Readers of both Conte Naste Traveler and Travel & Leisure rate Sante Fe among the top five destinations in the U.S. And after a great getaway with our globetrotting friends, Jay and Becky Elder, as guides, Bob and I echo that emotion.
The four of us plus longtime friends Gene and Shelley Tyler and Jerry and Debbie Williams enjoyed beautiful scenery, fantastic food and some serious shopping (yes!) on our trip. Check out our top stops for a perfect day in downtown Santa Fe.
Our group likes to start the day with a nourishing, sit-down breakfast (not the grab-and-go sort we do at home). And Café Pasqual's had just what we needed. This personality-packed namesake of the folk saint of Mexican and New Mexican kitchens has charm to spare thanks in part to its many hand-painted Mexican tiles and murals by well-known Mexican artist Leovigildo Martinez.
Since it's on the smaller side, be prepared to wait outside this popular breakfast stop until a seat's available. But don't worry because things move quickly. We recommend the large, round "community table" because you just never know who you'll meet. We sat with a retired, Boston transplant, who even offered to drive us on a shopping expedition (now that's hospitality).
Here you can order organic cheese grits (Bob gives them two thumbs up), Breakfast Quesadillas with whole wheat tortillas (Debbie says they're delightful), Becky's favorite cinnamon toast and many other healthy choices. Or, if you're like me, request hot Jasmine Green Tea and snack off a friend's plate (don't you just love to share?). Just remember, Pasqual's serves organic and naturally raised beef, pork, eggs, dairy, produce and, well, most everything so there's no Diet Coke (sorry Shelley).
When our travel-and-insurance-pro Jay promised shopping in Santa Fe, I knew I was in for a treat. But I didn't expect sophisticated style or an incredible S-A-L-E like we found at Goler Shoes.
Catering to my personal obsession, this Sena Plaza shop offers a gold mine of Cole Haan, Ugg Australia and other high fashion, men's and women's brands. Owner Guadalupe Goler says customers often time their Santa Fe trips to coincide with her January and August mega sales. Me, I just got lucky and stumbled onto the two-hour event, where I scored some sexy black Donald J Pilner platforms, gray suede Matisse boots and red patent Vanelli flats, all at 75 PERCENT OFF (cha-ching!).
Donald J Pilner's Spring 2011 Madga Leopard-Printed Stilletto Platforms
Later, Guadalupe gave Shelley and me a sneak-peek at Pilner's plans for spring. We fell in love with the designer's leopard-printed platforms, penchant for patent and blush-colored heels that go with everything. He and wife Lisa, upping the edge with her debut line - Lisa for Donald J Pilner, will show off their hot new styles at Goler Feb. 12.
125 E. Palace Ave., #125
This quaint La Fonda Hotel site offers fine extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars and sea salts from Italy, France and about 15 other countries around the world. Opened in November 2010 by Samantha Bailey-Smith and Diane Romley, this specialty store includes row upon row of olive-oil-filled stainless steel fustis. In addition to ensuring you get the freshest olive oil possible, these attractive reservoirs facilitate taste testing the store's wares. And, trust me, tasting's required if you're to decide between the more than 45 flavor-infused extra virgin olive oils, plain extra virgin olive oils, dark and white balsamic vinegars, and wine vinegars available.
Shelley Tyler, Charlotte Hill, Oleaceae owner Jerry Smith, Becky Elder and Debbie Williams
Owner Jerry Smith encouraged our group to taste several different oils, vinegars and salts during our visit. We tried the Tuscan Herb Olive Oil (especially yummy), Early Arbequina Olive Oil (robust but better for cooking since it's not flavored), 18 Year Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and others.
Afterwards, the girls and I were so inspired by the products and Jerry's accommodating attitude that we bought an assortment of oils and vinegars and awarded them our preferred GG status (the "group gift" that everyone HAS TO HAVE!).
La Fonda Hotel
Home to handmade chocolates, caramels, chile candies and other locally influenced treats, this little Santa Fe Place sugar factory makes a delicious afternoon pick-me-up. The Bolita (milk chocolate fudge with dark chocolate crumbles and crushed almonds) is sure to give you a lift. Remember Razzles and Cherry Mash? There's also quite an assortment of nostalgic candies that will speak to your boomer side.
