Red chile workshop, Santa Fe School of Cooking.
In late October, I visited Santa Fe, N.M. My first trip to the city, the FAM unfolded under perfect, sunny skies and provided a charming snapshot of this beguiling city.
And there was some fine eating!
Green and red chile peppers, native to New Mexico, show up everywhere on menus around town – say, in the chile relleno omelette served at the popular and bustling Plaza Cafe. About that egg dish: Two roasted green chiles, carrying just the right amount of heat, were stuffed with jack cheese and folded into an omelette smothered in still more green chiles. Santa Fe on a plate.
Chiles also figured prominently in the enchiladas served at La Fonda On the Plaza hotel. Two yellow-corn tortillas were filled with shredded chicken and topped with choice of either red or green chiles (ask for “Christmas,” i.e., red and green, to get the best of both worlds). For a real taste of New Mexico, opt for the garnish of an over-easy egg.
For dessert, go for the sopaipilla. A New Mexico specialty, sopaipillas are square pockets of fried dough, hot from the fryer and crisp on the outside and soft ’n’ tender within. Tear or bite off a corner, drizzle some honey into the pocket and inhale: simple, sublime, a true local treat.
Over at the Old House restaurant, in the Eldorado Hotel, it was confirmed that between red and green chiles, red, with its more complex, smoky flavour, rules. Witness the sophisticated red-chile chimuchurri sauce on tender grilled shrimp garnished with silky grits enriched with gouda.
The main course brings four fat scallops pan-roasted to succulence, wearing a golden caramelized crust and moistened with a balanced lemon-herb vinaigrette. On the side: spinach; sweet, 12-hour-roasted tomatoes and firm, caramelized cauliflower.
At the opulent La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa, I was particularly taken with a thick, hearty soup of autumn squash, corn and white beans, drizzled with (what else?) green-chile oil, lending moderate heat; and at dessert, a chocolate mousse lightly spiked with Mexican spice.
Among Santa Fe’s more elegant restaurants (white stucco walls, sophisticated artworks), The Compound served up some treats, including a superior house-made focaccia and a jumbo crab and lobster salad partnered with sweet mango, red onion and tangerine vinaigrette, the fruit notes deftly supporting the rich shellfish.
One afternoon, our group attended a red-chile workshop at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Chefs Tracy Ritter and Noe Cano led a spirited session showing how to make red chile sauce (from pods and powder) and roasted tomato and chipotle salsa, (both excellent, by the way). Held in a classroom seating 60, this demo would be a perfect add-on to any group itinerary.