On the Road May 2019

Photo by Geraint Smith

(Story by Sharon Niederman)

When the sun is shining on a New Mexico spring weekend, there’s only one thing to do: Fill up the tank and go. Those wheels are waiting, and your New Mexico bucket list is begging you to start checking it off.


For starters, just a short ride from either Santa Fe or Albuquerque is NM-4, the Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. Hot springs, hiking, holy ruins—it’s all there. While we had our hearts set on the “Famous Jemez” burger at Los Ojos Restaurant & Saloon, we found ourselves beguiled for brunch at the Highway 4 Coffee, 17502 NM-4 in Jemez Springs, a charming local favorite reminiscent of the ’70s, serving house-baked cinnamon rolls, blue corn piñon pancakes with fresh blueberries, yummy breakfast burritos and proper Americanos. While I waited for my order, I eavesdropped on the monthly I Ching study group meeting in the back room.

On the way home, find lunch at the red rocks across from the Pueblo of Jemez Walatowa Visitor Center where Jemez Pueblo ladies slather red chile on Frito pies and, working over a wood fire, fix the best fry bread you’ve ever tasted.

Yearning to go further? Continue on U.S. 550 to Farmington for Riverfest, a celebration of the Animas River along the city’s marvelous river walkway, Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26. The fest features music, a beer and wine garden, river rafting, fun run, duck races, plein air painting, yoga and Gourd Dances. Check it out at farmingtonnm.org/events/riverfest.


Mother’s Day is on the way, and there is no better way to express your appreciation and make some great memories than taking Mom to the elegant Rebeccas at the Lodge in Cloudcrofts Lodge Resort and Spa for Mother’s Day brunch ($42 adults; $16 age 5-12; age 4 and under free). Chef Tim McManus goes all out to offer a selection of carving stations, including prime rib, and signature desserts of chocolate covered strawberries and homemade bread pudding, among other delicious offerings. If you’re feeling energetic afterward, you can climb the tower where Clark Gable and Judy Garland signed their names. Reservations a must: 575.682.2566.

No excuse needed for a Silver City getaway, but if you need a little push to cross the Black Range, here comes the 24th annual Silver City Blues Festival, Memorial Day Weekend, with an artwalk, paint-out, fab eats and more to accompany the music. Both traditional and contemporary interpretations are on hand with Guitar Shorty, Felix y Los Gatos and Laurie Morvan Band. Silver City’s gotten this festival thing fine-tuned to an art. Call 575.538.2505. Visit silvercitybluesfestival.org for details.


Mesilla is the place to be for Cinco de Mayo. Starting May 4, the Plaza comes alive with ballet folklorico, mariachis, food vendors, local artist booths and piñatas a-plenty in the gazebo, as the village revels in its Mexican traditions. Information at mesillanm.gov.

Stick around Las Cruces to celebrate another rite of spring, the Blessing of the Fields, May 15, at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, as the head gates are opened and water flows into the acequia during this joyous multicultural celebration and procession to bless plants, animals, fields and waterways. Call 575.448.0721. Visit nmfarmandranchmuseum.org to learn more.

While the month of May is optimal for viewing the flowering of 600 iris in 90 varieties, in ruffles and exquisite colors from salmon to yellows, to blues and so much more, at artist Alice Seelys Hondo Iris Farm and Gallery, they are at their peak for the Iris Festival, beginning May 1, so head over Mother’s Day, May 12, to treat Mom to a rainbow of sweet blooms. Find this little piece of heaven at Mile Marker 284 on Highway 70. Alice has also created a fanciful Fairy Garden with found object installations. Her petroglyph-influenced pewter jewelry is also on display. The iris garden is a splendid place to picnic. Visit hondoirisfarm.com.


Cinco de Mayo comes a day early to Colfax County with Los Diablos Show & Shine in Springer. On May 4, show off your ride with pride—car, motorcycle or truck—to an appreciative audience at the Santa Fe Trail Museum Park. No fees and no awards, but all entrants receive a dash plaque. While you’re at it, grab some of Crazy Jeffs BBQ and check out the chile contest. For Los Diablos information, call 575.707.2964.

