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With its frosted gingerbread adobes, snow-capped Sangres and readily available bowls of après-ski green chile stew, Santa Fe is an unsung wonderland when it comes to winter. Summertime may swell the streets with tourists, but locals know that our colder season has a cozy charm all its own.
It stands to reason, then, that when it comes to dining, Santa Fe’s winter North Stars go far beyond posole and atole. After visiting some old standbys and a couple of new venues, I’ve found some delicious around-town options for when the wind chill is riding low, the trees look extra skeletal and the spirit (and stomach) is crying out for a pick-me-up.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be saucing the handmade pastas from Quattro Mani Pasta with my garden’s tomatoes come summer, but winter is the time to truly savor a steaming bowl of bespoke Italian goodness. The online pasta shop has been in business less than a month, but this collaboration between owner Charles Dampf and chef-owner Doug Hesselgesser is already regularly selling out.
It’s no wonder: Quattro Mani is a bit of a COVID-era miracolo. The four hands of Dampf and Hesselgesser, who have been working in East Coast hospitality for the past 15 years, create four types of tagliatelle (charcoal, tomato, mushroom, regular; $16 each). They also offer ricotta or regular cavatelli ($14), along with cheese ravioli ($16 for 20) — and two devastatingly good 16-ounce sauces, a red and a white ($8 each). Homebound folks can head to the website and choose a pasta (or two), then pick a sauce. Scheduled deliveries take place Wednesday through Saturday, and the frozen packages arrive with ingredient lists and cooking instructions.
Each pasta order contains two ample servings, so, one Friday night, I put on an apron and a Connie Francis record, and served up two courses with very little effort. Primi piatti was ricotta-and-Parmigiano Reggiano cheese ravioli tossed with sautéed greens, garlic, piñon nuts and a healthy dollop of Quattro Mani’s nutmeg and Pecorino-laced cream sauce. The second plate featured the charcoal-infused (and Goth-friendly, with its black hue) tagliatelle, sauced with the house’s tangy red and blitzed with shaved Parmesan. Finishing with a salad, we decided Quattro Mani’s products are, if not already, headed for year-round occupancy in Santa Fe freezers, though they are particularly comforting when temps are below 20.
After Marquez Deli‘s rebranding last year from Café Mimosa, a particularly outstanding matzo-ball soup ($5 cup, $7 bowl) crept onto the menu. Fashioned by chef-owner Alex Hadidi from flavorful schmaltz (chicken fat) and matzo flour, a dense, giant matzo ball sits smack in the middle of a to-go cup. Its prominence invites you to spoon a sliver each time you dip into the rich broth of white-meat chicken and carrot coins; soon enough, you’ll realize you should’ve gotten the bowl. We’ve been in a bit of a matzo-ball desert here for a while, but Marquez Deli is a bona fide midtown oasis.
Since Izanami’s excellent chirashizushi bowl ($22) made a recent return to the Ten Thousand Waves restaurant’s dinner menu, I supplemented a takeout order with a side of vegetarian Brussels sprouts ($10). They were an inspired blend of tart yuzu juice, candied pecans, sliced jalapeños and shredded Parmesan. That combo may sound a bit schizoid, but it’s a frontrunner for the most interesting thing I’ve eaten this winter — and each component had a warming quality. If I were heading back into town from Ski Santa Fe, I’d stop at Izanami for this snack alone.
Speaking of exemplary solo menu items, three weeks ago, I saw a social media post attempting to crowd-source opinions on the best chocolate cake in Santa Fe. After someone wrote enticingly of the “12 feet tall, dark and luscious, moist and delicious” chocolate cake at Los Amigos Restaurant on Rodeo Road, I picked up a “slice” ($6.75) — and fed on it for three days of desserts. Los Amigos‘ chocolate cake is enormous, as advertised, but also uncommonly fudgy and dense. Treat yourself to a slice after you’ve burned off some calories shoveling snow.
Before we get to spring, we have to slog through Lent. But, at Bang Bite Filling Station food truck parked behind Santa Fe Brewing Company’s Brakeroom, that means it’s time for a seasonal star: Bang Bite’s extraordinary fish and chips ($15-$17, market price). The dish’s moniker, the Almost Famous Fish ‘n’ Chips, makes sense: I’ve never had better, but I’m kind of reluctant to spread the word.
Guerrero puts a light-as-air crispy golden breading on hefty hunks of rockfish; the tender white fish melts virtuously in your mouth. It’s accompanied by a habañero tartar sauce with trailer-made pickles, capers and red onions, as well as a mound of perfect French fries and lemon wedges. Just to give you a bit of moral high ground, Bang Bite adds a serving of salt-and-pepper green beans to the pile, dusted with the same house blend seasoning that spices up Bang Bite’s legendary burgers.
The Almost Famous Fish ‘n’ Chips are available Thursday, Friday and Saturday through the Lenten season, but Guerrero says the fish and chips will “probably” make it onto Bang Bite’s permanent menu by summertime — which is all the more reason to look forward to warmer weather.
Quattro Mani Pasta
Order at quattromanipasta.com, deliveries Wednesday-Saturday
WHERE: 513 Camino de los Marquez
CONTACT: 505-365-2112, marquezdeli.com
HOURS: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; closed Monday
Izanami (at Ten Thousand Waves)
WHERE: 21 Ten Thousand Waves Way #2
CONTACT: 505-982-9304, izanamitakeout.com
HOURS: Takeout, delivery and heated outdoor dining every day 12-8 p.m.
Los Amigos Restaurant
WHERE: 3904 Rodeo Road
CONTACT: 505-438-0600, losamigossf.com
HOURS: 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
Bang Bite Filling Station
WHERE: Behind the Brakeroom, 510 Galisteo St.
HOURS: Tuesday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4:30-7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; closed Sunday-Monday*
*Hours may vary, call to confirm