Seasons greetings: It’s always ‘Christmas’ in Santa Fe

Food sparkles with the favoured combo of red and green chiles
Wine with a pronounced green chile note using New Mexico's famous Hatch chile. Photo: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Like most food stories, the one about Santa Fe’s year-round “Christmas” delight is apocryphal.

New Mexico’s capital calls its favoured combo of red and green chiles “Christmas”. The legend goes that  waitress Martha Rotondo, at the popular Santa Fe restaurant Tia Sophia, came up with the term while encouraging customers to get a mix of red and green chile on the dish they had ordered. But Nick Maryol, whose parents started the restaurant nearly a half-century ago, has said the story is mostly true, or roughly “90 per cent” authentic.

However it happened, New Mexico’s red and green chiles and distinctive style of cooking makes its food very different from Mexican fare. (Click here to read my blog on Santa Fe’s idea of Christmas, ie red and green chiles.)

As a waitress at La Choza, one of Santa Fe’s most popular restaurants, told me, New Mexican cuisine not only combines red and green chiles, but influences from the early Spanish settlers, native American tribes and Mexican food.

It’s true. This is by no means a version of Mexican food. And the chiles sparkle in a very Christmassy fashion.

There’s even a locally produced Green Chile wine, with a distinct jalapeno flavour.

At La Choza, the Choza Burn cocktail combines Espolón Blanco, Cointreau, jalapeño sour and finishes with a Chile salt rim and a couple of slices of jalapeño. And Cowgirl, another Santa Fe restaurant, serves a pretty good cocktail with jalapeño slices. Just a couple of examples…there are too many to name. It’s always Christmas in Santa Fe.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac

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In Santa Fe, ‘Christmas’ means red and green chiles

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