You just can't beat this event for location, weather and quality food and wine.
Santa Fe Wine and Chili Fiesta 2016
October 16, 2016
This event is held at the end of September every year and is one of the most fantastic food and wine events in the world. It has everything going for it; location, weather, high-quality and abundant food and wine. I recommend you center a long weekend around this event, as often as you can fit it into your schedule. The event lasts for five days and includes dozens of educational seminars, tours, guest chef presentations, wine luncheons and dinners, the Reserve wine tasting and the Grand wine tasting. Most every event sells out well in-advance, you should sign up for email notices so that you have your first choice of events when they are offered for sale in July. Should you find your event is sold out, contact me for some alternative sources on how to get tickets.
The Grand Tasting at the Opera House
If you can only attend one event (due to schedules or finances) plan to go to the Grand Tasting at the Opera House grounds. The event features over 70 restaurants and 90 wineries. All guests benefit from the community’s competitive spirit to make each year’s event better than before. The restaurants, in particular seem to try to one-up their personal best and each other. The entire staffs show great pride in what they are presenting at the tasting. All food items must contain some form of chili. You will find everything from tuna sashimi carved directly off of a fresh tuna to filet mignon with foie gras and deserts made with chilies too. Be sure to come hungry and plan your tasting wisely. It is a benefit to have a tasting partner so that you may share a greater variety of the food and wine.
The ticket price may seem a bit high, at $150, but there is so much to this experience that should not be missed. In addition to the food and wine tasting, you will receive transportation to and from the Opera House from the center of Santa Fe. It is such a smart idea not to have guests drive after consuming who-knows-how-much wine. You will also receive commemorative Riedel glassware from the Reserve and Grand tastings.
Santa Fe Restaurants
You will certainly want to experience some of the many wonderful restaurants while you are in Santa Fe. It is a distinct part of the charm and culture of the community. I have attended this wine event at least 15 times over the past two decades and can recommend all of the restaurants below. They are all within walking distance of the square. On our most recent visit, our theme was to try restaurants we had never been to. I have included a list of tried and true restaurants as well. Reservations are always recommended, especially during Wine and Chili week.
72 W Marcy St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
This has become our new favorite restaurant in Santa Fe. They have been around since 2006, but I had yet to discover it. We were inspired by the concept of Modern Spanish Tapas. You can customize your meal to be as big or small as you like. The bad news may be that you will not want to stop your culinary adventure, because surely there are more wonderful choices to make. Your server can help you create a logical progression of the items you will hopefully be sharing with others (all the more opportunity to sample variety).
If you are a party of two, request the “Chef’s Table” which is a high-top table by the bar and kitchen. You will be able to chat with Chef Caruso when he steps out of the kitchen to check on the dining room.
I can’t speak highly enough about the Flat Iron steak with sea salt caramel. This is not a sweet dish. The touch of caramel is emulsified with the au jus of the steak. Ours was cooked to a perfect medium rare and served sliced in the sauce. I will never forget this dish and will recommend it again and again. I also recommend the Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce). It sounds simple on the menu, but I assure you the flavors and presentation is pleasantly complex. Pair these with the beet salad and fried brussel sprouts, if the us is offered, give it a try too. The wine selection is lean but very good and reasonably priced.
You may also enjoy the full menu at the adjacent Taberna with a lively patio and live entertainment on the weekends. The Taberna is also a great place to end your evening with a glass of wine and good music.
Radish and Rye
548 Agua Fria St. Santa Fe, NM 87501
Here you will find a truly locally-source menu, one that reflects the seasons. The menu is well-curated (read “short”). With a selection of small and large plates for sampling or sharing. I enjoyed the cornmeal-crusted trout with a sublime green chile corn bake (like a polenta or spoon bread) and spicy tartar sauce. I had been craving trout for some time and this version satisfied. The salads and vegetarian options are delightful too. Be sure to make reservations in advance, this restaurant is popular with locals and visitors.
Being more of a wine aficionado, I did not think to order a cocktail. I later discovered that Radish & Rye has been voted one of the 8 Best Whiskey Bars in the U.S. (by CheatSheet). Other accolades include; Top 10 Best New Restaurants in the U.S. by USA Today and The Best Restaurant Santa Fe by Edible Santa Fe. They are locally owned.
227 Galisteo Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501
The original owners, Robert and Marge Chickering have recently taken back ownership of Galisteo Bistro and it is worth a visit, if you haven’t been recently. Their attention to every detail is palpable. You may see them hovering close by checking on every table and plate. You may not speak with them, but your server certainly knows the house standards. There is an extensive menu of Tapas and ala carte dishes, prepared in an open kitchen. You can be sure that your meal will be presented in a deliberate and timely manner. The staff is also very enthusiastic about making wine recommendations to enhance your dining experience. If you can visit with a group of friends, willing to share dishes, I think you would have fun sampling from this menu. So many things sound worth trying. You will find a selection of Spanish Tapas along with International Bistro choices.
Other reliable options-
Other things to enjoy in Santa Fe
When you arrive in Santa Fe you may feel like you have been transported to another world. It has its unique architecture, history, climate, scenery, natural wonders, flora, fauna and fashion.
Shopping – Start at the main Plaza (don’t call it the “Square”). From here you can make concentric circles to see all the shops in the area. I am not personally much of a shopper when I travel. My husband always seems to schedule our itinerary so that we have time for shopping only when the stores are closed.
Native American Market – Hand-crafted jewelry and crafts are presented at the Palace of the Governors on the weekends.
Farmer’s Market – The Railyard. This is one of the finest outdoor markets in the Fall. Even if your accommodations do not allow for you to cook, you will enjoy the colors and smells of this market. You can grab a quick breakfast or snack here.
Arts Markets – From April-October you will find high-quality open-air art shows at the Railyard and the First National Bank downtown on the weekends.
Galleries – There are permanent art Galleries throughout the historic town center and along Canyon Road. All are an easy walk from the Plaza. Be careful with your checkbook, it’s hard to escape Santa Fe without making a major purchase.
Hiking – There are convenient hiking trails all around the city. You might like to drive up to the ski mountain or out to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Park (about an hour’s drive) to be among the magical rock spire formations.