Santa Fe’s June Cuisine Scene

Gourmet Girl - May 31, 2016

Celebrating the foods of Spain, opera and more

New Mexico's cuisine has long been influenced by the foods of Spain. When the Spanish settlers first arrived in the region in the late 16th century, they mingled their foods with what already existed here as an indigenous cuisine, resulting in a cuisine that, today, is beloved for its spicy chile, three sisters (corn, beans and squash) and other ingredients unique to the area.

This month, some great Santa Fe chefs pay tribute to the foods of Spain with dinners, cooking classes and other events celebrating the country's rich culture and delicious foods. So even though you may not have tickets to travel to Mallorca, Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona or other storied settings of the Iberian peninsula, grab a seat at one of the tables described below and let your plate be your passport to the Old World.

Flamenco is the focus of a special evening at Eloisa, which hosts The Gypsy Trilogy today, June 1. The event begins at 4 pm with a private tour of the Museum of International Folk Art's exhibition, Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico. Once you've learned all about the fiery passion of duende and the dancers and musicians who perform flamenco, head over to Eloisa at the Drury Plaza Hotel for a three-course feast of Spanish fare, prepared by Eloisa chefs John Rivera Sedlar and Andrew MacLauchlan and guest chef Rocky Durham of the Santa Fe Culinary Academy, followed by a flamenco music and dance performance. Dinner begins at 6 pm and the performance starts at 8 pm. Nicolasa Chávez, the author of The Spirit of Flamenco: From Spain to New Mexico will be on hand to sign copies of the book.

Spain is also in the spotlight at the Santa Fe Culinary Academy, which hosts a Paella Party on Wednesday, June 22, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. This traditional Spanish rice dish has ancient roots but in its modern form, it originated in the mid-19th century near the city of Valencia and is named for the large flat pan in which it's prepared. Ingredients can vary depending on the region, but the traditional Valencian paella is typically made with white rice, chicken and rabbit, vegetables and saffron and rosemary but seafood and mixed paella (a combo of meat and seafood) are also popular. In this class, led by academy c-founder and chef Rocky Durham, you'll learn the basics of making paella so you can add your own twists to the recipe. The demo class is gluten-free friendly and includes dinner.

The Santa Fe School of Cooking also celebrates this European country largely located on the Iberian Peninsula with its Foods of Spain class, held Tuesday, June 28, starting at 10 am. You'll learn about the many ways that the Spanish settlers changed the region when they arrived in what is now New Mexico in the 16th century, bringing with them domesticated animals including horses and churro sheep, as well as stone fruit, grapes and other ingredients that transformed what the local cuisine. The class highlights the foods of Spain before they merged with Native American foods and regional fare that was already being prepared in New Mexico before the Spaniards arrived. The menu includes melon gazpacho with feta cheese crisps; cucumber salad with Serrano ham and tomato port vinaigrette; traditional paella with chicken, seafood and chorizo; and crema catalana. The three-hour demo class includes lunch.

Mozart set his famed opera Don Giovanni, based on the Spanish legend Don Juan, in 17th-century Seville, so the Spanish theme continues at the Santa Fe School of Cooking this month when it hosts Merging Taste & Sounds with the Santa Fe Opera on Thursday, June 24 at 6 pm, offering the perfect combo of opera and food. The delicious dinner features the flavors of operas performed during the 60th season of the Santa Fe Opera this summer, starting July 1. The five operas featured this season are Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, Charles Gonoud's Romeo and Juliet, Richard Strauss' Capriccio, and Samuel Barber's Vanessa with an English libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti. The cooking school has tailored a creative menu celebrating these operas that includes tequila gravlax on toasts; ménage-a-trois salad of artichokes potato and tomatoes; savory madeleines; lamb shanks braised in Rhine wine and passion fruit tart. The three-hour evening includes performances by an opera apprentice as well as lively conversation with staff members of the Santa Fe Opera.