A Milestone for Opera Southwest & Bless Me, Ultima

Photo by Liz Lopez

Photo by Liz Lopez

(Story by Stephanie Hainsfurther / Photos by Liz Lopez)

An unmistakable sense of place characterizes New Mexico, a state of the Union like no other—a state of mind, too, according to its fond inhabitants. We have it all: high desert and low, mountain and llano, the river and the highway. That physical tension, for some, evokes a strong feeling that a timeless world exists alongside the everyday, a hidden dimension we call the spirit. Out of this tension between the tangible and the unseen came a touchstone of American literature, Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, published in 1972. A tale of finding one’s identity within and despite a culture of conflict, the novel takes place during the fearful era of World War II. In its simple form, it is the story of Antonio, a New Mexico boy who, through the tutelage and under the protection of a curandera, Ultima, comes of age.

Now the story is an opera, premiering this month at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and performed by Opera Southwest within its 45th anniversary season. Opera Southwest and the NHCC joined resources with California’s Opera Cultura and entrusted Héctor Armienta, composer of La Llorona: A Musical Drama, with the writing of the score and libretto for Bless Me, Ultima.

“As our first main-stage commissioned opera in over 20 years, Bless Me, Ultima is a real milestone for Opera Southwest. We are incredibly pleased to be able to draw on the rich storytelling that is so rooted in our state and embodied and exemplified by the literature of Rudolfo Anaya,” says Tony Zancanella, executive director of Opera Southwest. “This is a project that all New Mexicans should be proud of.” Many of Ultima’s singers are locals, and Ultima herself is sung by mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez of Albuquerque. Kirstin sang Amneris in Opera Southwest’s production of Aida in 2015. She has performed to acclaim in the title role of Carmen, and her voice has been described as “a mix of the earthy and the ethereal.”

Bless Me, Ultima is such a New Mexico story, and it reflects so much of the deepest layers of our culture, so much of the underpinnings that make us who we are,” Kirstin says. She grew up in Asia and so never studied the novel in school. “I came to the story much later. But when I told my sisters (many of whom live in and around Albuquerque) that I would be playing the role of Ultima in a brand new opera, they were over the moon to hear it! They were all made to study the book while growing up.”

Kirstin truly understands the character she plays in the opera, and relates to her on many levels. “I particularly love Ultima’s mysticism; I consider myself to be a very spiritual person, even though I do not subscribe to any specific religion, and Ultima, to me, seems somehow above, or beyond religion,” she says. “It’s as if she gets her very power from the Earth itself, and so it stands to reason that even the animals would bend to her will. I have always been a deep animal lover, and I cherish this part of Ultima’s persona; she may not be a vegetarian as I am (although, I think she might be), but she has an intense respect for all life, and would never take a life needlessly—a theme that reminds me of our Native American ancestors who are also such an important part of our New Mexican history. There is much about Ultima that I myself aspire to be.”

Many New Mexico residents and visitors alike are making their Opera Southwest debuts in this production. Well-known Maestro Guillermo Figueroa, now principal conductor of the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, will conduct the Opera Southwest Orchestra for the first time. Baritone Javier Ortiz of Pojoaque sings Narciso, a friend of Antonio’s family and the town drunk. Javier Abreu, tenor, and Carelle Flores, soprano, both from Puerto Rico, are making their debuts as Antonio’s parents, Gabriel and Maria. The Owl, Ultima’s familiar, will be sung by Countertenor José Luis Muñoz of Seattle.

Luke Gullickson and Daisy Beltran / Photo by Liz Lopez

Luke Gullickson and Daisy Beltran / Photo by Liz Lopez

But the most awaited debut is that of Daisy Beltran, a 14-year-old soprano from Albuquerque’s Eldorado High School who sings the role of Antonio, “Tony,” the boy who comes under Ultima’s wing. At the writing of this story, she was working with her vocal coach Edmund Connolly for one hour each week, and for 45 minutes a week with Luke Gullickson, principal vocal coach of the opera chorus. Three weeks of rehearsals would begin in a few days with Stage Director Octavio Cardenas.

“I really feel close to Tony,” Daisy says. “When I was younger, about seven, I was constantly told I was an old soul, because I would ask questions that were complicated and controversial. So there’s a sense that I’m connected to Tony because he’s very curious.”

