Sunday, January 24, 2010

Where to Eat: Santa Fe

After exploring the plaza downtown and running some errands elsewhere in the city, D and I were definitely ready for a lunch break. I had one more restaurant on my mind to try -- Chocolate Maven Bakery & Cafe. We popped the address into our GPS, which made finding the place a lot easier. Its location, though not far off the beaten path, is a little random. Upon your arrival, you are apt to ask "Is this the right place?" given its industrialish warehouse location. But upon closer inspection you'll note the full parking lot and then spy the entrance surrounded by "Best of Santa Fe" awards. Don't be fooled by the warehouse atmosphere--once inside you are transported to a cozy bakery and cafe.

D and I were quickly seated in the cafe's upper level (reached by a winding staircase). The upper level is bright and airy (there was a nice breeze coming in through an open window) and the walls are covered in warmly-colored landscape art. Upon perusing the menu, the biggest question was what to order given the many tasty options.

D opted to go the breakfast route and ordered the Almond Raspberry French Toast. This entree was described as "two thick slices of freshly baked challah, batter dipped, then dredged in sliced almonds and griddled to golden brown, [and] served with raspberry-almond sauce" -- and its taste definitely matched its description.

I opted to go the lunch route. (As a connoisseur of grilled cheese sandwiches, my eye (and stomach) is often drawn directly to that selection if available!) I ordered "The Bistro" sandwich, a "French grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere, apple slices, and grainy mustard grilled on our home baked, thick sliced sourdough levain." The sandwich typically also comes with either "naturally raised smoked ham from Niman ranch" or "vegetarian ham" -- however, I'm not that big a fan of ham, and the idea of "vegetarian ham" really doesn't sound all that appetizing to me. (As a vegetarian, I was never really into things that are supposed to taste like meat, given that being a vegetarian, I was actively choosing NOT to eat meat!) Anyway, though the blurry BlackBerry photo does it no justice, the sammy was delicious. And did I mention it came with rosemary garlic fries? Yum -- definitely need to figure out how to make those at home!

D and I managed to save room for dessert this time around. After looking through the dessert menu, we opted for the carrot cake. In addition, I ordered a delicious Mexican hot chocolate (the restaurant also offers hot chocolates made with American, Belgian, or Italian chocolates). The carrot cake was a-mazing:

It came garnished with a (tall!) puffed rice-sugar ornament and fresh cut strawberry. It was heavenly -- the perfect flavor combination to end our meal.

Like the other restaurants we visited in Santa Fe, Chocolate Maven pledges to use "no artificial flavors, preservatives, or synthetic additives; hormone-free, naturally-raised chicken, beef, ham, and eggs; unbleached, unbromated regionally grown flours; GMO-free certification on many ingredients; many seasonal ingredients from local farms and farmer's markets; and no hydrogenated oils. Ever." In addition, the restaurant now features farmer's market-inspired dinners.

Chocolate Maven is open daily for breakfast from 7a to 3p. Lunch is offered 10:30a to 3p Monday through Friday, and brunch is served 9a to 3p Saturday and Sunday. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday from 5:45p to 8:45p. In addition, high tea is available Monday through Friday from 3p to 5p.

It was really heartening to find a town with so many options for those seeking meals made with organic or locally-produced ingredients. We didn't even get to half the restaurants that participate in the town's farm-to-table program. I really hope I get another chance to visit this vibrant city and hit up several more of the great restaurants Santa Fe has to offer.

Chocolate Maven Bakery & Cafe
821 W. San Mateo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
(505) 984-1980


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