4250 Cerrillos Road
Sign of the Pampered Maiden
This sassy, shopper's delight, a Sante Fe favorite for more than 40 years, has the goods to pamper any maiden. My travel advisor and fellow writing enthusiast Becky frequents this unique dress and jewelry shop whenever she visits Santa Fe.
The eclectic fashions include Johnny Was embroidered tops and dresses (pure Santa Fe style), richly patterned Puli blouses, trendy AVA sweaters and much more. Becky, Shelley, Debbie and I all voted for a simple black, Bucko boiled wool jacket punctuated with striking brown buttons. Handcrafted in Santa Fe, Bucko designs are sold exclusively at Sign of the Pampered Maiden.
123 West Winter Street
Located in the gorgeously historic La Fonda Hotel (where you can also have a fireside breakfast), Street Feet is a double threat with a women's shoe store on one side and a clothing boutique on the other. Hailing from around the globe, this Santa Fe Plaza shop's beautiful shoes include Spanish (Pikolinos, Hispanitas and Neosens), Italian (Everybody) and Portuguese (Fidji) designs. Euro-comfort styles like Romika and La Canadienne and Blondo all-weather boots complete the impressive collection.
All tempting but I'd already maxed out my shoe budget. So the girls and I focused on the trendy, casual clothing from XCVI, Curio, InsideOut and Hue (what fun!). My Street Feet find: a slim, all-season Nic and Zoe black jacket. It's nipped at the waist and on the longer side so it pairs perfectly with skinny jeans and leggings.
100 E. San Francisco St.
Singing waiters, awesome appetizers and restaurant seating make La Casa Sena's classy-yet-casual piano bar a MUST-DO experience. Here we shared wine (make that Diet Coke for some), Cantina Nachos (tortilla chips topped with yummy black beans, oodles of cheddar and jack cheese, green chiles, guacamole and pico de gallo) and Pinon-Crusted Goat Cheese (ahhhh) with spicy cajeta sauce and wonton crisps. Although we went for "appetizers," we could have easily made a meal out of these delectable dishes.
And the evening's entertainment even topped the food (who would have thought it possible?). In-between serving us, the waiters performed some of Broadway's best, jazz and even a little bit of country. We were mesmerized by their enchanting renditions of Dream Girls' "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," Patty Griffin's "Long Ride Home" (from the Elizabethtown soundtrack) and Spamalot's LOL "This is the Song That Goes Like." But, for me, the highlight came when 17-year Cantina veteran Ken Brown (who was working our tableside) sang the classic "Since I Fell for You," which has been covered by everyone from Barbara Streisand to Jose Feliciano (give it a listen!). 125 E. Palace Avenue
And the evening's entertainment even topped the food (who would have thought it possible?). In-between serving us, the waiters performed some of Broadway's best, jazz and even a little bit of country. We were mesmerized by their enchanting renditions of Dream Girls' "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," Patty Griffin's "Long Ride Home" (from the Elizabethtown soundtrack) and Spamalot's LOL "This is the Song That Goes Like." But, for me, the highlight came when 17-year Cantina veteran Ken Brown (who was working our tableside) sang the classic "Since I Fell for You," which has been covered by everyone from Barbara Streisand to Jose Feliciano (give it a listen!).
125 E. Palace Avenue
A shining example of New American cuisine with a Southwestern flair, Santacafé offers white-tablecloth dining in candlelit rooms complete with cozy, corner fireplaces and wood-beamed ceilings. The casually elegant bistro resides in a historic 1857 adobe, which was the home of Padre Gallegos, an eccentric, defrocked New Mexican priest-turned-politician.
We waited for our table in the restaurant's intimate bar, where entry required walking over a deep, stone-lined water well. That was quite the conversation starter as we made a game of seeing who was brave enough to step directly onto the glass that topped the well's approximately 35-foot drop (not me!).
Later, we feasted on regionally inspired dishes such as Sterling Silver Grilled Black Angus Ribeye with Pommes Frites and Red Chile Bernaise; Pan Seared Sterling Silver Filet Mignon with Brussels Sprouts, Green Chile Mashed Potatoes and Porcini Butter; and Roasted Poblano Relleno with Three-Mushroom Quinoa and Chipotle Cream (this alone was worth the trip!). We also met a wild-and-crazy group of 20-something medical students from UT (that's the University of Texas, of course). But I'll let Bob tell that story in his "Like Looking in the Mirror" post, coming to the Boomer Brief Jan. 31.
231 Washington Ave.