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Haunted Inns and Desert Dreams: The Seductive Charms of Santa Fe

Vogue / Alexandra Malmed / February 17, 2017


Andriy Blokhin / Alamy Stock Photo


Tucked in the ink-blue mountains of Northern New Mexico, Santa Fe is an inimitably striking city. Spanish for Holy Faith, the city is small — just 70,000 — with adobe buildings, phantasmagoric skies, and strings of titian-colored Chile ristras that hang from wooden doors.


It’s also an old city — the oldest state capital in the United States — and has been inhabited since 1050 by members of Native American pueblos. It was colonized by Spanish settlements in 1610 when it became a fixture of the trade route.

The descriptor “magical” is often overused. But, Santa Fe is magical.


By virtue of it’s almost-mythical handsomeness, aridity, and eccentricity, it draws a distinguished multitude of people who seek solitude and who gravitate towards physical beauty. Los Cinco Pintores — or, the five painters — where the first group of artists in the 20th Century who migrated to Santa Fe to work in an artists colony.


Santa Fe and its surrounding areas — Taos, Abiquiu, and Galisteo — have since attracted many sets of esteemed eyes. Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Julia Roberts, Tom Ford, and (perhaps most famously) Georgia O'Keefe have all settled down, at least part time, in Northern New Mexico.


The high-desert town has four seasons. There’s a snow-globe-esque, tradition-infused winter marked by the Christmas Eve Farolito walk and the salient perfume of cedarwood. There’s a mild, cherry blossomed spring, and a summer that, save for a few desert rain-filled monsoon days, is hot with feverishly intense light to match. Santa Fe's autumn is defined by the scent of roasting chile peppers and the sight of Aspen-tree covered mountains: a phenomena that gives the town a golden incandescence.


During the winter months — save for The Holidays — Santa Fe is quiet. It’s a strange and utopianical escape, and though the town closes early (really, it can be difficult to get a drink after the hour of nine PM) there is much to do, eat, and see.


Where to Eat:

The Shed is housed in the original 1692 adobe home and courtyard of the Spanish Royal Family. The prince bought eighteen rooms built around three patios, and established his family here. Since 1953, The Shed has been owned by the same family, and their New Mexican recipes haven’t wavered.


Tune Up is a snug, fuschia-walled neighborhood restaurant with a menu that includes El Salvadorian Pupusas, New Mexican Green Chile Stew, lamb tacos, and perfect caesar salads. The counter holds jars of agua frescas and Mexican wedding cookies, while the coffee is refilled almost too quickly making Tune Up Santa Fe’s quintessential lazy morning nook.


With its excellent food (mussels bathed in white wine and local red chile, octopus, escargot, and steak tartare) and extensive wine list, smoke-mirrored walls and comfortable leather booths, the cozy French bistro Bouche is ideal for date night.


Izanami, the restaurant at Ten Thousand Waves, is set atop a snowy mountain on the way to the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Panoramic windows, tatami rooms, lanterns, and a waterfall entryway complement the menu, which is comprised of exquisite Japanese dishes — sake braised shimeji mushrooms, Wagyu steak, and housemade tofu with garlic and chive — but, notably, no fish. The Michelin Starred-restaurant uses ingredients that can only be sourced locally — and Santa Fe is over one thousand miles from the closest ocean.


Joseph's is the antidote to a cold night in Santa Fe. The interior is dim and warm. Though the dishes (glazed duck confit and Marlin sashimi with kale chips) may sound overly-considered in their written form are pleasing.


Nearly everything that Vinaigrette serves is grown on its farm just outside of Santa Fe, which can be seen in the incredible flavors of the lettuces and vegetables. The kale caesar salad with marcona almonds and parmesan will, likely, leave you dissatisfied with nearly every other salad in the world.