Ahhhhh vacation. I really thought that two weeks into my vacation I would be incredibly bored. I was wrong. Basically my days are centered around making/planning meals and what wine I am going to drink. It really is the sweet life. But, I decided it was probably a good idea to go visit some friends and family during my time off because I know that as soon as I go back to work I won’t have time. A good friend visited me around Christmas time so it was my turn to go visit her where she lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I don’t really know how I feel about Santa Fe. It was really different than any place I had been before. The desert that surrounds it is beautiful and I could really see myself appreciating it given the time. The town? Ehhhhh, it had its charm. It just really isn’t my scene. However, I did have a great time with my friend and manage to take in some really great food. Also, I was elected sheriff.
One day while I was there, we decided to take the drive up to Taos, NM. The drive goes right along the Rio Grande River and is absolutely gorgeous. Taos sits in the foothills of some really great ski mountains, from what I hear. I am not a skier so I wouldn’t know. But we did manage to find a great brewpub out near, “the gorge” which I dubbed, “the slightly less grand canyon.” It is a scar cut into the mesa by the Rio Grande and it is an incredible land formation as you can see from the picture. The gorge is actually huge despite looking tiny in this picture.
Taos Mesa Brewing Company was such a fun place. Out on the outskirts of the town of Taos was what looked like an old airplane hangar. But, this place happened to have great beer and food and a backyard complete with horseshoes, bocce ball, and frisbee golf. It is definitely a place I could spend some time hanging out. And to top it off, they have live music most nights. I had their “Lunch Pale Ale” and it was a great daytime beer. It had a great hop punch but enough malty body to be a perfectly balanced ale. Something that makes you want to hang out in the sunshine and throw some horseshoes.
Back in Santa Fe that night we decided to go out to Joseph’s Culinary Pub. It was a pretty unassuming place from the outside but after I walked in it was an inviting, homey place. It seemed busy but they were able to seat us in the wine room, which is where I want to spend my time anyway. I have to say that this place had the best duck confit I have ever had in my life. Crispy, sticky skin with moist, tender meat falling off the bone. It came with some lentils and a radicchio and pancetta salad that was just out of control. We had an Italian Barbera but I couldn’t remember the name if you put a gun to my face. It was satisfactory, but not good enough to remember the name apparently.
Another stop we made was the Don Quixote Winery and Distillery. One thing no one told me about New Mexico is that the wine is absolutely dreadful. I didn’t want to write off an entire states wine production based on one place but after I asked around a little it is as I expected, absolutely terrible. I heard rumor and fable that there are a couple decent wineries in New Mexico somewhere but no one seemed to have any concrete information. The stuff at Don Quixote was some of the worst wine I have ever had. In my opinion it wasn’t even finished. It probably had 5% residual sugar left in it. I guess they were appealing to the market they were in but I almost couldn’t choke it down. There was one bright spot, though. They also distilled a number of spirits. Most of it was fine but could be mostly ignored, but the gin was incredible. It had such a floral and mellow flavor that I had never really had in a gin. The only way I can describe it is that it tasted like roses smell, but in a good way. It used a ton of local desert herbals like pinyon pine berries, rose hips, and desert sage. We immediately went home, made martinis, and drank in the sunshine on the patio.
Another place we found was the cigar lounge connected to the Rio Charma steakhouse in Santa Fe. We didn’t eat there, though I have heard the food is great. But the cigar lounge was a great place to enjoy a smoke and a drink. I wish they had a bigger cigar selection on the menu but they didn’t have anything awful on the menu and everyone could find something they like there.
I guess, now that I look back on it, I did pretty well out there. Had good food, good booze, good cigars, good scenery, but miserable wine. I guess you can’t win them all.