Fall Flavors: Where to Find Santa Fe's Best Seasonal Food

Wander New Mexico tour guide Lauren shares her favorite fall food experiences in Santa Fe:

 It was early October when I arrived for my first highly anticipated visit to Santa Fe.  At that time my Greenwich Village apartment was filled with cliché southwestern décor, walls adorned with a ubiquitous O’Keefe-esque steer skull and a framed print of a watercolor “Indian on horseback” painting.  I was totally ripe to digest everything the Land of Enchantment had to offer – literally and figuratively. With my dog-eared, well-notated Fodor’s Guide clutched in hand (yes folks, there was a time before Yelp and Trip Advisor) I embarked on a fall dining adventure that felt like a treasure hunt of colorful, flavorful cuisine. 

 Twenty-five years later and now a resident of Santa Fe, the thrill of fall in New Mexico hasn’t worn off. Sun-drenched days that feel like summer give way to crisp, chilly nights – it’s like getting two amazing seasons in one (bring layers!). And oh, that ethereal scent of piñon wood smoke that Santa Feans anticipate throughout the warmer months once again wafts into the evening air from traditional kiva fireplaces. Somehow the light of October makes everything look sharper and clearer.  The already ginormous sky seems an even deeper shade of cobalt against the edges of sunlit adobe buildings. 

Leaf peeping

 The aspens in Santa Fe National Forest put on a show in October

The aspens in Santa Fe National Forest put on a show in October

Nowhere is better to appreciate October skies than in an aspen grove, where the trees flaunt their vibrant yellow leaves amongst verdant evergreens. Aspen Vista trail, in the Santa Fe National Forest, has some of the best views of changing hues. It’s a perfect setting for a picnic. Treat yourself to artisan cheeses, cured meats, olives, chutneys and crusty bread, expertly curated by local favorite Cheesemonger’s of Santa Fe.

Fill up on fall flavors

 Of course, another favorite fall activity is feasting on seasonal produce like apples, pumpkins, and pears. At Café Pasqual’s, a longtime Santa Fe gem, Sugar Pie pumpkins are roasted whole and filled with a savory mix of mushrooms, veggies, quinoa and fiery chipotle cream. Or, take a trip to South India via Santa Fe with Paper Dosa’s seasonal take on the humble pumpkin in a fragrant coconut milk based soup. 

 If you’re craving another quintessential fall favorite, roast chicken, head to Vinaigrette to enjoy abundant salads and a glass of rose under the trees on the patio. The aptly named “Harvest Moon” October salad special is a fresh take on roast chicken with stuffing, sweet sliced apples, and even chicken dripping croutons. By night, cozy up in Joseph’s Culinary Pub, housed in a historic adobe home at the end of the the old Camino Real. Get your fall fix with Chef Joseph’s inventive take on “chicken under a brick,” adorned with wild rice, dried cranberries and all sorts of seasonal goodness.

Red or green?

 New Mexico’s hearty warming stews and bright local fare taste even more vibrant in October’s chill. September is the time for the annual harvest of of New Mexico’s famous green chiles, and a juicy green chile cheeseburger is the perfect way to enjoy the fruits of the harvest. Del Charro, a western-style saloon favored by locals and tourists alike, offers their award-winning burger made with New Mexico beef served on a sunny patio for daytime dining and a convivial bar made warmer with a blazing fireplace for evenings.

 And don’t forget red chile – try a rich carne adovada (chunks of pork) braised in smoky, spicy red chile sauce. The satisfying heat is perfectly tempered with a hot-out-of-the-fryer sopaipilla drenched in honey and washed down with a signature margarita at another locals’ favorite, La Choza.

Now who said you can’t have it all? Maybe not always in life, but a visit to Santa Fe in October sure makes it feel that way. And if you’re anything like me, it may just be too delicious to leave!

 

Alison Nichols