Feasting Together at Zozobra & Fiesta

Santafe.com - August 28, 2017

No matter your preference, food is a nurturing way to bring us together as we celebrate these end-of-summer events.

This Friday, Santa Feans will cheer the demise of Old Man Gloom as he burns to the ground, taking with him our despair, sorrows and other hardships from the past year. Zozobra will likely burn more brightly this year, a reflection of just how challenging and controversial events have been these past 12 months. The following weekend, the city will celebrate the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe, which is not without controversy, too, given that the festivities mark the Spanish defeat of the Pueblo Indians in 1692, following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Food plays a big role in these events, from the food truck fare available at Zozobra to the green chile cheeseburgers, chicharrón burritos, corn on the cob, cotton candy, candy apples and more sold by vendors on the Plaza during Fiesta. No matter your preference, food is a nurturing way to bring us together as we celebrate these end-of-summer events. Sharing a meal with family and friends or the people next to you on Fort Marcy Field or the Plaza provides a bridge between the differences that have shaken our country to the core. It's also a fun way to celebrate the end of summer. So let's get ready to burn our gloom and come together, sharing the melting pot of Santa Fe's celebrated cuisine. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

You can bring a picnic onto Fort Marcy Field for the Burning of Zozobra, so why not put together a meal fit for the famed 40-foot puppet that towers over the crowd like a menacing king? A good place to start is The Burger Stand at Burro Alley, where you'll find what may just be the best dish suited for Zozobra—the Fire Burger, featuring sweet and spicy habanero jam and fresh avocado. The Smoke Burger is aptly fitting too, with applewood smoked bacon, Gouda cheese, and Bloody Maria Barbecue Sauce. The green chile cheeseburger has fire-roasted Hatch chile verde, pepper jack cheese, local greens, tomato and onion. If your Zozo-watching party has dietary restrictions, The Burger Stand offers plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Cafe Sonder has some gourmet sandwich options for everyone, from a chicken sandwich with prosciutto, pineapple, greens, mozzarella and special sauce to a portobello panini with roasted bell peppers, hummus, arugula, and basil. There's also a hearty house-made pastrami sandwich with red sauerkraut and special sauce and an Ahi tuna sandwich with spicy coleslaw. For a lighter dish, try the Thai kale salad with cabbage, red bell pepper, mango, cilantro and peanut dressing, or beets with ricotta, dates, pepitas and black pepper.

If pizza pleases your crowd, you have some great options. Rooftop Pizzeria's House Specialty #3 fits the occasion, a New Mexican -style feast with green chile and toasted pinons as well as roasted chicken, cojita, asadero and Alfredo sauce on a blue-corn crust. Or go all out with #10, loaded with lobster, shrimp, applewood smoked bacon, mushrooms, green onions, truffle oil and four cheese with alfredo sauce, also on a blue-corn crust.

At Pizza Etc., grab some Italian breadsticks and Buffalo chicken wings to go with your House Special Pizza. There are delicious options here. I love the Giovanni, with Montrachet goat cheese, roasted red peppers, fresh-roasted garlic and oregano. I also love the Trifolati, with portobello, shiitake and oyster mushrooms sauteed with garlic in olive oil and garnished with scallions. Meat-eaters will love the Deluxe, with pepperoni, sausage, ham, mushrooms, green peppers and black olives, and vegetarians will savor the Trecolori, with roasted red peppers, asparagus, feta and pesto.

Margarita-lovers, don't miss the 2017 Zozorita, made with Espolòn Tequila and served in a commemorative glass. You'll find it at many spots around town, including Agave Lounge at The Eldorado Hotel & Spa, Atrisoco Cafe & Bar, Blue Corn Brewery, Blue Corn Cafe, Del Charro, Derailed at the Sage, Eloisa at the Drury Plaza Hotel, La Fiesta Lounge at La Fonda on the Plaza, Maria's, Rio Chama, and Tomasita's.

If the lines are too long for the Fiesta fare on the Plaza, you might find a table at some of the nearby restaurants, including Taco Fundacíon, serving up some tempting tacos. I love the Al Pastor, a sweet and smoky blend of roasted marinated pork, pineapple, onion and cilantro.The Barbacoa is equally delicious, with braised beef, cilantro, sauce and onions. The Bison taco—with creamed corn, Oaxaca cheese and avocado crema—is also superb. Seafood lovers have options, too, from shrimp with cabbage and avocado crema to fried oysters with rajas, beans and avocado crema.

Or head over to La Casa Sena for an elegant meal in one of the best dining gardens in the city.You'll also get a break from the crowds in a peaceful, relaxing setting. Try poblano soup, steamed black mussels with chorizo, leeks, jalapeno, grape tomatoes, herbs, roasted garlics in a pisco-coconut broth; or chicken or cheese enchiladas. You'll find a green chile cheeseburger here, too, with grass-fed New Mexican beef, Hatch green chile and extra sharp cheddar.

Up on the roof of La Fonda on the Plaza, you'll escape the crowds down below and enjoy stunning views from the Bell Tower Bar, which serves an array of quesadillas as well as salads and chips with salsa and guacamole.

Whatever ingredients you choose for your celebratory feasts, remember to make a toast to a brighter future, where we all can sit at the table together—no matter our backgrounds, food preferences and beliefs—andsavor each other's company. So long Zozobra, and Viva Las Fiestas!