August is anything but the dog days of summer when it comes to cuisine...
August may herald “the dog days of summer,” but Santa Fe's food scene is anything but sleepy this month, with new restaurants prepping to open, specialty dinners celebrating opera and art, a festival devoted to one of New Mexico's favorite fruits and more. Read on to learn about what's happening in our cuisine scene this month and what's coming just around the corner.
Longtime owners of the Plaza Cafe are preparing to open a new restaurant in the old Zia Diner digs on Guadalupe Street. The Razatos family, which has operated the Plaza Cafe for nearly 60 years, will launch Cafe Sonder next month, featuring “locally inspired contemporary American fare,” according the restaurant's website. That means food grown by New Mexico ranchers, farmers and foragers and a rotating selection of craft beers, artisan wines and seasonal house made aqua frescas. Helming the kitchen will be Jon Helquist, who worked for more than six years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and at some of the Bay Area's best restaurants. No menu is available yet but keep an eye on the restaurant's website.
In other news, a call to the Shake Foundation yielded the news that Brian Knox's Taco Foundation may be opening next month, too, in the site that formerly housed Bert's Burger Bowl. Knox has wowed Santa Fe with his green chile cheeseburgers, fried oyster sandwiches, milk shakes and more, so his take on tacos will surely be worth waiting for.
New Chef at The Palace
Over at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon, there's a new chef manning the kitchen. Evan Doughty, who has cooked around the country, from New Orleans to California and Oregon, offers a New American menu with northern New Mexican zest. You may know him from the Eldorado Hotel, where he was chef de cuisine, or Quail Run, where he served as executive chef. Doughty has concocted a mouth-watering entry for this year's Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown that's made with a seven-ounce Angus beef patty, pepper jack cheese, red chile-dusted smoked pork belly and jalapeño citrus coleslaw, Young Guns green chile, and Barrio Brinery Spicy pickles on a Fano Bakery jalapeño cheddar bun. His restaurant menu also includes Fried Cornmeal-Crusted Avocado with drunken refried black beans, jalapeno citrus slaw and corn chips; Steak & Black Bean Chili; and Risotto Cake with marinated tomato, red onion, herbs, avocado, haystack onion & red chimichurri. Don't forget the Palace offers 20% off all dinner entrees on the menu during Happy Hour (5-7 pm) as well as a late-night menu and live music.
Hooray for Apricots
It's a bumper year for apricots in Santa Fe. You can't miss the leafy trees bulging with the flavorful fruit around town and even in my own backyard, where the trees haven't produced these sweet treats for years. You can celebrate the apricot—which originated in China then traveled to North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula via ancient trade routes—at Eloisa at the Drury Hotel on Plaza this Saturday, August from 2 to 5 pm during a festival honoring New Mexico's Favorite Stone Fruit. Enjoy apricot tastings, cocktails and demos along with live music and more.
A Musical Feast
The Santa Fe Opera is enjoying another impressive season this summer with productions that include Charles Gounod's Romeo & Juliet, Mozart's Don Giovanni and Richard Strauss' Capriccio. The flavors of the opera take center stage this month at the Santa Fe School of Cooking's Merging Taste & Sound with the Santa Fe Opera on August 18 at 6 pm. The three-hour, multi-course feast reflects this season's productions and includes tequila gravlax on toasts, ménage à trois salad of artichokes, potato and tomatoes, savory madeleines, lamb shanks braised in Rhine wine and passion fruit tart.
At the Artist's Table
Celebrate Indian Market this year during an inspired dinner that pairs art and cuisine at the Santa Fe School of Cooking August 16, from 6 to 9 pm. Benjamin Harjo, Jr., an award-winning Seminole/Absentee Shawnee artist will collaborate with chef Colin Shane to create an artistic menu and then both will discuss their inspirations during At the Artist's Table, part of a series of exclusive dinners honoring Santa Fe artists and chefs. Guests will receive a signed, limited edition work of art by the artists and dine on an impressive meal that reflects the gifts of both men.
Shane, executive chef at Arroyo Vino, represented New Mexico at the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Best Young Chef Competition in San Diego last year. Since he took over the kitchen, Arroyo Vino earned a coveted spot on Open Table's 100 Best Restaurants in America list. Harjo, who studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is a leading American Indian artist whose work is included in the Wheelwright Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian and in private collections around the country.
The event is hosted by the Santa Fe School of Cooking, the Partners in Education Foundation for the Santa Fe Public Schools and the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and benefits the arts commissions programs and the Partners in Education Foundation for the Santa Fe Public Schools.
Super Supper Cub
If you're looking for a fun night out, check out Loyal Hound's Monthly Supper Club, an evening event where artisanal wine, craft beer or even hard cider is paired with food that's worth talking about. There's usually a featured speaker or presenter who talks about the food you're eating and the libations being poured. And it takes place at community tables, so you're bound to make new friends as you sample libations and creative cuisine.
The supper club is built around a different them each month. Earlier this year, the supper club featured a special brewery in honor of the annual Bike'n'Brew. Last month's dinner paired food from the gardens of New Mexico with wines from the Loire Valley, known as the Garden of France. The menu included Windmill Dairy Goat Cheese-Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Flash-Fried Herb Pesto; Roasted Duck Breast with Oyster Mushrooms & Squash Ribbons and Rainer Cherry Soup with Sable Cookies. This month, the menu celebrates Austrian and German wines, featuring grapes that most people haven't tasted before.
This month's supper club takes place on August 15. Be sure to make your reservations, as the event is limited to 30 people.
Ready, Set, Bite!
It's not to early to be thinking about buying your tickets for the annual Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown, which takes place Friday, Sept. 9 from 4 to 8 pm at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market Pavilllion in the Railyard. Online voting to choose the final contenders has already started, and includes the Blue Corn Brewery, Loyal Hound, Agave Lounge at Eldorado Hotel, Rio Chama, Red Sage at Buffalo Thunder, The Palace Restaurant and Saloon and the Plaza Cafe Southside. This year's lucky judges include James Beard award-winning cookbook author Cheryl Jamison, host of the Heating It Up radio show on KVSF 101.5; Angela Moore, Food Network and Cooking Channel's vice president, digital; and Arthur Bovino, managing editor of Mouth.com.