Some Enchanted Evening

The Friday night art walk is a Santa Fe institution, a tradition with a nostalgic quality harkening back to times when simple pleasures and quiet camaraderie reigned. It is a ritual pervaded by an air of celebration reminiscent of 19th-century promenades in European cities. The Canyon Road historic neighborhood’s human scale, combined with an inclusive atmosphere, revives a sense of community that is all but lost in modern America. (They don’t call Santa Fe the City Different for nothing.) It is romantic, to be sure. But the romance is not just for couples. Friends enjoying a girls’ night out amble companionably. Single women and men mingle with ease as they browse the galleries. Locals mingle freely with tourists.

What the art walk offers, first and foremost, is food for the soul. Folks making their way  down the three-quarter mile gallery-lined portion of Canyon Road will encounter exhibits featuring everything from work by New Mexico masters to a complex and diverse mix of contemporary art. In addition to painting and sculpture, many galleries also feature glass creations, sculptural fiber arts and mixed media designs.

Strolling art lovers can admire the elegant lines of a Maria Martínez pot or see early 20th-century New Mexico through the eyes of the Taos Society of Artists painters at the Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery. Or perhaps they’ll be enticed by contemporary representational pieces at the Meyer Gallery or cutting-edge work at Gebert Contemporary. The magic of the evening may be enhanced by the whimsical creations at Chalk Farm Gallery, where living plants and the whisper of fountains encourage visitors to step out of time and rest a bit. Wending through the historic homes housing the galleries also adds to the enchantment. Thick adobe walls hold back the heat, and the randomly connected rooms open like puzzle boxes suddenly revealing a concealed courtyard or an intimate sculpture garden.

Galleries often offer visitors crudités or cheese plates—and more than a few serve wine. Musicians are bound to be playing somewhere. Sky Red Hawk’s Native American flute and Ken Estrada’s guitar may echo down the road if Native Spirits is performing. The strains of cello and guitar may spill from an open doorway. It seems that every few feet some new experience delights the senses.

Many galleries are open every Friday evening in the summer. Others host opening receptions for new exhibits during the art walks. For an adventure, simply walk down Canyon Road until an enticing doorway draws you in. Or if you prefer planning ahead, check out listings of gallery openings online or in local publications. Either way, you’ll be in for an enchanted evening you won’t forget.

The unique combination of factors that converge in the Friday night walks down Canyon Road—world-class art, 18th-century adobe architecture, lush gardens and remarkable light—is more than enough to make for a memorable evening. But when that evening ends at a restaurant with ambiance to match the mood, you’ve really got something special. Why not continue your feast for the senses at a restaurant that emphasizes the aesthetics of both cuisine and atmosphere? We invite you to dress in your favorite casual best, put on your walking shoes, corral a friend or a lover and seize the evening. Here are three dining possibilities to consider. All are popular, so reservations are recommended.

The Compound

The Compound lies at the end of a tree-lined lane adjoining Canyon Road, and if you could step back in time to the turn of the last century, you might spot a visiting movie star or socialite staying in this secluded spot. When the 200-year-old home was converted to a restaurant in 1967, architect, interior designer and folk art collector Alexander Girard was hired to oversee the project. For many Santa Feans and visitors alike, the Girard Wing at the Museum of International Folk Art is a treasure to be visited time and again, not only to see Girard’s incredible collection of folk art but the ingenious displays he created to showcase it. Girard once said, “Art is only art when it is synonymous with living,” and one gets the sense that Girard took great pleasure in designing a space where people could relish both food and companionship.

Combining the earthiness of adobe with contemporary design elements, The Compound’s decor is Zen-like, but definitely not austere. Whitewashed adobe walls and ceilings capture the light and multiply it. Picture windows overlook an enticing garden courtyard. Inviting bancos (adobe benches) line the walls. It is as though Girard simplified the space to give its spirit room to expand. Girard’s ceilings are a delight, especially the one in the innermost room. Girard covered the vigas with waves of textured plaster that seem to undulate like the ocean. A stylized snake rides those waves along one edge.

Textile tiles adorn two other ceilings. The front room ceiling is a patchwork of colorful upholstery textiles with graphic patterns that Girard designed for Braniff International Airways. Another ceiling is tiled with intricate miniature Navajo rugs. Girard’s artwork melds industrial media and aesthetics with the charm of folk art. A whimsical sun face in bronze and a chrome-plated crescent moon hold court in two of the Compound’s rooms. The faces in these celestial bodies seem to smile back at you—after they have brought a smile to your own lips.

Tables nestled in an intimate courtyard are the most coveted. The murmur of a central fountain fills this intimate space. Stone walls covered with ivy, peach trees and lush green vegetation add to the charm. The garden patio, set above the courtyard, is slightly less alluring, but still offers the romance of dining under the stars.

Owner/Chef Mark Kiffin received many accolades, including the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef in the Southwest” award in 2005 (not to mention a wine list has been in Wine Spectator’s top 100). Kiffin calls his cuisine Contemporary American, but his main focus is on integrating ingredients of the Mediterranean with those of the Americas. Old World foods the Spanish introduced—like beef, chicken, tomatoes and eggplants—are paired with New World staples such as corn. Kiffin’s signature dishes include Grilled Tenderloin of Beef with Foie Gras Hollandaise and Tuna Tartar topped with Ossetra Caviar and Preserved Lemon.

