Spanish Market: Celebrating Santa Fe’s Regional Cuisine - July 18, 2017

A celebration of Spanish Colonial arts, crafts, culture and traditions that have been a part of New Mexico for some 400 years

Spanish Market returns for its 66th annual run next week, a celebration of Spanish Colonial art, crafts, culture and traditions that have been part of New Mexico for some 400 years. More than 70,000 people turn out for this event, held Saturday, July 29 and Sunday, July 30 on the Plaza, where 250 regional artists showcase their woodcarving, tinwork, furniture, weaving, jewelry, ironwork and more.

While art takes center stage at Spanish Market, food plays a big role, too, as vendors fill the Plaza offering a feast of regional street foods. You can also savor northern New Mexican specialties in restaurants around town, serving regional fare that is, in part, rooted in the cuisine of early Spanish settlers. After all, it was the Spanish who introduced domesticated cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, geese and chickens as well as wheat and herbs—wild marjoram, oregano and yerba buena (wild mint)—to the region. They also planted orchards and grew apricots, apples, plums, cherries and quince.

So as we get ready to celebrate Spanish Market next weekend, let's take a moment to savor the flavors of northern New Mexico that the Spanish settlers brought with them four centuries ago. Here are a few ways to accomplish that in Santa Fe next week.

Immerse yourself in regional cuisine at the Santa Fe School of Cooking in a series of classes devoted to some of the starring ingredients of New Mexico's cuisine. The Red Chile Workshop on Saturday, July 22 at 2 pm includes a lively discussion of various dried red chiles and the preparation of corn tortillas; red chile sauce made from New Mexican powder; roasted tomato and chipotle sauce; and red chile sauce made from New Mexican pods. The Tamales class on Tuesday, July 25 at 10 am explores the intricacies of making these hand-tied treat in three versions—red chile and pork, blue corn calabacitas and southern Mexican chicken in banana leaf, served with New Mexican red chile sauce. Then learn everything you need to know about the New Mexico state vegetable in the Green Chile class on Tuesday, July 25 at 2 pm, which focuses on three sauces—green chile; roasted tomatillo and cilantro; and green chile, mint & tamarind sauce, served with flour tortillas.

The cooking school also hosts a Spanish Market demo class led by eight-time James Beard Award nominee for Best Chef of the Southwest James Campbell Caruso on Saturday, July 29 at 10 am. The chef/owner of La Boca will prepare some of his acclaimed tapas and serve guests a full meal as well as recipes to take home. On a sweet note, 20% of the proceeds support the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, which sponsors Spanish Market.

After you've browsed the booths of Spanish Market on the Plaza, step inside the fabled La Fonda and over to Fiesta Lounge. The menu here includes delicious regional foods such as tortilla soup with shredded chicken, avocado, Mexican cheese and lime tortilla strips and Enchiladas del Norte, with beef, chicken or cheese, pinto beans and posole. For dessert, the natillas are a must-have, a delectable Spanish custard dish made with milk and eggs.

Or, head up to La Fonda's Bell Tower Bar for stupendous views of the city and surrounding mountains, especially at sunset. (The bar closes just after the sun has set.) The bar menu features quesadillas with a variety of options including roasted green chile and Mexican cheeses, honey ham, roasted green chile and Swiss cheese; pork carnitas and Mexican cheeses and grilled calabacitas with black bean mash and Mexican cheeses.There's even a dessert quesadilla with chocolate nutella and strawberries or bananas. Don't forget the signature Bell Tower Margarita, a blend of Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila and Patrón Citrónge that's garnished with fresh jalapeño.

You could also escape the crowds at La Boca for the daily Happy Hour from 3 to 5:30 pm. Dine on delectable tapas such as Pinchos Morunos—a Moorish-spiced Talus Wind lamb skewer with Israeli cous cous and chormula—and patatas bravas, fried local fingerling potatoes served with a spicy sherry vinegar sauce and roasted garlic aioli. My favorite is the bruschetta with crimini mushrooms, cream and a fried egg, topped with truffle oil and Reggianito cheese. But I also love the spicy carrot garbanzo hummus with warm parsley butter, house escabeche and sesame crackers. La Boca proudly serves as an ambassador of Spanish sherry culture, transporting its guests, as its website promises, “to Cadiz in the crisp cool flavors of Fino, or the deep fig-essence of a Pedro Ximenez.” Whatever you order here, be sure to pair it with Spanish sherry and toast the early settlers who so influenced our unique cuisine.


Photos are courtesy of La Boca and the chef/owner James Campbell Caruso.