A dear friend of mine accompanied me on a recent weekend getaway to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Most well known for its copious amounts of art galleries and turquoise jewelry, this gem of the southwest attracts 60-something retirees and 20-something postgrads alike for “girls’ weekend” getaways. Falling into the latter of the two categories, Madison and I were eager to arrive to the land of adobe and overpriced artisanal goods, wallets and stomachs equally agape.
Six hours straight south on I-25 from Denver and we were there. We arrived late, so our Santa Fe adventure began early the next morning, in search of a breakfast joint to resurrect our spirits from spending many hours cooped up in a car listening to obnoxious electronic music so as to not fall asleep and end up in a ditch.
We ended up selecting a wonderful little place – so wonderful we went back multiples times – called the Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen. It was close to our Airbnb and promised us organic and locally sourced deliciousness – and they certainly delivered.
The walls display the many accolades this place has received, namely for the Thai food nights pioneered by the owners Soma and Fiona. They pride themselves on unique, diverse flavors that highlight and encompass various diet choices, including gluten free, vegan and vegetarian. They also strive to incorporate local flavors and products into their food, mixing it with globally inspired flair.
Our breakfasts were fresh and nourishing, exactly what we needed to cleanse ourselves from fast food and junk food from our southbound sojourn. I had quinoa porridge with goji berries, cacao nibs and mulberries (local to the area). We had our obligatory cup of coffee (liquid resurrection) and an avocado raspberry smoothie: almond milk, a whole avocado, spinach, lime and mint layered atop crushed raspberries. This place is the definition of guilt free, fresher than fresh handcrafted, loving food – the kind of food that hugs you when you eat it.
After floating out of Sweetwater feeling ethereal and recharged, we decided to explore the city. We arrived to the Santa Fe Square, lined by cute shops and artisanal everything. We loved the adobe buildings… it felt very rustic yet chic, and a perfect backdrop for the straw hat donned tourists. Steer skulls, woven blankets, straw baskets and of course, turquoise everything, decorated the streets. I can see why this place is a popular retirement destination – Santa Fe is overflowing with charm.
Our Airbnb was a Southwestern-Moroccan style casita, outfitted with a record player and a full kitchen, so we cooked a few of our meals, improvising feasts after trips to Whole Foods and the Farmers’ Market (more on this later). One of the few records the homeowner had was Fleetwood Mac, so Madison and I spent many joyous hours cooking, dancing and drinking (copious amounts of) rosé with our homegirl Stevie Nicks… sadly, not many photos were taken during this sequence (blame it on the a-a-a-a…) But we enjoyed a nice feast of baked salmon, Asian green beans (improvised from the Airbnb owner’s large selection of Asian sauces and seasonings) and berries with whipped cream.
The next morning we thought it was a good idea to go hiking. It was, as we joked, because it allowed us to indulge (read: gorge) ourselves on post-hike snacks and dinner later that day. After only getting lost once, we found ourselves back to the trailhead after a few hours of strenuous hiking. The views were definitely worth it, and the food to follow… so what was our post-hike reward snack? Donuts, obviously… what else?
We came across Whoo’s Donuts – perfectly traditional and experimental. I love funky flavors just as much as the next guy, but there’s something so wonderfully pure about a good, traditional donut. They had cases upon cases of the most delicious treats… from your basic jelly-filled and gazed donuts, to more funky flavors like mango chili and maple-pecan on wait for it… a blue corn donut. Blue corn is everywhere in this town. It is clearly a main crop but probably a marketing ploy… the mystique of the blue corn is definitely appealing, and of course, we were lured in. Madison enjoyed a peach donut and the maple-pecan blue corn, while I opted for Boston crème and blueberry lavender blue corn. Like I said, I like traditional and experimental. And holy wow, were they good.
The blue corn donut was a surprisingly gritty, not too sweet base that was very similar to a cake donut with a very obvious corn flavor. It paired very nicely with the very sweet glazes that could have been overpowering without the earthiness of the blue corn. The Boston crème was delightful as well… it was probably one of the best one I’ve had. “Whoo” let the dogs out…
As if one snack was not enough, we passed by Sweetwater on the was back, and just had to go in… Madison got an afternoon almond milk latte pick-me-up, and I opted for the homemade strawberry mango kombucha (surprised I wasn’t carded – an innocent fermented tea drink left me a little buzzed – or maybe that is a testament to my “One Drink Wonder” namesake…) The kombucha, booziness aside, was fantastic. I really admire those who tackle homemade brewing. The sweet fruitiness of the mango and strawberry paired well with the strong, acidic kombucha flavor.
As if we couldn’t eat or drink anymore, let’s not forget about our strenuous hike… Thank you, Fitbit, for quantifying just how much we deserved to eat. Tonight, we were excited to enjoy a meal in downtown Santa Fe, sampling one of the most well known southwestern restaurants: Casa Chimayo. After consulting Yelp and seeing complaints of “agave wine” being used instead of tequila in the beverages, we decided to try it out despite the disgruntled winos’ caveats (note: pretty sure agave wine gets you just as intoxicated…simmer down, y’all).
We ordered an heirloom tomato salad, prickly pear margaritas, blue corn enchiladas, and tres leches cake. The tomato salad inspired the next day’s homemade take (ours was better). The drinks were good – and strong, you disbelievers, and the enchiladas were yummy and served “Christmas” style – with both green and red sauces. The best part of the meal was undoubtedly the dessert, because I am a dessert fiend and a tres leches cake is one of the better desserts out there. Paired with a strawberry sauce, the layers of this massive cake were perfectly moistened, as some tres leches can be too soggy or too dry. Perfection.
Our next day was probably my favorite day out of all of them. It was Saturday, which was our last day, and most importantly, farmer’s market day. The Railyard District boasts one of the biggest and most wonderful farmer’s markets in the country that puts any I’ve been to in Colorado to shame. There is a huge indoor market section and rows and rows of outdoor stands selling fresh vegetables, fruit, baked goods, cheese and more… pretty much anything you could ever want in life, you could find it here.
We bought snacks to tote around with us as we perused the many tables of goodies. We bought a bag of sweet cherries and a green chile/sunflower seed pesto flatbread. Yeah, it was as good as it sounds. We bought heirloom tomatoes, asparagus, smoked Gouda and homemade green chile tortillas for our dinner of non other than gourmet quesadillas and an heirloom tomato salad. The smokiness from the tortillas paired nicely with the Gouda and asparagus got a fresh twist cut crosswise and served raw atop the heirloom tomatoes. With all fresh farmer’s market ingredients, who knew the college-kid staple of a quesadilla could taste so good?
This final supper concluded our Santa Fe trip, filled to the brim of yummy, fresh, inventive food and relaxation in a beautiful, quiet southwestern town. While there is not too much to do in Santa Fe for longer than a few days, a short weekend promises a sensory overload of beautiful architecture, art galleries galore, glittering jewelry and fresh, wholesome food. Until next time!
For more information on the restaurants mentioned: