Looking for a special way to say goodbye to 2022 on New Year’s Eve, and welcome in the promise of a bright and shiny 2023? Here are some options.
DINNER AND A ROOM
New Year’s Eve’s a night to think about booking dinner somewhere with sleeping accommodations. Nothing is more appealing after a long and lovely meal than being able to walk just a few steps to one’s room. You have no concerns about ducking late-night drivers who might have imbibed too much. Nor do you have to worry about how much bubbly you, yourself, might wish to consume. Here’s a mix of some possibilities for you to consider.
As you might guess, caviar, truffles, Champagne, and other luxury ingredients make quite an appearance on the higher-end menus. Beef, especially super-marbled Wagyu, some of it New Mexico-raised, stars among entrees. The menus reflect those costs, running on the high end from $125 to $185/person plus tax and gratuity, with wine pairings at around $100 per diner, if you wish to add that. You can enjoy an evening out for much less, though, if you plan it right.
Have you discovered NOSA yet? This lovely property, formerly known as Rancho San Juan, has been reinvigorated by former Dallas chef Graham Dodds. It nestles in the Ojo Caliente River Valley north of Santa Fe, with views out over the Jemez Mountains. The inn has a few cozy rooms, loaded with New Mexican charm, along with a set menu for weekend meals. On New Year’s Eve, Chef Graham will offer a 6:30 seating with a multi-course parade of dishes. Start with kabocha squash fritto misto accompanied by Calabrian chile aioli, Parmesan risotto with duck liver mousse and roasted red onions, and mushroom carpaccio with pine nut and lemon brown butter. All of that leads up to a grass-fed ribeye steak with arugula pesto and pillowy gnocchi. Dessert will be affogato, with a generous pour of Iconik coffee over La Lecheria’s ice cream, with house-made chocolate-almond biscotti for a contrasting crunch. The price is a good value, $95 plus tax and gratuity.
Stick around for one of the lunch seatings on New Year’s Day and enjoy New Orleans-inspired treats. Black-eyed pea hushpuppies, shrimp etouffee, snapper po’ boys, bananas foster. I’m so there!
LA REINA/TURQUOISE TRAILER, EL REY COURT
This groovy Cerrillos Road motor inn, meandering through five acres, has the best retro vibe. Its updated Route 66-era exuberance extends to the central bar, La Reina, which will be open until the clock strikes twelve. A couple of DJs will keep the atmosphere lively, and the adjacent Turquoise Trailer will offer simple suppers. Many of my visitors, who can afford much more, love to check in at El Rey.
Aptly named for the glorious sunsets over the Tesuque Valley, Skyfire delivers on the plate as well in the atmosphere. The signature restaurant of Bishops’ Lodge, a gem in the Auberge Resorts Collection, will offer a four-course prix fixe dinner created by Chef Pablo Peñalosa Najera. Wine pairings will be an option with each course. Call for details. Live music and dancing will take you through to midnight. If you check in for the night, you can participate in a New Year’s morning hike around the scenic trails of the property, which was originally the mountain retreat of Santa Fe’s legendary 19th-century Archbishop Lamy. High-end luxury and worth it. Aubergeresorts.com
The premier Anasazi’s one of my top choices whether I want tacos or a fancy dinner, an intimate tete-a-tete, or a small group function. The environment says “special” without fuss or pretension. New Chef Andre Sattler will offer two seatings — at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Live music starts at the time of the second seating and goes through the midnight hour. Champagne greets guests upon arrival, while they decide between starters such as a mushroom and truffle tartlet, tuna poke, or fried Wagyu beef tartare. New Mexico wild boar and foie gras pate are followed by lobster fettuccine, and Wagyu strip steak with king oyster mushrooms and Cabernet jus. I would hope to find room for the chocolate and peanut butter cake finale.
Terra’s special dinner is available at 8:30 p.m. and will feature live music, party favors, and deliciousness to keep you entertained until midnight and beyond. There’s Champagne to ring in 2023. Choose between lobster bisque and foie gras torchon with orange-lavender to start. Entrée options include grilled New Mexico Wagyu ribeye with black truffles, saffron-braised halibut, and root vegetable shepherd’s pie. Dessert’s one of those French extravaganzas — an opera cake aloft with hazelnuts and chocolate. Another very high-end property, delightful for a splurge.