Another Mother’s Day thought: The historic and beautifully restored Hotel Eklund, 15 Main St. in Clayton, serves a lovely festive Mother’s Day brunch, featuring their succulent prime rib and several special dishes Mother is sure to love in their Victorian/Old West dining room, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Price range is $7.50-$28. Make reservations at 575.374.2551.

And don’t forget: Fort Union Drive In, the state’s only remaining drive-in movie theater, in Las Vegas, showing first run movies, is open for the season. Call 505.425.9934 or head to Facebook to learn more about this classic 1958 theater.

More hot Vegas buzz: The much-anticipated grand re-opening of the renovated Castaneda Hotel is a reality–stay tuned for news on their development.

On the Road

(Story by Sharon Niederman)

Oh, how we love our 47th state of 121,697 square miles, where our elevations range from 2,842 feet above sea level, to Wheeler Peak at 13,161. Where our Native American, Spanish and Anglo cultures inform our foods and our tradition. Where chiles, grapes, piñon and pinto beans grow in profusion. Where elk, wild turkey, bear and buffalo roam. Where rock and river, peak and valley offer new places to explore. Where prairie land ranches, high mountain hamlets and desert scapes give us endless space to think. Where our 412 state roads take us into new communities to meet new people who share our love of New Mexico.

Welcome to On the Road with Sharon Niederman, our new monthly column highlighting happenings in all four corners of New Mexico, so you can get behind the wheel with a trusted guide.

“New Mexico is my muse,” food and travel journalist-photographer Sharon Niederman says. Her books have been recognized with numerous awards, including Society of American Travel Writers Foundation Gold Award, New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, National Federation of Press Women’s First Place, the Lowell Thomas Travel Writing Award and the Border Regional Library Association’s Award for “literary excellence and enrichment of the cultural heritage of the Southwest.” She has done stints as arts editor of the Santa Fe Reporter, restaurant reviewer for the Albuquerque Journal and Southwest correspondent for Sunset Magazine, and she’s penned three cookbooks of New Mexico cuisine. Her most recent book is Explorer’s Guide to New Mexico, and, apropos of our road-tripping column, her upcoming project, due out from The Countryman Press later this year, is, Backroads and Byways of New Mexico.

Check back in May for Sharon’s first column, and get ready to hit the road!

Choices, Chances, Challenges by Taylor Streit

taylor 10.18(Story by Taylor Streit, from his forthcoming book, Fly Fishing Taos/ Santa Fe)

Some of the best things about fly fishing in North Central New Mexico is that there are opportunities for both beginners and experts and there’s access for the young and fit—as well as the physically challenged. Another big draw is that our fishing is not overly challenging in a technical sense. Much of modern fly fishing—usually in more populated places—finds the angler trying to outwit difficult trout by the use of tiny flies and persnickety techniques. (Fisherfolks who enjoy those challenges can head over to the San Juan River or fish in Colorado.) I personally prefer unsophisticated trout waters and we have plenty of those­­––perfect for beginning fly fishers. This usually means your small trout. Bigger fish are much more of challenge to hook and often break off when the rod is in unskilled hands–a major bummer for a newbie. Streams like the Pecos, Cimarron and Costilla have oodles of such fish and the water is fast, so the blunders of the duffer don’t show, nor does that cast need to be long and pretty like you witness on TV ads for Viagra.

If you can afford it, the other way to catch the ole Walter of your dreams is to hire a guide and pay a rod fee. Beware that if you want to do this, make arrangements well ahead of your date as private water spots are usually limited and need to be booked in advance. And as a rule of thumb–well planned guiding days go better then short notice ones anyway. (The nature of this book—and the nature of the ever changing private water spots—precludes me from listing choices. Pretty much each guiding outfit has their own private water in these parts.)

For the more skilled angler, there is big-fish fishing in the Rio Grande, Chama, Pecos ( usually private) and the Conejos. Big trout can be had with easy access on the Conejos in June to mid July when the big hatches are on. The Rio Grande can have a much longer window of opportunity and to catch the big ones in the Rio the skilled angler needs to penetrate the canyon by heading down a trail. It’s the same story with the lower Red River—there are big fish there, but you have to go in after them. Decent sized trout (13 to 16 inch) are available in almost any stream and the Costilla, uppermost Cimarron and lower Rio Grande (along the highway) comes to mind. The upper Los Pinos and Valle Caldera have plenty of what we refer to as “nice fish” also. The average size fish in the upper Chama is in this range also.

