We have now reached the final day of this Santa Fe series – hot dining spots. Where to eat is a staple of any good vacation destination. If you enjoy real Mexican food and locally grown chiles as a main ingredient for most dishes, you will fit right in and savor every bite of Santa Fe cuisine. I remember enjoying good food on our first time in Santa Fe but this second trip, we asked the locals, researched the best kept secret spots and ventured to places outside the normal tourist locations. Don’t be alarmed. I’m normally a healthy eater but while on vacation, that all goes out the window. Life is meant to be enjoyed and this Southern girl knows how to eat.
As soon as we pulled into Santa Fe, we rested our heels and replenished our tummies at Tomasitas. Hands down the best Green Chile Cheese Fries EVER. You really can’t go wrong with cheese and fries but it’s the green chile topping that makes this appetizer dish unbelievable.
My mouth is watering just looking at this picture because I remember the perfect combination of creamy cheese, fried potato and local green chiles. If you haven’t tried green chiles, you almost need to wait until you visit New Mexico and sample the real deal. Tomasita’s uses red and green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico and they are out of this world. I didn’t quite understand the big deal about chiles until we dug deep into the local New Mexican culinary creations. I craved green chile topping on every meal after that.
I definitely snagged a jar before heading home to Louisiana.
After filling up our bellies, we needed a little caffeine pick me-up and something sweet to savor. We landed at C.G. Higgins, a tiny confectioner’s paradise right in the heart of Santa Fe.
Their candies are made from all natural ingredients, no artificial preservatives or dyes, and creatively incorporate local chile flavor in many of their decadent desserts. The Nicaraguan rain forest certified coffee is locally roasted and a coffee lover’s dream.
They have two locations, their original shop on Ninita Street and a downtown location near The Plaza, the historic shopping square in downtown Santa Fe. Every afternoon, me and Andrew would head over to C.G. Higgins and enjoy a creative truffle creation and an uplifting espresso.
Since we were pretty active this vacation hiking and snowmobiling, we worked up quite the appetite each day. One of the places we unexpectedly discovered one late evening driving back to Santa Fe from hiking Bandelier was The Pantry.
It is coined “the meeting and eating place since 1948”, serving patrons not only New Mexican traditions but long loved comfort foods, all made from scratch for your eating pleasure. It was so good the first time we had dinner, we tried it a second time for breakfast one morning.
It is a laid back and comfortable atmosphere, excellent service and phenomenal food. Breakfast is served all day and the desserts are homemade. There’s a lunch counter and a large back room which was filled to the gills both times we stopped in for a bite. Our waiter for dinner was an avid fisherman, sharing personal pics and fishing adventures with Andrew long after we cashed out. It was an unexpected encounter which we welcomed with open arms. You never know when you cross paths with people how they will impact your experience. We left with full bellies and fulfilled souls.
We continued our food crawl during the week, stopping at The Shed, located behind Prince Patio, an adobe hacienda dating back to 1692.
This nine room restaurant is family owned and operated, now under the management of the 3rd generation of Carswells. The warm hospitality and time tested cuisine of Pueblo, Spanish and Mexican influence keeps the locals and tourists returning to The Shed. They are known for their red chile enchilidas and other blue corn specialties.
I sampled the Shedburger and Andrew devoured an Enchilada and Taco Plate. Hit the spot!
Since we were on Mexican food overload, we wanted to expand our palette and stopped in Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza on W. San Francisco Street. Colorado and Kansas also have locations of this Chef White restaurant. There’s a big range of Italian dishes such as calzones, Panini and Piadine flatbread sandwiches, and baked lasagnas and pastas, but we focused on their signature Pollo E Pumante pizza and Spinaci salad.
The pizza included roasted chicken, garlic oil, asiago, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and fresh basil while the salad included fresh spinach, pesto dressing, gorgonzola, roasted red peppers, pine nuts and red onions. Everything was fresh and satisfied my taste buds perfectly. It was a nice change from the typical Northern New Mexican cuisine we had been eating from day 1 of the trip.
Last but not least on our food portion of this Santa Fe series is Clafoutis, a french bakery and restaurant located on Guadalupe Street.
Anne-Laure and Philippe Ligier run this busy boulangerier/patisserie, greeting you with a “Bonjour” as you walk in the door. They are known for their fresh breads and pastries but also provide other French cafe fare such as real French omelets, crepes, Croque Monsieur or Madame and Les Gauffres (large House Waffles).
Andrew wasn’t even in the mood for dessert that afternoon but I insisted we try this place on a recommendation from a couple we met earlier that day. They raved about the desserts and said we must go before leaving town. We were lucky enough to try this spot as they close 2 weeks out of the winter to return to their homeland of France. That afternoon, along with bowl size cappuccinos, we delighted in Coconut Custard Pie which melted in your mouth and the coconut cream provided just enough sweet to engage our curiosity.
Since Andrew really wasn’t playing along with the Parisian experience, I ordered for him and chose a titalating chocolate and cream cake with a cordial cherry on top. Thankfully we were given spoons with which to enjoy the cake and pie because stabbing someone with a spoon isn’t as painful as a fork considering we both wanted the last morsel. And he wasn’t even in the mood?!
There really aren’t enough words in the English language to describe the heavenly dessert experience at Clafoutis. Divine, marvelous, blissful, delightful. It was all good. One item on the menu that I will try next time will be the Nutella Crepe with Ice Cream and French Jams. The crepe is actually stuffed with Nutella. I mean, hello! Yum.
You surely wouldn’t think to take a mini-trip to France in the middle of Santa Fe, the meca for southwest culture, but it’s worth the detour.
That culminates my food diary for the Santa Fe series and the travel portion this winter. Hope you enjoyed it and consider making the trek to Santa Fe, NM one day. It’s not new and it’s not Mexico.