Easter Eggs-stravaganza

The humble egg takes a starring role on Easter

Easter is a day officially devoted to eggs. From egg-dying and egg-hunting to chocolate eggs, speckled malt eggs and those lovely little sugar eggs with a tiny window into a pastoral scene, Easter is all about the egg.

Maybe because eggs are an ancient symbol of fertility and an emblem of the re-birth of spring. As early as 5,000 BC, eggs were exchanged as a sign of friendship during spring equinox festivals, colored, blessed, gifted and eaten as part of the rites of spring. The ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, held on the spring equinox and eggs were forbidden during Lent in the early Christian era, making them all that more desirable when the 40 days of fasting were over. The Christians adopted the egg as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ, who rose from a sealed tomb in the same way a bird breaks through an eggshell at birth

In Russia, during the rule of the tsars from the 1880s until 1917, Easter was celebrated with more fanfare than Christmas, featuring Easter breads and other foods as well as decorated eggs exchanged as gifts. The royal families often gave jeweled eggs made by goldsmith Carl Faberge.

In Germany, Easter eggs are blown to empty them out, and the shells are painted and decorated with pieces of lace, cloth or ribbon and hung with ribbons on an evergreen or small tree, which village girls used to carry from house to house in Moravia on the third Sunday before Easter. German settlers in America, including those who became known as Pennsylvania Dutch, brought this tradition to America, along with the legend of the Easter bunny who delivers colored eggs to children. Germany also holds an egg dance, in which players dance around eggs placed on the ground trying not to break them.

And right here in New Mexico, we have an old tradition of hiding cascarones, or emptied eggs stuffed with confetti, then breaking them over people's heads when they are discovered.

However you celebrate Easter, this year on March 27, you'll most likely enjoy a feast of foods that have come down through the ages and traveled the globe, crossing cultures and countries, carrying meaning and continuing tradition. And, of course, there will be eggs. Read on to learn about some of the places in Santa Fe where you can celebrate Easter with eggs this year.

Let's start with Santacafé, which is serving both brunch and dinner this Easter. The Poached Eggs on Housemade English Muffin & Chorizo with Cilantro–Lime Hollandaise and Mixed Greens is a creative twist on Eggs Benedict, an Easter classic. Or try the Omelet of the Day. If you have a sweet tooth, don't miss tthe Mascarpone Stuffed Housemade Brioche French Toast w/ Fresh Berries, Applewood Smoked Bacon & Vermont Maple Syrup. (Yes, eggs are an ingredient in this dish.)

At Midtown Bistro, Executive Chef Angel Estrada has put together a menu that celebrates the egg in every way, from Grilled Bistro Steak and Eggs to Poached Eggs on English Muffins with Avocado, Tomatoes, New Potato Hash and Spicy Hollandaise Sauce and a classic Omelette with Sautéed Asparagus, Gruyere Cheese, Roasted Poblano Sals and Baby Arugula Salad. There's even eggs in the Waffles with Pear-Cherry Compote, Smoked Bacon, Vermont Maple Syrup and Creamy Cottage Cheese.

If you're eating healthfully, the Midtown Bistro Cobb Salad is made with Hard Boiled Egg, Baby Spinach, Chicken Breast, Bacon, Avocado, Tomatoes and Gorgonzola Cheese Dressing . Or, try the Salad Niçoise with Hard Boiled Egg, Organic Greens and Spinach Roasted Red Bell Peppers and Shallot Vinaigrette.

At The Compound, Restaurant, chef/owner Mark Kiffin offers a menu full of egg dishes, along with seasonal ingredients and inventive pairings. Consider the Duck Confit Salad with Frisée, PoachedEgg and Garlic Croutons with a Dijon-Shallot Vinaigrette to Smoked Salmon with Pumpernickel Toast & Organic Egg Salad with Caper & Red Onions or Creole Shrimp Benedict with Poached Eggs & Buttery Biscuits. The Breakfast Skillet features Fried Eggs along with housemade Pastrami, Hash Browns, and Hollandaise.Try it with a side of house made fennel sausage. Even The Chicken Schnitzel, a Compound classic, is made with eggs, and includes capers, parsley, lemon and sauteed spinach.

Visit the SantaFe.com Dining section for more restaurants offering creative versions of eggs this Easter. Happy Egg-eating!