Robert and I just returned from another wonderful trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. We had some outstanding fall weather while we were there—sunny and warm nearly every day. The wonderful October days were perfect for zipping around town in Robert’s mom’s beautifully restored 1972 VW Bug. We took advantage of the nice weather by taking a side trip to see the ancient cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument. They are awe-inspiring, and I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area. As usual, there was plenty of delicious food to be had in Santa Fe. One night in particular stands out with dinner at The Shed followed by cocktails at the Secreto Bar & Loggia.

Nestled among downtown Santa Fe’s historic buildings, The Shed has been open since 1953. This Santa Fe landmark is well-regarded by locals and visitors alike. Despite its reputation for excellence, The Shed is not at all fancy—just as fleece wouldn’t be out of place in most Seattle restaurants, blue jeans and boots are the requisite attire when dining at The Shed. It is an utterly charming restaurant. The vibrant, hand-painted wooden sign at the entryway and a series of small, quiet rooms connected by extremely low doorways gives the place a funky, casual vibe (just be sure to watch your head!)

The Shed’s menu consists of New Mexico standbys such as tacos, burritos and blue corn enchiladas. Of course, since this is New Mexico, you can order anything on the menu red, green or “Christmas-style” (for the uninitiated, that means with red chili, green chili or a little of each). Since I can’t go to The Shed on any old weekend, I was happy to see that they offer combo plates which allow you to sample several different items. I ordered one red enchilada (The Shed’s specialty) and one turkey sausage taco smothered in green chili. I am not lying when I say that this was the best enchilada I have ever had! Most enchiladas are made with a milder, tomato-y red sauce but The Shed’s red is all about the chili—smoky and spicy and perfect! The green was amazing too, and my taco was literally drowning in it. I would have licked my plate clean. Fortunately, The Shed provides each table with garlic bread for sopping up the chili—it may not be traditional, but you certainly don’t want any of that delicious chili to go to waste.

After dinner, we headed across the plaza to the Secreto Bar & Loggia at the St. Francis Hotel. There, we met up with Robert’s friend Natalie of The Liquid Muse. Natalie is a cocktail authority so we trusted that she had directed us to the hippest sipping spot in Santa Fe. As expected, we were in good hands with expert mixologist Chris Milligan behind the bar. Serious mixologists are popping up all over Seattle these days, but I did not anticipate finding one in Santa Fe! We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar and chatted with Chris about our favorite liquors and flavors. He worked his mixologist magic and produced a series of amazing cocktails suited exactly to my tastes.

I started off with a cocktail based on rum and house-made falernum. Falernum is a spiced rum made with any number of ingredients but most commonly with almond, vanilla, allspice, clove and lime. Quality falernum isn’t readily available in stores so many bartenders make their own. It lends a spicy, sweet flavor to drinks and the cocktail Chris made for me was no exception. It was a perfect drink for sipping by the fire on a chilly evening—a little reminder that the holidays are not far off.

As intrigued as I was by the house-made falernum, it doesn’t compare to my level of curiosity upon spying a bottle labeled “choke shrub.” Robert’s mom makes choke cherry jam every year so I knew that choke cherries were a popular fruit in New Mexico. But what on earth is a shrub? Well, it turns out that a shrub is a tart and sweet vinegar-based syrup made most often using fresh berries. Noting my interest, Chris whipped up another cocktail for me using anejo tequila, choke shrub, mole bitters and fresh sage leaves. It sounds odd, but it was really delicious. Fittingly, it tasted like the desert! This drink is actually going to be featured in an upcoming edition of New Mexico Magazine as part of their holiday drinks special. How exciting, getting a sneak peek at a new cocktail! If you ever find yourself in Santa Fe and love creative, well-prepared cocktails as much as I do, be sure to visit Chris at the Secreto. As we stumbled out into the cold autumn night, with the smell of piñon in the air all around us and a stomach full of spicy chili and amazing cocktails, I couldn’t imagine being any happier.

1 Comment »

  1. the Shed’s red enchilada sounds fantastic.

    Comment by Phyllis — October 29, 2010 @ 8:56 am

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