Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

I Salute A Few of My Favorite Santa Fe Businesses

Santa Fe is a town largely comprised of local, privately owned businesses whose owners work darn hard for their money. It is a tough town. On this last day of 2015, I want to thank just a few of the local business owners who enriched my life this year, first by their heartfelt presence in this community and second by the services and products they offer.

First up, The Video Library. The Vid was opened by owner/operator/counselor/cat activist/chocolate chip cookie lover  Lisa Harris and buyer Casey St. Charnez in 1981, the very first video store in the state of New Mexico. You can find mainstream releases as well as rare, out of print and hard to find movies. And you will find Lisa, who has one of the biggest hearts on the planet, and her great staff who are all walking encyclopedias of cinema, ready to offer suggestions that fit your mood. Go. Browse. Chat. Rent.

Downtown Subscription, located a block from Canyon, has great coffee, pastries, the best selection of magazines in Santa Fe, a front patio where you can bring your dog and a back patio with a fountain and lovely flowers. And they have the nicest team of baristas. On Sundays I often buy my New York Times, order a cappuccino and sit for an unseemly length of time reading the paper and inevitably chatting with someone I never met before. Before heading home, I head to Garcia Street Books which is located on the other side of the wall from DTS. A real bookstore where you can browse, ask folks what they are reading and discover the exact book you needed that day but had never heard of five minutes before you walked into the place. Amazon is not the be all and end all, folks.

Kristin Mader, muse/proprietor/artist/creative spirit/witty woman of Wild Hare salon,  patiently and beautifully tends my mass of hair with a smile on her face, no small feat. The salon is gorgeous with its crystal chandelier and art, the staff is talented and the products smell delightful. Kristin and Wild Hare are simply the best. Anywhere.

Ranger owns the New Old Trail Garage. He has been praying over and maintaining my 1998 Ford Explorer since I road into town in, well, 1998. Where else can you drive up as I did Tuesday, ask him to please check the antifreeze level (it just occurred to me after two weeks of freezing cold) and replace the wiper blade I accidently shredded when I ripped it too vigorously from the icy windshield, and the owner stops what he is doing and does it, plus checks the tires and adds more windshield wiper fluid. And he neither shames me nor charges more than a fair fee.

When I go to the Farmers’ Market, I buy from farmers who are now my friends. They picked the flowers or lettuce or spinach and boxed the eggs or made the bread the day before. No vegetables grown in South America wrapped in plastic. Farm to table, a community.

Rand and Cindy Cook, two of the nicest people I know, own The Candyman Strings & Things, which really has become a little community center. They were named (drum roll) Dealer of the Year at the National Association of Music Merchants Top 100 Dealer Awards. Number One in the entire US! And they are right here in Santa Fe! They have everything you could want from guitars and drums and amps and keyboards to ukuleles, one of which has my name on it, and classes to learn how to play your chosen instrument. The staff will help you select the instrument for you or yours. Check out their Summer Rock Camp, too, and all of their other services on their website. They can also work with you over the phone.

I thank Harry’s Roadhouse for the occasional hit of cheese enchiladas drenched in red and green chile, aka Christmas. I leave a happy woman.

And on a personal note, I thank all of my writing students for sitting around my table and sharing their unique stories. I think it is an act of bravery as well as creativity. I thank all the clients who have trusted me to edit their manuscripts and those who have asked me to write their stories for them. It is my honor, my privilege, my delight.

Santa Fe in Autumn

Saturday morning I put down the manuscript I was editing for a client, walked out the front door without Georgia and Sofie and headed for the Farmers’ Market about two blocks away. It had been too long. And it is autumn.

