Notes From the Field: Food News from Santa Fe and Albuquerque

- January 25, 2012

A New Nob Hill Taqueria, Culinary Arts at SFCC, Farmers Market Movies and More

Mark Kiffin's New Nob Hill Taqueria

Mark Kiffin, the James Beard Award-winning owner/chef of The Compound, has opened a taqueria in Albuquerque's Nob Hill devoted to foods from Zacatecas in north-central Mexico.   Opening today, January 25, Zacatecas features affordable, traditional soft tacos, empanadas, ceviche and more, along with more than 60 tequilas and mescals.
"Traditional soft tacos are a foundation of the restaurant," says Kiffin, who has traveled extensively throughout Mexico with other acclaimed chefs, including Mark Miller and Rick Bayless. "This is the true food of this region of Mexico."
Kiffin worked as a partner at The Coyote Café with Miller before opening The Compound on Canyon Road. He won the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest in 2005. "The Compound is my passion, my joy," Kiffin says.  "It's where I got my James Beard Award and I'm going to continue that for decades. It's a Santa Fe tradition. What I wanted to do was go back to the food that is indigenous to this area of Mexico, which is food that I love, having spent years traveling through Mexico. For years, I’ve been going down to the agave fields and cooking in the traditional homes of Mexico."
When a space came up for rent in Albuquerque's Nob Hill, it was perfect for Kiffin's vision of an authentic taqueria. "I liked this area," he says. "I liked that fact that it's a neighborhood. You can go out the front door of your restaurant and be right in the center of the neighborhood."
Kiffin designed the 4,200 square-foot interior of Zacatecas, right down to the handcrafted metal bar and the open kitchen. The restaurant is filled with art and Day of the Dead skulls he bought in Mexico along with photographs of Zacatecas, whose colonial center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The restaurant also has three garage doors, which Kiffin plans to roll those up in the summer.
The menu includes empanadas filled with a savory chicken picadillo filling, made with chile, almonds, cinnamon and cilantro. "The flavors are bold and authentic," Kiffin says. "There's no red or green, no burritos, no enchiladas."
Zacatecas, located at 3423 Central Ave., is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. For more details, visit

What's Cooking at the Community College

The Culinary Arts Program at the Santa Fe Community College is cooking up some delicious items these days, including the new East Wing Eatery, an on-site bistro-style cafe serving salads, soups, sandwiches and pastries, scheduled to open in mid-to late-February.

Part of SFCC's School of Business, Education & Professional Studies, the hands-on professional&bbsp; Culinary Arts Program preps students for careers in the hospitality industry, from line cooks, sauciers and banquet chefs to wine stewards, event planners and restaurant designers. The program, led by Michelle Roetzer, currently has more than 400 students. "This semester is our biggest semester ever," Roetzer says. "We are growing exponentially."

The café, designed by chef Danny Cohen and open to the public, will have a baker making an array of fresh breads as well as pastry students creating sweet treats. "Everything is going to be made in house as much as possible, down to the pickles and sauerkraut," Roetzer says. Once the café is up and running, Roetzer says, they plan to create an outside garden with al fresco dining.

Students in the Culinary Arts Program also are participating in ARTFeast's Edible Art Tour on February 24. They’ve been paired with the Red Dot Gallery on Canyon Road, which showcases work by SFCC students, faculty and alumni.

Farmers' Market Wednesday Movie Series

The Santa Fe Farmers' Market debuts its 2012 Wednesday Night Movies Series today, January 25, with a screening of "Dive!," which chronicles the dumpster-diving adventures of young Los Angeles residents who salvage and eat food thrown away by some of the largest grocery stores in the country. The film spotlights the huge amounts of wasted food in a country where hunger remains a staggering problem.

Next up is "Carbon Nation," showing on Feb. 29, showcasing leaders of the low-carbon economy committed to solving climate change problems that threaten social, economic and national security issues. You'll meet Earth Day founder Denis Hayes, Virgin founder Richard Branson and ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey as well as people who've created the world's largest wind farm and a green project for low-income neighborhoods.

The series continues March 28 with "Bag It," a documentary about the deadly consequences of our addiction to plastic bags; April 25 with "Farmageddon," an expose of the U.S. government's attack on small family farms; and May 30 with "End of the Line," which documents the crisis caused by over fishing the world's oceans.

All films begin at 7 p.m. at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market Pavilion. Visit for more info.

Farewell to RFN's Fine Chef

Chef Kim Müller, who helped put the Real Food Nation Café and Supper Club on Santa Fe's culinary map, has announced that she has left the business. You may have read my recent blog post about Müller's wonderful New Year's Eve dinner my husband and I enjoyed at the Supper Club. It was simply one of the finest meals I've had in Santa Fe.  I haven't returned to the Supper Club since then, but I did want to alert readers that Müller is no longer the chef there. If you've recently dined at the RFN Café or Supper Club, I'd love to hear from you about how you liked your meal.  Kim, we will miss you greatly and we look forward to hearing about your next project. No doubt, it will be delicious!

The Betterday Coffee Shop

If you're a fan of Stumptown coffee, you're in luck. A new coffee shop has just opened in the Solana Shopping Center and it's devoted to this popular coffee produced by Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which originated in the Pacific Northwest.

"We're a coffee shop, not a café," says owner Tom Frost, pointing out that coffee shops offer a menu that supports the coffee rather than coffee that supports the food. "I really believe in Stumptown Coffee. I've been drinking it for a long time."

Betterday's menu features organic, locally sourced healthy food, including the Dank Burrito, made with quinoa, adzuki beans, avocado, cheddar cheese and raw red chile sauce. Blue corn tacos are filled with quinoa, adzuki beans, cheddar cheese, onion, cucumber, sunflower sprouts and red chile sauce. The menu also include quesadillas, an avocado sandwich and bakery items, including bagels and bear claws.

But Stumptown coffee is the heavy hitter here, including Hair Bender, a complex espresso blend of coffee from Latin America, East Africa and Indonesia. Betterday's coffee menu includes Americanos, machiattos, cappuccinos and more.

Betterday has partnered with Mello Vello to raffle off a $1,000 Cinelli bicycle on Superbowl Sunday (February 5). To enter, simply purchase an espresso and you'll receive a free raffle ticket. The coffee shop also hosts Story Time with Papa Dave, who reads picture books, classic chapter books, and poems and performs a song or two on Mondays at 3:30 p.m.

Betterday is open from 6:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. For more info, visit