Splendor in the Grass

- July 27, 2011

"...it's a great time to picnic outdoors beneath a spectacular sunset..."

With high summer upon us, and beautiful evenings cooled off by refreshing rain showers, it's a great time to picnic outdoors beneath a spectacular sunset. Here are some of my favorite spots in Santa Fe for an al fresco dinner, as well as some great places to pick up a take-out dinner.

One of the best views in all of Santa Fe is from the Cross of the Martyrs, off Artist's Road. From here, you get a fantastic panoramic view of the Jemez Mountains beneath gorgeous sunsets. Bring a blanket and relax on the grass as you watch the sky light up with dramatic sunset colors – a startling combination of peach, purple and pink.

Another great picnic place is up in the Ski Basin at the Aspen Vista Picnic Area on Hyde Park Road, about 13 miles from downtown Santa Fe. The picnic tables and grills offer a perfect spot for sharing a picnic and admiring the view of the aspen trees that fill up the surrounding mountain slopes.

The Santa Fe Plaza is a great place to enjoy a picnic dinner, whether parked on one of the benches or seated on the statue in the center of the plaza. This is a fantastic place for people watching and also a great way to watch the colors of Santa Fe's adobe buildings turn color as the setting sun casts the buildings in deep tones of gold and red.

The Amelia White Park on Old Santa Fe Trail offers a lovely setting for a picnic dinner surrounded by glorious roses, if your timing is right. This beautiful park was established by an heiress from New York, who moved here with her sister in 1921 after serving as volunteer nurses in World War I. This is a serene setting, with native trees, wildflowers and grasses.

For a little more action, check out the tailgating scene in the parking lot of the Santa Fe Opera before an evening performance. This is a hallowed tradition and people really go all out, setting tables with linen, crystal, china and silver and serving up gourmet fare. Some people dress to the nines, while I've seen others in jeans and cowboy boots, picnicking in the back of their pickups.

One of my favorite places for a picnic is on the grounds of the Shidoni Foundry and Sculpture Garden in Tesuque. Shidoni rotates the outdoor sculpture on display, so you always see something new when you visit. Bring a blanket to spread out on the grass so you can relax and admire the amazing art as you enjoy your picnic feast.

Here are some great locally-owned places to pick up some items for a delicious picnic meal:

If you're picnicking on the Plaza, Roque's carnitas are always a hit. The grilled, marinated meat, peppers and onions tucked into a warm tortilla are perfectly paired with refreshing limeade. Or pop into the Five & Dime General Store on the Plaza and pick up some famous Frito pies, ground meat, cheese and onions served with a bag of Frito chips. Yum!

For gourmet sandwiches, look no further than Louie's Corner Café on the corner of
Galisteo and Alamada streets. Huge, hearty and delicious, these sandwiches are stuffed to the gills with fresh ingredients and really fill you up. You can also get salads, burgers and entrees including fish tacos, chicken mole and fajitas.

If you're a fan of barbecue, Whole Hog's got you covered. Located at 320 S. Guadalupe St., Whole Hog does barbecue right, offering chicken, beef and pork with all the sides – potato salad, baked beans, cole slow and rolls to help soak up all the fantastic barbecue sauce.

The Zia Diner will pack you a box dinner of maybe Southern fried chicken or teriyaki glazed salmon, a classic BLT or a buffalo burger. Be sure to ask for their awesome desserts, including carrot cake, sticky toffee pudding and Key lime and lemon meringue pie.