Backstage, another central character takes flight

An opera doesn’t soar on its music alone. University of New Mexico Department of Theatre & Dance Professor Dorothy Baca, a longtime TV and stage costume designer, is doing the costumes for Bless Me, Ultima. Local community muralist Joe Stephenson is designing the sets. And Albuquerque Master Puppeteer Robert Secrest is at work on Ultima’s familiar, The Owl, a character in tandem with that of the countertenor. “We discussed in production meetings the symbolism between the singer Owl, who is the animistic spirit, and the puppet Owl, who is the physical side,” Robert says. “The singer has a special costume.”

They also discussed the scale of the puppet—the Owl’s wingspan is six feet, on a par with the world’s largest existing owl, the Eurasian eagle owl—and the way the director wanted the owl to look. “The director made a strong point that the Owl must be white with some mottling, the summer version of a snowy owl,” Robert says. “We also discussed whether it should abstract or realistic.” Although there is an abstract quality to the puppet, realism won out, certainly. The feathers? They’re made of vinyl slats from Venetian blinds.

Robert will be the man onstage, manipulating the Owl from a helmet atop his head with handheld rods. It’s a Japanese style of puppetry called bunraku, and the puppeteer is dressed in black from head to toe. “My hope is that I will be as invisible as possible,” he says. Robert’s no stranger to the stage, however, having grown up acting in local theater and with Albuquerque Civic Light Opera Association, now Musical Theatre Southwest productions.

New music for a new opera

Composer Héctor Armienta consulted closely with Ultima author Rudolfo Anaya on the story for this opera, a story that must be complete in itself and, as Héctor says, result in “grand theater.” Working with Rudolfo, visiting New Mexico and the specific settings in the story, and researching authentic New Mexican music of the 1940s were all part of his homework. He took seriously his mandate to have Bless Me, Ultima reflect the central themes of the novel while standing on its own as an opera.

Rudolfo Anaya / Photo courtesy of Opera Southwest

Rudolfo Anaya / Photo courtesy of Opera Southwest

The opera’s singers have a lot to say about their favorite results.

From Kirstin, who appears as Ultima: “There is a musical section toward the middle of the opera when I am helping Antonio to find himself in the nature, the land, the air, the water that is all around him—the music is sublime and so expressive, and the words illuminate thoughts and ideas that I, myself, hold so dear. The idea that we are one with one another and that we are profoundly connected to our Mother Earth and all of her gifts. I love this.”

Carlos Archuleta, a baritone from Española most recently seen in Pagliacci last spring, will sing Tenorio, the vengeful saloon-keeper and villain of the story. He has a light-hearted approach to the daunting task of creating a brand-new character within a brand-new work. “I love the music in Act 2. Very Iago-esque,” he said. “I’ve worked on a few world premieres; the challenge is making it make sense, and the joy is actually having the composer there so you can yell at [him]!”

And from Daisy Beltran (who had to write “a lot of boring English class stuff” about the novel in an essay that turned out to be “a really good analysis”): “There’s a persistent question [asked of Antonio]: ‘Will you bless me?’ He knows he can help them but he doesn’t, because he doesn’t feel capable enough. To me, that’s the most raw feeling in the entire opera.”

The world premiere of Bless Me, Ultima from Opera Southwest at the National Hispanic Cultural Center Journal Theatre runs Feb. 18- 25. Tickets cost $15-$89. Visit operasouthwest.org, 505.243.0591 and nhccnm.org, 505.246.2261.    

The Mighty Buzz

(Story by Mia Rose Poris / February 2018)

ALBUQUERQUE: That’s right. The Old Duke is among the hippest cities in the nation. So declares thisisinsider.com, which cites Albuquerque among other hip cities to which folks under 30 would like to move. The site calls the Que a “more under-the-radar hipster city,” ranking cities based on factors that make them appeal to young people, like “density of tattoo parlors, vegan stores, microbreweries and thrift stores, as well as any increases in rent,” according to the Dec. 1 story at thisisinsider.com. Albuquerque came in at No. 19 after Reno, Nev., and ahead of Seattle, Wash. “Downtown Albuquerque is full of breweries, cafes, and art galleries,” the article reads, “making it the perfect spot for young people to explore and enjoy the local culture.” Hey under-30s, what do you think? Are they right? What makes ABQ rad for you? Buzz us.

