After resting in Roswell slightly isolated from anything but alien tropes and memes and hundreds of miles of nothing but rolling hills and sagebrush on all sides – I suggested that we leave the roadside hotel scene and stay in an Airbnb for a couple of days in Santa Fe. By suggested, I mean I just booked us an Airbnb from a Superhost who had a two bedroom flat decorated in the traditional Santa Fe style.
We also made plans to eat. Eat real southwest food. I wanted to try green chili stew and chili rellenos in every shape and size. Timing and pandemic were not exactly on our side for this particular dream, but we did manage to eat a lot of peppers and taste above average.
Upon entering Santa Fe we were greeted with a city that lives art as a way life. The adobe architecture style is committed to by everyone from banks to Starbucks, strip malls to churches. It is not done in a cheesy Disney Epcot Center replica sort of way, but engaged in as “the way” things are done. It is a societal agreement that this is how one lives artfully in this dry mountain place.
As we wandered the historical district, plaza and tourist area of town, it was obvious that COVID 19 had put a damper on things, as the Cathedral was closed, as was the oldest church, the visitors center, a number of restaurants were take-out only, and there were not crowds in the normal sense of the word for such a beautiful weekend day in October. I was disappointed as the closures meant I could not see the oldest Virgin Mary statue in North America, or the Georgia O’Keefe Museum (or any museum for that matter). But I could still eat, so after checking into our super cute and well equipped Airbnb, we went out to do just that.
Brunch consisted of healthy southwest inspired cuisine at Sweetwater where I had a lemongrass soda and the oh so Southwest Kimchi Fried Rice (I know, not Southwest at all, but it sounded amazing, and it was filled with fibrous vegetables).
Then we took stock of the local restaurant scene to determine that 1. It was Sunday, so tomorrow, Monday, everything that was everything was going to be closed so we had to choose wisely; and 2. A lot of places were closed or just open for take out, so we had to find outdoor dining. Luckily, The Pink Adobe, a 50 year Santa Fe tradition was still open and seating in its large outdoor dining space.
I was just happy to be sitting in a restaurant that had proper cutlery, let alone a menu that featured Southwest steak preparations such as my filet mignon shown here covered in green chili and mushrooms served with an enchilada with green and red sauce (known as “christmas” in this part of the world). My foodie sensibilities were challenged on this trip – as the point of it wasn’t so much eating, as the views from the national parks, and safe travel despite Covid. But that doesn’t change my strong desire to indulge in the exploration of the culture around me through food.
After dinner we walked around the post-sundown plaza area of Santa Fe taking in the views in the evening. Beauty surrounded me at every turn. And then when we returned to the Airbnb, the luxury of having a couch overtook me as I was just going to pet Charlotte and watch a little something on the Netflix and Shanon caught this picture of me studying the back of my eyelids.
The next day I started out by getting up early and working, as litigation prep and project management do not pause for Angel’s desire to travel the world and see stuff and things. So I took advantage of having a chair and secure internet, and took care of some business before we ventured out. We took Charlotte this time, and found (not shockingly) that she was not welcome in the Botanical Gardens, so she got to spend some time in the dog purse, while we explored the art and flora of the gardens.
We then headed for lunch at a wonderfully cute cafe and mercado that Shanon had spotted on her early morning wanderings – Tasuque Village Market. A phenomenal find on her part and the perfect place to sit in the beautiful midday sun and eat traditionally prepared Southwest food.
Shanon ordered the Chili Rellenos with a pine nut and mushroom stuffing and I ordered the Green Chili Stew. Both were amazing. I tasted Shanon’s chili rellenos and wished I had a bigger stomach so I could order one too. The green chili pepper was steamed and stuffed with a combination of pine nuts, beans, corn, mushrooms and just a light topping of cheese – giving it a soft yet somehow fibrous texture with a rich yet light flavor that matched the colors of the earth around us. My green chili stew held pork that literally fell apart when you looked at it, and its flavor rang out loud of spicy earthy green chili and the perfectly balanced fatty salt of the pork, dampened by starchy vegetables. So good. And it is so curious that the chili rellenos dish went from this type of preparation to the deep fried cheese stuffed pepper that you find in most restaurants serving southwest and/or mexican food.
The market at Tesuque also managed to separate me from a few dollars in my wallet as I found beautiful hand made crafts, snack items for the rest of the road trip and some curiosities like this phenomenal wall paper in the bathroom.
After lunch we took a tour of the art district where things were still open, but we opted to just view things from afar not wanting to actually engage in the purchase of any sculpture or art investments. I was amazed by the sheer number of galleries on the narrow streets, and how one town in a relatively poor state could support so many art businesses. But art is the primary export of Santa Fe and the reason a lot of celebrities and people of note come to Santa Fe to shop and live when not in LA or wherever they actually do business.
Before too long, and after a trip to the amazing home goods store known as Jackalope, it was time to try to find something that was open for dinner or take out or what have you so that I could jump online and teach my project management students from the comfort of my Airbnb.
We were actually challenged in finding a place to sit and snack and or eat and take in the Santa Fe scenery. First by hours, second by availability of seating, and third by the best places just not having reopened yet thanks to Covid. We found out on one deck where we could only get a beverage that a lot of places in Santa Fe were just only able to reopen in August, even with outdoor seating. We eventually found a roof top cantina that had some solid appetizers and food. We took a risk on some amazing looking jalepeno poppers and I ordered some thing with squash instead of getting another version of green chili stew.
It was satisfactory, albeit not the dining experience of the night before, and definitely not the amazing we had for lunch – but in the time of Covid, and dining early on a Monday, what can you do? You can go home and enjoy leftovers after 3 hours of teaching online in the comfort of a furnished apartment with real plates and silverware, that’s what you can do. I wished we could stay more days in Santa Fe, if for nothing else, to just keep eating chili rellenos, and green chili this or that – but the road was calling and our timeline required we truly begin the return trip to Seattle by going North through Taos and up into Colorado the next day.