The inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival takes place May 21 – 23, 2022, and you’re invited to join in. And who would guess that a literary festival would also be just the place for food writers and lovers to gather? Our Heating It Up writer Cheryl Alters Jamison, that’s who! Here’s what she has to say about this exciting new Santa Fe festival.
THE LITERARY STARS ALIGN
Consider the number of independent bookstores Santa Fe supports, the usual strong turn-out for author events, and the prodigious collection of writers — George R.R. Martin, M. Scott Momaday, Carmella Padilla, Douglas Preston, Hampton Sides, Anne Hillerman, James McGrath Morris, to name a handful — who make their homes here. I doubt there’s a better community anywhere to hold a literary extravaganza. So why hasn’t a festival of the written word gotten traction before? There’s an easy answer. Someone has to organize it.
Luckily for all of us who love books, the right collection of people brainstormed this pie-in-the-Santa Fe-blue-sky concept, then got down to the details. The co-founders are a pair of dynamos — author and food writer for The Independent, Julia Platt Leonard, and PR wizard Clare Hertl. Among Clare’s many notable accomplishments was helping turn the International Folk Art Market into a worldwide phenomenon. Collaborating with Julia and Clare is Mark Bryant, a well-connected editor, publisher, and freelance literary consultant. With their collective contacts in Santa Fe and the greater world, they’ve assembled a blockbuster brimming with talent. Envision those local luminaries above in the same place with Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, John Grisham, Sandra Cisneros, Jon Krakauer, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, and Craig Johnson, author of the wildly popular Longmire series. Magic truly can happen.
A SCRUMPTIOUS MENU OF CULINARY HAPPENINGS
The festival will be serving up a big helping of culinary excellence too. A couple of the visiting authors will host lunches inspired by their cookbooks. Bryant Terry, chef and author of Black Food and recipient of both a James Beard Award and an NAACP Image award, will be in conversation with Keith Recker, publisher of Table Magazine. On Sunday, lunch will feature dishes from Native foods educator and chef Freddie Bitsoie’s, New Native Kitchen. He’ll be talking with Jill Momaday.
A SPOT OF TEA
Who knows more about afternoon tea than a bunch of Londoners? This extraordinary collection of UK-based restaurateurs and cookbook authors will be among the highlights of the festival for me personally. Honey & Co owners Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich host tea on Saturday afternoon. They’ll serve up some of their Middle Eastern tidbits and pastries, while talking about their multiple books, all of which burst with inspired dishes from Jordan, Egypt, and beyond. On Sunday, Asma Kahn, owner of Darjeeling Express and author of Asma’s Indian Kitchen, will take the stage. She’ll offer Indian snacks accompanied by discussion of her remarkable life journey from Calcutta, as well as her nonprofit Second Daughters’ Foundation.
AROUND THE TEQUILA TABLE
Tea not your cuppa? Sazón restaurant will present tastings of tequila and other agave spirits late afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday. To accompany its haute Mexican menu, the restaurant has one of the deepest collections of tequila, mezcal, and sotol in the country. James Beard award-nominated chef Fernando Olea will treat participants to some of his favorites while explaining the similarities and differences among these very special Mexican beverages.
WALK & TALKS
As one of the featured cookbook authors, I’ll be hosting a Walk & Talk presentation, The History of Chile, based on my book, Tasting New Mexico. On Sunday afternoon, fifteen participants will stroll with me to the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Along the way, I’ll discuss our star culinary ingredient, our justly famous hot stuff. Upon arrival, everyone gets samples of chile sauce and enchiladas, green and red. It will feel good to stretch our legs, as well as get a quick chile fix.
Lynn Cline, local author of The Maverick Cookbook, leads a group around downtown to discuss the Santa Fe Writers’ Colony active here in the first half of the 20th century, from Willa Cather to Witter Bynner. The focus isn’t food, per se, but I’ll bet that Lynn will throw in some culinary tidbits along the way. Lynn’s tour also takes place Sunday afternoon.
SUSTAINABILITY AT LOS POBLANOS
What could be more inspiring for folks with serious food interests than a day at Los Poblanos, the stunning farm property in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque? On Monday, May 24, a remarkable collection of talent will gather to discuss various aspects of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Galisteo resident and multi-James Beard award-winning cookbook author Deborah Madison will be in conversation with environmental lawyer-turned-rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Defending Beef. They’ll talk about whether meat production and consumption can be sustainable.
Native chef Freddie Bitsoie, mentioned above, will be on hand to suggest how chefs and the food industry can help create and support more sustainability. Wes Brittenham, Los Poblanos’ director of horticulture, is all too familiar with the challenges of arid farming here in the Southwest. He’ll detail the model they’ve created for sustainable growing.
The farm’s restaurant, Campo, a charmingly rustic spot overlooking the lavender fields, will serve lunch for participants. Many of Campo’s ingredients are grown and harvested on the property. In the later afternoon, a cocktail demo features beverages created with herbs and botanicals from the property. If I didn’t have my own workshop concurrent with this, I’d certainly be here.
HUNGRY FOR MORE
Yes, that’s me again, with a half-day workshop also on Monday, at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Want to know how I found my voice as a food writer, and how that might help you find yours? The best food writing, especially with recipes, mixes technical writing with an evocative voice and literary flair. Learn how to combine the ingredients in a style all your own. For inspiration, the workshop includes a chance to make tamales, as well as enjoy a lunch of recipes from my Tasting New Mexico. It’s accompanied by a flight of New Mexico’s best wines too.
OUT OF THE BOX
These kind folks actually named the event’s box lunches after Deborah Madison and me. Adobo Catering is whipping up meals you can order for either Saturday or Sunday. You can enjoy your food while sitting in on author presentations, or head outdoors to the convention center’s courtyard. The Deb includes saffron-marinated and grilled cauliflower steaks and fruit with mascarpone, mint, and black pepper. The Cheryl features smoked chicken bathed in a New Mexican green chile mole along with saffron and tomato rice. Reserve them on the festival’s order form.
SIGN UP NOW
In order to concentrate on the food-related activities, I’ve left out at least a dozen authors and two dozen other major festival happenings.
It’s all at: sfliteraryfestival.org.
Buy a package or sign up a la carte. Books can be ordered ahead, if you wish, to make sure you get the ones you want. Most events are at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, Marcy at Grant Street, in downtown Santa Fe. Ample underground parking is accessed from Federal Place.
AND ONE MORE TASTY OPTION
Freddie Bitsoie, mentioned above, will be cooking dinner Sunday evening, May 23, at Terra, the restaurant of Four Seasons Rancho Encantado in Tesuque. The four-course menu features recipes from his New Native Kitchen. Expect piñon-crusted salmon with corn sauce and tepary bean salad and sumac seared leg of lamb with onion sauce, among other options. Wine pairings will be available too. What a lovely way to close out the festival weekend. Call the hotel directly at 505-946-5800 for reservations and additional details.
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.