Hillary Smith On The Street for Summerfest

no-easy-way-coverIt’s summer in Albuquerque—we’re in the thick of it—and it’s hot. We’re looking for cool however and wherever we can get it. Thank goodness, when evening comes, the heat subsides, the cool takes over, and it feels good to be out and on the streets.

As much a part of the season in The Duke City as the heat, is Summerfest. Dating back to the 1980s, the event has become a tradition with a wide variety of free activities, and a big part of the fun is live music performed on the streets. It’s an opportunity to be out, see friends, listen, get in the groove and dance—no matter how hot the weather, it’s a undeniably a cool reason to get outside. I recently caught up with our own “Diva of Albuquerque,” blues singer Hillary Smith, to get a sense of what live performance on the streets is all about—and to learn what makes it so special.

Meeting Hillary, immediately, I‘m aware of her soulfulness and her sense of  joy. She has lived a good slice of life with all that living entails, yet when Hillary laughs, she doesn’t hold anything back; when her face lights up, the world laughs and lights up, too.

A native of Hobbs, Hillary has made Albuquerque her home and has been performing professionally for some 30 years. “Actually, it’s more like 38,” she says. “I started singing professionally when I was in high school. Yeah. Thirty-eight years.” Hillary pauses and then exclaims, “REALLY? Yeah. And I remember a good two years of that!” Hillary’s surprised when I ask her how it feels to be a diva. With a touch of Texas in her accent, she replies, “Oh my goodness. Really? I guess that’s the title you get when you’re the oldest.” And with that great laugh, she adds, “I think everyone’s impressed just that I’m still alive! Anyone who knows me.” Continue reading

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

For the Love of Lavender

conastogawagonLavender is a shape shifter, transforming from a sweet herbaceous undertone in lemonade and cupcakes, to essential oils in body products that can ease tension and heal skin. This month, two festivals—one in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque and one in Abiquiu—exude purple passion, showing off our love of lavender in any and every form.    

Lavender in the Village, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque

Lavender in the Village returns after a two-year hiatus for a refreshed festival that promises to capture the community spirit that has made it a favorite for 10 years. Longtime Lavender in the Village board member Katie Snapp grew up visiting her grandparents’ farm outside Kansas City. For her, the fete has a sense of nostalgia. “This festival gives you that bucolic reminiscence,” she says.  

grey-lavenderPenny Rembe, whose family owns Los Poblanos Inn and Organic Farm, itself a major player in the world of lavender, founded the festival more than a decade ago. For nine years, a small board and community volunteers put on the two-day festival that drew 6,000 to 8,000 people to the pastoral island within metropolitan Albuquerque. For this year’s event, the board bypassed that logistical feat, hiring event creator Dean Strober of Blue River Productions. Dean’s also put on notable food fests such as Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest and Southwest Bacon Fest. “People love this event,” he says. “It has such an incredible following and such a long and wonderful history of bringing people together.”

Dean has several changes in store. This year’s festival will unfold on one day, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lavender in the Village will also take place in one location—versus several, as in previous years. Happenings will take place at the Agri-Nature Center, a working farm across the street from Los Poblanos Inn & Organic Farm that backs up to Los Poblanos Open Space. The rural oasis will host open-air yoga classes in the field—another new addition this year. Live music, from bluegrass to a Beatles tribute band, will mingle with the sounds of conversation shared over lavender sangria and craft beer. More than 100 vendors (previous years have had around 40) will tout lavender used in every way, from artists to paint it to purveyors like Old Windmill Dairy. “There’s something very healing and beautiful about it. It’s very much New Mexico at its core,” Strober says. Although the event is family friendly, if parents want to enjoy it for a couple hours by themselves, they can drop off their brood at the Kids Camp, with hands-on activities by Los Ranchos Farm Camp. No matter which aspect of the festival participants enjoy, lavender and sustainable agriculture will be at the fore. On-site parking is limited, so be sure to follow the directional signage to off-site lots and shuttles.

Lavender at Los PoblanosPrior to Lavender in the Village, on July 8 and 9, Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm will host a four-course, field-to-fork dinner.

