dogs, but they decide on Frito pie and tamales. My cornmealcrusted pan-fried trout with a sauce of lemon butter and garlic was delicious and fresh, as if caught that afternoon in the Chama River. Mom loved her Enchiladas de Chimayo, impressed with the chicos (sun-dried corn kernels) mixed into the accompanying pinto beans. Since the holidays were approaching, she orderd it “Christmas,” i.e., with both red and green chile on the plate. We left the restaurant full and satisfied. After a great night’s sleep at the hotel—in one of the cushiest beds I’ve experienced in Santa Fe—we returned to Tia’s Cocina for breakfast. The meal started with fluffy sopaipillas drizzled with honey—the kids gobbled them up—followed by ham and eggs swathed in more of that spicy red chile. As we cleaned our plates, I explained the concept of a “staycation” to the youngsters. They can’t wait for me to plan another one. On another autumn night, some friends and I checked out the swanky new Agave Lounge at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa. A good chunk of The Old House Restaurant has been converted into this modern cocktail bar, which offers a more casual option for dining—a smart move in these tough economic times. We nestled into a leather banquette near the fireplace, close to the all-you-can-eat slider/hot dog/salsa bar—just $5 per person on Monday Night Football evenings. We got a kick out of helping ourselves while we added an order of yummy bacon-wrapped shrimp with chipotle maple drizzle and a plate of nachos, spiffed up with blacks beans. Agave, with its terrific buzzy vibe, is a welcome addition to the downtown nightlife scene. The bar features a long margarita and mojito list, an extensive selection of beer and wine by the glass, and specialty cocktails with a creative twist. We enjoyed two, a Hibiscus Drop (hibiscus-infused vodka, lemonade, and candied hibiscus) and a Très Chic (a concoction of prosecco swirled with pear and elderberry liqueurs). Don’t miss the daily happy hour specials, with $1 and $2 sliders (Tuesday is lobster slider night!). A glance at Chef Anthony Smith’s dinner menu puts a meal next door in The Old House on my list of places to visit soon. —JV Tia’s Cocina and Low ’n Slow Lowrider Bar at Hotel Chimayó, 125 Washington, 505-988-4900, hotelchimayo.com Agave Lounge at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa, 309 W San Francisco, 505-988-4455, eldoradohotel.com
Clockwise from top left: Tortilla-wrapped hot dogs at Tia’s Cocina, car-inspired decor at the Low ’n Slow Lowrider Bar, one of the stand-out New Mexican dishes at Tia’s Cocina.
Our beautiful town is built for holiday celebrating. The historic Plaza and all the streets that surround it burst with color and lights, heralding a variety of holy days for a diversity of faiths. There is snow on the mountains to placate ski enthusiasts, and our hospitality professionals really turn on the charm at this time of year. It’s a definite call to eat, drink, and be merry. While you’re giving to your loved ones, don’t forget to give to members of the community in need. New Mexico still ranks high for what’s called “food hardship and insecurity.” Making an online donation to the Food Depot (thefooddepot.org) is quick and easy, and it puts food right into the mouths of our neighbors. If, like many, you are feeling the stress and the crunch of this holiday season, let me borrow a lyric from the great Irving Berlin, from his score for White Christmas. When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sleep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings. It’s good advice for happy holidays and a delicious new year.—JV december 2011 /january 2012
Published on Nov 10, 2011