Either effort requires time and that is another subject to bring up. How much time do you have? When I guided I learned to ask about time constraints in the shop beforehand. Nothing is worse than to hear at river’s edge, “Oh yah, I forgot to mention we need to be back in town for tea with Aunt Jenny at 4.” When booking a half-day guide trip we tell the would-be client that the half-day means that choices are cut down because from either Taos or Santa Fe fishing is a pretty far drive. (A very notable exception to this is fishing out of the Chama area where several spots will be close by.)

So when planning your fishing day consider the amount of time you have. Of course camping—car camping—is a great way to go cause you can then fish when the fish are eating. This is oftentimes evenings when a day traveler is on the road (in trout fishing evening is almost always way better than early morning fishing in the western US). Doing this means you will be more likely to have the water to yourself, too.

Although you have heard this from me before it is hard to overstate the importance of choosing your fishing times to jive with the weather and water conditions. Global warming has so far been beneficial around here as it has extended the fishing season to near year-round. But that has also made for temperature extremes, and old-school thinking on times to fish have changed. But common sense still prevails: If the weather is cool—midafternoon is gonna be best. If it’s hot, stick with morning fishing. Hope for temperatures on your next excursion to be in the 70s–that will make late morning until 3 PM the most agreeable. Contrary to popular belief this is far and away the overall best time to fish as insect activity is at its highest then. (Bear in mind however that in early season, air temps might be hot in the day but nights are cool and the water’s still cold from snowmelt.)

One other type of outing is when you have a non-fisherman along. It expands options cause if you get skunked you can call it a picnic. Trout streams are generally pretty nice places but the some of the best choices for the fishing/picnic would be the Pecos, Santa Barbara and Costilla Creeks.

Los Poblanos

Image by Douglas Merriam

Image by Douglas Merriam

(Story by Ashley M. Biggers / Images by Douglas Merriam)

At Los Poblanos, where heritage and innovation are continually held in balance, sometimes, the greatest change comes from returning to the past rather than pressing toward the future.

Though much has changed at the inn and farm, much is staying the same, including Chef Jonathan Pernos guidance and his devotion to defining Rio Grande cuisine.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm isn’t a place you just visit. It’s a place you have a relationship with. As a Duke City resident, I’ve gotten to know Los Poblanos through many seasons. I’ve cut lavender when its organic fields blush purple, wandered among its adobes and farm buildings in the hush of winter, and enjoyed field-to-fork cuisine as the fruit trees blossomed. With every visit, I turn the page on another facet of its story. That’s truer now than ever as the inn and farm starts a new chapter—one with twice the number of guest rooms, a new restaurant, Campo, and cocktails to add to its toast-worthy wine and beer menu, all done with Los Poblanos’ signature integrity of place and purpose.

Touring the property with Landscape Manager Wes Brittenham this summer, I saw how Los Poblanos’ agricultural past weaves seamlessly with its present. Great food starts in the fields, but at Los Poblanos, crops grow everywhere. Especially now that the property has begun cultivating more multi-functional plants that check all the boxes: edible, attractive and habitat and pollinator friendly. Herb gardens sprout outside the renovated 1930s dairy barn that houses Campo’s dining areas and expansive kitchen. A fig tree, its branches heavy with teardrop shaped fruit, edges one path in the recreational gardens designed by seminal landscape architect Rose Greely and still fed by the property’s acequias. Elsewhere on the grounds, black walnut trees drop green fruit, which the enterprising kitchen and bar staff has used to create a house amaro (an Italian bitter consumed as an after-dinner digestif). Those are just a few examples of what’s beyond the dedicated hoop houses and garden rows overflowing with onions, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, the latter of which were planted at the bar staff’s request as they create their own field-to-glass creations.

Wes, a lifelong backyard farmer who’s spent his more than 40-year career in commercial horticulture, admires the cultivation circle that closes daily here. “We grow the plants; the farmers harvest the produce, and we can eat that harvest at dinner that day,” he says. “I love being a bigger part of the whole.”