About a block away I ran into Carol who is normally attached to her Scottie named Nessie on a leash and a small white parrot named José on her shoulder. She had neither. Seems not too long ago she was on a walk with José when he fell heavy as a stone from her shoulder and bounced on the sidewalk. Poor José had a stroke. He survived, but no longer perches from on high. Nessie was home because Carol, too, was headed for the Farmers’ Market where dogs are not allowed. Her mission? Buy hot, fresh, crispy chiles for José. Seems José is a devotee of hot, only fresh and crispy, green chiles. Give that boy an even slightly soft one, and he does not entertain the idea of taking a bite.

First stop, the farmer who grows José’s favorite chiles. The farmer was out in front of his booth turning the chile roaster. Carol scored for José.

Another man who works for the owner was offering samples of a carrot dish. So simple. Cubed purple, yellow and orange carrots stir fried in oil with garlic and a few chiles. I took a bite and took the bait. I am now the proud ower of three carrots of three different colors.

Next stop The Tomato Lady. All these years and I had never stopped at her booth. Big mistake for me. She has earned her name. Carol said to her, “Susan is from the South so she knows her tomatoes.” With that, the woman brought out her secret stash, and I made the quick decision not to say something like, I dunno, seems where ever I have lived, and that would be about ten cities,  people know their tomatoes. I partook.

Carol and I both spotted Pilar at the same time. Pilar lives north of Santa Fe on the Rio Grande. The woman works hard for her money. I met her on my first visit to Santa Fe in 1990. She has been through hell and back. Normally her booth is filled with ristras and wreathes and angels made of straw. Not today. She only had on  display a few small wreathes and a straw cross decorated with dried flowers with vibrant colors. She gave us both a hug. Good day? I asked. “Sold out!” Carol asked the price of the cross. “For you and Susan, everything $20.” Carol bought the cross. One more round of hugs and we walked on.

And there he was. I about cried. For 17 years I have bought eggs and fruit and vegetables from this couple. He is in his 80s. I adore that man. She is a few years younger. This year, for the first time, I had not seen him in the booth.  Some young stranger stood by her. I am ashamed to say that I avoided the booth because I wanted to avoid the conversation.  How could I say in the middle of the Market, so, where is your husband, and she would say, “Ah, mija, he died over the winter,” and I would tear up, and she would tear up, and customers would be there. So I was a chicken.

But today he was sitting in a chair by the truck. Not up front as he was in the past, but there he was. I about screamed, Hi! You are here! I missed you.  As he rose to give me a hug, he said he had a bad heart attack over the winter, a slow recovery and this was his first time back at Market. The Mrs. told him to sit back down and he did. I tasted two of the three varieties of apples and settled on a pint sized basket of red delicious. After I paid, he got up from his chair and pointed to the little red ones with a few black spots. “My grandfather planted these trees, mija. Try these.” Those apples were spectacular. “Give her a pint,” he said to his wife. “She is a good woman.” One more hug and we headed home.

There is a line in one of the songs in “Camelot” that goes, “But if I’d ever leave you, how could it be in autumn?” I feel that way about Santa Fe. How could it be in autumn?


Halloween Week

Fresh chile ristras.

The end of tomato season.


Horses fashioned from fresh sage.

Aspen leaves falling fast.

Georgia so very excited to wear her costume.

Little boys morph into cartoon figures.

And Mary Ann’s birthday!

Must be the last week of October. Big smile.



92nd Annual Santa Fe Indian Market: The Crescendo of Summer

copyright SWAIA

The end of summer in Santa Fe is a bit like the grand finale of a firework extravaganza on the Fourth of July. The events of the summer build and build until kaboom!, mid August hits and it is  time for Santa Fe Indian Market week.

Surrounding  Indian Market, Santa Fe is filled with gallery openings and trunk shows for everything from art to hand tooled custom boots and handbags to turquoise jewelry in every shade from green to light blue to, well, turquoise.

