How the Pros Do It

When building a restaurant wine list, it turns out that size does matter, but bigger isn’t always better. A smaller wine list requires that each selection be a perfect one, while a more extensive list means struggling to maintain inventory and training servers on lengthy tomes. I talked to three Santa Fe restaurant owners—Harry Shapiro of Harry’s Roadhouse, Quinn Stephenson of Coyote Café and Erin Wade of Vinaigrette—and asked each of them to describe what goes into creating the lists that complement their very unique restaurants.
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Farm to Restaurant

“We now have 30 restaurants as members so far; 15 or so of them are very consistent, ordering every week. Their hearts are in the game—they need no convincing!” Nina Yozell-Epstein

For our fledgling Farm To Restaurant Delivers program (F2R), brainchild of the Santa Fe Alliance, it’s the classic underdog story. Due to a sluggish and unpredictable economy, visitors and residents alike are thinking twice about the efficacy of each expenditure they make. As a result, Santa Fe chefs, all of whom are walking a fine line between creative innovation and keeping prices down, are less likely than usual to court unnecessary risks. Meanwhile, even in the best of times, northern New Mexico is a challenging place for food growers. According to Jacona Farm owner, Phillip Loomis, “with the extreme cold this past winter, a dry and unusually windy spring, the fires and smoke earlier this summer and, through it all, the long drought,” 2011 has been the most difficult he’s ever experienced in 20 years of farming.

And yet, despite such daunting odds, Santa Fe’s Farm to Restaurant program, not quite two years old, stands in the forefront of this pioneering movement: It’s one of the most successful in the entire country! How is that possible? Like all good underdog stories, this one involves a vast, interdependent web of people—from chefs to farmers to grassroots organizers to people like you and me—for whom Cole Porter could have written, “The difficult I’ll do right now/The impossible will take a little while.”

In matters of food appreciation, Santa Fe has had a head start over many other parts of the country. As a unique destination spot, the City Different has always had more than our share of world-class restaurants. And our farmers’ market (which actually began way back in the late ‘60s, with a group of farmers selling their produce on Saturdays from the back of their trucks) has become a vital, bustling crowd pleaser in its permanent year-round home at the Railyard. Continue reading

Chefs of EDo

The evolution of Albuquerque’s East Downtown neighborhood from a sketchy, motel-ridden slice of Central to an urban oasis has been a relatively quick one. In the last few years, EDo (as it’s known)has boomed, with renovated lofts attracting residents, the Rail Runner calling to commuters and various art galleries and retail shops popping up along the stretch. The district’s graduation into a new kind of neighborhood is perhaps best seen in its restaurants. Suddenly EDo is bursting with eateries that draw people from all over the city. From a top-shelf diner and a veteran of fine dining to cafés that make luxury affordable and a pizzeria that raises comfort food to new heights, with a tantalizing rooftop bar thrown in for good measure, EDo has become one of Albuquerque’s best scenes for culinary connoisseurs. Continue reading

At the Table, Raaga

by Chef Johnny Vee

I have always considered myself an Anglophile of sorts, since I first went to Leeds, England, to restaurant college, circa 1974. I loved how different it was from America, how the land of our forefathers seemed so parochial compared to the aggressive hustle and bustle of the U.S.A. While living there I marveled how this relatively small country had at one time practically ruled the world.

Most surprising to me still is the stronghold Britain had over the gigantic country of India. After meeting the disarmingly charming and charismatic Paddy Rawal, owner and chef of Santa Fe’s spanking new  Raaga Fine Indian Dining, I have a feeling that had the British Empire come up against this dynamic businessman and culinary wizard, India’s independence might have come decades earlier. Lucky for the Brits, Paddy wasn’t born yet to stand beside Gandhi; lucky for us Santa Feans, he has arrived in our midst to teach us a new way to think about his exotic native cuisine.
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Erin Wade

Erin Wade’s Nambé farm is home to a curious cast of characters.

There’s the large flock of what Wade calls “ridiculously hormonal” chickens ranging freely over the property. They keep the pests down, roost in the trees and sometimes break into the house. Four very large pigs root around in a sturdy pen above the driveway. They spend their days taking mud baths and arguing with a bold pair of ravens over savory tidbits of slop. Charlie, Wade’s “egg-suckin’ hound,” pokes around in the shadows looking for wayward chicken eggs.

Finally, there’s Hopkins, a little orange cat that showed up on the farm one day and decided to stay. Hopkins is named after poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. She follows Wade around the farm, wagging her long striped tail and basking in the sunshine. She’s a cat that thinks she’s a dog.

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At The Table with The Gorge Bar & Grill

My history with Taos goes back to the late 1980’s, when I was living in Sydney and working for a company that set up American-themed restaurants in that beautiful Australian city. Hearing of the popular new culinary trend that was sweeping the states called Southwestern cooking, we ventured to hop on the bandwagon and introduce the cuisine and concept Down Under. I found a chef consultant named Dan Hoyer who headed down to assist us in establishing the authenticity of the food, and Dan was from Taos.
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