Savoring the week's most leisurely meal...
In breaking news this week, the readers of Travel + Leisure elected Santa Fe one of the top 10 cities for food in the country (bet that's not the election news you thought you were about to read). But that's no surprise to us foodies, who know a great dish when we taste one. And if, like me, one of your favorite meals is Sunday brunch, then let's turn the topic to some of the best places in the city to savor the most leisurely meal of the week, falling somewhere between breakfast and lunch.
Santacafé has been making diners happy for more than 30 years, serving creative modern American cuisine with a Southwestern flair. The restaurant's renowned chefs include Ming Tsai, Rocky Durham and Fernando Ruiz, who has helmed the kitchen these last four years. Ruiz' s food is so good, he took top honors last week on the Food Network's Chopped show, beating out three other chefs for the $10,000 prize. SantaCafe's Sunday brunch is just as famous as its chefs, an offering of delectable dishes—savory and sweet —that prove why brunch is the best meal of the week. In good weather, a table on the romantic patio can't be beat, but the restaurant's elegant minimalist interior in a historic adobe also makes a great backdrop for a relaxed meal. The signature Santacafé Bloody Mary is a classic way to begin any brunch, served here with a dose of wasabi—it's almost a meal itself. But you wouldn't want to miss the house-made brioche French toast stuffed with mascarpone served with ripe berries, and applewood smoked bacon. Or the Southwest-style eggs Benedict, with poached eggs, chorizo and cilantro-lime hollandaise on a house-made English muffin. The menu also offers some of Santacafé's longtime lunch and dinner favorites, including crispy calamari with a four chile-lime dipping sauce, and shitake mushroom and cactus spring rolls with Southwestern ponzu.
La Casa Sena, another brunch hot spot , has also been a Santa Fe favorite for more than 30 years, housed in part of a rustic, rambling historic hacienda with one of the prettiest patios in town. Chef José Rodriguez's seasonal New American West cuisine showcases New Mexico influences in such hearty brunch fare as huevos rancheros paired with flatiron steak, a Southwestern take on steak and eggs, and eggs Benedict with smoked Alaskan salmon smothered in green chile hollandaise and served with potato hash. If you've got a sweet tooth, you'll love the brioche French toast with lemon mascarpone mousse and fresh strawberries served with honey-chile bacon. If you're hungry for something more lunch-like, try the pean-seared ruby trout with wild rice, arugula, grape tomatoes, Tucumcari feta cheese and caper-lemon vinaigrette or the restaurant's classic green chile cheeseburger with grass-fed New Mexico beef, Hatch chile, and extra sharp cheddar.
Blue corn piñon pancakes with bacon, ham or sausage are a brunch specialty over at Joe's Dining, where crowds gather in comfy booths or on the patio, to relish a relaxing brunch featuring great food made with local ingredients. Order the Cowboy Jack is you want those blue corn piñon pancakes with eggs and home fries. Joe's Benedict is another favorite here, featuring potato latkes topped with poached eggs and house-smoked salmon draped with creamy hollandaise and served with a side of home fries. Or go for the cinnamon-dusted brioche French toast, a slice of quiche of the day or a big ol' breakfast burrito stuffed with eggs, potatoes, bacon and cheese and smothered with Christmas.
If you're a steak-and-eggs fan, head over to Rio Chama, Santa Fe's acclaimed steakhouse situated in a handsome adobe with a popular patio. Chef Tony Blankenship will sate your hunger with battered and deep-fried prime rib and eggs doused with a delectable bacon cream gravy. Or try the open-faced red-chile blackened prime rib sandwich with melted asadero cheese and sautéed mushrooms on garlic sourdough. The hearty house-made corned beef hash comes with two eggs cooked any way you like and the menu offers a creative take on one of brunch's best-loved dishes—crab cakes Benedict, with two poached eggs served atop crab cakes and ladled with chive Hollandaise. For a sweeter note, the blueberry flapjacks with hash brown and eggs fits the bill. Or stay on the healthy side with a salad of spinach and red wine-poached pears ,Danish blue cheese, pecan clusters, dried cranberries and maple vinaigrette. Rio Chama's signature six-cheese fondue is also on the brunch menu, a melted marvel with white wine and amber ale served with bread as well as broccoli, cauliflower and apples for dipping.
You can also order steak and eggs with a side of new potato hash at Midtown Bistro, where chef Angel Angel Estrada has concocted delicious brunch dishes. Take a seat in the elegant dining room, or on the enchanting patio, and begin with a basket of fresh-baked blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls. Then maybe move on to waffles with apple-cherry compote, smoked bacon and creamy cottage cheese or French toast stuffed with mascarpone, served with fresh berries and smoked bacon. A decidedly lunch-like grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, avocado, mozzarella and chipotle aioli, served with house-made lemon-pepper potato chips might. Or, try the Reuben sandwich, piled high with corned beef, sauerkraut and Gruyère and you probably won't need to eat again for the rest of the day...which, in the end, is part of the point of brunch.
Photo Credits - Joe's Dining, SantaCafe and Midtown Bistro