Tickets: Ages 13 and up $8, Agri-Nature Center, 4920 Rio Grande Blvd. NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, lavenderinthevillage.com.

Lavender in the Valley, Abiquiu

Purple Adobe Lavender Farm may have founded this festival, but the celebration’s purple flags fly across the Abiquiu valley, July 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The Abiquiu Inn will serve a special lavender themed menu––and lavender lemonade and lavender chocolate chip cookies are on deck at Bode’s general store. Artists will capture the purple flowers in their paintings live at Rising Moon Gallery and Art Center.

Of course, the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm is the event’s epicenter, and the happenings here are as bountiful as the crop. Visitors can join field tours, enjoy the shade under the ramada to make crafts such as Victorian wands, and listen to the flute and guitar of Ronald Roybal and Ryan Dominguez. Santa Fe-based photographer Woody Galloway is the festival’s featured artist this year; he’ll be on hand to sign commemorative posters. A favorite of farm visitors throughout the year, the teahouse will serve gluten-free goodies, such as lavender scones and house-made gelato. Attendees can also cut their own lavender from a thousand plants in a U-Pick field, new for this year. 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, greenjeansfarmery.com

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

Fine Food and Fine Beer: Bosque Brewing at Terra Restaurant

4BEER_187Fine dining and beer? You go to a pub to drink beer. You have bangers and mash with beer. Somehow, I was having trouble making the leap—that is, until I caught up with Jotham Michnovicz, a founding partner and director of operations at Bosque Brewing Company, and Andrew Cooper, executive chef at Terra Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado. Admittedly, I am a late adopter, one who takes all kinds of flak for liking a flip phone. But yes, I found out fine dining and craft beer go together like I hadn’t even imagined. As part of the Outside Bike & Brew Festival, on May 19, Bosque Brewing and Terra hold a five-course beer dinner at Rancho Encantado. If there’s a restaurant in Santa Fe known for providing its guests with a fine dining experience, Terra is it.

After college, along with two partners, Jotham was working on starting a software company. “It wasn’t panning out the way we wanted, so we decided to redirect our efforts and in the same weekend we all had the same idea separately to open a micro brewery,” Jotham says. “So we decided at that point, ‘Well, we know we love beer and we love business but if we’re really going to make it go we have to start learning how to brew.’” After about two years of R&D, they opened their doors in October 2012.

Continue reading

Hispano Homesteaders of Las Golondrinas

2015 Golondrinas Spring Festival

2015 Golondrinas Spring Festival

Welcome to El Rancho de las Golondrinas, where a journey through time takes you back to New Mexico’s Spanish Colonial and Territorial eras, revealing what life was like during the 18th and 19th centuries for Hispano homesteaders. You’ll meet farmers and millers, bakers and blacksmiths, along with spinners, sheep shearers, weavers, carpinteros and candle makers, all happy to demonstrate their work and wares as you stroll past and through historic buildings.

Learn how to string chiles for ristras, craft candles from bees wax, and card, spin and dye wool for weaving. Watch a blacksmith demonstrate the art of making nails, and a miller grind grain. Explore a farm filled with corn, beans and squash—or the “The Three Sisters,” as the Puebloans call them, because they help each other grow. You can also learn to grind corn and how to make tortillas and calabicitas, a dish that would have been on many kitchen tables back in the days.

Occupying 200 acres in a fertile farming valley, El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, or “Ranch of the Swallows,” preserves the heritage of Hispano homesteaders as a living historical farm, providing a bridge that links the past with the present. The site itself  dates to the early 1700s, when it served as a pajarete, or “resting place,” for weary travelers on El Camino Real, The Royal Road, connecting Mexico to Santa Fe. With its tall grasses and water, this oasis was the final stop before Santa Fe, and a welcome site for all, including New Mexico Governor Juan Bautista de Anza, who camped here with a military expedition of 150 men searching for a route into in Mexico in 1778. Today, descendants of the original Spanish settlers still live in the area. Continue reading