke City’s major attractions as neighbors, Myra expects the restaurant will serve a near-even split of tourists and locals. “Our first priority is what appeals to locals. Our secondary priority is showcasing New Mexico to tourists,” she says. Sixty-Six Acres isn’t a New Mexican restaurant—and it doesn’t want to be. Yet its seamless incorporation of local vendors and the menu make it feel entirely homegrown.

“We’re from New Mexico. We like a little heat in our food,” Myra says. That rings true in Sixty-Six Acres’ globally inspired uses of peppers, like the Harissa Portabella bowl and the Korean fried chicken bites.

Sixty Six Acres isn’t a burger joint either—it leaves that to its neighbor, Laguna Burger—but as a nod to families whose members want a little bit of everything, Myra put her best burger forward. The signature burger starts with a 100-percent-local beef patty from The Western Way farm, in Las Cruces. It’s slathered with melty Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory green-chile, garlic, jack cheese; topped with Hatch green chile; and sandwiched in a Fano green chile-cheddar bun in what is sure to become many locals’ favorite burger in the city.

Other menu favorites include the lighter-than-air Parmesan Zucchini Ribbons. They’re reminiscent of their State Fair fried potato cousins, but feel much more upscale—especially when drizzled with lemon-basil aioli. The newly added Apple-green Chile-pecan Empanada with bourbon caramel sauce delivers sweet heat and a flaky crust that may have diners ordering dessert first.

If all that sounds rather indulgent, the menu brims with healthy options, such as a made-in-house hummus for an appetizer, Greek & Grain grain salad, and the Salmon & Himalayan Rice bowl. “Sometimes you go to a bar and grill and there are no healthy options. If you want to eat healthy at my restaurant, you can do that,” Myra says. “We don’t want to be a special occasion place. We want to be an everyday place.”

That everyday feel distinguishes Sixty-Six Acres from its sister restaurant, which leans upmarket with its refined décor and wine loft. Sixty-Six Acres’ vibe is casual, with raw, barn-wood-look planks forming an architectural feature in one corner of the exposed ceiling and a wooden pergola framing the outdoor seating area around a stone fireplace. Despite different menus and vibes, Myra says her approach unifies the two restaurants. “Our philosophy is the same,” she says. “We’re locally minded, made from scratch. Our foods are thoughtfully sourced.”

The full bar also sets Sixty-Six Acres apart. Some of the libations feature big-name spirits with local spins. Two refreshing cocktails are kept on tap: the Roadunner, with Tito’s Handmade Vodka and pomegranate; and the Paloma, a house take on a margarita with grapefruit. However, the true standouts are the New Mexican classic cocktails made with New Mexico spirits. For example, Algodones Distillery vodka goes into the Enchantment G&T. Taos Lightning Bourbon pours into The Manhattan Project (a new take on the classic Manhattan), and Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery’s agave reposado mixes into the Manzano “Margarita.” A menu with this many local cocktails is still a rarity in the state’s budding spirits scene. Sixty- Six Acres goes a step further, selling bottles of the spirits in the restaurant’s entrance, which doubles as a made-in-New Mexico shop. Keeping it in the family, there are jars of Duran’s chile sauce to take home, too.

With two—three, if you count Slate at the Museum, located at Albuquerque Museum—restaurants, Myra is a bona fide restaurateur who now employs nearly100 people. Although in recent years, the number of female restaurant owners in town has grown, Myra says coming up in the food-and-beverage industry, especially in corporate America, she was often the only female in a leadership position. “I gained confidence in being one of few women in the industry. I haven’t felt like I’ve missed opportunities because of it. But I’ve felt like I’ve had to work harder,” she says.

At this phase in her life, there are different challenges than when she first founded Slate Street. She’s married and has a 6-year-old child. “It’s hard to give adequate time to all the things you value. There’s no life balance. It’s non-existent. I’m just doing what I believe in. This is my passion. This is my livelihood,” Myra says. “Don’t go looking for life balance. Just do what you love, and then it doesn’t really matter so much.”

Sixty-Six Acres is located at 2400 12th St. NW in Albuquerque, 505.243.2230. sixtysixacres.com

 

Voilà! Hervé Wine Bar

(Story by James Selby / Photographs by Ramsay de Give)

You know that excitement when you discover a rather wonderful place heretofore unseen, unknown, bypassed on the corner, down a narrow side street, up a flight of stairs? One day, there it is; there you are. Serendipity is what it is.

Voilà! Hervé Wine Bar is one of those happy finds residing a block west of Santa Fe’s heart, The Plaza. Set back from San Francisco Street, through open gates of filigreed wrought iron, at the end of a long bricked walkway lined with wine barrels, it’s quite unlike anything else in Santa Fe.

Hervé Lescombes, a scion of a French multi-generational family of winemakers from Burgundy and Algiers, made his way to southern New Mexico and put down roots—and vines—in 1981. Three years later, the first vintage was bottled. Today, the St. Clair Winery in Deming has 180 acres of vineyards in the Mimbres Valley, one of only three officially designated American Viticultural Areas in New Mexico. At 4,500 feet, the high-elevation vineyards have a significant impact on the ripening process. It’s called diurnal variation. The heat of the day promotes sugar accumulation in grapes, while the cooler nighttime temperatures preserve desirable acidity, producing wines of balance and complexity. While the family produces multiple labels, their best grapes are used for D.H. Lescombes wines.

