Thursday, January 19, 2006

Santa Fe Reviews

Photograph: Santa Fe Chili Ristras

This entry is less about photography and more about travel. I had hoped to get some photos of Santa Fe with a light dusting of snow, but the snow came only as we were headed out of town. We did manage some good new finds, as well as visiting some old favorites.

Inn of the Four Kachinas. This was our first stay here and already it has become over favorite accomodation in Santa Fe. This is a mid-range bed and breakfast just a few blocks away from the plaza. The rooms are spacious, attractively decorated, and spotlessly clean. Just off the Paseo de Peralta, our room was extremely quiet in the evening. Breakfasts are first rate, usually with a warm course and a variety of fresh fruits, cereals, and yogurt. Walt was our host for the weekend and is one of the owners. We had several great conversations with him, and really enjoyed the laid back ambiance.

Santacafé: This is one of the high-end restaurants we have been visiting for many years. As always, the service was impeccable and the food was superb, but we were just a bit disappointed with our visit. Our expectations have been set high by this class of restaurants in Santa Fe. When we don't get something astonishing in at least one way, we're left feeling that we missed something.

Santacafé is a fusion of asian and southwestern motifs. Nothing exemplifies this better than our appetizer: Shiitake Mushroom & Cactus Spring Rolls with Southwestern Ponzu ($10), Vietnamese style spring rolls with a fiery soy sauce. Our entrees included Citrus and Black Peppercorn Crusted New Zealand King Salmon with Roasted Beets, Swiss Chard and Grapefruit Butter ($28) and Pan Roasted Free Range Chicken Breast with Sweet Potato-Ricotta Gnocchi, Black Truffle & Portabello Mushrooms ($25). Both were very good but not inspired; I could sense no trace of truffle in the chicken. On the other hand, the Winter Citrus and Shaved Fennel Salad with Pomegranate & Avocado Salad ($10) and the Coffee Bean Ice Cream with Piñon Crisp and Cajeta dessert ($7) were amazingly good.

Photograph: Inn of the Anasazi.

Inn of the Anasazi: While mid-January is a great time to visit Santa Fe (there's nobody there), it makes it rough to find a snack and a decent margarita at 3:00 in the afternoon. Fortunately, it's possible to get one of the best Silver Coin margaritas in New Mexico at the bar, which makes a great accompaniment for the fried squid with pepper sauce. The bartenders are top notch and very accommodating.

The Compound: The Compound became our favorite in Santa Fe when it was reinvented by Mark Kiffen back in 2000. Rather than being surprised by new and unexpected combinations of ingredients, we were reminded of the fundamentals of cuisine: the best ingredients prepared properly. For salads, we had the Treviso and Endive Salad with Spanish Onion, Cabrales Cheese and Walnut Oil ($13) and the Organic Butter Lettuce and Tomato Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette ($13). Both were salads where the simple presentation focused our attention on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Our main course was the "Forever Braised" Veal Osso Bucco with a wild mushroom risotto ($30). While again using the best ingredients, this dish demonstrated how careful braising can make all of the difference - the meat was tender and juicy, but not overcooked, and the risotto fragrant with just a hint of crunch. The sommelier was very knowledgeable and made an excellent recommendation - a South American Syrah which accompanied the meal perfectly. The Compound continues to be our favorite in Santa Fe.

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