Monday, November 19, 2012

Do You Know The Way to Santa Fe?

Every year Paul and I like to go on a trip if possible to celebrate our birthdays, which are two days apart. Since he’s limited to taking only one week off at a time in his current job we can’t go too far. I have made noises over the years that I’d like to go to Santa Fe, NM and even though he isn’t enthused about New Mexico he offered to take me. I accepted; how many chances will I get? The entry point is the Albuquerque airport, from their all adventures abound.

I had planned for us to spend the night in Albuquerque and head for Santa Fe in the morning. I love to ask the locals where to go and how to get there and a really nice lady in Trader Joe’s gave us some tips. We settled on taking the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe rather than sticking to the freeway. There’s a little town named Madrid on the trail; turns out that is where part of the movie Wild Hawgs with John Travolta et al was filmed. It is cute with plenty of cool shops but I have a sanitation issue with that burg. We went in a shop where they also serve hot food and decided to order some green chile stew, which was more than edible. When ordering I noticed a gigante bottle of hand sanitizer on the counter. I should have been suspicious. When I asked about a bathroom they pointed to a porta potty out the side door. And there was no running water for washing hands! I declined and decided to wait to use the public restroom I had seen earlier, which, it turns out was a hole in the ground with no running water! Ugh! Considering there are homes and businesses in Madrid is it too much to ask for sanitary facilities??? I think the laws must be different in NM, yes?


I had reserved what I hoped was a nice B&B in the historic district of Santa Fe and we weren’t disappointed. Las Palomas is a wonderful spot; I had reserved a studio and they upgraded us to a one bedroom casita with a fireplace and kitchenette. The room was spacious and the bed comfortable. The breakfast was delicious, with a choice of omelet or waffles and other goodies at the buffet. Not only was coffee available but lattes and cappuccinos! Heaven!

Las Palomas

I’m sure there are many great restaurants in Santa Fe but we only experienced one really exceptional one: La Boca, a Spanish tapas place. We love small plates and are becoming hooked on Spanish dishes. The Marcona almonds (from Spain) fried and rolled in smoked pimentón (paprika) were wonderful but I would have liked them served hot. The chef is Italian American, not Spanish, but he seems to have mastered Spanish cooking. I bought his first cookbook, El Farol, and there is some great looking food I intend to cook pretty soon.

La Boca

We moved on to Taos and I was really wanting to eat my birthday dinner at Byzantium, a restaurant with a fabulous looking menu, but boo hoo, they weren’t open on Wednesday. So we went to Lambert’s, one of those fancy restaurants that has been around for decades. Sometimes venerability is not a great thing, but in this case it was a-okay. My fillet mignon was tender and delicious and Paul’s halibut was perfectly cooked. I must say I’ve heard a lot of rumors about how great Taos was but I wasn’t impressed. That being said, there is a pretty drive, the Enchanted Circle that starts in and circles back to Taos.

Fillet Mignon at Lambert's

On my bucket list since childhood was a visit to Carlsbad Caverns, and we had to go despite the incredibly long drive from northern New Mexico all the way to Carlsbad in the south. So we went. We stopped in Santa Fe on our way south for lunch. We wanted to eat fast and go and thought Taco Bell (the only fast food place I can abide) would do the trick. Unfortunately my gps sent us in circles with no Taco Bell to be found. We spotted Los Potrillos, an actual Mexican restaurant, and decided to try it. I spied a dish I had never heard of – Chiles Nogada – and ordered it. What heaven! It was large poblano chiles, stuffed with ground beef, raisins and walnuts, and smothered with a sweet creamy gravy. Eating the two tastes together was a revelation; I wish I knew how to make it. Paul had a plate of enchiladas and said they were exceptional. Don’t hesitate to try Los Potrillos!

Chiles Nogada

Not surprisingly, we didn’t find any great food in Roswell or Carlsbad, but I really was there for the Cavern. I took the self guided tour after riding the elevator 750 feet down into the bowels of the earth. I was a little anxious at first but settled in and enjoyed myself. It was absolutely beautiful and am grateful I got to see it. I bought a dvd about the caves and a pair of bat socks to commemorate my visit.

Inside the cavern

We headed back to Santa Fe after leaving the cavern (you have no idea, I’m sure, what a long boring drive it is – think Interstate 5 to Southern Cal. It’s worse) and had one day left to visit some museums. May I recommend the International Folk Art Museum on Museum Hill. It was great fun, and the Café on Museum Hill was very nice with a great view. The Governor’s Palace and Museum in historic downtown is fascinating and the rich history of NM was a surprise. There are lots of cool art galleries on Canyon Rd and Caffe Greco is a nice stop. I had a fruit filled empanada which left me wanting more. All in all I really fell a little bit in love with Santa Fe and left a piece of my heart there.

Caffe Greco