The Santa Fe project is unique for the family. Rather than using the St. Clair Winery name as do the other bistros and retail stores in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Farmington, this had to be special. It was to honor their father, Hervé, 75, and celebrate a legacy. The Lescombes group remodeled the fallow space of what had been, over the last few years, incarnations of late night bar and music venues Milagro and Skylight, reopening with little fanfare as Hervé Wine Bar in May of 2018. Through the large carved doors, you’ll find a wood and stone tasting room as handsome as any along Napa Valley’s Silverado Trail. Stand and sample the long suit of still, sparkling and fortified wines at the copper-covered tasting bar and browse myriad retail offerings of New Mexican artisan specialty food items.

Move into the adjacent atrium “Garden Room.” Tall windowed walls define the restaurant from a warren of offices and galleries. Amid a profusion of plants, settle into leather sofas for a flight of wine, perch at a highboy for live music on a weekend, take a stool at the bar for local ales, or have a leisurely meal at a table, with a bottle of wine. A second story balcony lined with café tables overlooking the dining area is available for private events.  Look up through the lofty two-story glass and iron skylight into blue sky or moonlight and imagine yourself in the train station of a small European city, awaiting departure, a rendezvous or a stolen moment of anonymity.

While the Lescombes family isn’t defined by job titles, Hervé, who still spends time in the vineyard, has turned the day-to-day business over to his two sons. Emmanuel, 51, is the viticulturist whose watch is the cultivation of the vineyards and the harvest of grapes, while his younger brother, Florent, manages the winery operations. At a recent event in Santa Fe to launch their 2014 D.H. Lescombes Limited Release Petite Sirah and raise money for The Food Depot, Florent, 48, tall and lean, spoke with­­—what else?—a charming French accent. “My father wanted to be an artist in Paris, but with a young family, you know, he began to work in the wine business in Burgundy,” Florent said. “Still, he had the desire to create something unique. But, in Burgundy, you are restricted by rules and history so he explored. Deming and Lordsburg were along the way.”

In a banquet room off the balcony where guests sipped the Petite Sirah, inky and structured, and nibbled fine cheeses, Florent nodded toward the atrium. “It’s special when we produce something like this,” he said.  “We opened here because we aren’t known in Santa Fe. We want people to experience who we are. This isn’t just a wine bar. People don’t have to come here to drink. They may come for a coffee, meet friends before going next door to The Lensic, or just relax from shopping.”

Part of the experience—the serendipity—of Hervé Wine Bar is due to Marilyn Litton, general manager. Born and raised in Shreveport, LA, she’s a charismatic, natural host with her own version of a charming Southern accent. Marilyn brings courtesy, hospitality and humor, as well as considerable culinary and business savvy to the job. Florent describes it as, “Her touch.”

“After I graduated from high school,” Marilyn says, “I worked in a small café to get the feel and learned to make the perfect cheesecake.  Let me tell you, that ain’t easy! I got the wander bug and moved to California, until a friend offered me work in New York City. I packed my stuff and took off. That’s what you do when you’re young.” When her father became ill, she returned to Louisiana to look after him. As life allowed a few years later, she enrolled at Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. “It was a wonderful school, with excellent teachers who put the fear of God in you. I did my due diligence,” she says, “and after graduating, I was hired as an instructor.

“But I always traveled to Santa Fe whenever possible. To me, it was California meets the Wild West, laid back, great art scene and so beautiful. When a headhunter suggested a job at a hotel here, I jumped,” Marilyn says. Happy years were spent at the Inn and Spa at Loretto, followed by a successful stint with the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort in Phoenix, Ariz.  Recently, having returned to Santa Fe, she spied an ad for a general manager at a new wine bar, met with the director of bistro operations for St. Clair, and was offered the job. “The family and staff were so thoughtful,” she says—and after a pause, adds, “Not something you find with corporations.”

As the remodeling began, sleeves were rolled, and myriad decisions were made collectively. “We all did tastings, thorough pairings with wine and food to get it right. When you’re new, you have no luxury to make mistakes,” she says. “We don’t serve New Mexican food, but we honor New Mexico in our own way.”  Marilyn explains, “I started researching the little guys; purveyors who needed a voice. There’s many chocolatiers, but finding one that also wholesaled was challenging. The Art of Chocolate here in Santa Fe speaks to what we do. I don’t want stuff everyone has.”  Marilyn sourced gelato from The Chocolate Cartel and bread from M’Tucci’s, both in Albuquerque. Her goat cheese comes from The Old Windmill Dairy in Estancia. “There are Southwestern influences, but our food is Mediterranean-influenced. It’s food to pair with wines,” she says.

You’ll find well-priced small plates of olives, hummus, Serrano ham, bacon wrapped dates, an array of bruschettas, soup, full-sized salads such as Niçoise and Cobb, and a selection of focaccia panini. Individually, these dishes serve as a light repast for one or to share, but in combination, any two make a filling meal. Marilyn’s culinary training comes out when she speaks of cooking with wine. “Wine doesn’t always impart flavor” she says, “but I use our Chenin Blanc in the shrimp and chorizo, and its essence jumps into that dish.” The simple pan sauce of wine, butter and parsley, along with large, sweet shrimp and piquant sausage is a pretty pair with the honeysuckle, orange zest and nutmeg notes of D.H. Lescombes Chenin Blanc. Flights are available in sets of three or four wines. Taste side by side a rosé of Syrah, redolent of fresh strawberries, a dry, citrusy Sémillon and a sassy Prosecco-styled sparkling. Pair the flight with a lime-scented Ahi tuna tartare and avocado, and vote for a winner.

Florent is correct to say their wines are not well known in certain circles. It’s a shame, and hopefully this will change now that we know what’s down the brick passageway off of San Francisco Street. You’re invited. Hervé and family await your respondez sil vous plaît.

Hervé Wine Bar is located at 139 W. San Francisco St. in Santa Fe, 505.795.7075, stclairwinery.com/santa-fe-herve.