Notes From the Field

- July 11, 2012

New ingredients in Santa Fe's food scene

Santa Fe's Secret Supper Club

There's a new food adventure in town, The Italian Table, a supper club with monthly meals that spotlight regional Italian cuisine.

Rick Freedman launched The Italian Table last month to add some fun to Santa Fe's culinary scene. The dinners take place in various venues, with changing menus of regional dishes made with ingredients imported from Italy.

"The idea for The Italian Table was inspired by my experiences in Italy," Freedman says.  "I recently spent four months in Rome, Florence, Venice, Bologna, Calabria and Sicily, including about half that time in cooking school."

Freedman noticed large groups enjoying course after course of food and lively conversation. "The pace was relaxed," he says.  "It was definitely about the food, but it was also about community. It was like going to a great dinner party, but at a restaurant. The Italian Table is designed to replicate that experience."

Freedman has been cooking his entire life. "My family was completely food obsessed," he says. "Our dinner conversation was usually about what we were going to eat next.  From the age of 14 through college, I worked summers at seafood restaurants. Before starting The Italian Table, I made my living as a tax attorney, businessman and business coach.  I am doing what I enjoy the most, creating amazing evenings for interesting people who love Italian food."

As a guest at The Italian Table's inaugural weekend, I got a chance to taste Freedman's extraordinary cooking. From the silky Lasagna Bolognese, made with pork and veal and velvety tomato sauce, to the Italian cheese plate with Gorgonzola, Parma drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and the chocolate nutella lava cake, the food was incredible.

About 30 guests dined beneath a canopy of stars at The Teahouse in late June, starting with prosecco and Proscuito di Parma with melon, followed by that amazing lasagne, then a refreshing salad of mixed greens, pine nuts and basil vinaigrette, roast loin of pork with porcini mushroom sauce and red wine reduction. The imported Italian cheese plate was amazing, followed by a warm and decadent chocolate nutella lava cake.

The evening was perfect. We made some new friends at our table, enjoyed Italian wines and sampled some of the finest Italian cuisine served outside of Italy! The next dinners are scheduled for July 14 and 15 and feature pasta with lobster seared porcini-dusted scallops with a sweet pea puree and traditional tiramisu. For more information, visit For a reservation, send an email to

Nile Café

The Nile Café got its start as a food truck serving Middle Eastern fare at the intersection of St. Francis Drive and Alameda Street known as Rachel's Corner. The truck is still there, but the Nile has just put down brick and mortar roots at 620 Old Santa Fe Trail, in the space previously occupied by Dish 'n' Spoon and is serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"A lot of our customers have requested us to open a restaurant," says Gigi Griffo who opened Nile Café wit her husband, Dave Griffo in 2009. "They really fell that they should be able to sit down and enjoy a meal. We still have the food truck, but we opened the restaurant for folks who want to sit down."

Diners rave about the Nile's food, which includes traditional recipes from Gigi's family. New dishes on the menu include breakfast burritos with lamb, Egyptian pancakes served with powdered sugar, fig jam or feta and cream cheese spread; Shakshuka, or baked eggs with garlic, tomato and hot chile peppe; and breakfast cous cous with nuts and sugar, served with heavy cream.

Friday dinners include marinated, roasted leg of lamb served over rice with an Egyptian salad; vegetarian mousaka; and Nahed's Frekh belroz, or chicken marinated in a blend of Eyptian spices and cooked with onions, tomatoes and jalapenos.

The  Griffos also own Java Gypsy, a food truck parked at Rachel's Corner serving specialty coffee drinks from espresso and cappuccino to lattes, regular coffee, tea, chai and more, along with sweet and savory pastries.

The Nile Café is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and for dinner until 9 p.m. on Friday. For more info, click here  or call 501-0612.

Santa Fe School of Cooking Moves

For more than 20 years, the Santa Fe School of Cooking has taught people from around the world how to make the unique and delicious foods of the Southwest. Now, the culinary school is moving from its longtime location upstairs and just off the Plaza to 125 N. Guadalupe, at the corner of Johnson Street.

"It's just a perfect space for us," says Susan Curtis, who founded the school in 1989. "We have parking and two building. And it's at ground level, so we're much more visible here."

Although they're still in the middle of the move, the gift shop is open at the new space as are offices, while classes are being temporarily held offsite. Guests of the Restaurant Walking Tours are meeting in the patio of the new space.

While Santa Fe School of Cooking will continue its popular classes and tours, some new plans are in the works for the new space, formerly home of The Awakening Museum and The Drama Club.

"We will be adding different programs," Curtis says. "We have more opportunity now. We have a beautiful patio and a temporary retail store that will move into the main building at some point. We also have a larger store. This space was made for the cooking school."

Curtis said they're planning on opening the new school for hands-on and demo classes in September. The new space holds  60 students comfortably instead of 44 "uncomfortably" in the old space.

For more info, call 983-4511 or visit

Taberna La Boca

When chef James Campbell Caruso opened La Boca in 2006, it quickly became one of Santa Fe's favorite restaurants, receiving  national acclaim when Giada De Laurentiis stopped by for a visit during one of her "Giada's Weekend Getaway" shows.

Now, he's poised to once again win the hearts of diners everywhere with his newest enterprise, Taberna La Boca, a Spanish-style tavern serving tapas, draft beer, wine and sherry, along with live music and flamenco. The new venue,  is scheduled to open August17 in the space formerly occupied by Carlos' Gospel Café.

In addition to tapas, the menu will feature sandwiches, salads, soups, house made pastries, espresso and more. The space includes a cozy bar and an outdoor patio. The tavern also will be available for private events, wine dinners, paella parties, wedding receptions, chef's table dinners and more. In addition, Campbell Caruso will use the space for cooking demos, sherry seminars and other food and wine events.

"Mostly we needed more space," Campbell Caruso says of his decision to open the new venture. "I wanted this to be e more of a gathering spot, a local hang out spot where you don't need a reservation."

Campbell Caruso has also written a new La Boca cookbook, Espana, and he signs copies Friday, July 13 at La Boca from 3 to 5 p.m., and also Saturday, July 14 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free paella at the Farm and Table in Albuquerque.

Taberna La Boca is located at 125 Lincoln Ave, and will be open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and daily from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. For more info,call 983-2423 or visit

Plaza Café Reopens

One of Santa Fe's oldest dining establishments has re-opened its doors on the Plaza, after a kitchen fire in September, 20120 forced a remodel. The Plaza Café Downtown, which opened in 1905, is now back in business after a two-year hiatus imposed by the fire, caused by garlic butter inadvertently left over a pilot light.

The café will look the same to its legions of fans, from the vinyl booths and Formica tabletops to the clocks on the wall. But additional tables have been added, new kitchen equipment installed and the restrooms have been renovated.

Welcome back, Plaza Café! You are truly a Santa Fe treasure and diners are thrilled that you are open again! Visit for more info.

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