Epazote Santa Fe’s Chef Fernando Olea’s New World Cuisine

Chef Fernando Olea

When most people think of mole, they think of a dark chocolate-infused sauce from Mexico. Those are not the moles of Fernando Olea, Chef/owner of Epazote in Santa Fe. The restaurant is in a former convent across the street from the historic Sanctuario de Guadeloupe on Aqua Fria Street.

Olea, originally from Mexico,  is fascinated by the cuisine of the pre-Columbian indigenous people of his native country, especially the moles (Aztecan for “sauce”). This passion for historically authentic food and his love of being in the creative flow result in some spectacular food. His moles are the result of historical research, molded with love into his inspired creations. One of his moles has 39 ingredients. He calls his food “New World Cuisine” because he feels the term “Mexican” conjures food that has no imagination or true ethnic content. This is not a taco/enchilada joint. Olea believes in the concepts of slow food and sustainability. Everything he serves is made in his kitchen.

Crab Bisque with Amaretto Foam

We dined there one evening as his guests. Dinner began with a sampler of  three moles: classic Mole Poblano (chocolate, chile, canela and many more ingredients from Puebla), Mole Rosa (a pink mole made with chiles and mellowed by white chocolate) and Mole Verde (tomatillo, white chocolate and chipotle). These are accompanied by house-made silver dollar corn  tortillas. This tasting is a prelude to dining. Once you have decided which mole you prefer, the server will tell you what fish, fowl or meat the Chef recommends with it. The menu also offers other dishes if you are in the mood for something else.

We are in the Chef’s hand for the first course, Taquitos de Chapulines, tiny soft corn tortillas topped with crispy sautéed grasshoppers, guacamole, Mole Negro de Oaxaca and micro greens. The sensations of crunch and creamy avocado gave way to a lingering finish of the mild heat of the mole.

Next, comes New World Crab Bisque; served in a demi-tasse cup is reminiscent of the best efforts of a first-class barista. This exquisite soup of crab meat in rich poblano crema bisque, topped with Amaretto foam and flecks of chocolate is exquisitely rich.

Duck with Mole Poblano

We shared entrees of Duck with Mole Poblano and slow cooked Lamb over Oaxacan rice wrapped in a banana leaf a la tamales de Yucatan. The duck breast was perfectly sautéed medium rare with crispy fat and tender, juicy meat. The Mole Poblano offered the perfect counterpoint to the duck. The plate was finished with a timbale  of spinach mousse with Scotch bonnet pepper foam and a timbale of Oaxacan-style rice.

Dessert is a magical presentation of a delicate and delicious frozen mousse with red and yellow sauces. We are asked to guess what we are eating. The only easily recognizable taste is ginger. The reveal: avocado mousse, enhanced with chiles and pumpkin seeds, over an intense ginger sauce and a beet reduction. This is clearly a case of the sum is greater than the parts. The flavors and textures draw on all of the taste buds beginning with a rich creaminess forward ending in a lingering rich, spicy finish. Each bite opens new taste sensations. It is one of the most amazing things we have ever tasted.

If you live in Santa Fe, be sure to visit Epazote. If you are planning to visit Santa Fe make sure to include Epazote in your dining plans while you are here. Kudos to Chef Olea!

Note: As  former hotel concierges and owners of a travel concierge and trip-planning business in Santa Fe, the writers  have been guests of Epazote and other restaurants Chef Olea has owned over the years. While these experiences have not influenced this post in any way, this information is provided in the spirit of full disclosure.

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3 Responses to “Epazote Santa Fe’s Chef Fernando Olea’s New World Cuisine”

  1. Joanie
    December 6, 2019 at 6:33 am #

    My mouth is watering. Putting this on my to-eat list for my next trip to Santa Fe.

    • Steve
      December 6, 2019 at 4:24 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed the review, Joanie. We love sharing Santa Fe fun.

  2. Abby
    December 8, 2019 at 5:54 pm #

    His food looks amazing. Crispy grasshoppers with guac? I need to get home more often!

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