Santa Fe and Chile Fiesta’s Gran Fondo

12063762_1192261697456536_4582515969682001099_nWrapping up this month’s week-long extravaganza of good cheer, otherwise known as The Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, will be the third Annual Gran Fondo Bike Ride. If you’re into road biking and would like to hang with a great crew of celebrity chefs, vintners and pro riders, you might want to take it easy Saturday night, as the event starts at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado at 6:30 a.m., Sunday the 25th, with your pick of 45-, 75- or (for the extra-motivated) 100-mile loops.

I recently caught up with two celeb riders to get the scoop. Tim Duncan is executive VP of sales and marketing at Silver Oak Cellars in Napa Valley. The winery, a long-time participant in Wine & Chile, was founded in 1972 by Tim’s dad and has made a name for itself producing, as reported in the WSJ, an “upfront” Cabernet Sauvignon. Tim’s been into cycling since he was a kid, and has done three centuries this year. “The most recent one was called ‘The Death Ride’ in the Sierra Mountains south of Lake Tahoe. It’s a tough one,” he says. “A hundred twenty-eight miles, and 15,000 feet of climbing, all in one day. So my buddies and I seem to think that’s fun.”

While chef and owner of The Compound, Mark Kiffin, was taking a breather between lunch and dinner in the kitchen office, we met for a talk. “I started cycling in Pebble Beach,” Mark says. “When I opened up the Inn at Spanish Bay, which was in ’87 to ’89. It was a sport I enjoyed and was pretty good at—for me.” Mark continues, revealing his great sense of humor, “It got me out of playing golf. I’m like, ‘Oh good! I can do this and I don’t have to do that any more.’ Learning to golf in Pebble Beach is like learning to ski on the top of Aspen Mountain. No pressure at all!”

Riding, it turned out, provided Mark with a much-needed release from work. “What I like about riding a bike is there’s one seat,” he explains. “When you’re in the hospitality business—and I love this business, I’ve been in it my entire life, but I go out to dinner six nights a week basically; I just want to go by myself. You have to learn, ‘Be here now.’ Stay focused. Ride your ride.” Continue reading

Monsters of the Taos Box

Fishing Report by Taylor Streit

My girlfriend and I had been diverted south from our Colorado wanderings by an early snow fall to New Mexico. Being a typically ignorant Yankee concerning matters of landscape, I didn’t even know that there was running water in New Mexico––let alone a “Big River” running down the middle of it. But on the second day I was ever in wondrous New Mexico my course was set for the next fifty years by a Santa Fe motel clerk who told me that there were “huge trout in the Taos Box.”

Santa Fe was a sleepy village then—but it’s changed now, and the fellow at the hotel is now a “concierge” and not a clerk. And what was once the historical center of Americas West’ has now been reduced to one of the world’s great shopping destinations. It was too much of a town for me even back then—let alone now, and when we drove north and peered into this mysterious Taos Box we rented a house for $35 a month—as close to the “Box” as possible.

But I still couldn’t figure out how to catch the big trout––not until a fisherman named Charlie Reynolds showed me how. And even then it was still on the outskirts of the Box and I suspected that there were some real Rio monsters swimming in the ten miles I had barely fished. Few people—way few—go in there. In fact, probably less fish it now then back in the olden days. Yes, many have rafted through it and they have hooped and hollered against the suffocating solitude but even that is drowned out by the roar of spring thaw cascading towards the ocean. When the Rio is finally in shape to be fished the water has subsided and the river is quieter––but floating it at low flow is suicidal. And why would one bother to go to that dreadful place of suicide–rock, rattler and rapid—anyway; when you can go “Santa Fe Style “ and shop your trout; hire a strapping young guide who will pick you up in his Range Rover and drive you to a manicured pool. There you can catch fat fishes that are hand-fed without all the bother of butting up against raw nature.

But because we are running low on clean water and space to fish this may be the only sensible future for trout fishing. It is great that we have this arrangement as the wild trout fishery can’t take that much pressure. And fishing for pet fish has become accepted by even experienced anglers. And in truth stocked trout wise up just like wild ones if they are educated by being caught, and then, released.

