Amaya’s Native Foods
Amaya offers a memorable feast highlighting Pueblo and northern New Mexico influences
Santa Fe's 95th Indian Market takes place this weekend, featuring more than 1,000 native artists from around the country along with music, dance, fashion, film, food and more. After you've roamed the Plaza checking out the astounding array of native arts and crafts and sampling roasted corn, Navajo tacos, fry bread and other foods sold by vendors from across the Southwest, head on over to Amaya at Hotel Santa Fe for a memorable feast highlighting Pueblo influences along with the flavors of northern New Mexico.
Helmed by executive chef Walter Dominguez, Amaya offers a unique blend of fare that is both ancient and contemporary, with a menu focused on fresh, seasonal ingredients plucked from the rivers of Alaska, the fields of the Great Plains or farms in New Mexico. Many dishes are elevated with ingredients used by early Puebloan people, from cactus fruit and juniper to corn, beans and squash.
The innovative starters, for example, include Pressed Watermelon & New Mexico Goat Cheese Salad with Agave-Mint Infused Goat Cheese, Baby Kale And Arugula Aalad With Balsamic Reduction,a refreshing combo of flavors as well as textures. Or try the Cactus, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad with Shaved Baby Fennel, Arugula, Fried Cactus And Reduced Balsamic and Citrus Vinaigrette, an eclectic blend of ingredients that combined is a culinary work of art.
The ancient Puebloans knew that corn, beans and squash grew well together, nurturing each other the way that sisters do, so they called the combination of ingredients “the three sisters.” Amaya pays tribute to this notion with a Poblano Chile Stuffed with Three Sisters, Quinoa Cake and a Roasted Red Pepper Cream Reduction. Equally delicious is the Glazed Duck Breast served with Azteca Indigenous Blend Rice Pilaf, Fried Brussels Sprouts and Chipotle and Dates Nectar.
Fish fans will flip for the Agave Nectar-Glazed, Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon, served with Quinoa Cake, Sweet Corn Purée and Red Chile Beurre Blanc. Meat-lovers will savor the Picuris Pueblo Seared Elk Tenderloin with Pinon-Infused Mashed Potato, Sweet Corn Purée and Juniper Demi.One of my longtime favorites here is the Red Chile Vegetarian Tortilla Soup, a perfectly spicy blend of red chile with asadero cheese, avocado cream and crispy tortilla chips.
Leave room for more, as desserts are delicious, whether you order the Chocolate Ganache with Orange, Oil, Spice and Salt; the Pear & Almond Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream; or Poached Peaches with Blueberries, Strawberry Purée and Marshmallow Gelato.
There's also a bar menu, which offers lighter fare, from Hatch Green Chile Chicken Sliders with Roasted Tomato Aioli to the Amaya Bison Burger with toppings that include green chile, white Tillamook, applewood smoked bacon and avocado. I also love the Picuris Salad, crispy Romaine tossed with radish sprouts, roasted sweet corn, diced tomatoes, cucumber and served with a red-chile dusted flour tortilla crisp.
Dominguez really knows his ingredients, having started out in Chihuaha, Mexico working in his grandparents taqueria, where he learned what he calls “chile culture,” a staple in his approach to cooking. He went on to study at the Santa Fe Community College's Culinary Arts Program and has worked at some of the finest restaurant kitchens in the city. For six years he was Amaya's chef de cuisine and after a brief hiatus, he returned to Amaya in 2014 as executive chef.
Your experience at Amaya and Hotel Santa Fe is enhanced during the summer months by live music performed by Native American flute player and Spanish style classical guitarist Ronald Roybal, who is of Pueblo and Spanish Colonial descent. The restaurant also offers monthly Dining with the Artist events and this month, the dinner is scheduled Wednesday, August 15 with artist Shawn Nelson-Turquoise Man, a sand painter originally from Santa Fe who now lives in Los Angeles. The menu includes Pressed Melon & New Mexico Goat Cheese Salad; Glazed Duck Breast with Vegetables; and Trio of Crème Brulée.
Hotel Santa Fe, which opened in 1991, bills itself as the only venture of its kind in the country, jointly developed by local business people and tribal leaders of the Picuris Pueblo, which is located 60 miles north of Santa Fe and 24 miles southeast of Taos in the “Hidden Valley” of the Sangre de Cristos.
The Picuris once lived in a larger village of some 3,000 people located near Taos and now known as Pot Creek. But they migrated to their location along the Rio Pueblo, a tributary of the Rio Grande, around 1250 CE and by the 15th century had become one of the largest Tiwa pueblos. They call their pueblo Pinguiltha, "mountain warrior place" or "mountain pass place” but Spanish explorer Don Juan de Oñate gave it the name “Pikuria,” or “those who paint.”
Nestled on the banks of the Rio Pueblo de Taos, Picuris Pueblo is surrounded by mountains and evergreens as well as cottonwoods, aspens and wildflower and when you dine at Amaya, you'll have a similar view. Grab a seat on the glass-enclosed patio that opens to inviting outdoor gardens and inspiring mountain views for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Watch the hummingbirds flit by and see what other kinds of winged creatures visit the birdhouse. Here you can safely watch an afternoon or evening thundershower roll by. Or, enjoy private dining in a traditional teepee, where two to four people can dine family style on native cuisine surrounded by hides and blankets.
Photo credit - Hotel Santa Fe/Amaya