Enchanted by Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico, is one of those magical places you never want to leave once you have visited. This sunny destination awash in vivid colors, spicy cuisine, and art has mesmerized visitors for centuries. Touching down I was immediately struck by the beauty of this desert environment ringed by mountains with the ever-changing light playing upon the landscape. Artists have sought out Santa Fe for decades; now I understood why.
In Santa Fe, history and culture are intimately intertwined. As the oldest American capital city, founded in 1610, the art and architecture reflect this mix of cultural influences. Santa Fe’s plaza epitomizes this beautiful mélange; the St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral with its Spanish influences anchors one corner of the square, which is surrounded by museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants showcasing Native American influences.
Where you stay is as important as what you do in Santa Fe. In our case we chose La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa for its location a short walk to the plaza and the six acres of grounds that made it seem like an oasis in the desert. La Posada has a rich history in Santa Fe and has long been a patron of artists; today it is known as the “Art Hotel” for its 600 works of art displayed throughout the property.
To acclimate to the altitude I availed myself of the oxygen treatment in La Posada’s spa. It helped me get used to being at altitude without experiencing those pesky headaches. My favorite spa treatment was the Chocolate Chile Wrap, which allowed me to experience the cuisine in a revolutionary way. When the mixture was first applied it was cool and made my skin tingle, but it wasn’t long before it heated up and felt warm all over. After allowing it to penetrate my skin while I received a heavenly foot massage, I showered it off and was massaged with a cocoa butter mixture that left my skin moisturized and smelling terrific.
The hotel had arranged for us to participate in a cooking class at Santa Fe School of Cooking. In honor of the opera “Carmen,” chef Michelle created a Spanish-themed meal. We learned about the origin of the dishes and the ingredients and then set about chopping, dicing, stirring, and blending the ingredients for our dinner. We began with gazpacho and salt cod fritters with aioli. The next course consisted of clams cooked in sherry served with fennel flatbread, my contribution to our dinner. The entrée was a savory Moroccan-inspired chicken with a saffron sauce, asparagus, and roasted potatoes. It was such a feast we barely had room for the sumptuous chocolate Marcona almond tart. Throughout the evening we sampled our work, drank wine, and learned cooking techniques. It was fun and informative, like being a participant on the Food Network without the pressure.
A visit to Santa Fe would not be complete without a Historic Walking Tour of the plaza and the cathedral, learning about the rich history of the city. Art surrounds you, with galleries, museums, and shops at every turn. Whether you are interested in Native American folk art and jewelry, contemporary art, or modern art, you will find it here. Georgia O’Keeffe chose Santa Fe as her home and created magnificent landscapes in tribute to the beauty. Tours of her museum and her home offer the opportunity to experience her life, perspective, and art.
The opening of the Santa Fe Opera attracts opera lovers nationwide. Fancy tailgate parties are the norm, complete with chef-prepared cuisine, linens, crystal, china, and centerpieces. We donned our cocktail attire to be wined and dined before the performance. When we arrived our table was laden with flowers, china, crystal, and wine. Matt Ostrander, La Posada’s executive sous chef, prepared the four-course meal tableside. The meal showcased the flavors of Santa Fe in creative ways. We started with appetizers, including prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, mascarpone, and poached pear and Belgian endive with goat cheese.
The first course consisted of a farmer’s market baby beet salad with goat cheese and greens. The second course was caramelized Texas quail served with leeks and sweet corn gastric; it was followed by a decadent crab and lobster enchilada with blue corn tortillas, Chimayo red chile, Tucumcari Asedaro cheese, and herb salad that perfectly balanced smoky and spicy flavors. For dessert we enjoyed a sweet tamale sundae with caramel sauce, apples, cherries, and vanilla ice cream. The menu artfully integrated local ingredients combined in new ways. We felt so privileged to enjoy this gourmet meal surrounded by the beauty of the landscape and looming mountains while the sky was awash with golden colors of the setting sun.
There was just enough time for a champagne toast before the opera began. We were fascinated by people watching and admired the mix of attire, the cowboy boots mingling with tuxes and gowns. The opera house was a stunning architectural creation with an open structure looking out over the marvelous landscape affording beautiful views of the sunset and the moon rising. The innovative interpretation of “Carmen” was fun, and the production was spellbinding. We could hardly believe our good fortune to have enjoyed a magical evening in this enchanting place.
Our busy schedule had kept us from enjoying the La Posada property, so we decided to devote the afternoon to relaxing in the saltwater pool and enjoying the summer sun with a cocktail. There are so many things to see and do in Santa Fe, it felt overly indulgent to lounge by the pool with so much to discover. We made peace with our guilt to allow time to reflect on our wonderful experience in Santa Fe and resolved to quickly return for another adventure.
Santa Fe provides something for everyone: 40 festivals, 250 galleries, 250 restaurants, and 300 days of sunshine. Santa Fe School of Cooking offers cooking classes and culinary boot camps for all skill levels. The company also offers restaurant walking tours to sample local cuisine from several restaurants while learning about the local food scene.
La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa is a stunning property awash in art. Paintings frame the walls and sculptures dot the landscape around the casitas. Many of the rooms have terraces and fireplaces. Comfy beds, silky linens, and soft pillows create a peaceful sleep, from which you will awaken to the song of birds. Enjoy the pool, spa, and restaurant on property and walk to the plaza.