Today’s farmers, chefs and innkeepers are only the latest to shepherd this acreage along the Rio Grande bosque. Pre-Puebloan peoples inhabited these lands, followed by settlers from Puebla, Mexico, whose nickname—“Poblanos”—gave the swath its name. In the early 1700s, the land folded into the Elena Gallegos land grant, stretching from the riverside cottonwood forests to the Sandia Mountains’ foothills. The Armijo family ran cattle there, followed by the Simms family, who remain noteworthy agricultural innovators in the state’s history. Congressman Albert Simms, and his wife, Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms, lived in the farm’s historic residence and operated a dairy and experimental farm. Their Guernsey and Holstein cows helped build the state’s dairy industry. In 1932, the Simms also commissioned architect John Gaw Meem, who is responsible for shaping the Southwest’s architectural identity, to renovate the ranch house and design La Quinta Cultural Center.

Image by Douglas Merriam

Image by Douglas Merriam

In 1976, the Simms family split the ranch and sold it to Armin and Penny Rembe, and Armin’s sister Victoria Rembe Walker. The Rembe family has been its stewards since. They reunited the 25 acres in 1997, and, to preserve the historic property, converted the home in which they raised their children into an inn and brought La Quinta back to life for public events like weddings. Armin and Penny still reside on the property, and you might spot them chatting with the farmers or guiding the occasional garden tour. The inn has grown over the decades, most recently via the addition of more than 20 newly built guest rooms under the guidance of Armin and Penny’s son Matt, who now serves as executive director.

Unveiled in fall 2017, the field rooms and suites mirror the adjacent dairy building’s style, with pitched tin roofs and white stuccoed walls. The rooms stretch like fingers into the lavender fields, where the property grows Lavandula Grosso by the tens of thousands to distill its essential oils into a body product line of lotions and balms. The 1930s dairy barn has a second life housing a vast, open kitchen, dining area, bar and farm shop, filled with the farm’s lavender line, food products (like jars of Chimayo red chile and pints of gelato) and home decor. Though much has changed at the inn and farm, much is staying the same, including Chef Jonathan Perno’s guidance and his devotion to defining Rio Grande cuisine.

Originally from Albuquerque, Chef Jonathan, now a multi-time James Beard Award semi-finalist chef, has worked in notable kitchens across the United States and at Los Poblanos for a decade. For him, it all starts with the farmers. “I trust the farmers. That’s what I’ve always done, and that’s what I should do,” he says of the relationship between chef and grower. Beyond the ingredients available out of his kitchen’s back door, Jonathan also sources from more than a dozen local growers and purveyors, from Villa Myriam Coffee to Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory. He finds integrity in honoring the other’s work by honoring the product, be it a specific variety of tomato from Amyo Farms or meat from Shepherd’s Lamb.

At Los Poblanos, where heritage and innovation are continually held in balance, sometimes, the greatest change comes from returning to the past rather than pressing toward the future. “These days, the ancient is cutting edge,” Wes says. “The things that were done centuries ago were done the right way.” That particularly applies to indigenous plants, which Wes and Jonathan are both avid students of. The latter has encouraged Los Poblanos to return to more native edible plants, like purslane and amaranth, even cultivating experimental crops at his private home to bring his lessons to Los Poblanos. He’s found that native plants don’t want to be restrained or helicopter parented. “They don’t want to be controlled,” he says. “They want to just be.”

Chef Jonathan introduces modern palates to these unfamiliar ingredients by using them at their best and making the ingredients integral to the dish. He picks purslane, for example, when it’s young and produces less mucous—usually a palate turnoff. When he incorporates it in a dish, it’s far more than a garnish. “If you’re going to give something to somebody, you should really give it to them, and in its natural form,” the chef says. The latest indigenous plant growing at Los Poblanos is epazote, a South American herb often considered a weed in New Mexico, which Jonathan soon plans to incorporate into beans (its traditional use), soups and broths.

