Indian Market is the best time of year to sample Native-inspired cuisine
Indian Market is a feast for all the senses. The world's largest Native American art market, it's also Santa Fe's biggest annual event, with some 100,000 visitors who shop the Plaza for handcrafted items that reflect centuries of history. They're also in town for gallery openings, celebratory dinners, lectures, films, the market preview and more.
Although you'll find Pueblo foods year-round in Santa Fe, Indian Market is the best time of year to sample Native-inspired cuisine, as the entire city celebrates the art and soul of Native America. You're sure to find aromatic bread freshly baked in an horno as well as The Three Sisters—corn, beans and squash that, like sisters, nurture each other, each helping the others to grow. These three agricultural crops are the mainstay of ancestral Puebloan cookery, but you'll find plenty of other dishes, including including pastelitos, sweet hand pies filled with spices and fruit—apple, apricot, prune and more. Try grilled corn, Indian tacos, fry-bread and watermelon juice sold by vendors at the market or dine on local, seasonal fare served in acclaimed Santa Fe restaurants. This year's Santa Fe Indian Market takes place August 19-20 on the Plaza and be sure to check the SantaFe.com Calendar for a list of related events around the city all week long.
Amaya at Hotel Santa Fe, owned in part by Picuris Pueblo, is one of the city's best restaurants for local Pueblo and Northern New Mexican culinary traditions . The contemporary menu reflects regional Native American traditions, from the blue corn pancakes served at breakfast to the smoked elk tenderloin served at dinner. The poblano chile is stuffed with a Three Sisters salad and toasted quinoa with roasted red pepper coulis. Even the bar menu has a Bison Burger, which you can order with all the modern fixings. To really enhance your dining experience rent the private teepee, outfitted with hides, native blankets and more, available for two to four guests from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
You'll find some tempting Pueblo-inspired fare on the menu at Eloisa, at the Drury Plaza Hotel, including small plates such as Cochiti Pueblo Gazpacho, a chilled summer soup featuring honeydew and cantaloupe; Tortillas Florales, heirloom white corn tortillas with avocado Indian butter; and Anasazi Bean Dip with avocado crema and tomato salsa. For entrees, the Pecos River Trout features blue cornmeal-crusted pan-fried trout with oregano and a warm corn salad.
At the Blue Corn Cafe, order the Fry Bread Taco, a traditional Native American fry bread topped with pinto beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, guac and red or green, or Christmas. For a blending of the old with the new, try the Blue Corn Root Beer, made from a secret recipe.
Tecolote may be best known for its slogan “Great Breakfast, No Toast,” but it also serves up a famous stack of blue corn pancakes, Atole Pinon, which you can top with blueberries or peach or raspberry sauce. If you're more in the mood for savory fare, order the Frito pie, often a fixture at seasonal Native events, loaded with ground beef, beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese and Fritos.
For more native fare, head out to Red Sage at The Hilton at Buffalo Thunder, where the seasonal menu includes quinoa fritters and Rainbow Trout as well as grilled quail with native blue corn pancake and Durham Ranch Bison Tenderloin. The restaurant bills itself as a New American Grill featuring prime, hand-selected steaks and fresh seafood dishes with innovative Southwest flavors, but you'll find plenty of fare emphasizing Native American ingredients.
Images courtesy of Amaya and Eloisa