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[Santa Fe] More Fine Dining

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Aqua Santa is one year old. Its owner and chef, Brian Knox, used to have perhaps the best-loved restaurant in Santa Fe, Escalera, ......One of his signature dishes is slow-braised lamb ragù over papardelle with hazelnuts and pecorino. The lamb, melt-in-the-mouth tender, comes from local farmers who graze their flocks on fields where hazel trees grow, and presumably hazelnuts fall. However subtly, not only an infusion of hazelnut has entered the meat but also the pecorino cheese, made from ewes' milk. The result is a sense of deep, rustic harmony.





Eric Stapelman, owner and sommelier of Nostrani, and Nelli Maltezos, the head chef,........

After an amuse-bouche of porcini risotto cake over diced beets, we started in with bruschetta with artichoke pâté and tapenade, and autumn harvest roasted plum tomato soup, with heirloom tomatoes from the restaurant's organic garden. Both dishes set the tone, achieving a surprising mix of lightness and richness. Our primi piatti were truffle taglierini with Parmesan, and potato gnocchi with aged Asiago cheese





Dinners here consist of a number of smaller dishes. We began with palate-cleansing cucumber shavings with seaweed, refreshing with their touch of shiso, a mintlike herb - something like super-subtle gherkins; then a cake of chilled tofu with scallion marmalade (hiya-yakko tofu). Then came hot grilled skewers of shiitake mushrooms, the hot chunky flesh mixing well with the cool daikon.


A signature dish is the free-range chicken gyozas, their filling ground in-house, slightly spicy and wonderful, which we followed with a palate-cleansing mound of blanched, chilled spinach with sesame dressing (goma ae)



Fine Dining



Aqua Santa, 451 West Alameda, (505) 982-6297. Dinner Tuesday to Saturday; lunch Wednesday to Friday. $70 to $100.


Trattoria Nostrani, 304 Johnson, (505) 983-3800. Dinner only; closed Sunday. Around $120.


Kasasoba, 544 Agua Fria, (505) 984-1969. Lunch weekdays (noodles only), dinner daily. Around $85.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Went to Trattoria Nostrani last year and not very impressed. Wilf would have cringed at the chilly plates under the hot food. Outrageously expensive wine list.


Honest, folks, if in Santa Fe, stick with New Mexican cuisine.


I'll give more details when we make our annual mountain retreat slash two week binge fest in January.

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NY Times has an article about Christmas in Santa Fe, Bernalillo, etc.


FIRST, there is the smell. Perhaps nothing defines Santa Fe at Christmas so much as the piquant scent of piñón wood in the clear night air, the temperature hovering in single digits, the smoke an enveloping garland of warmth extending from faux-brick hearths in modest doublewides to sculptured kiva fireplaces in the corners of art galleries on Canyon Road.




Some people go so far as to compare the high desert expanses of northern New Mexico to the Holy Land. But the Holy Land doesn't have posole - the traditional New Mexico pork and hominy stew - tamales, blue corn tortillas or bizcochitos, the tiny anise Christmas cookies that have the improbable honor of being the official state cookie of New Mexico.



For a few hours during the city's famous farolito walk, on that evening, usually in the biting cold, cars are verboten, electric street lights are turned off and the pulse of modern life grows faint. While tourists mob Canyon Road, the city's art gallery ghetto, locals descend on historic side streets like Acequia Madre, breaking into spontaneous Christmas carols while huddling around fragrant bonfires of stacked piñón wood. In Plaza Fatima, a hidden side street lined with adobe walls ending in a courtyard, kids stand transfixed by the "farolito train" on a Lionel track. Then there are the "flying farolitos" - glowing tetrahedrons of light that sail cometlike across the sky, the evanescent work of Arvo Thomson, a German-born solar energy system installer.


Santa Fe

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