Many would say, for example, that Effex Nightclub on Central Avenue contributes to Albuquerque’s cool. And now we have another awesome addition from Effex Co-owner Carri Phillis at 6001 Osuna Road NE, Ste. A, just east of San Mateo Boulevard, where Carri’s Blue Agave Republic recently made its home. As of press time, B.A.R.’s Facebook page said they’d be opening soon—and a Jan. 18 post reads: “We had fun playing in the Sysco kitchen yesterday! How do you feel about a build your own Guacamole and Salsa Bar to go with your Tequila?!?” Well frankly, we feel pretty great about that. The tequila and tapas bar joins the likes of Breve Crepes and Coffee and Devons Pop Smoke Wood Fired Grill at the Osuna spot in Northeast Albuquerque. We’re excited to check B.A.R. out. You can find them on Facebook.

While we’re on a roll here, we’ve got another reason why the largest city in the Land of Enchantment is out of this world. Aside from an elevation of 5,300-some-feet, the Duke City is, of late, home to its very own astropub. The restaurant, called The Kosmos, and owned by Jerry Miller, is located at 1715 5th St. NW in the Wells Park area. With a great local beer celestion—oops, selection—plus “high quality comfort food,” as a five-star Jan. 2 Facebook review puts it, the service is also stellar and the atmosphere extra-terrific/terrestrial. Earthlings, visit the Facebook page of “the home of the Kosmic Burger,” or visit the spaced-out (in its galactic sense, of course) dig in person.

And get this. While The Kosmos may be out of this world, upon this very planet, only 246 terrestrials claim the title: Master Sommelier. With that said, big congrats to Albuquerque-area resident Tim Gaiser for being among such wine elite. The process involved in passing the Master Sommelier exam may be “more arduous and difficult than studying for a medical or law degree,” a press release says. And Greg O’Byrne, executive director of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, adds, “Tim has been an instrumental part of the success of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. For the past 20 years, he’s traveled here from San Francisco to lead wine seminars and instruct industry personnel at annual Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory classes and Certified Sommelier exams. I speak for many of us in the New Mexico wine community in that we can’t be more excited for the wine-related educational opportunities with Tim now living here full-time.” Among other endeavors, Tim’s an internationally renowned wine expert as well as adjunct professor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. You can find his blog at timgaiser.com/blog.

Word has it a double whammy of delight is arriving on Montgomery Boulevard just in time for Valentine’s Day. We’re talking about Tap That, a taproom of local brews, owned by Huy Nguyen, which opened last month, and its neighboring Sweet Tooth—owned by Dao Pham, who also happens to be Huy’s sweetie and business partner—which will open up on or around Valentine’s Day. With love in the air and spring around the corner, Sweet Tooth, with its front and back patios, might just be the perfect spot for sunshine, ice cream and some Boba Tea. Therefore ladies, after your man treats you to something sweet next door this V-Day, might as well buy that bro to a beer at Tap That.

Photo by Kim Jew

Jim Long / Photo by Kim Jew

And if you’re looking for a local haunt away from home this Valentine’s Day night, consider Hotel Chaco. Last month, the Old Town hotel made the list of the Best New Hotels in USA Today’s “10 Best Readers’ Choice” travel award contest, ringing in at No. 10. The 118-room luxury hotel, part of the Heritage Hotel & Resorts group formed by Jim Long, “celebrates American Indian heritage through a collection of works by contemporary Native American New Mexican artists,” according to USA Today. “The hotel features a rooftop restaurant and lounge, outdoor swimming pool with hot tub and 24-hour fitness center.” Wm. Mulherin’s Sons in Philadelphia, PA, came in first, followed by Lodge Kohler in Green Bay, Wis. Hotel Chaco opened in 2017, and we’re super excited for the 2019 opening of Heritage’s Sawmill Market, an artisan market of restaurants, food vendors, galleries and beyond, in the old lumber warehouse just across from the hotel. Visit hotelchaco.com.

