Restaurant Week Returns - February 13, 2018

Revel in Santa Fe's cuisine scene

Restaurant Week may have started in New York City back in 1992, but the event has mushroomed into a major eating extravaganza across the country, and that includes New Mexico. This year, the states 9th Annual Restaurant Week kicks off in Santa Fe February 15-28, when diners will turn out in droves to savor prix fixe lunches and dinners set at $15, $25, $35, or $45. More than 60 great Santa Fe restaurants have signed up, but don't wait to make reservations as this is one week when everyone dines out, and more than once.

Restaurant Week was cooked up by Zagat co-founder Tim Zagat and the late restaurateur Joe Baum, creator of The Four Seasons Restaurant, La Fonda del Sol and other famed restaurants. The pair organized their event, which lasted just four days and featured only lunch, as a way to thank the 15,000 reporters in town to cover the Democratic National Convention. They also were confident that it would put New York and its restaurants in the spotlight. Little did they know that their event would end up in the limelight.

It took about a decade for Restaurant Week to gain momentum but diners everywhere embrace the concept now. It gives them the opportunity to try places they've always wanted to visit but perhaps couldn't afford or never found the time. Restaurants enjoy benefits, too, including new patrons who could become regulars and the chance to showcase their skills and try out new dishes. More than 1,000 dining establishments across the country take part in Restaurant Week, and that includes some 100 in New Mexico.

The state's first Restaurant Week took place in 2010, and Santa Fe foodies took right to it. Today, visitors sometimes plan trips to coincide with the event. And when Santa Fe's Restaurant Week comes to a close on February 25, you can hightail it up to Taos to keep the food fun going. Restaurant Week there starts on the same day that Santa Fe's ends, and lasts until March 4. Then drive south (or take the Rail Runner) to Albuquerque, for the final week, scheduled March 4-11.

Trying to select where to dine during Restaurant Week can seem a bit daunting because there are so many choices, price ranges and menus. But organizers of the event have put together a helpful website that lists all the info you need, including participating restaurants, prices, cuisine types, lunch and dinner options and, best of all, full menus. You'll want to browse the options but here's a quick look at some of the highlights.

Dinner at Amaya at Hotel Santa Fe includes a creative starter. The Tuna Poke Bowl combines a flavorful Saku Tuna, marinated in soy sauce, toasted sesame seed oil and citrus with sticky rice and an avocado salad with green onions, sesame seed, cilantro wakame and pickled ginger. You could follow appetizer with the beer and honey-glazed Verlasso Salmon, if you're on a seafood kick. Or, New Zealand baby lamb chops.

Eloisa's dinner menu stands out for many of the options created by Chef John Rivera Sedlar, including the crisp potato pancakes with Pecos River Smoked Trout appetizer, which comes with trout caviar, horseradish lemon crème fraiche and red onions. Then there's the Risotto Domingo Pueblo, with sweet and blue corn, lemon and chile. (The restaurant has a partnership with the pueblo, and that's where the corn comes from.) Equally enticing, the Duck Enfrijolada is a delightful assemblage of duck confit, blue corn tortilla, radicchio, goat cheese and New Mexico cabernet chile sauce. The dessert options include caramelized brioche, a signature sweet that's accompanied popcorn ice cream and apricot sorbet.

Joseph's Culinary Pub offers some of Chef Joseph Wrede's best-loved dishes on the dinner menu. Those include the duck-fat fried jalapeño poppers starters, named The Longmire after the hit TV series shot in Santa Fe, and the rich Rabbit Bolognese Lasagne. Don't miss Wrede's beloved Cloud Cake. One bit of this Italian meringue cake with caramel sauce, tarragon and grapefruit supreme will have you walking on air.