A Tale of Two Bakeries

DSC_1431If you suddenly find yourself hungry when you’re in the south end of Santa Fe’s South Capitol district, there’s a good reason for it. That fragrant aroma of baking baguettes, croissants, pastries, muffins and more wafting through the air comes from two beloved Santa Fe restaurants that are new to the neighborhood—the relocated Clafoutis and The New Baking Company, inspired by the old Santa Fe Baking Co., which closed in 2016.

Eateries have long populated this neighborhood, serving everything from Asian and Indian to Mediterranean, Italian and New Mexican cuisine. But the addition of these two spots—located catty-corner to each other—adds to the vibrant food scene in this neighborhood. This culinary corner draws locals and visitors alike for the comfort food and conviviality found in two restaurants with strong ties to the community.

Ooh la, la!  Clafoutis….

DSC_1406Situated next to Body Santa Fe, the 3,000-square-foot building that houses the new Clafoutis lies just a mile or so away from the restaurant’s original location, but it’s worlds away from the small space Clafoutis occupied for a decade. Designed by owners Philippe and Anne-Laure Ligier and their daughter, Charlotte Kolkmeyer, the new space has rustic wood floors, washed wood walls and red accents, combining contemporary urban design with French country farmhouse flair.

Bancos and handsome wood tables and chairs fill the dining room. A glass-paned garage-style door rolls up in warm weather, creating a sweet little patio for al fresco dining. Delectable treats beckon from shiny glass display cases—eclairs, Napoleons, madeleines, macarons and more, including the restaurant’s namesake clafoutis, a custardy fruit tart. Shelves behind the counter are brimming with fresh baguettes as well as French multi-grain, whole-wheat and French country breads––new to the menu, thanks to the restaurant’s increased space. A to-go case full of quiches, sandwiches, salads and other prepped foods provides a quick meal to eat there at the counter or take with you.

DSC_1508“It’s like France meets New York,” says a Clafoutis fan, admiring the restaurant’s interior, and Anne-Laure beams at the compliment. Her daughter, Charlotte, explains that she hopes the new space will make people feel like “they’re home and comfortable, like they’re in a little French bakery that’s not in Santa Fe, or in a French home.”

Indeed, the minute you enter the new Clafoutis, you feel warmly welcomed and instantly transported to the French countryside. Anne-Laure carries on the tradition of singing out, “Bonjour Madam,” or, “Bonjour Monsieur,” to patrons as they walk in, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see Charlotte’s 5-year-old daughter, Lila-belle, helping out (she loves to assist her grandfather Philippe in the kitchen). If you’ve not been here before, it doesn’t take long to realize that this restaurant is truly a family affair.

“A lot of our customers are like family now,” Charlotte says, as Anne-Laure shakes her head in agreement. She adds, “For me, one of the best things about Clafoutis is our relationships with the people who dine here. I love those relationships.”

The feeling is mutual, judging by the crowds of people who have dined at Clafoutis over the years, despite the perennial lack of parking and frequent wait times for tables. Their patience has finally paid off, as seating in the new location has nearly doubled— from 49 seats to 85—and parking is now manageable, with more than 80 spaces. It’s an ideal location for the restaurant, and it seemed fated to land in the hands of the Ligier family.

“We were thinking about moving, but not really searching,” Anne-Laure says. “One day, a customer came in and told us about a building that would be for sale, and he told us we had it to see it immediately—that very night! My husband and I came here and we looked at each other and we just knew. That was last fall, and we became owners in December.”

Fans will be happy to know that all of the employees at Clafoutis are working in the new space, all smartly dressed in butternut-beige button-down shirts, fancy black pants and brown suspenders with matching bow ties. They look like young Maurice Chevaliers ready to burst into song…ooh la la, indeed. And there are a few enticing new options on the menu as well––a different galette, buckwheat pancakes every day, and omelets served all day, instead of from 7 to 11:30 a.m. You’ll also find some delicious nectars, juices and jams made in France by Alain Milliat.  

