A Taste of Santa Fe with Food Tour New Mexico

We were invited to take Food Tour New Mexico’s Taste of Santa Fe Tour. We know the Santa Fe dining scene well, why would we take a food tour? Not only were we curious about the tour we wanted to be able to share the experience with clients and readers. Why would you take a food tour? My short answer is a food tour is a great way to get a sense of a city’s food scene whether you’re visiting or you live there. Two things can make or break your tour: the guide and the restaurants visited. The guide should be engaging and restaurants should be worthy of a visit. A good food tour should be about more than eating; you can do that on your own. You want an experience that you’ll remember. Optimally your guide will be sharing his/her city with you and the restaurants will give you more than a tasty morsel; you’ll get to meet the people behind the scenes. Food Tour New Mexico does well with both counts.

Starting our tour

We meet our guide Carlos Zozaya at the Plaza. He greets us tells us this is his first day on the job, “I’m really nervous, I’ll be training today,” he jokes. In truth, this chef who’s a veteran of several respected Santa Fe kitchens has been doing this for a bit over a year. Before we set off he tells us a little bit about Food Tour New Mexico.

A bit of Food Tour New Mexico history

Food Tour New Mexico- Carlos Zozaya (left) and Nick Peña, photo Steve Collins

Carlos Zozaya (left) and Nick Peña, photo/Steve Collins

Food Tour New Mexico was started in 2011 by Santa Fe native Nick Peña. It was a tough time in his life. Since his father passed away in 2008, Nick, an artist and musician, was at loose ends. He knew he wanted to do something he could succeed at that would keep him in Santa Fe. During a 2011 visit to Phoenix friends who were starting a food tour business a light bulb clicked on for Nick. This was something he could enjoy doing. Food was something he loved. “In our culture,” he shared, “feeding people is a sign of love, comfort and a way to care for each other.” He remembers watching his great grandmother, Adela Montaño, in the kitchen when he was a young boy. Later, he learned love food and cooking watching his grandmother prepare family meals. As a food lover he “couldn’t think of anything better than a culinary tour that utilizes the city as a resource, helps to stimulate the economy, and allows our culture to shine,” he wrote.  The food tour’s concept reminded him of progressive dinners he enjoyed with his family when relatives visited from out of town. The extended family would have appetizers in one eatery, entrees in another and visit a third for dessert. This gave the visitors a bigger picture of Santa Fe’s food and culture Santa Fe. “What we do on our tours,” he shared, “is not much different than what I would do when we have family visiting from out of town.” The food tour idea seeded, he was off and running. It took three years of hard work before it really took off, but now it’s a big success.

The tour

La Casa Sena

La Casa Sena’s Patio, photo Steve Collins

Our first stop, which has since been replaced, was for an appetizer at La Casa Sena. We had a delicious roasted poblano soup, but as it’s no longer on the tour, I’ll skip the details.

La Boca

Spanish sausage and asparagus tapa at La Boca, photo Billie Frank

Next it was on to La Boca, a popular Santa Fe tapas restaurant that is no longer on the tour. We sampled a tasty morsel made with Spanish sausage, almond puree, asparagus, roasted bell peppers and, chile oil and a few other ingredients accompanied by Cava, a sparkling Spanish wine.

The Hive Market

Mead, honey products and New Mexico specialty items at The Hive Market, photo/Steve Collins

On our way to our main course at Georgia, we stopped at The Hive Market for an intermezzo; a tasting of a range of local honey and mead. Each had its own distinct characteristics. The shopkeeper told us about each one in detail. Some of the group couldn’t resist buying some of the New Mexico-made food products that fill the shop.


Food Tour New Mexico - Flash-fried Brussels sprouts and red chile oil, raspberry jam lamb chop at Georgia, photo Steve Collins

Flash-fried Brussels sprouts and red chile oil, raspberry jam lamb chop at Georgia, photo/Steve Collins

Carlos was a great guide. Between stops he regaled us with Santa Fe history and stories; continuing his repartee at each stop. As we walked to Georgia, he told us a bit about the restaurant, which he called it “a sort of Southern-style gastropub,” but qualified this description. “The executive chef Leroy, is in my personal opinion a mad scientist,” he shared. “He loves, loves, loves to use liquid nitrogen.”  My take: it’s a cross between contemporary American fusion and a gastropub. Upon arrival we sat around the bar in the front room while Carlos headed off to the kitchen to let Chef Leroy know we’d arrived. He returned with what he called our “first course,” flash-fried Brussels sprouts served in communal dishes. The portion was HUGE and the sprouts were crispy and delicious, a fusion of unexpected flavors. Leroy told us the sprouts are tossed with apple cider vinegar and a bit of parmesan cheese, capers, prosciutto and dehydrated corn. Next up: perfectly-cooked red chile oil and raspberry jam lamb chops. We each got one Frenched chop, plated with roasted red cabbage and topped with a veal demi-glace. The chops, the cabbage and the Brussels sprouts worked well together. It was a feast! As Georgia is also a pub, before we left we were escorted to another bar where microbrews are on tap and sampled a few.

Santa Fe Oil & Balsamic Company

Michael Aranda talking to our group at the Santa Fe Olive Oil & Balsamic Co., photo Steve Collins

The walk between Georgia and our last stop, Kakawa Chocolate House, is a bit long. To break it up there’s a stop at Santa Fe Olive Oil & Balsamic Company on Don Gaspar. Owner, Michael Aranda, greeted our group and talked a bit about his shop which sells olive oils, balsamic vinegar (including  New Mexico’s Traditional Aceto Balsamico of Monticello), gourmet salts as well as specialty foods. The group got to sample some olive oils and vinegars and then went on its way.

Kakawa Chocolate House

Elixir choices of the day are listed on the board at Kakawa Chocolate House, photo/Steve Collins

We arrived at Kakawa Chocolate House to end our tour with with cups of the New and Old World chocolate elixirs the shop is famous for. Before choosing, we’re able to sample all the day’s offerings. Then we sat and sipped our chocolate drinks. It was a great finale to an interesting culinary afternoon.

Fully sated, we bid Carlos and Nick goodbye and thank them. We both really enjoyed our Food Tour New Mexico experience.

If you go - a few things to know about the Food Tour New Mexico Taste of Santa Fe Tour

  • Tour stops are ever-changing. Two stops from our tour have been replaced. La Casa Sena was replaced with ELOISA at the Drury Plaza Hotel and La Boca was replaced by Santacafe. Full tour information is on the Food Tour New Mexico website.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be walking.
  • If you enjoy your tour, tip your guide, it’s always appreciated!
  • You will find the other tours the company offers on their website. Besides Santa Fe they offer food tours in Albuquerque.

You can read more about Kakawa in our post on The Santa Fe Chocolate Trail.
This has been food tour season. Read about our tour with Wander New Mexico.

Author’s note: We were guests of Food Tour New Mexico. Their generosity didn’t affect this post in any way. If we hadn’t enjoyed the tour we wouldn’t have written about it. Please note that the tour has changed since we took it. We know the two restaurants now included on the tour and are confident they’re doing a good job. If not, let us know.






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