SANTA FE: Lest you worry about those post-Valentine’s Day blues (surely someone must have this worry…), a mere four days afterward, Restaurant Week returns to Santa Fe, before heading to Taos on the 25th. From Feb. 18 through 25, restaurants all around the capital city (we counted 40 of them) are participating in the most delicious week of the year. The event is an awesome way to check out restaurants you might not otherwise have tried—or simply love way too much—and save a little dough while you’re at it. Plus, you don’t need tickets to attend, though definitely consider making reservations, since after all, we all want to partake of this tour de taste. As nmrestaurantweek.com puts it, “Restaurants get to ‘put their best food forward’ in order to gain new fans and can experiment with menu items. Above all, it showcases New Mexico as one of the world’s premier dining destinations.” Most restaurants offer a three-course, prix-fixe dinner option that ranges from $15 to $45 per person (you can order off the regular menu for the regular price, too) depending on the restaurant, and a specially priced, two-course lunch offering, to boot. After the trek to Taos, Duke City’s restaurant week begins March 4. Visit nmrestaurantweek.com to see the lineup and learn more.

March 1 and 3 bring us three events made possible by the Châine des Rôtisseurs and the Santa Fe Community College Foundation that your taste buds won’t want to miss. On the 1st, a Guest Chefs Culinary Arts Dinner, with paired wines(!), supports the SFCC Culinary Arts Scholarship Fund/Châine des Rôtisseurs Endownment Scholarship and celebrates the  college’s culinary students who’ve been selected to compete in the Châine’s Far West Regional Young Chef Competition. With that said, the $100 price tag is totally worth the splurge—not to mention, there are only 100 such golden tickets to be had…therefore hurry! But if you can’t make the dinner, on the 3rd, free of charge, the Châine’s Far West Regional Young Chefs Competition is followed by the Châine Culinary Arts Ribbon Cutting. And the guest-chef lineup is impressive, comprising local faves Jen and Evan Doughty of the Palace Restaurant and Saloon; Mark Connell of State Capital Kitchen; and Cristian Pontiggia of El Nido, who join SFCC Co-Lead Chef Instructors Patrick Mares and Jerry Dakan. Made up of nearly 25,000 members, the Chaîne “is an International Association of Gastronomy,” reads its website, that brings “together enthusiasts who share the same values of quality, fine dining, the encouragement of the culinary arts and the pleasures of the table.” Visit sfcc.edu/foundation/events for tickets to the dinner.

Meow Wolf is making big moves. Few locals and tourists—it’s after all top among myriad reasons to visit Santa Fe, right?—are unfamiliar with the interactive art installation located in the old Silva Lanes bowling alley, which has garnered national attention and help from the likes of George R.R. Martin. And the ever-expanding art collaborative is branching out to the Mile High City, with an opening of a new concept set for 2020, as well as to Las Vegas, Nev., set to open late 2019. The Denver exhibition will be even larger (by far) than that in the City Different, with 60,000 square feet of exhibition space—we’re talking triple the size of the House of Eternal Return here—while the Vegas permanent exhibition (more details will be available later this year) is looking to be about 40,000 square feet. The Santa Fe install opened in March of 2016, and is going ever strong. Exciting stuff for our homegrown art scene! Look out for more project updates throughout 2018, and check out meowwolf.com.

Photo by Gaelen Casey

Leonardo Razatos / Photo by Gaelen Casey

Plaza Cafe Southside’s doing the impossible. And it’s bloody delicious. Or at least, alt-bloody delicious, but delicious nonetheless. The Café’s bringing in “a much-hyped meat alternative that looks, cooks, tastes, smells, and yes, even bleeds like the real thing,” the folks at the Cafe tell us. Their Impossible Burger is a 100-percent plant-based alternative to the real deal (with an even higher protein content) that, according to “chefs, farmers and scientists,” recreates “the experience that meat-lovers crave.” Plus, the creation of such Impossible patties calls forth fewer natural resources than does beef. Leonardo Razatos and Belinda Marshall, whose family’s been serving tourists and locals at their Plaza Café locations since 1947, plan to offer tasting samples before adding the Impossible Burger to their menu full-time. Visit plazacafesouth.com or find them on Facebook and Twitter to make sure you’re among the first to grab a bite!

