Bits and Bites

- October 5, 2011

"Kudos, Five and Dime, for being a Santa Fe tradition!"

The Five and Dime's Frito Pie

Food writers Jane and Michael Stern, famous for their classic guide Roadfood, have written a new book, The Lexicon of Real American Food, in which they celebrate regional dishes such as corn dogs, egg creams, fried clam bellies and steamed cheeseburgers.

One of the dishes they include in their new guide is the famous Frito pie, popular across Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico. One of the best places to get this concoction of corn chips, chile, cheese and other ingredients served in a Frito bag, according to the Sterns, is at the Five and Dime General Store on the Santa Fe Plaza! Kudos, Five and Dime, for being a Santa Fe tradition!

Santa Fe Harvest Festival

Santa Fe's harvest is a rich bounty of fresh green chile, crisp apples, butternut and acorn squash and sweet apple cider. So it's surprising that no one has ever hosted a Santa Fe Harvest Festival. But that's about to change…

Cooking classes, discounted restaurant prices, a chef's showdown, bar wars, a food and wine tasting expo, a gala dinner and silent auction and a server's relay race around the Plaza are all on tap for this event, which benefits Cooking With Kids, a local non-profit that inspires kids to cook with fresh ingredients from the world's cultures.

The event takes place in venues around the city from Nov. 1 through 23. You can purchase a pass for three weeks of restaurant discounts, unlimited cooking classes for all ages, the Grand Gourmet Food Expo, chef and bartender showdowns and the gala dinner and silent auction. For more info, click here

The New Palace Restaurant and Saloon

With Joseph Wrede at the kitchen helm, the new Palace Restaurant & Saloon is destined to become a Santa Fe classic. Recent renovations have turned a faded jewel into a beauty, perfectly coiffed with wood floors, sparkling chandeliers, booth alcoves with comfortable, upholstered seats and a saloon-style bar outfitted in red wallpaper.

On a recent weeknight, the bar was bustling and the dining room quickly filled up with a crowd. House specials included sorrel soup a la vichyssoise, served hot and rich with flavor, and duck sous vide with French lentils and a fig compote.

We started our meal with the soup du jour and a Palace Caesar salad studded with pinons. Both were excellent, paired with a David Bruce Chardonnay. For dinner, we had the duck and tagine of lamb curry with bananas and jasmine rice. The duck was perfectly cooked and the fig compote a sweet addition to the plate. The French lentils were earthy and delicious. The lamb curry arrived in a tagine, a Moroccan dish that cooks the lamb and is also used to serve it. The lamb was tender and juicy, served with a creamy jasmine rice. A delicious side dish of pickled onions, spiced cauliflower and a citrus crème fraiche accented the lamb.

For dessert, we had the housemade carrot cake and a slice of fig tart. The carrot cake was huge, served with a cream cheese frosting and a dollop of whipped cream. The flavors were rich and redolent of cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts. The frosting was thick and creamy. The fig tart was served with whipped cream and studded with pieces of perfectly ripe fig.

The service was impeccable. Our waiter's recommendations of dishes and wine were spot on, and there wasn't an off note during the whole evening. Santa Fe is lucky to have The Palace back, and Wrede cooking in Santa Fe.

Tabla de los Santos

When Café Estavan closed a few years back, many Santa Feans--including me--lamented the loss of the fresh, New Mexico food prepared by renowned chef Estevan Garcia. Luckily, Garcia is now heading up Tabla de los Santos, the restaurant at the Hotel St. Francis that offers a delicious New Mexico-inspired menu.

A recent lunch there a feast to sate the stomach and the soul, from the inventive guacamole with a layer of roasted kernels of corn and tomatoes to the luscious organic goat cheese flan. Between the opening and closing courses, we dined on organic chicken paillard, served with a heavenly lemon, butter sauce and a farmer's market salad, and a fluffy cheddar cheese omelet with seasonal vegetables and a side salad.

Every thing was perfect and fresh, including the housemade corn tortilla chips served with a salsa fresca of roasted tomatoes, onions, garlic and jalapenos. Other menu options include pequenos, a trio of beef, buffalo and lamb mini-burgers. The beef is topped with red chile, the buffalo with green chile and the lamb with Roquefort. Or, try the breakfast burrito with chorizo or green chile sausage, potatoes and eggs; the Enchilada Nativo de Santa Fe, filled with chicken or beef; or the beet salad, tossed with New Mexico pecans, goat cheese, arugula and pickled onions.

The patio is a lovely place to dine, with a kiva fireplace and umbrellas for shade from the sun. Tabla de los Santos is a wonderful addition to the Santa Fe dining scene.

Homage to the Hearth

From the days of cooking a one-pot meal over an open flame to the convenience of microwaving a frozen dinner into an entrée in mere seconds, the kitchen has long played a pivotal role in our lives.

The current exhibition devoted to the heart of family gatherings in the New Mexico History Museum's front window features kitchen items drawn from the museum's collection. It's a great way to see how far we've come with gadgets, gizmos, fads, trends. Food and recipes used in our daily lives. Stop by for a look before the exhibit closes on November 27.