The Compound is located at 653 Canyon Road, in Santa Fe. Dinner is served nightly from 6 p.m. Lunch is served Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., from June 28 to September 4. 505.982.4353.

Inn of the Anasazi

The Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is like a small oasis in Santa Fe, and walking into its dining room is like walking out of the desert into a spring-cooled cavern—but with far more elegance than any cavern could offer.

The sandstone masonry and earth-toned walls are reminiscent of the Ancestral Puebloan dwellings of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. Petroglyphs found at those ancient dwellings served as inspiration for contemporary American Indian artists Dan Namingha, Doug Coffin and Darren Vigil Gray, artists whose work is featured in the hotel. All three are renowned for their cutting-edge expressions of their cultural heritage and bold visual statements, resulting in work perfectly fitting to the design of the hotel: Although the inspirations are ancient, the execution is decidedly modern.

Like the approach to Chaco Canyon’s Great Houses, the approach to the hotel was designed to impress. But the dark-stained wooden portal dominating the three-story adobe façade—with its concise lines and geometric patterns—is unmistakably contemporary. The Anasazi’s interior is stately, with massive ceiling vigas and oversized kiva fireplaces. That stateliness is tempered by handcrafted furnishings and architectural details. Take the hand carved doors by Morelli. At first glance, they look like artifacts from an 18th century Spanish Colonial home, with their dark wood and rough-hewn features. But a closer look reveals intricately carved, colorful panels patterned after Navajo rug designs.

Morelli’s designs complement the contemporary and antique Navajo rugs adorning the hotel floors. Interspersed are Chimayó rugs by master weaver Irvin Trujillo and his wife, Lisa. Both have won numerous awards, and Irvin is a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. The weavings also upholster bench cushions and soften walls, adding warmth to the earth-toned architecture, while ambient light from custom light fixtures and wrought-iron lamps further softens the space.

The hotel’s award-winning restaurant features the creations of Executive Chef Oliver Ridgeway, who has worked at acclaimed restaurants in Britain, with the Olympic culinary team in Australia and at the famed The Carlyle in New York City.

Ridgeway was somewhat concerned when he moved to landlocked New Mexico, since his specialty is seafood. But thanks to modern transportation, he is able to create his signature dishes in this high desert oasis, offering guests contemporary global cuisine that incorporates fresh, seasonal and regional ingredients. Ridgeway counts among his specialties Blue Corn–Crusted Salmon with Citrus-Jalapeño Sauce and Nine-Spice Beef Tenderloin with Chipotle–Modelo Beer Glaze. Menus change frequently.

Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is located at 113 Washington Avenue, in Santa Fe. It is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sunday brunch is served from 11a.m.–- 2:30 p.m. 505.988.3030.

La Casa Sena

History exudes from La Casa Sena, which is situated in a 30-room adobe home built in the early 1700s. If those walls could talk they would undoubtedly tell the history of Santa Fe, from its Spanish origins to the present day. Who knows which famous artists might have slept in the Garden or Kiva Rooms when this was a boarding house at the turn of the 20th century?

The magic starts when you enter Sena Plaza, one of those charmed spots where once people enter they are reluctant to leave. The soft glow of lanterns and the whisper of the fountain make this one of Santa Fe’s most romantic settings, and among its picturesque cottonwood trees and lush gardens is La Casa Sena’s patio seating. Inside the restaurant, the thick adobe walls and low viga ceilings wrap diners in a comfortable embrace. Contemporary elements added in a 2006 remodel provide a counterpoint to the earthy architecture. The most striking of these is an elegant wrought-iron chandelier in the main dining room that casts a soft glow about the room.

La Casa Sena’s proprietor, Gerald Peters, also owns the Gerald Peters Gallery, and part of the appeal of this elegant restaurant is the artwork he chooses for the walls. Striking photographs by Craig Varjabedian and Gus Foster enhance the main dining room. Two large panels depicting lush plant-life by David Wolfe (called Maggie’s Garden) lend an outdoor atmosphere to the North Room. Abstracts by Tom Craighead echo the lounge’s abstract upholstery design.

Peters originally chose artwork from the early New Mexico artist colonies, and the Garden Room is the one room Peters left alone when he renovated the restaurant in 2006. Patrons are so enamored with the Gustave Baumann woodcuts hanging there they ask for Baumann Room seating by name. (Some have been doing so since the restaurant opened in 1984.)

Chef Patrick Gharrity has garnered high praise both locally and nationally for his cuisine. He is completely committed to using fresh, organic, sustainable and local food whenever possible, and not only because it produces the best cuisine. “The way that the world is going—I have some young children that I would like to see grow up and live in a beautiful, clean world—it’s inspired me to change things around,” Gharrity says.

Gharrity buys local meats and produce at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market and does his best to get to know his producers. He is also one of the staunchest supporters of a new Farm to Restaurant program, which delivers orders from farmers and ranchers directly to the restaurant.

La Casa Sena and La Cantina is located at 125 E. Palace Avenue, in Santa Fe. Dinner is served from 5:30–10 p.m. nightly, lunch from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. daily. Cellar Lounge hours are 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Monday–Saturday and noon–10 p.m. Sundays. 505.988.9232.

Story by Arin McKenna




Print pagePDF pageEmail page
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed