Santa Fe Travelers’ favorite food experiences of 2014

Food glorious food! If you read Santa Fe Travelers on a regular basis you know we love to eat. Our passion is discovering really good food. We love encountering people who are as passionate about food as we are and devote their lives to sharing their culinary creations with the world. We’ve had many memorable food experiences in 2014. Here are our five favorite food experiences of the year:

Discovering Aceto Balsamico of Monticello

Balsalmic vinegar made in Monticelelo, New Mexico

One of the wood barrel aging aceto balsamico, photo/Steve Collins

At some point we discovered that world-class balsamic vinegar was being made in Monticello, New Mexico. Seriously? Yes, it turns out, very seriously. Old Monticello Organic Farms, where this liquid gold is produced, is about 45 minutes northwest of Truth or Consequences. When we planned an early March weekend in the quirky town know for its mineral baths we contacted Steve and Jane Darland owners of the farm and producers of Aceto Balsamico of Monticello, to set up an appointment to tour the farm and production facilities. The Darlands, a successful Bay Area couple wanted to leave the rat race. They were too young to retire. “We wanted to do something complicated, hard, delicious, and unique,” Steve told us during our visit to the organic farm, “and take our time doing it and have our life built around it.” Their solution: to produce balsamic vinegar the way as it’s been done in Modena, Italy for centuries. Because the balsamic isn’t produced in Modena, they can’t get the coveted Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena designation. But, they use the same production methods down to the wood barrels. These were made to order in Modena. It took master barrel-maker, Francesco Renzi over a year to make these. We went for an hour and stayed for four. We got to taste this liquid gold and even left with a tiny bit to use at home. If you’re a real foodie and you’re going to be in the area, call and set up an appointment to visit. Read more about our afternoon at Old Monticello Organic Farms.

Eating at the Chef’s Table

Making pasta in Terra's kitchen was a group project photo/courtesy Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

Making pasta in Terra’s kitchen was a group project photo/courtesy Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

 

We were invited to a dinner at the Chef’s Table at Terra the restaurant at Four Seasons Resorts Rancho Encantado. Executive Chef Andrew Cooper is passionate not only about cooking but about what he cooks. He even cultivates his own gardens in summer. The dinner, on a warm July night, started with cocktails and nibbles in the garden and then worked its way into the kitchen where we were told we’d be served food until we cried “Uncle.” It took us a while. The food was so good, we kept eating. Not only were we fed, we were put to work. Each guest at the long table helped with one course. We all worked on the pasta-making line, which brought tears of laughter to all. It was delicious and great fun as well. You can do this too; just call the hotel and reserve in advance. It’s more fun with a group of friends.

 

FUZE and Native American Foodways 

Native American Chef/authorLois Ellen Frank at FUZE 2014, photo/Steve Collins

Native American Chef/authorLois Ellen Frank at FUZE 2014, photo/Steve Collins

 

In September we attended the second annual FUZE SW Food + Folklore Festival on Santa Fe’s Museum Hill. The topic: Native American Foodways was packed with thought provoking talks and breakaway sessions. Not only did we learn about Native American foodways, we got to taste native foods influenced by their “pre-contact” foods, the Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash. The term is used to denote the foods ate in the southwest before the Europeans arrived. Here’s some food for thought. Next time you order a Navajo taco, know that these arose out of necessity. There are a lot of feelings around this food, some at the conference even called them “Food of the oppression.” When the tribes were put onto reservations where they couldn’t hunt they were issued commodity foods. Not only were these alien to their bodies, they were foods that, today are known as unhealthy. Wheat flower, lard and surplus cheese were the staples. Today, there are many obese Native American. Some who spoke at FUZE talked of going back to the pre-contact diet and how it’s positively impacting their lives. We also got to meet some Native American Chef who are working to bring back the pre-contact foods in creative and delicious ways. They included Santa Fe Chef and food historian Lois Ellen Frank, Loretta Barrett Oden who was the force behind Santa Fe’s now-defunct Corn Maiden Café, Diné (Navajo) Chef Freddie Bitsoie and young White Mountain Apache chef, Nephi Craig. We came away from the weekend sated with food, facts and feelings. It was an amazing experience for us opening us up to a whole new area of cuisine.

Eating our way through San Miguel de Allende

The menu board at De Temporada reflects the ever-changing menu, photo/Steve Collins

The menu board at De Temporada reflects the ever-changing menu, photo/Steve Collins

 

When I knew we were heading to San Miguel, one of the first things I did was Google “farm to table restaurants.” The first thing that came up was De Temporada and I knew we had to eat there. We arranged lunch at this great find about 15 minutes from El Centro. It was a winner. We enjoyed eating our way around the city in the limited time we had there. We hope to get back there for a longer time in 2015 and eat some more. I already have some must-eat restaurants on my list. Read more about our San Miguel dining from street food to chic food. We also have posts about some of the restaurants we ate in. Our conclusion is Santa Miguel is a great city for food aficionados.

 Eating seafood at the source

Eating Snapper Veracruz in Veracruz

Huichinango Veracruzana (Red Snapper Veracruz style) at Restaurant Dona Lala in Tlacotalpan photo Steve Collins

When we were invited to visit Veracruz, we were excited. One of the few things we miss living in Santa Fe is the ocean and the ocean’s fresh bounty: seafood. Yes, it gets flown here fresh, but it never quite tastes the same as fish and seafood right out of the ocean. We feasted on seafood overlooking the Gulf of Mexico our first afternoon there. We also at fresh snapper prepared Veracruz-style on our day-trip to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Spanish colonial city of Tlacotalpan.

 

We had many more great meals and food experiences in 2014 and look forward to what 2015 had in store for our stomachs. Bon Appétit!

Author’s note: One of the most exciting things that happened to me was becoming the Santa Fe Local Expert for USA Today Travel Media’s 10best.com. Every month I get to write about Santa Fe, including its food and get paid for it. I’m a lucky woman!

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