But we haven’t gone totally pretend yet and I can assure you that this same guide—of the waving flaxen hair, shining teeth and Range Rover, is fishing someplace wild like the Rio Grande on his day off. And when he has really had it with the current state of civilized fly fishing he might even venture into the Taos Box! But even fewer guides—including yours truly––have penetrated much of the Box. Nor do we do trips there. There is plenty good fishing on the Rio Grande in places far easier to reach.

So when ya need a dose of untamed it doesn’t get any rougher. And the dozen miles between Manby Hot Springs and Taos Junction Bridge remains untouched—except by the span of the Gorge Bridge. Geographic hardship in the form of sheer cliff has made it so.) There are no elevators, (although someone wants to put in a zip line) no established trails, no little cabins, no springs or flat ground to camp at, and certainly no hand-fed trout. There are a number of places where a healthy young person can get in and out. Only a few know the way, like Taos’s own John Nichols and Taos Fly Shop guides Nick Streit, Ron Sedall and Chris Cantrell. Some of the trails are on the east side and that is all Taos Pueblo land, now closed to all. The west side is BLM, and although there is a road, you’re only supposed to walk in.

The Railyard—Santa Fe’s Family Room

COVERRAIL_32__klCommunity. It means different things to different people. It can be a neighborhood, a city, a club, a civic organization or a collection of like-minded individuals. There are communities built around religion, retirement, lifestyles, hobbies, residence, parenthood, ancestry… the list goes on and on. But the one thing that all communities share is human connection. Communities form when people connect with each other and find they have something in common, whether it’s where they live, their values, shared experiences or a mutual goal.

Santa Fe’s Railyard Park is that connection and interdependence brought to life. The 18-acre park began as a grassroots movement to transform the reclaimed brown field off Cerrillos Road into a thriving and vibrant public space. Thousands of residents engaged in the planning process and advocated its development. The Railyard Park was created by the community, for the community. Together, citizens reimagined the space as a multi-use park that would be devoted to cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.

That vision has been fully realized. The park was completed in 2008, and today Santa Fe Railyard Park is a flourishing public garden, outdoor art exhibit and events space for all Santa Feans. If the Santa Fe Plaza is our city’s living room, Railyard Park is our family room. Couples walk amongst fragrant orchards as children tirelessly cavort in the playground. Families gather for free outdoor movie nights. Students learn about local ecosystems. Residents tend plots in the community garden or pause to inhale the fragrance of the roses. Visitors admire our artistic displays and glimpse our high-desert wildlife.

Behind the scenes, a small group of ecologists, volunteers and community members known as The Railyard Stewards oversees it all. In collaboration with The City of Santa Fe, The Trust for Public Land, The Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation, and the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, The Railyard Stewards manage the care of the park, while also providing a wide variety of educational programs and community events. Continue reading

Green Jeans Farmery


LL_06Strolling through Green Jeans Farmery is a sensory circus. The aroma of fresh coffee from Epiphany Espresso mingles with that of pies just out of the wood oven at Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria and piquant chile from Chumly’s Burger & Brew. Colorful shipping containers in green, purple, rust and turquoise stack two and three stories high. Conversations from customers dining around ground-floor fire pits and seated on rooftop patios mingle, completing the sensory menagerie.

The shipping-container park follows on the heels of developments in bigger cities, such as Las Vegas, Nevada, that have reused the containers to create permanent shopping and dining districts and pop-up communities. Green Jeans Farmery is the first such structure in New Mexico, perched on a nearly forgotten triangle of land along Cutler Avenue where Carlisle Boulevard spans I-25 in the heart of Albuquerque. The brainchild of founder Roy Solomon, the development represents a new urban model, where small businesses leverage shared resources and customers for a localist experience, rather than drifting alone in the sea of big-box stores. That community vibe draws in like-minded customers who bike and walk to the bustling center.

LL_02Project developer Roy has built innovative businesses since 1976. The serial entrepreneur has dipped into the restaurant business with Sunset Grill, Hungry Bear restaurant and 505 Salsa in Albuquerque, and into the fitness realm with a gym in Colorado. (The latter dovetailed into his latest venture at Green Jeans Farmery, but more on that in a minute.) A champion for small, local businesses, Roy saw these types of companies struggling to gain a foothold in a credit-driven real-estate environment. He envisioned a different concept, where multiple businesses would house together, share expenses (such as cleaning and pest control), and “promote each other like a family,” says Roy.  

