Restaurant Week in Santa Fe is so much more than a reduced cost menu. If you were in Santa Fe this past week you might have found yourself in a cooking class. These daytime events were not to be missed. And for lunch and dinner, you would have chosen a dining experience from almost 50 local restaurants.
Learning in an Elegant Atmosphere
I attended Chef Juan Bochenski's, "The Art of Making Empanadas" at the Inn of the Anasazi Restaurant. After reserving the $20 class, guests found themselves at an elegantly set table sipping sparkling wine while Chef Juan verbally painted a picture of his childhood in Argentina. Empanadas were sold on corners, at local stores and were the "fast food" of the area. Each seller shaped the Empanadas differently according to the filling.
Chef went on to describe how he grew up cooking with his mom, a talented pastry chef. She taught him how to make Empanadas. Inside the flaky pastry of an empanada lies endless options for fillings -- everything from savory meat and vegetables to huitlacoche to fruits and nuts. In this hands-on class, Chef Juan stood in front of the room and made several varieties of Empanadas. Some of the guests participated and some just enjoyed the afternoon. We were served a delightful salad and, of course, baked or fried Empanadas.
The fast-paced class was topped off with a gift from the kitchen. Boxed Empanadas and the restaurant's "secret" spice combination were sent home with us. It was a great way to be introduced to the delights of the Anasazi Restaurant.
Amaya Restaurant at Hotel Santa Fe
The Amaya Restaurant offered a $20 prix fixe three course dinner for Restaurant Week. The dinner was served in the warmth of their Santa Fe style dining room. A fire blazed in the large kiva fireplace. The boutique hotel’s partnership with Picuris Pueblo is reflected in the fine Native American themed art and authentic hand-painted pueblo pottery visible throughout the restaurant.
It was a chilly evening with snow lingering in the gardens. Executive Chef Patrick Kline and Chef de Cuisine Walter Dominguez have teamed up to create a unique and delicious seasonal menu by skillfully blending indigenous and non-indigenous ingredients.
We opted for soup as a first course... either tortilla soup or a corn chowder. Both were warm, intriguingly delicious, and filling.
Entrees included trout, chicken enchiladas and pork loin, an Apple Mint Glazed Pork Tenderloin — served with Pepper Jack Cheese and Yukon Potato Gratin, Sweet and Sour Onions, Wax Beans and Carrot and Ginger Reduction. Even with wine, the dinner only came to $38. A memorable evening at a reasonable price.
The Old House at the El Dorado Hotel
For our last Restaurant Week event, we felt we were going all out. We chose Old House, known for steak and seafood, and were pleased that the Restaurant Week menu was only $30 per person. Our group was dressed for an elegant dinner and we were seated at a long table. Wait staff was attentive and prompt. Our choices included Ribeye Steak and Scallops (Actually $5 more for the three course meal) as well as Salmon. Zagat honored The Old House as New Mexico's best. They feature dry-aged rib eye steaks, The New American cuisine is prepared by decorated Chef de Cuisine, Evan Doughty.
Most of our group opted for a salad as a starter. Baby Iceberg, Pancetta, Gorgonzola Dressing or The Old House Caesar — Romaine, Warm Polenta Croutons, Italian White Anchovy. Both were special variations on a simple theme. The polenta croutons were amazing!
Many chose the Ribeye Steak. After all, we were at The Old House. We were not disappointed. The steaks were accompanied by a delightful Green Chili-Mac. This was comfort food at its most creative.
Dessert choices were Warm Molten Chocolate Cake — Red Chile Chocolate Ganache, Creme Anglaise or a delightful creamy Lemon Ginger Creme Brulee. Both were excellent.
With wine the tab reached $60 but it was well worth it for a festive and elegant end to our Restaurant Week experiences.
As this annual event continues, plan to be in Santa Fe for the entire week. Take a class, have lunch or dinner several times during the week and get to know a Santa Fe Restaurant that is new to you. Restaurant Week is an economical way to explore Santa Fe's culinary delights.
Dinners are be specially priced at $25 for 2, or $20, $30, or $40 per person - and many restaurants offer value-priced lunches.
But wait, there's more! New Mexico Restaurant Week is not just about Santa Fe. You can repeat the experience in other New Mexico communities such as Albuquerque or Taos. New Mexico is a great destination for a foodie vacation during Restaurant Weeks.