I have a friend who is into food. I mean really into food. Her change jar is dedicated to dining out, right down to the pennies she picks up off the sidewalk (face-up for good luck, of course). Vacations for her are meaningless unless there is a significant food component involved each and every day. And she subscribes to any magazine with food reviews good enough to dream and drool over. Since her last visit is now a distant memory, I suggested her long-overdue return to the City Different be timed this year with Santa Fe Restaurant Week, only to hear her say, “What? You have a Restaurant Week?” And if you have also been out to lunch on that one, let me clue you in to our once-a-year chow-down celebration.
An Appetizing Affair Is in the Air
Those in the know are already aware that from February 23 to March 2, good eats happen statewide, since the New Mexico Restaurant Association has summoned a food fantasy to materialize all over the Land of Enchantment. But it’s my humble, hungry opinion that the Santa Fe restaurant roster takes the cake. With local values as terrific as the food, I’m personally staying close to home and dedicating the time to a tasty trip into Santa Fe’s restaurant scene.
Speaking of appetizing, am I alone, or do you also have those times when the appetizer menu is so enticing that you want it to be the meal? I’ve enjoyed the talents of Catherine O’Brien and Glenda Griswold at many a function they’ve catered, so Restaurant Week gives me an excellent excuse to nosh through the nibbles at their recently-opened Terra Cotta Wine Bistro. I’m drawn to a menu that commences with the words “shared plates” since that equals enough for two. Bistro bites, a BFF, and a bottle of wine — sounds like an ideal mix for making delightful dining decisions. With my hungry-for-food-adventure visitor in tow, gung-ho dining is a go.
Primed and Ready to Go … Eat
There will definitely have to be one night on our calendar for Primi, by which I mean “Mangia Italiana” via pasta. I know, I know, it’s meant to be a meal starter, but sometimes I can’t help it, I want that platter of pasta to be my meal. And although Il Piatto Italian Farmhouse Kitchen works wickedly delicious wonders with a classic roast chicken, I have my mind — okay, my palate— set on homemade pappardelle. Il Piatto must already know this about me, because the pastas come in both appetizer and entrée sizes — molto bene, grazie!
I am always taken when I see Farmer Matt Romero show up on Marcy Street after a morning at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market because I know the goodies are on their way to Chef Matt Yohalem at Il Piatto. Naturally, a farm-to-table commitment like that means the menu changes seasonally, which is just fine and dandy with me; and even when it’s not Restaurant Week, the late-night prix-fixe (currently set at an easy-to-remember new year’s value of $20.14) is a winning invitation.
The Main Dish Takes Center Stage at the Capitol Grill
Choosing where to land for the main dish could be a tough decision, but we tough girls have a whole week to wander, so I‘m sure we’ll strike it rich wherever we pull up a chair. Trust me, my confidence is well-placed, since I’m armed with the knowledge that livability.com named Santa Fe as one of its 2013 Top Ten Foodie Cities. My secret? Work our way throughout this food-loving town, bite by bite toward the weekend. And we’ll start with a southside stop at the Santa Fe Capitol Grill. Mind you, it’s nowhere near the State Capitol, but that’s my other secret: Santa Fe dining is spread throughout Santa Fe neighborhoods, so it's time to explore.
I’m a big fan of the Capitol’s happy hour, but it holds an extra-special place in my heart because I can hook a heaping platter of fish and chips, no small feat so far from the ocean. Sometimes a crispy, crunchy, golden deep-fried treat is just what a girl needs to get through a week … or end it too, if you’re a fish-on-Friday person.
As we settle in closer to the Plaza, we can’t miss making a stop at Dinner for Two, aptly named and just as perfectly priced. Flying under many visitors’ radar hasn’t hurt this spot at all, since locals return regularly for the value as well as the meal. The El Rito lamb is a mighty appealing choice, and winning a Wine Spectator award for 9 years running means we’ll be able to toast our friendship in a complementary pairing and a cozy setting.
OMG, will we run out of nights? Not happening before we hit the Bull Ring! Beloved by Santa Feans from its early days as a state legislators’ hangout, this prime rib palace has lost none of its appeal over the years. Under the same ownership for 26 years, with a classic steakhouse menu, the Bull Ring ensures that no national chains need carve their beef in our Western town, thank you very much. The a la carte sides are big enough for two to share, but girl, you must order your own rib eye, please!
Santa Fe Knows How to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth
It’s true, I’m only scratching the surface of what’s available at Restaurant Week, but sooner or later, we have to settle down to a sweet treat as the meal ends. That’s when we’re heading straight to the center of town for the chocolate mousse (gluten-free!) at Santacafé. There’s nothing like crisp white table linens and beautiful plating to make a killer chocolate creation look — and taste — even more spectacular.
And dessert is a divine way to discover culinary talent all over town, so who knows? Maybe one night can be all desserts; I’m down with that! Finishing a week of fine food and friendship at Geronimo, over their Meyer Lemon crepe with Limoncello syrup seems like a sweet conclusion. Oh, you don’t know Limoncello? Meet this Italian liqueur in a martini sometime — you’ll taste why I want it for dessert. Dine at Geronimo, and you’ll understand why a post-prandial walk down Canyon Road is such a pleasant way to end a night … and why Santa Fe Restaurant Week is the apex in sampling the best in Santa Fe dining and value.
Read, Eat, Repeat
I’m sending the game plan to my gal pal, and you should do the same. Grab a committed food fan, make a hotel reservation, and get thee to Santa Fe. One week, 50-plus restaurants. Build some meal magic for yourself, because I’ve made only a once-over here, as you can well imagine. I’m well on my way to nailing it all down, unless more restaurants are added at the eleventh hour … wait, Santa Fe, you wouldn’t do that to me, would you? Go ahead, there’s always lunch, and you won’t regret any last-minute menu additions!