Although the shipping containers were repurposed—an important value to Roy—they certainly weren’t a less expensive route. The shipping containers are stable, right up until you cut windows or doors in them. Once you do so, they have to be reinforced. Plus, they must be insulated, which Roy wanted to accomplish without changing the container aesthetic. They had to be plumbed, wired for electricity, and otherwise transformed into permanent structures that would serve the businesses’ and customers’ needs. While building out the property, Roy thought he was helping future occupants by completing tenant improvements. Doing so, however, violated the City of Albuquerque’s permitting laws, putting the project into a bureaucratic tailspin that delayed the center’s opening for several months. The emphasis on permanency, not to mention the delays and costs associated, forced Roy to rethink a planned aspect of the project: a hydroponic farm that inspired the center’s name. Green Jeans Farmery celebrated its official opening as a commercial center in October 2015. All of the dozen tenants were open by December.

LL_15In seeking out tenants, Roy had two qualifications. First, he didn’t want businesses to compete directly. There would be one burger place, one taco shop, one ice cream shop and so on. Secondly, he wanted to draw business owners with a quality product and passion for their businesses. Roy partnered with Santa Fe Brewing Company, the oldest and largest micro-brewery in the state, which opened its first Albuquerque tap room and anchored Green Jeans. He brought on Rustic on the Green and Bocadillos, two businesses with popular food trucks that were devoted to quality cuisine. Each set up its first permanent location at Green Jeans.  

Roy also sought out Ryan Fellows who turned a juice truck into three Squeezed Juice Bars (two in Albuquerque and one in Rio Rancho). Ryan felt Green Jeans was too close to an established location of Squeezed Juice for that concept, but he pitched Roy on an ice cream shop. Chill’N borrows the “N” from nitrogen, the substance servers use to create molecular gastronomy ice cream. Customers can watch through the windows that line one wall of Chill’N’s space as servers pour billowing nitrogen into silver mixing bowls of organic cream and toppings. It’s the most decadent witches brew you’ll ever taste—and you can’t get much more local and handcrafted than having the product made before your eyes. “Watching it being prepared is part of the experience. You have a more intimate relationship with it when you see it being made. We’re trying to be artisanal and creative,” Ryan says. He also pulls in ingredients from his neighbors, including rum from Broken Trail Spirit and coffee from Epiphany Espresso for the java chip ice cream.

LL_23Partners Tony Lopez and Eric Garcia started the Epiphany brand as a digital marketing company, but when they learned about Green Jeans, they saw an opportunity to pour their hospitality backgrounds into a coffee experience. The shop uses only certified-organic and fair-trade beans. Eric says the start-up has benefited from sharing costs with the other tenants. “We’ve been able to focus on hiring the best baristas and on customer experience. We emphasize quality and hand-crafted drinks,” he says.

Although Green Jeans opened with a personal training gym, that business has since closed and Roy is opening a new venture he feels better fits the community atmosphere. Co-op Fitness will work with instructors from across the city, renting out the second-story, three-shipping-container-wide space for group classes from spinning to kettle bells and TRX. The space opens to the Sandia Mountains, so yoga with a view is also on the menu. Co-op Fitness will be the first such space in the state to offer surf classes. It’s the kind of unique offering that epitomizes the Green Jeans approach. In the classes, surfboards are set on rigs balanced by inflatable balls and participants do surfing moves to build upper body and core strength. Roy envisions students attending classes, then gathering for a smoothie after at Zeus’ Juices.

LL_24The reinvigorated fitness space is sure to be a boon to Claudia Lawrence, owner of Fashion Locker. Claudia studied fashion merchandizing, however, she spent years in the construction industry before opening the fitness apparel boutique in November. Fashion Locker carries labels that aren’t found elsewhere in the state, including Beyond Yoga, Phat Buddha, Electric & Rose, and Lorna Jane. All but the last are produced in the US and are so comfortably stylish that most people wear the clothes to workout and about town. Claudia orders only one size of each item and doesn’t repeat styles, so her customers can be confident they have a one-of-a-kind item.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie and collaboration among the tenants. … It has a great community vibe and the people who come there tend to pick on that and embrace it,” says Claudia of Green Jeans. Roy has enjoyed observing that camaraderie emerge naturally among the neighbors. That easy-going vibe seems to flow from the businesses into the shared seating areas, where people will gather for hours, dining at first on lunch, then ice cream, then perhaps a beer as the sunny afternoons on the central patio stretch on.

