“You want it darker?” Leonard Cohen asked us shortly before he died in 2016. As we enter the pandemic fall, I don’t know that I do. Many of us are downright fearful of the waning light.
But we can shore up our systems with healthy nourishment to keep us calm and carrying on. And coincidentally or not, just in time for harvest season, two versatile Santa Fe spots have emerged where organic, locally grown vegetables take center stage: Rose’s Kitchen and Root 66 Vegan Café.
One recent Tuesday evening, I swung on a tire swing, took a sun-warmed walk between rows of tall sunflowers and lavender, watched masked community-farm workers gather for refreshments in the day’s lengthening shadows and listened to a few out-of-time roosters crow. I was pleasantly waiting for takeout dinner for four at Rose’s Kitchen, a tiny but mighty food stand at Reunity Farm off Agua Fria at San Ysidro Crossing.
Chef Ilana Rose Blankman pivoted from a career as a circus teacher and performer to open Rose’s Kitchen in July. She’s a sure hand at her new gig, having worked in the restaurant industry since she was an Albuquerque teenager. Her small but far-ranging menu travels from a homemade organic Frito pie (with or without Sweet Grass Co-op beef) to a veggie ramen to a Mediterranean mezze platter. No matter what you order, the produce grown on-site by Reunity is the star of the show.
We settled into the movable feast at twilight under a friend’s gazebo. (The farm has a few picnic tables sitting under big shade trees, but if you opt not to stay, the food travels well.) No one at the table could agree on what was better: the vegetarian tacos ($10, with pintos, chicos and calabacitas or oyster mushrooms, black beans and feta) with homemade molé and a crisp, vinegary cabbage-carrot curtido; the mezze plate heaped high with crunchy falafel balls, a glistening tomato, cucumber and feta salad, hummus and flatbread triangles ($12); the peanut-coconut rice noodles with tofu and more perfectly crispy veggies ($9), or the giant farm stand salad ($7) with greens, beets, radishes, carrots, cucumbers and more under an herb-flecked avocado dressing. Although the dinner party included a 9-year-old, she needed no exhortations to eat her veggies.
I continued my tour of virtuous eating at Root 66 Vegan Café. Local vegans got acquainted with Root 66 in 2018 as a food truck with a menu heavy on plant-based meat substitutes. At the new brick-and-mortar restaurant that opened on Lena Street in May, a new chef and manager has elevated Root 66 from a vegan destination to a straight-up destination. Katlyn Badeaux came to town from New Orleans by way of Denver. In both places, she honed her vegan-cuisine expertise at Superfood Bar, a hub for nutrient-packed food that’s “incidentally vegan.”