Singing in the Rain at Prairie Star

Prairie Star; The Poire

Prairie Star; The Poire

Monsoon season has a way of keeping you on your toes––especially when it comes to outdoor events like the longstanding Music on the Patio series at Prairie Star Restaurant & Wine Bar in Santa Ana Pueblo, now in its seventh year.

Every Friday evening from late April to mid-October, some of New Mexico’s biggest name musicians, from Hillary Smith to Cathryn McGill to The Real Matt Jones, perform on the wine bar’s scenic patio, which looks out past the manicured greenery of the Santa Ana Golf Club’s 27 holes to the looming Sandias, somehow even more monumental from this vantage point.

“The views that we have are probably the best in the state,” says Executive Chef Chris Olsen, who took the helm at Prairie Star five years ago after stints at Standard Diner, Seasons Rotisserie & Grill, Marcello’s Chophouse and other area restaurants. “You tie in good food, good wine and good music, and the overall experience is amazing. That’s why our patio is normally packed, and Fridays are crazy busy.”   Continue reading

Back Stage at Restaurant Martín

RestaurantMartin_DSC2255Restaurant dinner service is usually an elegantly organized chaos, as servers and chefs prepare multiple-course meals, adapt to last-minute additions to the party, and navigate diners’ ever-growing dietary restrictions. Jennifer and Martin Rios take this orchestration to the next level during the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, presenting four events, as well as maintaining their usual restaurant hours. During the five-day event, Martin will present a demo and tasting; they’ll host a luncheon with Rick Bayless; present a wine dinner; and participate in the Grand Tasting—serving nearly 4,000 plates of food between special events and normal operations. And the owners/operators pull all this together mostly through phone calls during their respective 15-minute drives home to Tesuque after closing the restaurant at 10 p.m.—on a good night.  

Martin has been a part of the Fiesta since the first year, 27 years ago, and he’s doubled down since opening Restaurant Martín with his wife/business partner Jennifer eight years ago. The Fiesta stalwarts see the event as a way to introduce new customers to the restaurant and connect with devotees who attend their wine dinners annually. For Martin, it’s a chance to experiment—a bold move, since he’s doing so with the palates of hundreds of discerning customers—and learn from the other notable chefs who pass through his kitchen. “We like to create something different than the ordinary,” he says. “When it comes to the Wine & Chile dinners, we really do something special. I try new ideas and concepts. It’s a lot of fun for me because it takes me away from my everyday life.” Continue reading

Rick Bayless in Santa Fe!

Rick BaylessAfter 15 years, celebrity chef Rick Bayless is returning to this year’s Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, this time on the heels of his latest—though certainly not first—James Beard Award win. The nine-time cookbook author, TV host and chef of several restaurants earned the foundation’s highest award for the four-star Topolobampo Grill, which he opened in 1991, shortly after the casual Frontera Grill, a sea-change restaurant in the history of Mexican food in the United States. Chef Bayless is set to prepare a luncheon with fellow chef and friend Martín Rios at Restaurant Martín. The four-course lunch will be paired with wines from Craft + Estate. Bayless will also present a cooking demonstration at Santa Fe School of Cooking. Although scant on menu details at the time of our conversation, Chef Bayless is sure to ladle traditional Mexican fare with organic, local ingredients.  

As devoted as you are to Mexican food, you’ve also been a champion of organic ingredients from local purveyors. When did that become part of your repertoire?

Basically, it came from the fact that I lived in Mexico and learned that the best food came from the places with the best local agriculture. My wife and I decided to settle in Chicago, which has the second largest concentration of Mexican people in the nation (and my wife’s family is from there), but we were missing one great thing: local agriculture. Thirty years ago, there was not a farmers’ market, and you had to drive a long way to find farm stands. We had our work cut out for us to find local, seasonal product. It took many years to find farms willing to supply a restaurant. But it all came from how important agriculture was to great food.

The Frontera Farmer Foundation has provided $2 million in small grants. Why did you decide to focus your philanthropic efforts on supporting local, organic farmers in the Chicago area?

In Illinois, 95 percent of the farm fields are corn and soybeans, which doesn’t go into the food scene. We had to find farms interested in working with us and willing to grow things for us. We discovered fairly quickly that farms couldn’t supply us because they didn’t have the equipment. First, we provided no-interest loans for watering systems, hoop houses or a new tractor so they could be more profitable and productive. They had to pay us back in a year, in dollars or product [worth the value]. We really wanted to make it into a for-profit foundation. Most of our grants are small—$8,000 to $12,000. It would take them years to be able save that amount, so a grant from the foundation pushes them years ahead in what they are able to do. Continue reading

A Multitude of Amused Bouches

NM Fine Dining

Sometimes, the most innovative ideas happen while you’re in the shower, driving or, in the case of Jimmy Day, riding a bike. Jimmy was riding along Old Las Vegas Highway on a Saturday morning in the spring of 2016, when he saw a FOR SALE banner above Bobcat Bite. He memorized the phone number and upon arriving back home, still wearing his Lycra riding suit, announced to his wife, Jennifer, that they were going to buy the iconic Santa Fe burger joint. Accustomed to life with her serial entrepreneur husband—Jimmy has been involved in businesses from real estate to owning auto dealerships for more than 30 years—she took it in stride. “Well, I guess we’re going to buy a restaurant,” she said.

“I called the number, and by Monday, we’d formulated how we were going to buy it,” Jimmy says. Believing in the stone soup fable that calls upon a village to contribute the ingredients to enrich a dish, the Days quickly realized that not only would their proverbial soup be better if they pulled in a team, but it would also be better if they attempted other dishes as well, adding perhaps French wine, a pasta dish and a tamale. As they purchased the former Galisteo Bistro and Georgia, NM Fine Dining was born—in a landscape with a relative paucity of restaurant groups. Continue reading

Chef2Chef with Katharine Kagel

KatharineKagel-DSC_6761For those of us who calibrate a day by when and what we plan on eating, there are a few archetypal dishes that manage to reach deeply into our imaginations, stir our souls and cozy themselves within our seminal memories. They become foundational to our craft. For me, one of those dishes is crispy polenta with real maple syrup. I was introduced to that dish at Cafe Pasqual’s. It’s a privilege now, 35 years later, to sit around and talk with Katharine Kagel, the charismatic and playful visionary chef/owner of Cafe Pasqual’s, someone who impacted my food world as only a few have. We got to talking.

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

Katharine Kagel:  Opportunity and kindness feed me. Opportunity to be creative, to be healthy, to contribute, to explore, to give, to love, opportunity to work with people I adore. To have the freedom to do all the above. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Bakeries

DSC_1431If you suddenly find yourself hungry when you’re in the south end of Santa Fe’s South Capitol district, there’s a good reason for it. That fragrant aroma of baking baguettes, croissants, pastries, muffins and more wafting through the air comes from two beloved Santa Fe restaurants that are new to the neighborhood—the relocated Clafoutis and The New Baking Company, inspired by the old Santa Fe Baking Co., which closed in 2016.

Eateries have long populated this neighborhood, serving everything from Asian and Indian to Mediterranean, Italian and New Mexican cuisine. But the addition of these two spots—located catty-corner to each other—adds to the vibrant food scene in this neighborhood. This culinary corner draws locals and visitors alike for the comfort food and conviviality found in two restaurants with strong ties to the community.

Continue reading