In the season of light, few spots are more beautiful than the Inn and Spa at Loretto and its Luminaria restaurant. These days, the hotel is part of Heritage Hotels, a New Mexico-based collection emphasizing history and culture. Chef Tony Smith is offering the regular menu tonight but is adding bells and whistles all around. Expect additions like lobster bisque, surf and turf, and an extra-decadent rum-and-Coke bread pudding.
“We’re always open!” So the bartender tells me when I check about whether Santa Fe’s favorite watering hole will be serving on New Year’s Eve. If you’re looking for festive, without fancy, this may be just the spot for you. It’s attached to the Inn of the Governors, one of downtown’s best-value hotels. Friendly and relaxed with gentle prices too.
KIN, HOTEL CASTANEDA
A short trip up the highway to Las Vegas, New Mexico, is the historic Hotel Castañeda. The original Fred Harvey trackside railroad hotel, the Castaneda was reborn after a closure of some 70 years. Chef Sean Sinclair has a fun night planned with a pig roast and tacos. Castanedahotel.org
A HANDFUL OF OTHER OPTIONS
If a room and dinner are more than you want to spring for, here are a few other reliable options to consider for a festive New Year’s Eve.
Chef Allison Jenkins serves up a four-course meal with a delectable section of options for each course. The choices for mains are winter bouillabaisse with branzino and shellfish, pan-roasted beef tenderloin with black truffle celery root puree, or spinach and ricotta lasagna. As you would expect from a restaurant attached to a fine wine shop, the pairings are first-rate. You can peruse the shop too, browsing for the perfect match, if you wish.
Venerable El Nido, in Tesuque, always seems celebratory to me. Patrons are greeted by fires blazing in fireplaces and in the open kitchen. Almost a century old, the restaurant manages to carry off the patina of age while still feeling au courant. The grand old bar, in the back room, and painted wooden shutters add other elements of charm. Upon arrival, I recommend an order of fried chickpeas scented with lemon and chile. They’ll keep you fueled while you consider fire-kissed items like wood-grilled chicken or wood-oven roasted whole rainbow trout. A cold winter night might be perfect for red chile-braised bison short ribs.
Chef Cristian Pontiggia’s northern Italian-inspired holiday menus always tempt me. Well, so do his everyday menus, but that’s another article. I would find it hard to choose between the main courses of veal osso buco over polenta and sea bass with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and crispy-creamy rösti potatoes. Notably, Cristian offers a full vegetarian menu too.
Sassella’s sister restaurant, Sazón, offers a haute Mexican ambiance. It could be a good night to sample the chef’s degustacion menu at one of two seatings — 5 or 7:30 p.m. Opt for the mezcal, tequila, and wine pairings to meld with the meal, if you’re inclined. James Beard Award-winning Best Chef Southwest Fernando Olea will be presiding over his regular menu too. Snap this up immediately, if you’re inclined.
A moderately-priced alternative to our city’s top-tier restaurants, the kitchen is just as talented. Horno chef/owner David Sellers won’t be offering a prix fixe menu but will add a few festive surprises to the regular seasonal American-style menu that evening. Heather Sellers says to expect some celebratory cocktail additions to the menu too.
I love the always festive Mexican-inspired Paloma restaurant and agave spirits-focused bar. Whether enjoying tacos, or seared sea bass, or delectable churros, a moderately priced meal’s always a fiesta here.
For a French evening out, book a reservation at Chef Alain Jorand’s Eldorado-based Le Pommier. A couple of the starting options are foie gras with roasted fig or oysters with Champagne sabayon. Then choose among roasted lobster, boneless quail stuffed with porcini mousse, or a mixture of roasted root vegetables with wild mushrooms in puff pastry. Medium-level prices for the quality.
NOT A PARTY ANIMAL?
On a budget? Maybe pick up a couple of green chile cheeseburgers at Blake’s Lotaburger before they close at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Add in a couple of biscochito shakes made with Golden Crown Panaderia’s popular version of the state’s favorite cookie and call it a night and a year!
Story and photos 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.