What’s really, literally quite hot in Santa Fe? Louis Moskow’s homemade hot sauce. Seriously, since the Buzz is all about what’s hot, let me just tell you, you might want to to hit up 315 Restaurant and Wine Bar for some of that sauce…which you can purchase ($5) and bring home and enjoy on just about everything. And while you’re there, the dinners are darn good, often locally sourced, the wine list is amazing, and the half-off happy hour oysters (try one with that hot sauce) are so fresh. Last time I was there, I heard a diner put it like this: “If I’m not on my couch, I’m here at this table…” To which I’ll just add: If I’m not on my couch eating hot sauce, I’m here eating oysters.

Guess what, guys. Santa Fe Brewing Co. has gotten approval to open a new—that’s to say, its fourth!—taproom on Galisteo Street. According to Brewing Co. General Manager Alana Jones, it’s looking like they’ll open the doors of the new downtown dig in March. “It’s exciting to have a little spot downtown that fits our taste,” she tells us. The brick Galisteo Street building, which recently housed Santa Fe Cigar Co., has about 1,600 square feet of space, a central bar and a shaded outdoor patio—just perfect for upcoming spring and summer sips outside (plus, Alana says, they’re thinking of having food trucks stop by, too). Speaking of sips, on Jan. 20, the Brewing Co. launched their Black IPA 2.0, part of the Winter In & Out Series. It’ll be on the shelves for a couple months, Alana says, so grab it while you can. Checkout their Facebook page or visit santafebrewing.com.

Have you heard of the Double Up Food Bucks program? It’s a truly wonderful opportunity for folks with SNAP/EBT benefits to make use of a dollar-for-dollar match to get free New Mexico-grown produce at participating markets, groceries and farm stands. “It’s an awesome thing, to take out $50 in tokens and then be able to buy $100 worth of fruits and vegetables and beans, for example,” a local customer at the Santa Fe Farmers Market tells us. It works like this: if you spend $10 (or any other amount) from your SNAP EBT card at a participating outlet, Double-Up gives you another $10 to buy fresh fruits and veggies grown in New Mexico. Double-up’s available even in the winter, when something fresh out this local earth tastes as sweet and fresh as ever. Check out doubleupnm.org to learn more about the community wide program and find participating locations across the state.

TAOS: In January, Chokolá Bean to Bar, among 20 national finalists, was a winner of the Good Foods Awards for its Guatemala, Verapaz 70% & Maya Mountain, Belize 70%. The awards are “a three day-long celebration of the exceptional food and drink crafters who are pushing the envelope in both craftsmanship and sustainability,” according to the Good Foods website. Owned by wife-and-husband team Deborah Vincent and Javier Abad, Chokolá’s been around since 2012, and Javi and Deborah have since taken the shop to true chocolatey, Taos-style heights. “Every morning, the pure Alpine air is laced with the rich aroma of our freshly roasted cacao beans,” their website reads. “By ethically sourcing beans of the highest quality and by crafting small, select batches, we follow the bean to bar process to bring out each bean’s unique, nuanced flavors and aromas, yielding our premium single origin chocolate bars.” Visit chokolabeantobar.com or stop in for a treat and watch them in action in their open kitchen—they’re just off the Plaza. And check out goodfoodawards.org to learn more. Congrats!

And don’t tell anyone, but… Chef Chris and Valerie Maher of Cooking Studio Taos have a secret supper up their sleeves. This means participants know they’re in for a treat, but they won’t know the supper spot until the day of the event. Go solo and meet new friends or bring your sweetie along for a belated Valentine’s treat. Learn more and book your spot for the Feb. 16 dinner ($78 per person, plus tip the night of) at cookingstudiotaos.com. The rest is a secret, so we’ll leave it at that.

Top Tix

(Story by Stephanie Hainsfurther, February 2018)

David Mamet’s The Water Engine was staged as a radio play when it first was produced in 1977, and Mamet later adapted it as a 1992 TV movie starring William H. Macy. Oasis Theatre Company Inc. out of Abiquiu is bringing their version to Teatro Paraguas this month. “I am doing a combination of a staged radio play and live scenes,” says Artistic Director Brenda Lynn Bynum. “When the emotion runs high or there is a deepening tension with the characters, the scenes break out of the ‘radio play.’” Wear your thermal lululemons; this tale of an inventor whose brainchild is quashed by corporate Powers That Be is bound to chill.

