December 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM

2012: The Year in Food

"Here are just a few highlights from the past year, proving once again that Santa Fe's culinary scene continues to thrive"

By Lynn Cline

Gourmet Girl

Lynn Cline is a former food editor and the author of two books – Romantic Days and Nights in Santa Fe and Literary Pilgrims: The Santa Fe and Taos Writers' Colonies, 1915-1950. She also loves to cook, when not dining out.

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It's been quite a year for Santa Fe's food scene, from USA Today/Rand McNally's award for being the small city with the best food in the country to the opening of a new culinary school, a Spanish-style tavern and several food trucks serving up inventive street fare.

Despite the struggling economy, new restaurants opened while others, sadly, had to shutter their doors. Longtime food events like the Edible Art Tour continued to have success, and newer ones like Restaurant Week did remarkably well.

Here are just a few highlights from the past year, proving once again that Santa Fe's culinary scene continues to thrive.

Santa Fe received the Best for Food award in USA Today/Rand McNally's 2012 Best of the Road competition for being the small city with the best food in the country, beating out Lewiston, N.Y., Burnsville, Minn., Bloomington, Ind., Charlottesville, Va., and Walla Walla, Wash.  What a wonderful a testament to the level of creativity in Santa Fe's culinary scene

Chefs Rocky Durham and Tanya Story opened the Santa Fe Culinary Academy to provide culinary education for those seeking a career in the food industry. The academy, housed in the space formerly occupied by the Santa Fe School of Cooking, offers community classes, a Professional Culinarian Diploma Program and a student restaurant and event space.

After more than 20 years in the San Francisco Street Mercado, The Santa Fe School of Cooking relocated to a gorgeous new space at the corner of Johnson and Guadalupe streets, the former home of the Awakening Gallery. The new location is almost double the size of the old school, allowing it to expand its Southwestern cooking classes and programs.

James Campbell Caruso, the über chef behind La Boca, opened Taberna La Boca on Lincoln Avenue just steps away from his landmark restaurant on Marcy Street. Here, you can sit in the cozy bar or on the outdoor patio and enjoy delicious tapas, draft beer, wine and sherry. It's the perfect place to have a drink and an appetizer while you're waiting for your table at La Boca, or to simply spend a delightful evening.

Also in 2012, we saw the opening of Café Fina in a former Fina gas station off of Old Las Vegas Highway, in the old Real Food Nation digs. The place quickly became a hot spot under the guidance of Murphy O'Brien, who used to own Atalaya Bakery before working the front of the house at Mu Du Noodles, and his wife Annamaria O'Brien, who bakes amazing cookie, cakes, pies and other desserts for the restaurant. Signature dishes includes huevos motulenos, Cloud Cakes (one of Local Flavor's Top Ten Dishes of 2012) and the green chile cheeseburger.

Santa Fe's food truck scene expanded with the addition of Le Pod, a French creperie housed in airstream trailer that also offers soups du jour, sandwiches and other street fare. The crepes are amazing, each one cooked to order then served in the paper cone that is ubiquitous on the streets of Paris. Whenever I bit into the very traditional lemon and sugar crepe, I am instantly transported to one of my favorite cities in the world. Vive la Crepe!

The Commpound's award-winning chef/owner Mark Kiffin opened a new restaurant in Albuquerque's Nob Hill district to great acclaim. Having eaten there, I can vouch that his take on tacos and Mexican street food is as good as his James Beard Award-winning food at The Compound. If you haven't tried it yet, be sure it's on your to-do list in the New Year.

Unfortunately, we lost some great eateries this past year, including Max's and Agua Santa, which was sold to chef Charles Dale, formerly of Terra at Rancho Encantado The food truck Slurp had to close down as well due to location issues but they are hoping to reopen in 2012.

2012 also saw the debut of Santa Fe Winter Fiesta, a 10-day celebration of food, handcrafted ale, music, film and more. One of the highlights was Winterbrew, a craft beer and comfort food extravaganza in the Santa Fe Farmers' Market Pavilion, which featured 28 New Mexico breweries and some of Santa Fe's top chefs.

The Santa Fe Souper Bowl continued to raise money for The Food Depot, which helps to feed New Mexico's homeless. Restaurant Week, an annual event in March, expanded this year, as new restaurants joined on and additional events were added to the schedule.

2012 also saw the second sell-out year of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a fundraiser for the Santa Fe Community Foundation's Community Leadership Fund. The cuisine crawl features intimate dinners prepared by world-class chefs and served in Santa Fe homes, gardens and studios.  Guests don't know where they are dining until just a few days before the event. Dinners are followed by a dessert competition at the Museum of International Folk Art.

And of course the 22nd Annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta still drew sell-out crowds to the city for a week's worth of wine dinners, food demos, culinary adventures, the Grand Tasting Event at the Santa Fe Opera and more.

All in all, it's been quite a busy year for Santa Fe chefs and diners. And much more is in store for the coming year. Stick with Gourmet Girl to stay informed and up to date on all that happens in Santa Fe's culinary scene in the coming year.

Happy New Year, one and all, and thanks for reading Gourmet Girl!

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