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OCTOBER 1, 2013

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

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Annapurna’s Offers Cheap, Delicious, and Feel-Good Food

By Samantha Ardoin

Annapurna’s is one of those restaurants that embodies the Santa Fe vibe with its eclectic menu and customers and its devotion to health and wellbeing. Yet it stands out with its Ayurvedic Indian cuisine and its natural, calming atmosphere. It wasn’t until my fourth or fifth visit to Annapurna’s that I realized that the full name of the restaurant was Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Café and Chai House. But perhaps that’s the nature of Santa Fe and its many delights; each atmosphere in this city seems to open slowly like a blossom, offering new experiences every time. When you walk into Annapurna’s for the first time, you can’t help but notice the colorful scarves hanging from the ceiling, the Indian music playing, and the bakery sweets on display. As you get situated onto one of the cushions on the back wall, or at a table by the wall-length window, you can’t help but notice the hanging plants and the paintings of Hindu myths, not to mention a curious old portrait of a man with an afro, and the outside patio with its garden full of flowers. The café atmosphere combined with the relaxing exotic music and the extensive menu choices make Annapurna’s not only a good place to meet up with friends, but also a great location for a first date. It is also a cheaper alternative to a tapas restaurant or the popular Tea House; the traditional Indian options are shareable, and there is an extensive selection of both feel-good Ayurvedic teas and everyday teas, including their own fresh, authentic blend of chai. Annapurna’s may seem out of the way on

St. Michael’s Drive, but after one visit you’ll be hooked. Although plenty of restaurants in Santa Fe have caught on to the need for Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free, and SoyFree options, no other restaurant around has the plethora

of options for all eaters that Annapurna’s does. Everything there is Vegetarian, and almost everything worthwhile on the menu (except maybe for the kiddie cheese pizza) is Vegan and Gluten-Free. But you don’t need to have any dietary restrictions to enjoy this food, and if you’re less adventurous you can always design your own gourmet pizza, munch on a quesadilla, slurp up some stir fry, sip on a Mango Lassi (a kind of smoothie), or just get your BLT fix (with veggie bacon, of course). The vegetarian shepherd’s pie, made of lentils and sweet potato, and garnished with cilantro, is a great option between the two extremes. There’s nothing wrong with being less adventurous, but it’s worth it to try a bowl of kitchari, a samosa, a cup of sambhar with idlis, or a vadai. If not for the fact that the Ayurvedic dishes are authentic and leave you feeling peacefully satisfied, then for the fact that they’re just plain cheap. A bowl of kitchari,

“The Ultimate Ayurvedic Dish,” is only $5.95. It’s perfect for babies, people with picky stomachs, and anyone else curious enough. It’s best to get the bowl, even if just trying it for the first time, for it comes with ginger, cilantro, lime, and coconut on the side. If you want something a little spicier, I would suggest a bowl of sambhar with idlis, which is $7.95. The idlis are just little balls of dough, so if you’d rather just get straight to the point, a bowl of sambhar by itself is $4.95. Sambhar is a spicy and sweet soup with cilantro, potatoes, and carrots. It’s a bit thicker than dal, a similar soup on the menu, and is therefore also more satisfying. A vadai is like a savory donut; it’s lightly fried and goes beautifully with the coconut chutney on the side. While many of the items on the menu are “spicy,” they’re not spicy in the New Mexico sense. The flame of the spice will warm up your mouth, and get stronger the more you eat and sip your tea, but it won’t

cause you to drink five glasses of water straight, or run to the bathroom. “Annapurna” is a sanskrit word meaning “complete food,” and Ayurvedic

Arc Party

Photos by Maggie Steadman

food recommends “sattvic” (pure) food, which incorporates the six tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, astringent, salt, and pungent. If you’ve made it past freshman year at St. John’s, this classification system might remind you of the ABS practica, but, thankfully, nothing at Annapurna’s tastes remotely like Caustic Soda or Sulfuric Acid. All the flavors coexist together in a balanced manner that gives Ayurvedic food its particular taste; no flavor overtakes another. The best item on the menu is, hands down, the fries. Annapurna’s has this great way of taking the familiar and making it unfamiliar enough that you’re almostbut-not-quite thrown out of your comfort zone. The Masala Fries are the best example of this: sprinkled with a dash of spices, and served with homemade ketchup, garlic veganaise, or chipotle veganaise. You can take your meat- and egg- loving parents to Annapurna’s and just tell them that “veganaise” means “fancy mayo that won’t upset your tummy”, and they’ll never question it. And perhaps to those who gobble ketchup down on top of everything from fries to steak and eggs, homemade ketchup may sound like heresy, but I can attest to the fact that I dipped not only my samosa in it after the fries were gone, but I also shamelessly dipped my fingers in several times, and feel absolutely no shame in telling you now. Yes, the homemade ketchup is really that good. The second best item is probably the huge Cardamom Pancakes; these are the best

Gluten-Free, Vegan pancakes I’ve ever had, and the only I’ve ever seen in a restaurant, not to mention the fact that they come dusted with almonds and coconuts, and with top quality maple syrup, sweet mango coulis. These pancakes kick IHOP’s butt anytime (even after sitting in my fridge, already drenched in syrup, for more than several hours). And, of course, if you’re stuffed from the South Indian Sampler, your fries, and your bowl of kitchari, you can always take a homemade treat to-go. Vegan, Gluten-Free sweet potato pie never tasted so good. There are also many different flavors of ladus, a treat made of mashed dates and coconut with other flavors. Other fantastic baked goods include chocolate biscotti, scones, almond cookies, and gingerellas, a kind of gingerbread cookie. So if you’re not already sold on the fact that Annapurna’s never uses MSG, peanuts, microwaves, artificial coloring, or rennet cheeses, accommodates any dietary need, and is as local and organic as possible, then you should be sold on the fact that this is real food, which makes you feel good in both your mind and body, and is way more affordable, tasty, and just plain interesting than any of the other health-oriented restaurants in Santa Fe. Oh, and it’s a woman-owned business, too. Now go get yourself some fries.

Samantha Ardoin is a Sophomore at St. John’s College, Santa Fe. She can be reached at Samantha.Ardoin@sjcsf.edu


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