December Cuisine Scene - December 6, 2017

Celebrating the holidaze season in Old Santa Fe

Early December in old Santa Fe, yet Christmas feels like it's one week away. There's so much to cook and to bake and then wrap, and don't forget cards, if you're still into that. The holiday parties that wish us good cheer, the longing for dear ones so far to be near. 'Tis the season, by golly, and time to be jolly. But maybe you haven't yet found the right gift? Or perhaps your spirits just need a lift. If so, read on and you will behold, as a wonderful holiday list will unfold. With suggestions for dancing and music and fare as well as some presents you might want to share.

Holiday Flamenco Fun

We'll start with flamenco because the dance and music form, which originated in southern Spain's Andalusia, is hotter than ever in Santa Fe, thanks to new and re-newed spaces that opened this year. From Tesuque in the north down to the heart of Canyon Road and beyond, you'll find opportunities across the area to witness dramatic dancers dressed in traditional garb, passionately stomping their feet as a talented musician plays classic Spanish guitar music. Here's a look at some of the holiday performances scheduled this month.

Out in Tesuque, El Nido was closed for a spate, but it re-opened this year with new owners, following renovations. The restaurant includes an intimate stage for monthly flamenco performances by the Santa Fe-based Antonio Granjero + Entreflamenco troupe, which just opened its own venue downtown, offering classes and a tapas and performance space. You still have time to make your reservations for El Nido's Sunday, Dec. 9 performance at 6 pm, where you'll savor Chef Cristian Pontiggia's four-course dinner. The meal begins with white truffle potato zuppa, a hearty soup garnished with a fried cheese crostini, followed by a creamy artichoke and brie Parmesan fondue. The paella entrée includes pearl barley and rosemary along with tiger shrimp, mussels, clams, chorizo, Italian sausage, chicken, zucchini , bell peppers and chipotle sauce. The end note to the evening, a mascarpone cup, includes chocolate, vanilla and an amaretto cookie crumble.

Up Canyon Road, El Farol was long known as the Santa Fe place to go for flamenco and tapas, until longtime owner David Salazar decided to sell it. A new team took the helm and re-opened the eatery this fall, keeping the the flamenco tradition going.If you haven't yet checked out the newly renovated space, head on over for the Holiday Flamenco Dinner Show, held on Friday, Dec. 22, Friday, Dec. 29 and Saturday, Dec. 30. Seating starts at 6:30 pm and you can order anything off the dinner menu as you watch the show.You might try the aguacate, a popular holdover from Salazar's menu that blends flash fried avocado with pico de gallo and lime crema. The Ensalada El Farol blends roasted pears, Manchego and field greens with a a piñon sherry vinaigrette. For your main dish, consider Paella El Faro, with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, mussels, piquillo peppers, lima beans, sofrito, saffron and Calasparra rice.Or try the Spanish red peppers stuffed with wild rice, onions, garlic, asado squash, grilled nopales, cashew “queso” and mole blanco. For dessert, dig into the steamed warm raisin cake, a concoction of red wine toffee, balsamic golden raisins, honey roasted walnuts and crisp apple, served with vanilla gelato.

And speaking of Spain, you can savor its flavors at La Boca, helmed by the James Beard Award-winning chef James Campbell Caruso (who used to work at El Farol and was born in the Basque region.) He's an ambassador for Spain's sherry culture and his tapas—inspired by Spanish and Mediterranean cuisines, are world-famous. A sampling of La Boca's “Untouchables” tapas includes bacon-wrapped dates, stuffed with marcona almonds and served with a dipping sauce made with Cabrales, am artisanal Spanish blue cheese, along with pomegranate molasses. There's also the Spicy Carrot Garbanzo Hummus served with warm parsley butter, house escabeche and sesame crackers. While you dine, you can frequently enjoy traditional Spanish guitar music performed in La Boca as well as the Taberna around the corner.

If you have a Spanish foodie in your life, La Boca's Flavors of Spain Box makes a great gift. With three types of flavored sea salt—preserved lemon, pimenton or Moroccan spice—as well as garlic-lemon green olives, roasted marcona almonds flavored with rosemary and lemon or smoked paprika, house-made polverones (pecan wedding cookies) a custom La Boca wooden spoon and more, you can't go wrong. There's also a pinchos spice rub mix with a recipe card so you'll know how make traditional grilled meat skewer recipes from southern Spain, using the traditional lamb or chicken as well as pork, beef and shrimp.

Holidaze Shopping

Did you catch the Santa Fe School of Cooking featured in the December issue of Food Network Magazine? The article “Christmas in Santa Fe: This charming Southwestern town is a dreamy holiday getaway,” describes the school thusly: “New Mexico is the land of green chiles (sic), and you'll learn all about them at this culinary school. Look for special holiday classes starting in November that cover tamales, posole, chile sauce and other Christmas-dinner essentials.”

A few of those classes are still available, including the Traditional New Mexican Christmas class on Sunday, December 9. You'll  learn how to make regional holiday foods that have come down through the centuries, including tamales made with shredded pork and also poblano and corn, served with a red chile sauce; posole, and, course, bizcochitos—the official state cookie of New Mexico. The three-hour demo class begins at 10 am.

While there, you can shop for gifts and have them wrapped and shipped, too, taking some of the stress out of holiday shopping. The school's Market is chock-a-block full of items for the cooks and food-lovers in your life, from aprons and kitchen tools to spices, sauces and dozens of other condiments. You'll also find festive dinnerware, cookbooks, decorative items and more. Assemble your own gift baskets, customizing each one for friends, family and colleagues.