For many reasons, one of my favorite long weekend escapes is Santa Fe: dear friends who love to cook and sip bubbly, big open sky vistas (like Africa, but not so far!), museums, opera, marvelous indigenous art, excellent restaurants, first class hotels…the list is long and varied.
ART – A recent escape yielded several unique excursions. Santa Fe abounds with art, and I organized a few private excursions with my local friends. We began with a visit with a fashion artist who has become a friend Ewa (Ava), Kielczewska, her design label is sold under Ewka. I met Ewa at a juried art exhibit in San Francisco, before I escaped to Argentina last year; not only is she a uniquely talented fashion artist, she is a Tango dancer extraordinaire! We bonded and have remained in touch. Her beautiful hand painted suede and silk garments combine fine craftsmanship and styling with a unique subtle play of color and form, she sells in the US and Europe. We enjoyed ginger tea while she explained the process of her intricate textile designs: she hand carves linoleum blocks and then transfers the ink designs to suede, silk and velvet, she also hand paints delicate long lines on the jackets- her process as she described it, is brush – breathe- brush…when you see her work you will wonder how she achieves this perfect balance. Her jackets and scarves are elegant, yet casual and perfect travel garments, the suede and silk are delicate and light, yet very durable. http://www.artewka.com/
DINING – Santa Fe has numerous excellent restaurants, when one closes, another marvelous restaurant opens…I have many favorites which have endured, but a bright spot is Restaurant Martin on Galisteo Street. Chef Martin Rios, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, grew up in Santa Fe and started in the restaurant business as a 17-year-old dishwasher, eventually working his way to executive chef at several restaurants and hotels. Chef Rios received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America and supplemented that with experience and training in some of the worlds most honored restaurants and with well-known culinary masters. His passion for food has taken him around the world in pursuit of culinary innovation, creativity and cooking experience.
RECOMMENDATIONS – Begin in the bar and chat up the staff, who will monitor your progress toward a table…great wine list and a few samplings of appetizers to try:
Ahi Tuna Tartare Avocado, Fresh Wasabi, Smoked Sesame Seeds, yummy little Jalapeno Blinis, Citrus Soy Air. So delicious, I was tempted to reorder it for my entrée!
Maple Cured Quail- Sweet Potato Sable, Prosciutto, Spicy Herb Purée, Shallot Aigre-Doux
Entrees – Maine Diver Sea Scallops Potato-Shallot Puree, Mushroom Duxelle, Chorizo and Tarragon
Prime Beef Tenderloin- Crushed Fingerling Potatoes, Garlic Transparency, Carrots, Gorgonzola Cromesquis- Very Argentinean!
Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast Leg Confit, Smoked Bacon Polenta, Marcona Almonds, Brandied Blackberry Gastrique.
Maple Leaf Farms is the rage for divine duck; Martin’s preparation was OTT- slices of tender duck breast and leg, thus a combination of textures, delectable and divine…the blackberry reduction sauce was perfection!
Chef Rios has been repeatedly honored for his innovative and pleasing combinations of flavors, colors and presentation. His unique style emphasizes fresh, local produce and organic meats and poultry, and reflects not only Southwestern and Asian influences but also his classical training in French technique. Featured in the 2008 season of Iron Chef America, Rios is the only New Mexico chef to have won the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence.
ART – Galleries are abundant in Santa Fe; the prime corridor is Canyon Road. Art galleries feature contemporary art and traditional fine art, Southwest art, Native American art, Indian art and pottery, glass art, prints, sculpture, fine art photography and other types of visual art.
The Gerald Peters Gallery has long been recognized as one the world’s most respected dealers of American art of nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. GP is on Paseo de Peralta, and in reality, is more like a small museum. A respected gallery, GP also has a sister gallery in New York. Ansel Adams Landscape and Light reception filled the gallery with art devotees on Friday night.
The landmark exhibition of historic black‐and‐ photographs includes many of Adams’ best‐ loved images taken during the 1920s through the 1960s, such as Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941, and Aspens, as well as a selection of monumental and oversized prints. All of the more than 25 works in the show highlight Adams’ remarkable acumen for blending magnificent landscape subjects with a mastery of light and his genius in the darkroom.
As much as I admire Ansel, we were on a mission to view the work of local (Santa Cruz) artist, Tim Craighead. We enjoyed a private tour and discussion of Tim’s abstract work. From Tim: “ My influences range from second-generation abstract expressionism to forms found in nature to structural drawings by Frei Otto and Buckminster Fuller.” His organic shapes, bright colors and symbols emerge and produce magic in his paintings. Lines and cropped shapes appear abstract, I see boat shapes and adventure, pine cones, icons of nature, a visual vocabulary and structural forms which mimic nature, charming and stimulating allusions. We all agree: Bravo Tim!
Private tours can be arranged at Gerald Peters Gallery with advance notice.
Santa Fe – always something new, always something interesting and stimulating.
Santa Fe news to come, where the wind howled and dropped a feathery white blanket for an entire day…then again into the wind to a remote corner of Utah to the newly opened Amangiri Resort. FROM AMANGIRI – A few blissful days at Amangiri will guarantee a restored sense of balance and energy., I lost a day due to Great Lakes airline canceling the flight- 2 flights a day in and out of Page AZ, charter is recommended unless you are flexible with your time- cancellation resulted in an unexpected 9 hour layover, which I spent at Biltmore Arizona – in Phoenix, which is another story- Wrigley and Frank Lloyd Wright = financing and great design, a marvelous partnership; the design and spirit of the early structure still reflect the combined character.
