Sunday, November 14, 2010


Sunrise at 6:45 am in Santa Fe 

A view from the mountains surrounding Santa Fe

Spent last weekend attending a publishing conference in Santa Fe where I was invited to participate in a panel on old and new media (me representing old) by my good friend Kent Watson.  It was fun.  I arrived tired, and sore with plantar’s faciitis in my right heel and feeling I needed some renewal. Santa Fe was just what the doctor ordered.  I flew down with my good friends, Ruth and Alan Centofante.  Alan is in the magazine business and Ruth is a writer, currently finishing up a memoir about her harrowing childhood in Mexico and her subsequent move back to the U.S. to raise her siblings after the death of her parents.  They were wonderful companions, and we pretty much hung out throughout the weekend.  We skipped the boring bits of the conference, and shopped, dined, took in the sights, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. 

Dining in Santa Fe can be a frustrating experience because so many of the most popular restaurants indulge in the ridiculous habit of no reservations.  Therefore one is constantly finding oneself standing in line waiting to for a a free table. I have always deplored this policy, especially in a popular place such as Santa Fe.  There are plenty of restaurants of quality there.  What’s the problem? Well simply put, when they are lining up outside the door, who needs a reservation. We couldn’t get into The Shed, apparently a must-go-to and hoppingly busy destination near our hotel on Thursday night, and we couldn’t get into Café Pasqual’s for lunch the next day. I don't wait for anything. Right across the street was the St. Francis Hotel. So we ended up having lunch in this beautiful Hacienda-style hotel with a gorgeous dining room called Tabla de Los Santos. We liked the look of the menu offering a small, but very well priced lunch. As we watched people wait and wait and wait to get into a restaurant we had attempted to breach across the street, the waitress served us that wonderful guacamole. Then she placed before me a not-too-large oval plate.  In the middle was a not-too-large dark green roasted poblano pepper surrounded by the most silky nutmeg brown sauce. It wasn't a mole sauce and it definitely had a European technique--no chunks or lumps. Inside the perfectly roasted pepper was finely chopped mushrooms.  It had only a hint of smoke and heat in each bite, but each bite was perfect. I've never eaten such a refined chile relleno.  The sauce was vegetable-based and it was thickened with vegetables and then put through a sieve. And for dessert we shared a dish of goat's milk flan with vanilla bean. It was denser than your typical flan but I don't meant to imply it was heavier--not it wasn't.  It too was special.  I think the bill came to about $22 per person with a glass of Alberino (one of my favorite white wines). A lovely lunch.  

I’ve never seen so many jewelry stores outside of Las Vegas, Apsen, the famous bridge over the Arno in Florence, and West 47th Street in New York City. The city boasts lots of art galleries, and boutiques selling gorgeous things.  I’m not immune and bought a wonderful widely horizontal photograph of a photoographer’s superbly scenic backyard of mountains, clouds and trees in colors of pinks, blues, grays and blacks. I’ll have it re-matted and framed for the guest room. 

My room at the Hotel La Fonda, Santa Fe

A fireplace in my hotel room

The hotel location for the conference was the vintage La Fonda—an old but well preserved Santa-Fe-style inn perfectly located on E. San Francisco—the main street one block from the town square and across the street from the huge Catholic church across the street. My room was the size of a football field. My only complaint was the stone-heavy down comforter which I couldn’t sleep under without feeling like I was being smothered. 

The hotel has an amazing concierge.  Because my feet hurt, I asked him to recommend a pedicurist and he sent me to Goro, a Japanese man of indeterminate age who had a studio a short cab ride away.  For and hour and a half, this genius (who did a lot of stars during his years in West Hollywood), worked on my feet, my shins and my calves, kneading and massaging and restoring my abused feet. It was amazing.  I think I’ve had one pedicure in my life, and realize I’m going to have to do it more often.

An amazing roast leg of lamb burrito form Atrisco Cafe in Santa Fe

The concierge also recommended a restaurant off the beaten path where I organized a group dinner after a bookstore reception on Friday night. Atrisco Café & Bar is located in a not-so-promising shopping mall outside of the Santa Fe’s town center.  And it’s as suburban looking as a restaurant can get, but at this family-run place, the food does all the talking.  I gave them very little notice that eight of us would be there for dinner at the height of dinner rush on Friday night.  The concierge told me that I must order one thing—the Roast Leg of Lamb Burrito.  As described in menu, this wondrous  creation is chocked full of the most amazingly tender locally grown leg of lamb, thinly sliced and wrapped in a large tortilla. I ordered it with the mild green chili sauce with a sprinkling of cheese which melted in the warm sauce by the time it reached the table. I was not alone in choosing this fabulous burrito.  It was thoroughly Tex-Mex in style but what a combination of simple ingredients—which always make for the best dishes. I ate every bite of this scrumptious dish and think everyone should make a pilgrimage to Santa Fe to sample it. 
On Saturday despite the gorgeous weather outside (you can understand why artists find the light in Santa Fe so special), my time was pretty much spoken for by the conference.  For dinner, Ruth, Alan and I chose El Farol, a popular and well-established Spanish restaurant specializing in tapas on Canyon Road, the popular street lined with art gallery after art gallery.  I had been to El Farol on a previous visit to Santa Fe for a week-long immersion of opera.  The menu of tapas is fantastic, and we decided that’s all we would eat. I got to select the wine and we shared a sensational bottle of tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero wine region of Spain to compliment all those lovely small plates.  There were potatoes bravas (roasted potatoes with a spicy sauce), beef skewers with a chimichura sauce, deep fried artichokes, Caesar salad, cured black olives with orange sections, spicy almonds, baked polenta, a mixture of wild mushrooms, fried calamari and other indulgent things. 

Ruth and me doing the tourist photo posing at El Farol

Tapas as El Farol

Me, Kent and Alan in a garden sculpture gallery in chairs made of stone

Wind Sculptures on Canyon Road, Santa Fe

Fall colors in Santa Fe

A crazy fountain of sculpture on Canyon Road

On Sunday morning, well fortified with a good breakfast, we hit Canyon Road, walking into one gallery after another.  But the thing I really love about Santa Fe is its architecture, and I got to add a few more “doors” to my collection (I photograph doors wherever I go--some of the best in the genre can be found in France and Italy). 

It was great little get-away. Back to rainy Portland where my garden and spirits are thoroughly drenched.  

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