Interesting things are happening up on Museum Hill, where Museum Hill Cafe serves a lunch that will delight art-lovers everywhere, featuring a menu inspired by the distinctive wide-ranging exhibits shown in Santa Fe's museums.
The current four-course menu, Brasil Food Popular, takes its cue from the Brasil & Arte Popular exhibit currently on view at the Museum of International Folk Art, featuring more than 300 pieces from the museum's Brazilian collection, including folk sculptures, religious art, festival costumes, puppets and more.
The meal is an incredible feast of Brazilian foods, tapas style, starting with queso fundido, a rich corn, poblano chile and cheese fondue spiced with jalapeno and cilantro. Creamy and delicious, studded with juicy kernels of corn and cilantro and served with crisp housemade corn chips, it's like the Latin version of French fondue.
Next up, the Duck Tostada served with mango, crème fraiche, pickled radish, cilantro and feta, It's deliciously light and filled with flavor. The tostada is served with a Pastel, a Brazilian Empanada stuffed with pork, raisins, green olive, caper, tomato and onion, and baked in sweet pastry,. This little golden pastry pillow manages to taste both sweet and savory at the same time, and I could eat one for lunch every day.
The third plate offers a medley of shrimp, beef and pork, from the smoky Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp Skewer in a light barbecue sauce to a Brazilian Spice-Rubbed Steak Skewer, grilled Churrasco-style. They're paired with Feijoada, a hearty traditional Brazilian stew made with black-oak smoked sausage, black beans, bacon and rice that's a lot like a New Orleans gumbo, with delicious seasonings include paprika, cumin, turmeric and white pepper,
For dessert, the Orange Flan has the perfect balance of flavors, combining the citrus notes of orange with the sweetness of condensed milk and spices while the Mate Ice Cream, spiced with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, is the perfect palate cleanser. If you're a coffee fan, try the chioccino, a,Brazilian coffee cocktail that's popular in Brazil
Self-taught chef Weldon Fulton took over the Museum Hill Cafe after it had sat empty for a few years. He'd come to Santa Fe from the Palm Springs area, where he owned a few restaurants. In 2008, he opened Station Fine Coffee & Tea in the Railyard and re-launched the Museum Hill Cafe in 2012.
His first museum exhibit menu was New World Cuisine, inspired by the New World Cuisine: The Histories of Chocolate Y Mas exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art, which explored the dawn of world cuisine and how foods around the world evolved by mixing the old with the new.
The menu featured Sweet Corn Custard with a rich poblano cream sauce; Jalisco Sopes, crisp red polenta with onion, tomato, pinto breams and crème, Nopal Salad with diced cactus, jalapenos, tomato, onion, garlic and queso fresca; Poblano Mole with chocolate poblano peppers tomato, onion, cumin and cloves and Dark Chocolate Truffle Graham Tart
Next up on the menu, in the New Year, will be a Foods of the Americas menu, paired with an upcoming exhibit at the Museum of Indian Art Culture.
“I usually scour cookbooks, looking for recipes,” Fulton says. "I looked for the foods of Brazil and found that their menu includes a lot of duck, pork, meat and shrimp. For the Foods of the Americas, I'm looking at different native cookbooks. The Three Sisters—squash, beans and corn—always play huge role in their menu. I'm developing the menu now, and including corn and wild rice fritters.”
Museum Hill Cafe also does a bang-up with its regular menu, with signature dishes including Smoked Duck Flautus with mango dipping sauce and Asian Shrimp Tacos, along with Chicken Mole, Mushroom Taquitos, Enchiladas Suizas, Thai beef salad and more. For dessert, try the Clementine Orange and Almond Flourless Cake, the Babka or the Key Lime Pie. One way to know whether a restaurant is good is by its clientele, and diners here include Valerie Plame, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford.
The cafe hosts a live jazz night once or twice a month in collaboration with Santa Fe Collective. This Friday, check out flautist Ali Ryerson. A Wine Dinner takes place November 14.
Museum Hill Cafe is a great place to relax on the patio, while the weather's still nice. But inside or out, the views of the Jemez Mountains are stupendous, and the food artful and delicious, fitting for a restaurant perched on Museum Hill.