Notes from the Field: Holiday Food Classes and More

Gourmet Girl - November 20, 2013

Holiday cooking classes, pop-up dinners, a pumpkin throwdown and more...

Flickr User: lucianvenutian

The Great Pumpkin Throwdown

If you've got a great pumpkin-based recipe, hurry up and sign up for the first annual Santa Fe Pumpkin Baking Competition this Saturday, Nov. 23 from 2:30 to 6 p.m at Tecolote Cafe. The event is free to attend, and just $5 to enter. A panel of three judges—New Mexico Magazine's Senior Editor Rob DeWalt, Tecolote's Executive Chef Leslie Chavez and yours truly, Gourmet Girl—will choose the first, second and third place winners based on taste, presentation and originality, and the audience will select the winner of the People's Choice Award.

The first place winner receives a $200 cash prize, and the second-place winner receives a Tecolote Gift Certificate for 4 people and a T-shirt and cap from Tecolote. Third place gets a Tecolote Gift Certificate for two people and a T-shirt and cap.

The contest is presented by Pulse NM, bringing you the best of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Taos and surrounding areas! To enter, call Joseph Santa Fe Pulse at (505) 623-5124 or send an email to by Thursday, Nov. 21.

New Food Network Star?

The Food Network really has a thing for Santa Fe, which isn't surprising since we're such a food-lovers city. Guy Fieri recently rolled through highlighting several restaurants on his show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” Chuck Hughes filmed an episode of "Eat the Street" here and a national food truck competition came through town not long ago for the “Great Food Truck Race.” Chef Martin Rios of Restaurant Martin was an Iron Chef contender and Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, Giada DiLaurentiis and other celebrity chefs have filmed programs in Santa Fe over the years.

Now there's a new Santa Fe name associated with the Food Network. Michelle Roetzer, a longtime instructor at the Santa Fe School of Cooking and also the lead instructor for the Santa Fe Community College's Culinary Arts program, has been asked back for a second interview to be a guest on a new Food Network Show! She's planning on heading to New York in a few weeks.

Roetzer got a call from Bobby Flay's production company asking her to interview to be a guest chef on a new Food Network show. After two Skype interviews, she's now waiting to hear whether she'll fly to New York City on December 10 to compete against a chef using a secret ingredient.

"If I beat that chef, then I go on to compete against Bobby Flay in a new show "Beat Bobby Flay", which will air in February," Roetzer said. "I asked how they chose me, and the woman who called me said they have a team of excellent researchers, and my name came up. Of all the chefs in Santa Fe to be contacted, and there are some really, really good chefs here..."

Roetzer has a long culinary history, starting at age 14 when she began rolling pasta for a family friend in the Bay Area. By age 21, she was a sous chef in an upscale northern Italian restaurant. She also worked at executive chef at Caffe Central in her hometown of El Paso, Texas, and has cooked for presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Vicente Fox of Mexico.

Holiday Food Classes

We're just a week or so from the start of the holiday season, a good time to look at some of the seasonal cooking classes offered by our local cooking schools. These classes are popular and often fill up early so if your'e interested in attending, be sure to make your reservations now!

Chef Johnny Vee has a few classes that are always a big hit, including the Annual Tamale Roll, which is so popular that this year he's scheduled three classes focused on both sweet and savory tamales, traditional holiday foods in New Mexico. You'll make traditional red chile pork and green chile & cheddar tamales as well as sweet almond and green chile custard tamales. You'll also learn to make red chile sauce and crème Anglaise to accompany the tamales. Best of all, you'll get to take home lots of tamales to eat during the holidays or freeze and enjoy later.

Classes take place Saturday Nov. 23 from 3 to 6 p.m.; Saturday, November 30 from 10 a.m to 1 p.m.; and Sunday, December 15, from noon to 3 p.m.

Guest chef Christine Hickman, who has a cooking school in Pierogi, presents Dolci Italian Holiday Desserts, and these are some very elegant treats traditionally served in Italy to celebrate one of the country's biggest holidays. The menu includes bocconoti, or tartlets filled with chocolate, almonds and Christmas spices; struffofli, a Neapolitan honey pastry; parazzo, chocolate-covered almond cake from Abruzzo, pizelle and pan forte. Saturday, December 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Vee's Dicken's Christmas Feast is one of my favorite cooking classes ever, devoted to a Charles Dickens-inspired holiday menu. Not only will you make cheddar ale soup and pub style Scotch eggs and  a wilted spinach, apple and Stilton salad, but you'll also prepare roast duck with chestnut caramelized-pear stuffing, braised red cabbage and sticky date pudding. If you're feeling a bit like Scrooge by now after all the holiday ads, jingles and stress, sign up for this class and re-discover the joys of this holiday season. Friday, December 13, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Click here to see Las Cosas's full schedule of November and December classes.

Over at the Santa Fe Culinary Academy, you can learn to make the famous French Bûche De Noël, mini baked Alaskas, and a French almond torte with mascarpone during the Holiday Desserts class with Tanya Storey, co-founder of the academy. Wednesday, December 11 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Rocky Durham, academy co-founder, shows you how to prepare posole, tamales and bizcochitos during the New Mexico Holiday Traditions class. Tuesday December 17, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The academy also hosts pop-up dinners on the first Thursday of every month. These are unique, one-night-only dinners served in The Guesthouse, the academy's new student restaurant. The next dinner takes place Thursday, December 5 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., featuring classic New Mexican holiday dishes and the chefs' favorite seasonal wines.

The Guesthouse, by the way, is set to launch in January, with a menu that includes green chile cheeseburgers served on patachou with curry carrot & kale salad and hand cut french fries.

For more info about the Santa Fe Culinary Academy's events, click here.