Has Mother’s Day sneaked up on you? You aren’t alone. With wildfire disasters all around us, it’s a little hard to stay focused on celebrations. We here at SantaFe.com are sending out best wishes to everyone who has been — or is potentially impacted — by these horrendous events. Plenty of restaurants around us are busy feeding firefighters, evacuees, and support personnel. Please keep all these folks in your thoughts. (See this story to learn how you can help those impacted by the fires.)
Three Little Words — The Patio’s Open!
Mother’s Day has traditionally signified the reopening of outdoor dining spaces for brunch and lunch around town. I think of this as a great occasion for some of our prettiest patios, porches, courtyards, and terraces. And be sure to use those other three little words for Mom, too.
If you’re thinking of the grand gesture, this is one of only two Sundays annually that the venerable Compound opens. I’m looking at Chef Mark Kiffin’s menu right now and already salivating over the first course options, such as the spring pea soup that will be poured around a goat cheese flan. Then though, I started thinking about the salmon gravlax with tangy arugula and dill dressing, and well, then there are Hog Island “Sweetwater” oysters from California’s Tomales Bay. I’m already torn, and I’m not even yet to the entrees, where I have to choose among the classic chicken schnitzel, one of the best dishes — hands down — coming out of a restaurant kitchen anywhere on the planet. But then I see lobster salad, a Benedict on polenta with basil Hollandaise, beef tenderloin with scrambled eggs, and chicken-fried quail with a waffle and drizzle of maple syrup. Finishes include strawberry shortcake made with fresh-baked biscuits or perhaps lemon buttermilk cake with tangy lemon curd, or — of course — there’s chocolate. Maybe you’ll be able to choose more easily than I can.
Classy Sassella offers the shaded brick terrace beside the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Chef Cristian Pontiggia’s pre-fixe Italian menu excites me more than any that has come across my desk so far. Everyone gets a petite multi-mushroom “cappuccino” soup with truffle foam. Three antipasti options are tempting — pears with sheep and goat cheese artichokes, mint, and pistachios, or tuna tartare with creamy burrata, or the chef’s charcuterie board. Then it’s on to choices among lobster and asparagus risotto, sausage-stuffed quail, or seabass with sun-dried tomato and preserved lemon relish. You can take advantage of wine pairings too, should you like. If the full menu’s more involved or pricey than you or Mom want, The Deli at Sassella’s putting together beautiful baskets to go, or to ship if your mom’s not nearby. Molto bene!
Making a drive can be a scenic part of the day, too, if you plan it right. A delightful destination up the High Road is Peñasco’s Sugar Nymphs. I love to sit on the porch, taking in the high mountain air and looking out to the Truchas peaks. The place is a rustic charmer, sharing a colorfully funky building with the local theater.
The food is sophisticated home cooking, with a special menu for Mom’s Day. Talented owners Kai Harper Leah and Ki Holste are planning lump crab cakes with chipotle mayonnaise, an asparagus-and-goat cheese scramble, and a corn, cheddar, and green chile quiche, among other delectable dishes. If there are scones, be sure to have one — or maybe five. Expect scrumptious desserts. Ki is one of the pastry chefs I know, and her cakes manage, simultaneously, to be down-to-earth delectable and over-the-top stunning. She’s baking up coconut cake, chocolate espresso truffle torte, and almond cake soaked in Earl Grey syrup with Earl Grey buttercream.
Another choice destination, going north, is Rancho de Chimayó in the village of Chimayó. The Jaramillo family’s hacienda, strung with red chile ristras, is hundreds of years old. The home’s terraces are a lovely place to enjoy the afternoon. Start with the tequila-and-apple cider Chimayó cocktail or the naturally technicolor prickly pear lemonade. Then proceed to plates of chicken flautas, enchiladas, carne adovada, and more. Make sure Mom saves room for the flan.
Ojo Santa Fe, the spa resort just beyond the city’s south side, has simply stunning grounds to amble about before or after brunch. Its Blue Heron restaurant overlooks the pond from both the dining room and patio. Order one of their three great rosés for mom — or yourself.
If Mom’s tastes run more to craft beer, visit the expansive beer garden of Santa Fe Brewing Company’s mothership south of town. I always feel like I’ve wandered onto a college campus here. The Beer Hall has 27 taps of beer, cider, and other possibilities. Fusion Tacos offers tacos, tortas, and nachos along with their strawberry, spinach, and feta salad.
One of my most fun Mother’s Days ever was also out south of Santa Fe, down Route 14, at Madrid’s rustic Mine Shaft Tavern. It was a delight to hang out on the highway-side terrace with a green chile cheeseburger and live music, watching motorcycles and cool cars cruise by.
And everywhere else
Some other great Sunday patio destinations include La Casa Sena, Restaurant Martín, Bishop’s Lodge Auberge Resorts Collection (read our story about Mother’s Day at Bishop’s Lodge), Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, Four Seasons Rancho Encantado, and La Posada de Santa Fe. At La Fonda’s skylit La Plazuela, you feel like you’re outdoors.
Whatever you choose, celebrate your mom or any other important women in your life this Sunday and every day.
The Details — Mom’s the Word
Unless otherwise noted, all places have easily located online presences to confirm details, hours, and locations. Much is in flux, with even fires possibly affecting some operations, so check ahead to avoid disappointment.
Story and photographs by Cheryl Alters Jamison.
Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating It Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.