Feb. 8-25, teatroparaguas.org, 505.424.1601

Among many treats at the Lensic this month, I am most excited about Ailey II, the younger troupe of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Burning with passion and on fire for modern dance, this company brings the work of new choreographers on tour and into communities with their outreach programs. There is no better way to warm up your pre-Valentine festivities than to be energized and inspired by the gifts that these beautiful, talented people bestow upon (lucky) us.

Feb. 13, ticketssantafe.org, 505.988.1234

Speaking of young, beautiful and at the Lensic, the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra brings internationally renowned cellist Joshua Roman here for a concert led by Maestro Guillermo Figueroa. The works of Glinka, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky are on offer. A few days later, Roman will play in his own concert recital. As a composer himself and artistic director of TownMusic in Seattle, Roman premiered his own work “we do it to one another” in the 2015-16 season, based on the poems of Tracy K. Smith from her book Life on Mars, with soprano Jessica Rivera. He also covered Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” on cello with DJ Spooky on iPad, for The Voice Project. According to writers on classical music, Roman is single-handedly saving the world from stuffiness. Take a breath of fresh air.

Feb. 11 & 16, ticketssantafe.org, 505.988.1234, santafesymphony.org

Vadim Gluzman / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Vadim Gluzman / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Couples who work together will appreciate the musical relationship of husband and wife Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe. Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violin and Piano was composed for them, and they premiered it together in a recording. How romantic it would be to hear them together at St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art in a sparkling program that includes Richard Strauss’ Sonata for Violin and Piano, which Strauss wrote for his future wife.

Angelga Yoffe / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Angelga Yoffe / Photo by Marco Borggreve

Feb. 10, performancesantafe.org, 505.984.8759, ticketssantafe.org, 505.988.1234

Leave your electronic leashes in the car for Mummenschanz’s new show You + Me at Popejoy. It’s all about relating to one another, and you just can’t do that while waiting for your iPhone to vibrate. These “musicians of silence” will teach your tech-addicted children new tricks, so bring the whole family. If your fam is fidgety, bring them back to experience STOMP, those Brits from Brighton whose percussive shows are anything but quiet. STOMP is the flip side of Mummenschanz, low-tech but noisy, and absolutely mischief minded. Don’t be surprised to find your brooms, buckets and trashcan lids missing in action once you get home.

Feb. 17, Mummenschanz; Feb. 20-21, STOMP, unmtickets.com, 505.925.5858

Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill is betting that Matthew Yde’s original play, Mrs. Warrens Profession 2.0, will intrigue and entice audiences to see this reboot of the 1894 G.B. Shaw play and the 1960 film starring Lilli Palmer. Mrs. Warren’s Profession told the story of a brothel madam explaining herself to her university-educated daughter, and had a rather feminist take on the very few “career choices” of Victorian women. Security is tight around how this new play contrasts with the old, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you in any case, but I must say, I am itching to see it. Bridget Kelly stars as Mrs. W. so, if you missed her as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, get your naughty self down here. Playwright Yde is the theater critic for the Albuquerque Journal.

Feb. 2-24, auxdogtheatre.org, 505.596.0607

The National Hispanic Cultural Center and Opera Southwest have commissioned the opera Bless Me, Ultima based on Rudolfo Anaya’s classic novel. My story on page 28 of this issue goes backstage to look at preparations for the world premiere of this quintessentially New Mexico production.

Feb. 18-25, operasouthwest.org, 505.243.0591; nhccnm.org, 505.246.2261

CrystalwebIf like me you only watch the Winter Olympics for the ice-skating events, get your frozen toes over to Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho for “Crystal: A Breakthrough Ice Experience.” We are promised extreme skating, synchronized skating, and freestyle, not to mention Cirque de Soleil’s signature acrobatics. The Ice Capades on steroids, mixed with hot chocolate and a young woman’s coming-of-age story, will propel you off that couch.