Image by Douglas Merriam

Image by Douglas Merriam

A few non-New Mexico ingredients are cropping up, too. Los Poblanos is the only site in New Mexico partnering with Dan Barber, of notable farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, on a seed-sharing program through his Row 7 Seed Company. Row 7 sent seeds of their selection to sites across all 50 states, asking the farmers and chefs to cultivate those plants and report back on their production and the produce’s flavor. The plants went in just this year, so the results aren’t in quite yet.

What is for certain is Los Poblanos’s new full liquor license, which went into effect in late June. Dylan Storment, who’s also spent a decade at the property in roles ranging from event planner to sommelier, is leading the bar program. Planning started in January, when the bar staff put in planting orders for berries, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers and zucchinis, not just for garnishes, but to create infusions, syrups and bitters, like the signature black walnut amaro. All these mix with top-shelf spirits, many from New Mexico’s craft spirit makers like KGB Spirits and Santa Fe Spirits.

Although in its early days, a few cocktails have risen as diner and guest favorites, including a variation on a Manhattan that uses achiote spice that echoes the flavors of a spiced ribeye on the menu, and a margarita with lavender syrup (of course), orange liqueur and agave syrup. The Lavender ’99 is another signature. Inspired by the French 75, the cocktail mixes crème de violette liqueur with Santa Fe Spirits Wheeler’s Gin, lemon juice and sparkling wine from Gruet—all perfect ingredients to toast the best of New Mexico at one of the most authentic places in the state.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is located at 4803 Rio Grande Blvd. N in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, 505.344.9297, lospoblanos.com.

On the Grapevine

Grapevine(Story by Philip de Give)

September in the southern Sangre de Cristo mountain range is a magic time for any outdoor enthusiast, but aficionados of fine wine visit Santa Fe for what is arguably one of the best food and wine festivals in the country. The collection of wineries, importers, restaurateurs, winemakers and one exquisite glassware producer, who show off wines from around the world, is amazing. There are so many opportunities to enjoy fine wine and food pairings at luncheons, wine dinners, seminars and demos that one literally does not know where to begin. Over the years, the Fiesta has given us the opportunity to “hear it on the grapevine.” You can’t do it all, but keep an eye out, and your palate ready, for some new and different experiences. Here are a few suggestions for your tour.

Of course, the Santa Fe Wine & Chile honoree, David Ramey of Ramey Wine Cellars, will be showcasing some of his single-vineyard Chardonnays from Carneros and Sonoma at various events during the Fiesta. These wines display classic California-style, but are restrained, have a refreshing finish and extraordinary complexity. It’s an honor and an education to hear David talk about California Chardonnay and White Burgundy, as his knowledge of the varietal is extensive. One inevitably leaves a tasting and discussion with David saying, “I never knew that!” Or, “Now, that’s a Chardonnay I can really enjoy!”

Another varietal from California produced in a more refined style is Sauvignon Blanc. The Cuvaison winery grows this varietal in their Carneros vineyard. The Carneros viticultural area, or AVA, has traditionally been used for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, not Sauvignon Blanc. But winemaker Steve Rogstad explains that Sauvignon Blanc, grown in cooler Carneros, has more complexity because of the slower ripening the cooler region encourages. Steve presents single-clone and special-selection wines of all three varietals at a seminar on Sept. 28. Extra treat—the wines are usually available only at the winery.

Ridge Vineyards is a personal favorite that dates back to a 1977 visit to its Santa Cruz winery.  Just this year (40 years Grapevine_Piper-Heidsiecklater), I visited their winery in Healdsburg. With two wineries, one in Sonoma and the original in Santa Cruz, each specializing in Zinfandel and Cabernet respectively, it’s difficult to think of another winery that makes such esteemed examples of these two varietals. Unfortunately, the prolonged drought in California has made these limited-release wines even more limited. If you’re lucky, you may get a chance to buy or taste a blend the winery has previously only made available through their Advanced Tasting Program: the “winery-only” Lytton Estate Syrah, Grenache, Mataró 2014.  These grapes (Mataró is also known as Mourvèdre) predominate in Châteauneuf du Pape and this rendition is a delight.