The 92nd Annual Santa Fe Indian Market will be held on the Plaza this Saturday 7a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 8a.m. to 5p.m. I like to arrive early on Saturday before 7a.m., before the crowds, just to feel the excitement and anticipation of the over 1,000 artists from all over North America who are showing their pottery, paintings, jewelry, textiles, beadwork, baskets and sculpture, some traditional, some contemporary. Grab an Indian taco or fry bread and forget the guilt because this is tradition, watch a fashion show, watch little bitty sweet faced kids and big kids wearing traditional native clothes, listen to the music and feel a part of a 92 year old Santa Fe tradition and so many more years of Native American heritage.

And breathe deeply because this is also chile roasting time in New Mexico, another part of the crescendo of summer. Hermes’ Eau de Merveilles cannot compare to the sensual fragrance of fresh roasted chiles. Just can’t.

This week explodes with the fullness of summer and the joy of being present for the cycle of tradition in Santa Fe.

Fiesta Food Trucks


Once a year at Fiesta I go for it. I look carefully at each food truck on the Plaza to make my choice. Will it be quesadillas from Quesada’s? Or roasted corn?

Or a Navajo taco?

Ah, here it is! A chile relleno burrito! Life is good!


Chile Roasting Time!

I lied. In an earlier post I said I would write one post and one post only on chiles.  I thought writing too many articles on chiles might lead to articles on brightly painted coyotes or broom skirts or five squash blossom necklaces worn at the same time. But I made that statement in the abstract. As I walked toward the Farmers’ Market today I smelled it first. Could it be? Is it time? Woohoo! It’s chile roasting time!

Romero Farms (505.579.0071) has many varieties. These are Joe Parker $4/lb. Just perfect.

These are Joe Parker chiles roasted. Take home several bags at $6/bag.

Freeze a few for a taste of summer this winter. Ah, chile roasting time in NM.

A Chile Primer

A reader asked where he could purchase Christmas chiles. That was the way he phrased his question. While this person clearly is not from around these parts, he earns high praise for at least instinctively knowing New Mexico is the place to buy his chiles. He even spelled it the New Mexico way, chile not chili. Because he seems like a nice person, I will write my one and only piece on chiles.

First, I need to add the disclaimer that I am not an expert on the topic of chiles. I was raised in the East. I do  know I like them. A lot. I also believe the aroma of roasting chiles at the Farmers’ Market or from the roasting stands along the highways in late summer ranks right up there as one of the most sensuous fragrances known to man. I wish I had a smell-o-meter button to give you a whiff. You  need to come out here in between mid August and early September and inhale.

Christmas, often said in response to would you like red, green or Christmas on your breakfast burrito or enchillada, means a mixture of red chile sauce and green chile sauce. You might find the color of the two mixed together a bit off putting but the taste  is spectacular. Experiment. Ask the server to place some of each on either side of the plate. After you have tried each separately, create your own little Christmas holiday on the plate.

You need to understand that the topic of which is better,  red or green chile, is in and of itself literally a hot button topic for  passionate debate. It would take several books to even scratch the chile surface. While you are deciding red, green or Christmas, try chopped green chile in a grilled cheese sandwich, which is really a quesada if you melt the cheese in a tortilla instead of bread. Add red pepper flakes to stew for a little punch or ground green to sour cream for a dip. Buy whole chiles and make chile relenos. The chile is its own food group.

To finally answer the reader’s question, you can purchase nature’s treat  in many places. As I mentioned, freshly roasted chiles are in abundance at the farmers’ markets and along the roadsides here and there during the season. At least in the past, The Santa Fe School of Cooking has offered to mail out of state the freshly roasted variety. Many places in Hatch, New Mexico, will do so as well. The Santa Fe School of Cooking also has a shop in town and on line with a wide variety of dried and canned chiles. If you are ever near Chimayo, north of Santa Fe, stop by El Portrero Trading Post for their dried red and green Chimayo chiles. They will hand you some recipes with your purchase to get you started. The recipes alone are worth the trip.

Buyer beware, though. Chile is addictive. After awhile, your taste buds acquire a tolerance. More and more is required to get that original hit. But, oh, what a guilty pleasure, and it even comes in two colors.