If you’re having trouble deciding what to order from Clafoutis’ many offerings, try one of Anne-Laure’s favorite dishes, Croque Madame—a classic grilled sandwich made with ham, Swiss cheese and béchamel, topped with an egg. Or sample Charlotte’s favorite, L’Asiette Francaise, a plateful of ham, prosciutto, salami, cornichons, pearl onions, Brie, comte cheese, a mixed green salad, and butter and bread.  She also loves cream puffs with Chantilly cream. Be forewarned that whatever you order at Clafoutis, you’re sure to soon have your favorite dish, served at your favorite table, in your favorite new neighborhood eatery.

Clafoutis is located at 333 W. Cordova Road in Santa Fe. 505.988.1809. Or visit them on Facebook.

And Bienvenidos to The New Baking Company!

DSC_1539Filiberto and Norma Rodriguez had been looking for a place to open a restaurant when they realized that a vacant space in the Coronado Center would be a perfect fit. It was home to one of the city’s most popular hangouts, the Santa Fe Baking Company, where Filiberto had worked for 17 years. The Baking Co. closed suddenly last year, leaving longtime customers bereft, so the couple envisioned opening a restaurant that would resurrect its comfort food and community spirit.

“We always knew we wanted to have our own restaurant,” Norma says. “We always dreamed about it. We didn’t know how; we didn’t know when. It was just a crazy idea about serving American and New Mexican food. I love to cook, and sometimes when I cook at home—things like pasta, spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf—I think, ‘Oh, I wish I could make this for a restaurant.’”

The idea to reprise the Santa Fe Baking Company actually came from customers of the restaurant. “Everybody missed it,” Norma says. “It wasn’t their choice to see it just go away. My husband always sees customers everywhere we go, and they all ask, ‘Are you going to call your restaurant The Santa Fe Baking Company? And they say it would be nice if we could keep the name. So I thought we could keep it similar, because it’s similar food and similar people are working here.”

Returning staff from the old restaurant include a baker, two cooks and two people running the front of the house. Filiberto will resume his position as food runner and Norma will oversee operations as she learns the business from top to bottom. “I want to learn in the bakery, I want to learn in the kitchen, I want to learn everything so that if anybody needs help, or if someone’s running late, I can jump in,” she says.

Like Clafoutis, The New Baking Company is a family business. The couple’s two teenage boys work at the restaurant, their 9-year-old son will have a job there when he’s old enough, and Norma’s aunt and uncle, Maria and Mark Fahey, are partners in the business.

The New Baking Company looks a lot like the previous one, with a few changes. One large wall toward the back of the dining room has been removed, opening up the space and highlighting the industrial ceiling. The juice bar is gone, too, giving diners a clear view of the action in the open kitchen. Photographs by Lisa Law documenting the ’60s hang on the walls, and rotating art exhibits are planned.

The menu includes longtime favorites, and Norma says the breakfast burritos—full of crispy bacon, potatoes, eggs, cheddar and Christmas—are must-haves. “The green chile turkey cheese croissants and the omelets—Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Greek—are all on our menu,” she explains. “We’ll also have all the delicious fresh-baked pastries, as well as Pueblo pie, which was one of people’s favorites, with apples, peaches, nuts and raisins.” Of course, Norma’s meatloaf and spaghetti and meatballs will be available, too.

In a nod to another favorite neighborhood restaurant, The New Baking Company will serve some of the soups from David Jacoby’s Back Street Bistro, which recently closed to the dismay of diners across the city. Look for David’s wildly popular Hungarian Mushroom Soup and gazpacho on the menu…once he finishes teaching the cooks how to make it.

Like Clafoutis, The New Baking Company aspires to be a gathering place in the neighborhood, where families and friends meet for meals or coffee breaks, and people stop by for work or relaxation. Norma says she wants “everyone to feel welcome, like they’re at home. And I want to have the same community feeling that the old Santa Fe Baking Company had—where everybody knows each other.”

The New Baking Company is located at 504 W. Cordova Road in Santa Fe. 505.310.8237, or visit their Facebook page.

Story by Lynn Cline

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