We have grown so attuned to Cabernet from Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles, that we forget Washington State has been producing exceptional examples of this varietal for three decades. DeLille Cellars, established in 1992, is famous for their Columbia Valley D2 Bordeaux Varietal Blend and prestigious Four Flags Cabernet from the tiny AVA of Red Mountain. The California Cabernet lover will be pleasantly surprised by the depth and savory complexity of these wines.

The next winery may be new to many of us, but the region has been producing wine for 6,000 years. Lebanon’s Chateau Musar Red Wine is made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault from vineyards in the Bekaa Valley on gravelly soils over limestone. These vineyards have low-producing bush vines and the wines never fail to astonish. A special seminar on Sept. 27 presented by the importer, Bartholomew Broadbent, promises to be “among the most powerful and entertaining experiences….” Reserve now if the event has not sold out.

When we look for the new and different, Europe is going back to their roots and showcasing unfamiliar indigenous grapes. José Pastor Selections, champion importer of wines from the unusual Spanish D.O., or Denominación de Origen, will introduce us to wines from the Canary Islands and Ribeira Sacra. Who drinks wines made from varietals like Albillo, Listan and Gual? We will now because they make us salivate and surprise us with their intriguing quality and food-friendly character!

If you wanted to taste the wines of a wine importer that “has it all,” Frederick Wildman & Sons Importers has a collection of superb wines from Spain, Burgundy, Champagne, Valtellina in Italy, Germany, Argentina and beyond. They specialize in quality estates and have impressed Wine Spectator and other publications with many selections, but especially releases from Domaine Faiveley in Burgundy and Stéphane Aviron in Beaujolais.

Gradevine2Some wineries have been doing their thing for decades but have been re-introduced to New Mexico this year. Mendocino County has the largest percentage of certified organic vineyards of any county in the state of California, and the sub AVA of Anderson Valley, one of the coolest in California, is home to a beautifully situated winery, Navarro Vineyards and Winery.  Their Méthode à l’Ancienne Pinot Noir is a model of restraint, eschewing the burly “fruit-bomb” style that so many California wineries feel compelled to use for their wines. Their Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer are worth trying as well.

Piper Heidsieck Champagne, Champagne Sponsors for the Oscars and Cannes Film Festival is also the official Champagne sponsor for the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta 2018 and will be served at multiple events during the Fiesta. This is an established and respected house and their Non-Vintage Brut is comprised of 55-60% Pinot Noir, 20-25% Pinot Meunier, and 10-15% Chardonnay. From 2007-2013 Régis Camus, Winemaker of the House since 2002, was awarded Champagne Winemaker of the Year by the International Wine Challenge in the UK. Whenever you are tasting during the Fiesta, always start with Champagne and grab a taste of Piper Heidsieck.

No mention of bubbly could be made without including Gruet, produced in New Mexico, from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  They have a stunning tasting room in the Hotel St. Francis in Santa Fe, they’re harvesting grapes from a new vineyard in the Pueblo of Santa Ana, and, they consistently receive 90+ point ratings from The Wine Spectator. Talk about New Mexico True! The Gruet Brut and Blanc de Noirs are delicious every day sparkling wines to sample and drink.

If you drink Champagne and sparkling wine, be sure and visit with Chris Hillin, regional sales manager for Riedel, The Wine Glass Company.  It is an amazing fact that their glasses can enhance a wine’s specific varietal nose and guide the wine to the precise area of the palate and mouth that increase your enjoyment and appreciation of the wine. Chris can bring you up to date on the “death of the Champagne flute” and the new glassware that the company has specifically designed for the world’s greatest bubbly. And, what glass should we use when drinking Rosé? The answer: the glass that you use for the red wine made from the same grape.

This is only a short list of the more than 100 wineries and importers at the Fiesta. Look at your schedule during the week of Sept. 23-30, and sign up for the education and for the fun. Many events sell out in advance, but the list is long with many opportunities to find something new, raise your glass, and say “Cheers!”

Cruise the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta website for the full lineup and more information, santafewineandchile.org.

Roaming the Railyard

Image by Melyssa Holik

Image by Melyssa Holik

(Story by Melyssa Holik)

How it happened

The Santa Fe Plaza. It’s central, historic, lively and lovely. It’s also just a minuscule portion of what Santa Fe has to offer. If you’re interested in broadening your Santa Fe experience a bit, the Santa Fe Railyard is a beguiling area to explore next. While the Plaza is bustling, a bit claustrophobic and maddeningly unplanned, the Railyard feels calm, airy, spacious and thoughtfully considered.

There are many reasons this neighborhood holds such singular charm, but the real magic is in its seamless mixture of modernity and tradition, even as it maintains the best of both. The district is built around Santa Fe’s historic railroad station, which dates back to 1880. The original depot building still welcomes visitors as in days of old, but the surrounding architecture—with its modern industrial buildings and their lofty ceilings, clean lines and minimal embellishment—strays from the standard brown adobe that saturates the rest of the city. Even the rail system, along with its deteriorating tracks, has been reinvented, with a modern commuter rail running from Santa Fe to Albuquerque and beyond.

In with the newand the old

Image by Melyssa Holik

Image by Melyssa Holik

From the start, the railroad’s presence has made The Railyard a hub of public life, so community organizations and businesses have naturally sprung up around it. More recently, however, that natural growth has been cultivated much more intentionally. The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, for example, has long-standing ties to the area and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Although it began in the 1960s as a handful of farmers selling goods out of the backs of trucks, the Market’s now a thriving nonprofit with upward of 100 vendors, actively supporting agriculture in Northern New Mexico. This growth is thanks—in part—to the Market’s custom-built pavilion near the tracks, which allows for year-round markets and a host of other events.

The pavilion was completed in 2008 as part of the Railyard Master Plan, which re-envisioned the 50-acre site surrounding the aging Santa Fe railroad. Together, the community, developers and park stewards collaborated to create a plan for the neighborhood that moves forward with progress without bulldozing the past. The needs of the community were anticipated and then taken into account at each step along the way, resulting in a Railyard area that intentionally serves the public.

Of lawns, libations and local treats

The plan included large open spaces near the Railyard, which contribute to the area’s spacious feeling. It’s become a favorite hangout for locals, with festivals, concerts, movies and other outdoor gatherings held frequently throughout the year on the park green, in the market pavilion, and in the adjacent outdoor promenade under the iconic water tower. During the most popular concerts, people crowd the nearby Violet Crown Cinema and Second Street Brewery for snacks, libations and a great view of the performances.

Overall, the Railyard is best enjoyed meandering around on foot. Strolling the Railyard during the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market makes for a particularly relaxing start to the weekend. You can peruse the colorful produce and tempting jams, breads and packaged goods, deeply inhale the aroma of roasting chile, and sample cheeses, sausages, fruits and more. The adjoining shops hold a bevy of locally produced handicrafts and ready-to-eat food offerings that you can experience, all while listening to a marimba ensemble, a piano soloist or a folksy string quartet in the background.

Beloved brick and mortars    

Image by Melyssa Holik

Image by Melyssa Holik

If it’s not Saturday, or if—impossible as it seems—nothing at the Market whets your appetite, there are plenty of gustatory delights in and around the railyard, too. Right next to the tracks, there’s Tomasita’s, and at the far end of the park, just before the newly built pedestrian underpass and bike path, there’s La Choza Restaurant. Both offer our treasured New Mexican cuisine and both are typically crowded, but well worth the wait.

Or you can hit the small and funky Lion & Honey for some bubble waffles and CBD-infused coffee, and enjoy their quirky collection of faux cereal boxes and oddball candy selection. Find it right around the corner from the Jean Cocteau Cinema, another historic Railyard building that’s been given new life recently. Thanks to Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin, the 1970s-era theater was rescued from disuse in 2013 and offers independent films, cult classics and mainstream blockbusters on their single screen, with both 35mm and digital, “combining the best of the old with the best of the new,” as they put it on their website.

And right on Guadalupe, there’s Cafe Sonder, which quite possibly has Santa Fe’s very best happy hour menu ($2 beers on a Friday—and we’re not talking PBR here, we’re talking legit, local microbrews. That’s basically unheard of in Santa Fe). Even if beer isn’t your thing, Sonder’s food menu is varied and fresh, and the service is consistently fast and friendly.

A little further down Guadalupe Street, you can get your caffeine fix at Iconik Coffee Roasters and enjoy their sweet and secluded back patio. That alone would be worth the trip, but while you’re at it, you can also check out their home inside of Co-Fe, a new neighborhood coworking space that includes dedicated workspaces, lightning-fast Internet, meeting rooms, a kitchen and phone booths.

Bourbon in the barrio

Wander around the corner down Agua Fria Street, and you’ll find yourself walking one of the Railyard’s residential streets, lined with well-established gardens of blooming hollyhocks, fragrant lilac and honeysuckle, and decades-old apricot trees. You’ll also find surprising hidden gems like Joseph’s of Santa Fe and Radish & Rye. Radish & Rye is a combination farm-to-table bistro and whiskey bar with an extensive whiskey menu. They, too, put a modern twist on the classics with their seasonally inspired bourbon cocktails. Try their 505 Manhattan with ancho chile bitters, or the Abuelito, which includes a flask of smoke poured over your beverage right at the table.

Speaking of where to get a drink in the Railyard, on the east side of Guadalupe is another quasi-residential neighborhood where it’s hard to tell what’s a business and what’s a home. Take a short walk up Read Street to the Santa Fe Spirits tasting room for inventive cocktails made entirely from their own locally distilled spirits. Their Wheeler’s Gin is especially popular, and distinctively flavored with aromatics harvested from the surrounding desert: cactus flower, cholla and sage. Enjoy it in a Colin’s Collins or a Mexican Smokeout. You can’t really go wrong here, and the atmosphere is cozy, intimate and relaxed. Just be careful—both Radish & Rye and Santa Fe Spirits’ cocktails pack a punch but are so delicious it’s easy to go overboard. Consider yourself warned.

In the kitchen and on the shelves

A little further down from Santa Fe Spirits is State Capital Kitchen, which features Chef Mark Connell’s imaginative and sustainably sourced food, often served in unexpected ways. Eating at State Capital Kitchen is an experience more than a meal, and it’s best to leave ample time for the dining experience to unfold.

If shopping is more your cup of tea, you can score some truly one-of-a-kind finds at the offbeat second-hand stores that line Guadalupe street. Or you can head to The Ark, which is tucked away behind El Museo Cultural, and honestly could not be more Santa Fe if it TRIED, but is nonetheless endearing and earnest in its selection of books, crystals and beyond. Once again, reflecting the mix of old and new, the Railyard also has numerous retail stores that sell modern home furnishings, contemporary jewelry and a range of clothing styles.

If art and culture are more your to your liking

Image by Melyssa Holik

Image by Melyssa Holik

The Railyard still has you covered. El Museo Cultural has a gallery space and 200-seat theater where they regularly hold community events, including the annual CURRENTS New Media Festival, and other classes, events and workshops.

Across Paseo de Peralta, there’s another Railyard cornerstone, the decades-old, and still far into the future SITE Santa Fe. SITE recently underwent a major overhaul befitting its status as one of Santa Fe’s preeminent contemporary art spaces. The new space is cutting edge, stylish and modern. In fact, most of the art galleries in the Railyard, including SITE, Blue Rain Gallery, Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, Evoke Contemporary, form & concept, LewAllen Galleries, photo-eye Gallery, Tai Modern, William Siegal Gallery, Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, and Gallery Fritz feature contemporary art, in stark contrast to the Southwestern art that permeates the Canyon Road and Plaza art scenes. There’s also tons of public art in the area, from murals to large-scale sculptures. It’s just another example of the creative, forward-thinking energy of the Railyard. (And oh, did I mention that we didn’t even step foot into the Southern-most end of the Railyard the Baca District ––more on that in an upcoming issue!)

Whether you arrive by train, plane or automobile, and whether you’re staying for a few days or a few years, the Railyard is worth checking out while you’re here. It’s a place rooted in history yet catapulting toward the future. While the Plaza represents what Santa Fe has been for hundreds of years, the railyard represents what it might be next: edgy, sophisticated, playful and full of enthusiasm for the future. It’s exciting to see a neighborhood poised on the brink of the future and ready to make the leap. Come experience it for yourself; you’re bound to find some secret treasures of your own.