Feb. 7-11, cirquedesoleil.com/crystal

And you’re going to think I’ve lost my mind, but I’ve seen The Amazing Acro-cats twice in person and once on The Stephen Colbert Show. If you love and “get” kitties, please don’t miss this tourbus full of them at Studio Center of Santa Fe (formerly Warehouse 21). Yes, Ringmaster Samantha Martin trains cats to do circus tricks and it’s just as laugh-out-loud unpredictable as you are picturing right now. Samantha has all the patience in the world, and will tell you a lot about her pet rescue efforts and a little about what dating is like when your apartment is overrun with furry critters.

Feb. 22-24, eventsfy.com, brownpapertickets.com

Chef 2 Chef: On the Shelf

Inherent in the recipe is an implicit investment of hope, on our part, that it will deliver on its promise to please. Even before our culinary skills mature, many of us harbor the small desire of wanting the recipe to rescue us (not unlike in our search for meaningful love) from the mundane.

As we begin to know ourselves better as cooks, the selection process is refined, and we begin to understand that recipes are not separate from the cook who risks much in both its selection and execution.

But by now, we can see that the recipe (like advice from a friend), is only a guide, a suggestion, a possibility, and with skill, effort and attention to detail, we breathe life into a set of instructions that, without our willingness to fail, will remain unseen on the page, waiting to be discovered.

Each chef has a different story to tell. We all got to talking. Continue reading

What’s on your plate in 2018?

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A humorous and much-shared posting on Facebook earlier this year poked fun at the popularity of the latest food trends of both kale and coconut oil. Accompanying a photo of wilted kale in a frying pan poised over a garbage can was advice that simply stated, “Remember to always use coconut oil when sautéing kale; it makes it much easier to scrape into the garbage!” I totally connected with the jab; I guess I like kale well enough, but I don’t want it in a smoothie, and there has been some controversy about whether coconut oil is good for you.

I do think, as Americans, we take food trends too far; witness the gluten-free craze, for example. On a positive note though, I think the introduction of new ingredients, cooking techniques and cuisines does keep our eating world stimulating and our chefs on their creative toes, which both engages us and brings us back for more. So as we head into the great culinary unknown of 2018, I thought it would be interesting to contact some local culinarians who are actually involved in setting trends, and one who writes about them in the media, to see what they predict will be the “in thing” for the coming year. I also asked them to reflect on any concepts they thought were headed out of vogue or any they hoped would appear on the edible horizon. I got some provocative answers.

Cookbook author and Galisteo resident Deborah Madison was the first to reply. Her many cookbooks and food writing are proof that her finger’s on the culinary pulse. Famous as the original chef of the groundbreaking Greens Restaurant in San Francisco in 1979 (certainly ahead of its time then), and known for her fondly remembered time at Café Escalera in Santa Fe, Deborah admitted she’s not actually a fan of trends or very good at them. Continue reading

Top Tix

Nutcracker2_bySharenBradfordHoliday shows are thick on the ticket-buyer’s table in December, when venues lay out their yummiest confections for the family to savor.

Santa Fe Opera puts on a distinctly New Mexican pageant with Shoes for the Santo Niño at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on the first weekend and The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis on the second weekend. This 40-minute children’s opera is based on the story by Peggy Pond Church out of Northern New Mexico Hispanic and Native American folklore. Composer Stephen Paulus and librettist Andrea Fellows Walters were commissioned by the University of New Mexico to write this work first performed in 2011, and Kathleen Clawson stage directs.

Dec. 1-2, nhcc.com, 505.724.4771; Dec. 8-9, santafeopera.org, 505.986.5900

Popejoy Hall serves up a yummy assortment of treats for your pleasure each December. Any one of these selections would brighten my holiday—all of them together would leave me exhausted in January, but with a smile on my face. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder was the 2014 Tony Winner for Best Musical and the touring company kicks off the month. As far as I can tell, it has not much to do with Christmas, which recommends it in itself. Then Mannheim Steamroller Christmas and Mariachi Christmas appear, each an annual sell-out among fans. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol does a one-nighter just before the holiday, and we are left with plenty of time for last-minute shopping and private feasting.

Dec. 7-22, see separate listings for above shows, unmtickets.com, 505.925.5858

Continue reading