Flying with the setting sun in a tiny Beechcraft, the vibrations convince me it was probably employed in a long ago military excursion; land at Page Arizona, a landing strip and single room terminal. Drivers in white jackets stand at the ready to transport the few Amangiri guests in a single car caravan. My first impression is of the wide expanse of ebony sky dotted with millions of stars. On arrival, a host carrying a bright torch meets me curbside and I am escorted up a steep cement staircase illuminated by large Moroccan style candle lanterns-it is quiet, austere and very magical. In the lobby, a waiter greets me with a warm lemon scented hand towel and a glass of sage lemonade, a single mint leaf floating in the glass.
Managing the first impression of a guest is an Aman hallmark and it sets the stage for the visit. More hotels and resorts should understand the art of the initial greeting.
A night arrival adds to the mystical nature of Amangiri, the outlines of the huge rock outcroppings are just visible and the combination of millions of stars, black sky and the massive temple like edifice set the stage for the experience.
Delicate sensory sounds and visuals: from lighting – candle lanterns illuminating the extended passageways to the rooms, monumental walls with dripping water which alternately cascade into a small pond with a splash or gently onto a row of pebbles – each producing a distinct sound. Dripping, splashing, rippling water in fountains or reflecting pools – water elements are used extensively throughout the intimate resort. Visuals – design can’t compete with nature, and Aman resorts manage the complimentary juxtaposition of a resort with the environment. Narrow slots in between 30-foot walls, draw your gaze to the burnt orange and creamy white butte in the distance, the image is reflected off copper edges – clever and stimulating. Slot canyons are abundant in the area and the witty imagery is a whimsical ingenious reference.
Water, lighting, and sound – the afternoon wind adds to the mix: rippling the overhead wind sheets in the halls, the waves in the pool slap the side and cascade down to a hidden seating area. Amangiri is all about becoming one with nature.
LOCATION– In Utah, at the border of the four corners of the Southwest; the dramatic resort is the center of the Grand Circle, surrounded by such iconic attractions as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase, Escalante and Bryce & Zion National Parks – finally a luxury property to use as a base for touring. Although I only left for daily hikes, as the resort landscape is unrivaled and captivating. Positioned in an arc of enormous stratified rock, Amangiri nuzzles into a natural curve of the sandstone, barely discernible from the horizon. Two wings of suites are nestled into the base of the outcropping; the hues of the cement were modified six times by artist Ulrike Arnold to obtain the most striking resemblance to the surrounding landscape. Ulrike Arnold, whose oversize paintings are hung in the dining room travels the world working with the natural hues of landscape and stone.
SUITES – Sixteen suites are located within the Desert Wing and another eighteen suites together with the Aman Spa are located within the Mesa Wing. Sweeping uninterrupted views from each suite look out to the surrounding plateaus and mesas. Pool Suites feature a private plunge pool and a private sky terrace. The sky terrace offers a daybed that is ideal for daytime lounging or nighttime stargazing.
FINE DINING – Executive Chef Matt Lash has sourced out amazing purveyors for fresh fish (flown in from Santa Barbara); duck bred in Indiana by Amish farmers- exquisite ingredients in a remote location, I was impressed at every meal. The open kitchen in the dining room is a focal point, sit at the chef bar and engage Matt and his sous–chef de cuisine, Roger Page, they love cooking and sharing the experience.
SPA– The Aman spa is a destination unto itself, a serene setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. Several pavilions, a sky lit reflecting pool, candle lit serene rooms, and the magic doesn’t stop here. A yoga studio, opening to the mesa, a fitness center, and steam and sauna pavilions…the list is endless. I enjoyed a 2.5-hour spa journey: sacred elements are incorporated in the experience consisting of a facial, scrubbing and massage, an Aguletz clay body wrap and Navajo smudging ceremony- honestly, a very powerful experience.
ADVENTURES – The starkly beautiful desert landscape offers a host of outdoor activities. On property trails, some include exciting via ferrata climbing routes. Guests can explore on horseback or on bike to reach remote areas of the property. Water based activities include fly-fishing, boating on the Colorado River and Lake Powell. Hot air balloons, scenic aerial flights, hiking, private Colorado River tours… I can arrange expert scientists, geologists and naturalists from the region to be available for tours and lectures. Further afield, one can explore the natural wonders on day trips, the resort has two cars for guest use, one is a zippy BMW sports car.
GUESTS – French, Italian and a few Americans. I like nothing better than escaping to foreign accents. Around 11 am, wandering through the corridors, I discover a wide outdoor terrace/ desert lounge with long low sofas, near to the ground solid wood block tables and a vista that extends for miles. A Frenchman in rakish straw hat, white trousers, pink shirt, and chic black loafers – on his cell phone, babbling away, waving sheets of paper into the breeze. Apparently he does not have ATT as I have no cell service, a blessing. Later poolside, he is pecking away on his IPad- Apple should follow their users; this is a very remote location and already an IPad, saw three in all.
Love the Italians at lunch: Bottled sparking water, a bottle of wine, a diet Coke, and many entrees to share. Chic Italian woman in lovely Panama hat: I WANT the bottle of water – no ice, no straw, no glass, I want to drink the water from the bottle. Salute! A breeze, the gurgling pool and clinking glasses, heaven! Switching between Italian and English, the patter is brisk and animated.
All is good in the desert…spring flowers, an afternoon wind, warm sun, over the top views (OTT), divine meals…an absolute sensory experience at Amangiri…call me, you must visit!