2013: The Year in Santa Fe Food

Gourmet Girl - December 31, 2013

A look back at the restaurants that came and went and the culinary events that heated up Santa Fe this past year...

Santa Fe's food scene this past year was topsy turvy, with restaurants opening and closing and re-opening so fast it made your head spin. Let's take a look back at the culinary news in 2013, starting with the opening of some exciting new additions to the city's restaurant scene.

Joseph Wrede, of the acclaimed Joseph's Table up in Taos, opened his Santa Fe restaurant, Joseph's of Santa Fe to rave reviews last fall. Chef John Vollertsen chose his Mustard Seed and Creme Fraiche Crusted Cauliflower as one of the Top Ten Dishes of 2013 for Local Flavor magazine, and this restaurant is well on its way to becoming a Santa Fe classic.

Izanami an innovative new restauran at Ten Thousand Waves, offers izakaya dining, Japanese gastro pub-inspired small plates in a casual farmhouse setting. Chef Kim Müller, formerly of The Galisteo Inn and Real Food Nation and Supper Club, heads up the kitchen, where locally-sourced meat and produce are the main ingredients.

Charles Dale, the acclaimed chef at Terra at Encantado, opened Bouche, a French bistro serving classic dishes like Steak Frites with Pommes Frites, but he's added his own touch to some of those classics, such as Black Mussels with White Wine and Red Chile. Bouche is located in the building on Alameda Street that formerly housed Brian Knox's Agua Santa. Knox, meanwhile, has finally opened his Shake Foundation, devoted to "The Preservation of the Original Green Chile Cheeseburger," on Cerrillos Road in town, next to Vinaigrette.

We feature robata-style meats and vegetables grilled over charcoal, salads, fresh tofu, melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef, lightly-fried kushiage, house-made pickles, great coffee, desserts, and the best selection of Japanese beer and artisanal sake west of New York and east of Tokyo. PS: No Fish--we're a thousand miles from the ocean!

Catherine O'Brien and Glenda Griswold, the pair behind Peas'n'Pod Catering, launched TerraCotta Wine Bistro on Johnson Street, where Trattoria Nostrani once was, with an innovative global menu of soups, salads, small plates and entrees including Boeuf Bourguigon, Duck Confit and Slowly Braised Short Ribs.

Out in Las Companas, Arroyo Vino is helmed by chef Mark Connell, formerly of the now closed Tomme. You can pair his small plates  with more than 600 bottles found in the adjacent wine shop.His Crispy Suckling Pig with Kimchi, Vermicelli and Snap Peas also made Vollertsen's Top Ten Dishes of 2013 for Local Flavor.

Chef Olivier Grenet, who helmed the kitchen at Ristra for years, to much acclaim, has just opened his own restaurant, L'Olivier in the space formerly occupied by Tomme on Galisteo Street and already has is receiving rave reviews. With dishes like Arugula and Fig Salad, Stuffed Poblano with Rabbit Confit, Coq au Vin and Achiote Elk Tenderloin, L'Olivier is sure to be a big hit in 2014.

On the flip side, we lost a few restaurants this year, including the world-famous burger joint Bobcat Bite, which served what many consider to be the best green chile cheeseburger on the planet. Fans mourned, but not for longed. Just a few months after owners Bonnie and John Eckre closed their eatery on Old Las Vegas Highway due to dispute with the landlord, they opened Santa Fe Bite in Garrett's Desert on Old Santa Fe Trail and continue to serve their acclaimed burgers.

Next we got the news that the Luceros had sold Maria's, the longtime New Mexican restaurant famous for its margaritas, to Gerry Peters. Right on the heels of that we learned that the founding family of The Pink Adobe had sold one of the oldest restaurants in the city to the owners of the neighboring Guadalupe Cafe. The Guad moved into The Pink and Jalapenos, a terrific Mexican restaurant, moved from its location on St. Francis Drive into what formerly housed the Guad.

Rob Day, owner of the popular Santa Fe Bar and Grill, sold his equally popular eatery, the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill and the new owners David Yniguez and Beau Belletthave changed up the menu, adding some vibrant, bisstro-sstyle dishes like the creamy carrot ginger soup I recently tried.

We also lost Ristra's sister restaurant Cafe Azur, Tomme, The Ore House/Milagro 139, Atomic Grill, Aztec Cafe, and the O Eating House in Pojoaque, after chef/owner Steven Lemon left to helm the kitchen at Pranzo Italian Grill, which he reportedly is purchasing from longtime owner Michael Reilly.

In other food news, Santa Fe had its first ever food conference FUZE.SW, which brought together James Beard award-winning chefs, food historians, cookbook authors, scholars and poet laureates to celebrate the best of New Mexico food and folklore during two days of tastings and talks on topics including the flavors and merits of Frito pies, the debate over northern and southern New Mexico chile and the stories that cookbooks tell. Santa Fe also was in the news for its first ever Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown, with an esteemed panel of judges who chose Real Burger as the best. The People's Choice Award went to the Cowgirl, which had the killer ingredient of truffle oil. Both FUZE and the smackdown were so popular they're already scheduled to take place in 2014.

Chuck Hughes, the popular Montreal chef and Food Network star, came to town to devote an episode of  his show, “Chuck's Eat the Street” to the foods of New Mexico. He visited Coyote Cafe, Rooftop Pizzeria and spent time with potter Felipe Ortega making a micaceous clay cooking pot and cooking a turkey in it, along with Katharine Kagel of Cafe Pasqual's.

Also, Guy Fieri brought his crew, and his red convertible, to Santa Fe for several episodes of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” and spotlighted Jambo Cafe and Casa Chimayo.

And let's not forget that infamous visit by celebrity chef/author Anthony Bourdain, who insulted the entire city when he called the Frito Pie he tasted in the Five & Dime on the Santa Fe Plaza a “warm pile of crap,” and said it was made with canned Hormel chili and a day-glow orange cheese-like substance” on his CNN show “Parts Unknown.” Bourdain later apologized for getting the facts wrong about the chili, but people in these parts are still fuming at his audacity.

As for the coming year, who's to say what the future will hold in store for the city's culinary landscape. But peering into the crystal ball, I can see that it's certain some new restaurants will open, a few will close, a Santa Fe chef will win a James Beard award and we will continue to be one of the world's top dining destinations. Here's to a delicious 2014! Happy New Year!