Our Santa Fe insider visits fabulous restaurants and deep-dives into a satisfying array of other cultural experiences in the City Different.
As Santa Fe opens up again and Indian Market returns in person (August 21 – 22), this favorite New Mexico mountain town is fine-tuning its comeback. Offerings and restrictions may vary week to week, so if you’re bound for the Land of Enchantment, you’ll want to check ahead.
When you’re in Santa Fe during Indian Market, it’s hard to fight the temptation to fill up on fry bread. But leave room and make time for other amazing culinary experiences. Here are some of our favorites (if you’re cooking at home, get recipes here).
Market Steer Steakhouse
The 7 Oz Filet at Market Steer Steakhouse is the leanest, tenderest, most remarkable filet I’ve ever had — and not just because we started with mezcal Smoked Sage Margaritas. Executive chef-owner Kathleen Crook, a former rodeo roper, opened Market Steer with owner-general manager Kristina Goode in 2018, in a downtown location evoking an upscale hacienda with stone, leather, and wood décor, plus a dreamy patio that’s like a secret garden with vines and an apple tree. “I’m classically French-trained. I’m rustically classic, if you will,” Crook says.
Sum-up: Extremely high-quality beef from boutique cattle ranches in Texas and Montana served with French cordon-bleu sauces — and that quality extends to the lobsters that were in the ocean off Cape Cod three days ago.
Must have: 7 Oz Filet with the tangy horseradish-caramel sauce, plus the irresistible Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding.
Housed in a historic 1756 adobe with kiva fireplaces and abstract horse paintings, plus a portal for alfresco dining, Geronimo serves extraordinary Southwestern-influenced global cuisine that’s kept this legacy restaurant on the national radar for 30 years. Recent kudos? Landing on TripAdvisor’s top 10 list of fine dining restaurants in the United States. “We always talk about making the restaurant better in a national view,” owner Chris Harvey says. Executive chef-owner Sllin Cruz joined five years ago and changes almost half of the innovative menu four times a year.
Sum-up: The quality of what they plate, how they serve it, and who you’ll see in this legendary destination restaurant are above and beyond.
Must have: Wasabi Caesar Salad followed by Tellicherry Rubbed Elk Tenderloin or Fiery Sweet Chile & Honey Grilled Mexican White Prawns.
Executive chef-owner Cristian Pontiggia really knows fine cuisine. Named 2020 Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation, the ever-inventive Pontiggia artfully assembles antipasti such as tuna tartar (with fennel), Affettati Misti (a charcuterie board), and Taste of Valtellina (think Italian tempura). “If you’ve ever been to Italy, this transports you back,” owner Lawrence Becerra says of the always-evolving menu.
Sum-up: With more than 70 types of gin, 14 amari, a barrel-aged negroni, and superb Italian cuisine served on Wedgewood in a Venetian-inspired ambiance, Sassella is elegance all the way, including its dining terrace with equine sculptures.
Must have: House-made burrata.
Radish & Rye
Small plates abound at this farm-inspired restaurant that attracts the hipster crowd to its industrial-chic space. “We play bluegrass, old country, singer-songwriters, and we play it kinda loud,” chef-owner Dru Ruebush says.
Sum-up: A Southern flair rules here along with the largest selection of bourbon and rye in the state.
Must have: Fried Green Tomato with pimento cheese and chile thread.
Connect With the Herd
Ten minutes into my time in the arena interacting with a small herd of horses at the one-of-a-kind EQUUS personal-growth program, tears were streaming down my face due to a realization. Honestly, I was shocked. But connecting with the at-liberty horses under the expert guidance of horsewoman-life coach Kelly Wendorf proved more emotional than I anticipated. The basic premise was to fill out an intake form expressing issues you want to concentrate on during your session; then you enter the arena and join the herd. The horses mirror back to you what they see.
“Once you step into the herd, you’re part of the herd and it’s incumbent upon them to teach you how to be a better member of the herd,” explains EQUUS co-owner Wendorf, who points out Artemis, a ghost paint mare, as the leader of this herd. Artemis leads by being “the most caring and most present” in establishing an atmosphere of “safety, connection, peace, joy, and freedom.”
Sessions vary. During mine, the band of five horses and one donkey greeted me tranquilly, several lying down in vulnerable positions, mirroring the trust and sense of safety I conveyed. I was told to wander into their midst and do as I wanted, all the while thinking of the issues I was facing in my life. Artemis subtly pushed Blue — a partially blind Percheron-quarter horse cross who has the biggest heart in the herd — forward to greet me. As I stroked Blue on her neck and body, we bonded in a way I wouldn’t have anticipated. I mingled with the other horses during my two-hour session but kept returning to Blue, and she kept seeking me out. Guided by Wendorf’s observations and her knowledge of somatics, I believe the horses were telling me to let my heart lead and my brain be the servant.
Once you step into the herd, you’re part of the herd and it’s incumbent upon them to teach you how to be a better member of the herd.
Decision-making, leadership, trust, mindfulness, boundaries, and intuition are some of the learning concepts at EQUUS, which Wendorf runs with partner Scott Strachan. Their ranch just north of Santa Fe has been visited by such clients as Amazon, Microsoft, REI, Red Bull, and Tory Burch. It’s an inspirational place.
Savor the Southwest
Some of the most popular in-person classes at Santa Fe School of Cooking this summer and fall include SW Appetizers, SW BBQ: Rellenos, More Tamales (includes duck tamales), Green Chile Workshop, and More Tacos (master the perfect carne asada taco). It all takes place on Guadalupe Street in downtown Santa Fe. Private group classes are possible, too, for a family or traveling pod. And there’s a menu of to-go orders, with pans of chicken, cheese, or veggie enchiladas to heat at home, topped off with bite-size apricot empanaditas (little turnovers).