“We’ve been part of the local, fresh, healthy and small-business sides of Albuquerque for a while. This is a really forward-thinking project,” says Ryan, of Chill’N. “To me, it’s the coolest thing to happen in Albuquerque.”

Green Jeans Farmery, 3600 Cutler NE, Albuquerque,

Story by Ashley M. Biggers


Amore Neapolitan Pizzeria
Authentic Neapolitan pizza

Bocadillos New Mexico
Slow-roasted sandwich shop

Broken Trail Spirits and Brew
Formerly Distillery 365, spirits tasting room

Nitrogen ice cream

Southwestern soups, pasta and more

Co-op Fitness
Group fitness facility—from spin classes to yoga

Epiphany Espresso
European-style coffee house

Fashion Locker
Unique and hard-to-find athleisure

Rockin’ Taco
Gourmet street tacos

Rustic on the Green
New American burgers and fries

Santa Fe Brewing
New Mexico’s first and largest micro-brewery

Zeus’ Juice & Nutrition
All natural, organic juices and smoothies

Tent Rocks:  Recorded in Stone

dreamstime_m_33616533I’d never been to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument before my friend Frances, along with David and his son Galen, took me on a surprise expedition, one of the best birthday experiences I’ve ever had. They blindfolded me and, as darkness descended, one winter’s evening, they led me to the entrance of the slot canyon where I was allowed to remove the blindfold.

The sky was the first thing I saw, stars throbbing out of the blackness. The wavery pumice walls were so narrow, they touched my shoulders as I tentatively began threading my way through. Suddenly, beside me, a tiny, fairy-like light flickered. I leaned closer. It was a votive candle, sitting in a naturally-carved nicho, bravely sending out its flame flare. As I continued forward, more fairy lights flickered in nearby nichos. I was encased in this somehow-familiar tunnel whose walls in the cold, clean air radiated stored sunlight and lava warmth. I caught glimpses, looming high above, of these strange giants, the hoodoos, peering down at me like a Greek chorus witnessing my journey. Within these tunnel walls, I felt protected and nurtured in ways radically different from those of everyday life. My thoughts were mysteriously still, my heartbeat syncopated with the pulse of the Earth.

Eventually, the tunnel wound around a curve and into a small round space, suffused in candlelight. David and Galen were already there; we all sat down for a picnic. “Wow, you guys,” I whispered. “How did you think of this?” “I was hiking here one day,” Frances explained, “and it struck me that it’s like being in the birth canal. And I thought, coming through here could be an experience of rebirth!” And I realized, so that’s why it felt so familiar. My heart just cracked open. Continue reading

Camping With Kids


Itzky 276My first official camping experience was, of all places, Bumpkin Island, a 10-mile ferry-boat ride across Boston Harbor.  I was a 26-year-old small-town Midwestern girl in the proverbial big city; that summer, Boston earned itself the title of “fastest-paced” (proudly beating New York), and with a density of 12,900 people per square mile—it was thronging in a way that I found to be immensely unsettling. I had to find reprieve. A fellow server doubled as a park ranger on Bumpkin Island and suggested I find it there. The entire island is only about 30 acres, but it was a whole new world of self-reliance, which is odd, considering I had been more or less on my own for the past decade. Sure, I could take care of myself in a man-made world; find my way around on the subway; order a decent bottle of wine with dinner, but I quickly realized that nature, in many respects, operates with an entirely different set of laws.

I stumbled around a bit for the next few days, feeling every bit the bumpkin as I tried to set up my tent, explore (it took me all of a half hour to walk the circumference of the island), and boil water on a camp stove. But I was simultaneously and strangely euphoric. I brought a flashlight, but my circadian rhythms lined up immediately with sunset and sunrise. I brought books, but I watched bugs. For hours. They became my friends. I collected wildflowers, and in a rare Julie Andrews moment, I happily wove them into a garland for my unwashed hair (though I did not thrust my arms out and sing and twirl). In short, I became something of a child again. Navajo tradition, I’ve since learned, having married a traditional Navajo man, deems that babies that haven’t laughed yet are not officially of human family; they still belong to the Holy People, which my husband describes as spiritual manifestations of natural settings. My camping experience helped me to understand what children know innately––they are at home outside.   Continue reading