Notes from the Field

Gourmet Girl - April 24, 2013

Adieu to a longtime restaurateur, Comfort Food Classic, James Beard & more...

Adieu to Ristra's Eric LaMalle

Santa Fe lost a beloved restaurateur last week. Eric LeMalle, owner of Ristra and Azur, took his own life after battling pain that left him unable to be as physically active as he was used to.

An outdoor sports enthusiast, LaMalle was French and his French restaurant, Ristra on Agua Fria Street, has garnered numerous accolades and awards over its 17 years. His newest venture, Azur, recently closed after two years in the space that formerly housed A La Mesa and Café Estavan.

LaMalle was born in 1962 in Saint-Flour in south-central France and came to the U.S. two decades ago to be a ski instructor at Mammoth Mountain in California. He worked as a ski instructor at Taos Ski Valley before moving to Santa Fe. He was also an avid surfer, mountain biker, kite boarder and windsurfer.

He was also a friend who I'd gotten to know over the years, all the way back to my days as food editor when he had just opened Ristra. He always had a smile and a French greeting for me—kisses on both cheeks,—and I loved to speak French with him as he was one of the few French-speaking people I knew in Santa Fe.

I've gone to Ristra over the years for anniversary and birthday dinners, and even a celebration when I finished graduate school. The food was always superb, and LaMalle was always on hand to say hello and chat about life in Santa Fe. For now, Ristra chef Xavier Grenet, plans to keep Ristra open. Eric, you will be greatly missed!

Comfort Food Classic

Some great Santa Fe chefs will turn out for the 1st Annual Comfort Food Classic, a macaroni and cheese cook-off benefit for Gerard's House, a Santa Fe center that has been providing grief support services for grieving kids and families since 1997.

Attendees will vote for their favorite macaroni and cheese dish made by Rocky Durham of the Santa Fe Culinary Academy, Ahmed Obo of Jambo Café, Andrew Cooper of Rancho Encantado Resort's Terra; Jean-Luc Salas of Le Pod and Carmen Rodriguez of Fuego at La Posada Santa Fe Resort & Spa.

The Comfort Food Classic also features a silent auction, raffle and a meal of meatloaf, vegetables and dessert.

The event takes place Sunday, April 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at La Posada. For more info, and to purchase tickets, click here.

Dinner with the Artist

Enjoy a fabulous gourmet dinner with contemporary sculptor Gino Miles, Thursday, April 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. The evening features dinner selections inspred by bronze and stainless steel sculpture and prepared by chef Evan Doughty paired with Black Mesa Winery wines.

Milo's current work explores the knot as an art form, and is inspired by the morning glory and other plants whose foliage creates one of the only knots we've found in nature.

Meet the Artist: Dinner with Gino Miles is presented by Beals & Abbate Gallery and Eldorado Hotel & Spa. You can attend an opening of Miles' work at Beals & Abatte Fine Art the following evening in the show "60/40," a retrospective of his work. For more info, click here.

James Beard and New Mexico

Things are heating up in the food world as the James Beard Foundation prepares to announces this year's winners. New Mexico has six contenders—in Santa Fe, James Campbell Caruso of La Boca and Taberna Boca Martin  Rios of Restaurant Martin are up for Best Chef: Southwest  and Mark Kiffin's The Compound is a nominee for Best Service. In Albuquerque, Jennifer James of Jennifer James is is in the running for Best Chef: Southwest, while Kiffin's Zacatecas is up for Best New Restaurant. In Taos, Roon Cooper of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal in Taos is nominated for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional.

The awards will be announced in New York on May 3 and 6.

Meanwhile,   Rios recently hosted New Mexico's first ever James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner at his Restaurant Martin to raise funds for the James Beard Foundation, which awards scholarships to aspiring chefs.

The six courses included a shrimp BLT with roasted pork belly bacon, frisee, heirloom tomatoes and Russian dressed, prepared by Frank Bonanno of Denver's Bonanno Restaurant Concepts. Kevin Nash of St Louis' Sidney Street Café made the main course, lamb porchetta with blood oranges, pistachios, chile harrisa, Meyer lemon confit and adzuki bean ragout. Dessert included Brillat-Savarin cheese, kirsch bavaroise, sweet and salty popcorn and chocolate apricot-soft chocolate cremieux, apricot parfait and more, prepared by Rios.

Five of the six chefs who cooked at Martin's are up for the Beard's Best Chef:Southwest, including Rios, Bonanno, Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant in Phoenix, Bowman Brown of Salt Lake's Restaurant Forage and Bruce Auden of Restaurant Biga on the Banks in San Antonio.

The sixth chef, Kevin Nasham—a semifinalist for the Beard's Best Chef Midwest award—is a grandson of the late Willy Ortiz, the longtime owner of La Tertulia in Santa Fe.

Good luck to all the nominees from New Mexico for this year's James Beard Awards!

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

The wildly popular Guess Who's Coming to Dinner event returns this year on Saturday, June 22 to raise funds for the Santa Fe Community Foundation. This is a great way to meet new people and dine on stupendous food all for a good cause. Guests are assigned to private dinner parties held in homes, gardens and studios in Santa Fe, followed by a dessert competition at the historic Scottish Rite Temple at 7:30 p.m., where invited chefs compete for the best dessert award.

You won't know where you're eating on June 22 until just a few days before the event, when you'll receive directions. You dine with a Nobel Laureate or in a house with a few scandalous stories hidden behind its walls. Your chef could be a celebrity from Hawaii or one of the city's acclaimed chefs.

This event consistently sells out, so be sure to get your tickets in advance. Click here for more info.