The cradle of Southwestern cuisine, Santa Fe emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients and chile peppers on restaurant menus.
In Santa Fe the question red or green? refers to the chile salsa that tops many New Mexican dishes. Green is usually hotter. To try red and green, answer Christmas.
1. GeronimoSanta Fe's superlative restaurant occupies a 1700s adobe that once housed the family of Geronimo Lopez. The mood is New Mexico elegance. A porch tempts in warm weather, and private dinners can be arranged.
Chef Eric DiStefanos deluxe dishes marry Santa Fe flavors with refined technique. Whether you prefer foie gras enlivened with figs, chile and honey-grilled giant shrimp, or peppered elk tenderloin, the dish is at its most wonderful at Geronimo.
What matters to the diner more than Executive Chef Martin Rios continual accolades is the way his inspired, innovative dishes taste. Two outstanding dishes are the moist, rosemary-dusted halibut and buttery lobster with goat cheese risotto. His desserts are too spectacular to share.
3. FuegoFuego means fire, and talked-about chef Rahm Fama, a Santa Fe native, creates sparks at this outstanding restaurant. He takes bold culinary risks with surprising combinations of flavors and ingredients and the house specialty is a chateaubriand for two.
Fuego offers lavish chefs tasting menus, the best cheese selection in the Southwest, and a knowing sommelier. Art-filled and comfortable, Fuego is set in the Staab House mansion of La Posada de Santa Fe Resort & Spa.
4. BaleenA sense of humor pervades this top Santa Fe restaurant. Baleens motto is serious food with a whimsical mood, and its plush monkey mascot may be perched at your table. Baleen means whale, and chef David Wilson prepares seafood creatively and deliciously.
Herbed sea bass in a fennel-carrot broth is memorable. Besitos Calientes, a romantic appetizer of bacon-wrapped shrimp, translates to hot little kisses. Baleen restaurant is located inside the Inn at Loretto.
5. Coyote CafeCelebrity chef Mark Miller is credited with originating Southwestern cuisine at his landmark Santa Fe restaurant, open since 1987. Many chefs have since adopted Marks innovations like mesquite grilling and chile rubs. But the Coyote Cafe is still unique, and a must while in Sante Fe.
Its atmosphere is romantic Southwestern, its servers informed and warm. The wine list and food are excellent as ever. Carnivores: the Wests definitive steak is Coyote Cafes cowboy cut ribeye.
Rio Chamas meaty chili nachos exemplify this oft-abused dish. The tenderloin filet, a filet mignon, is a fantasy steak: deftly grilled, bacon-wrapped and drizzled with truffled béarnaise.