Relax in Luxury
The Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado offers an ultra-luxurious, immaculate indoor-outdoor spa including some treatments with private sauna, and shower.
Shorter treatments have been the trend here recently, but I went for the prize: My regionally inspired session was 110 minutes long and flew by. The knowledgeable Jelena dry-brushed me to move lymph energy. She smeared on a warm detoxing clay from Utah that’s aptly called Heavenly Clay, wrapped me up in hot towels like a burrito, did guided imagery of my chakras, and then, just as I was getting chilly, led me through the private courtyard into a soothing sauna so the pale-green clay could further detox my skin. That was the highlight: the most glorious feeling of simultaneous cold-and-warm as I lounged in my private sauna watching clouds glide past a cottonwood tree outside. Then I ducked into my shower, followed by a massage. I felt like a million bucks when it was over. So magnificent was the whole encounter, I booked another a month later. Love!
Soak Up Southwestern Style and Santa Fe History
The happiest hotel news coming out of Santa Fe has to be that the landmark Bishop’s Lodge is open and receiving guests after its $75 million renovation and restoration. The newly redone and fabulous historic property, which dates back to the 1860s, has been thoughtfully transformed for modern travelers. Just minutes from the plaza on 317 pristine acres bordering on 1.5 million acres of the Santa Fe National Forest, it’s gorgeous inside and out.
Shop For the Look
We love layers for those cool Santa Fe evenings in the mountain desert climate. Go visit Rocki Gorman at La Fonda Hotel on the Plaza to deck yourself out head to toe in Santa Fe style.
And check out Peruvian Connection for its classic “Giselle” ankle-length, ballet-inspired tulle skirt, which pairs perfectly with its 100 percent pima-cotton tanks, tees, and light sweaters — ideal for layering on a summer evening in the City Different.
For sensational silver and turquoise to really make the outfit, you’ll love the authentic Native American jewelry at Samsville Gallery, where you’ll discover an extensive collection of the glorious and distinctive work of Navajo jeweler Matthew Charley.
Samsville’s Indian Market Welcome Party is happening Friday, August 20, and will feature a fashion show produced with Indigenous couture fashion brand ACONAV.
Take In a Fashion Show
Not that you could get a ticket on short notice, but SWAIA Indigenous Fashion, the highly acclaimed and largest Native North American fashion show, takes place annually during Santa Fe Indian Market — and it’s a must-do-someday.
SWAIA’s 2021 Indigenous Fashion Show takes place on Sunday, August 22, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Santa Fe Convention Center and features designers Jamie Okuma (Luiseño, Shoshone-Bannock), Orlando Dugi (Diné), Pamela Baker (Squamish/Kwakwaka'wakw), and Lauren Good Day (Arikara, Hidatsa, Blackfeet and Plains Cree).
SWAIA Indigenous Fashion is expanding: The Saturday, August 21, SWAIA GALA features new collections by Delina White (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) of I Am Anishinaabe, Yolanda Skelton, and Loren Aragon (Acoma Pueblo) of ACONAV. Supernaturals Modelling Agency will be on the runway for both fashion shows.
See some of the designers’ looks. Get the full fashion schedule for this year here.
Santa Fe during Indian Market is awash in even more art than usual. Say it’s possible to hit all the booths and peruse all the Indigenous artists’ amazing authentic wares with time to spare. And say you and your feet aren’t done in and you’re up for some world-class gallery-hopping. Then by all means drop in at Maya Galler downtown (near The Shed and Coyote Café in case you’re hungry), and then be sure to hit Canyon Road, where you’ll find more than 80 galleries, studios, and designers.
Seek Out a Secret Site
History buffs may be attracted to 109 East Palace in downtown Santa Fe, which once was the mysterious contact location for those arriving to work at the Los Alamos research laboratory to build the atomic bomb during World War II. That Santa Fe address is now part of a shopping courtyard in a historic hacienda. A 40-minute drive away, Los Alamos National Laboratory still exists.
Go On a Mind-Body-Spirit Journey
If you liked summer camp you’ll adore Ojo Santa Fe, with 70 acres of mind-body-spirit activities including working with puppies and chickens, as well as archery and hatchet-throwing. I gained a stronger sense of my life direction during my outstanding Sacred Pathways session with shamanic pathfinder Jade Gonzalez (Seneca). She channeled spirit guides and consulted medicine cards. During the pandemic, Gonzalez began holding sessions outdoors on the portal of her home in association with the resort. “I take people on an inner journey to their infinite heart where the wisdom of their lifetimes is,” she says.
Day-Trip to Albuquerque
Chances are when you’re in New Mexico, you just drive through or fly in and pick up your rental car and head north to Santa Fe. If you haven’t spent any time in Albuquerque, you should try to fit it in. You can split the difference between ABQ and SFe and be in prime position for both by staying at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa — when The Bachelorette isn't filming there, that is. On the banks of the Rio Grande within the Native American Pueblo of Santa Ana, it’s got horseback riding, spa treatments, golf, three outdoor heated pools, an on-site cultural center with exhibits, and cultural activities like Native dance performances and pueblo oven breadmaking. In Albuquerque proper in the heart of historic Old Town, check out Hotel Chaco for swank atmosphere (think lots of stone architecture) and a good location from which to enjoy the new Sawmill Market across the street; and do have a memorable meal at Hotel Chaco’s Level 5. On the more modest side of things, cool Indigenous art in the rooms and common areas awaits at Nativo Lodge, just off the freeway. The Sandia Peak Tramway, ABQ BioPark, and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center are just some of Albuquerque’s many attractions. Fan of Breaking Bad? You can take a Breaking Bad RV Tour.