Gourmets, gourmands and plain-old gluttons take note: the 24th annual Taste of Santa Fe is scheduled for this Sunday, June 3, and with at least 16 restaurants, caterers and shops bringing extraordinarily delicious delicacies to the event, you have no excuse to sit at home picking at a week-old rotisserie chicken and channel surfing. The event, a fundraiser for the New Mexico History Museum and the Palace of the Governors, takes place in the Lumpkins Ballroom at La Fonda (on the southeast corner of the Plaza), where the chefs will set up tables offering up little plates of comestibles in three categories: appetizers, entrees and desserts.
One of the fun things about the Taste Of Santa Fe, and some of the other events like it, is that guests are allowed to vote for their favorites in certain categories. Unlike voting in a political election, which involves an excruciatingly painful deliberative process we call "campaign season," picking a favorite desert really doesn't involve much arm twisting. "Oh, no! Do I really have to try the triple-chocolate mouse again?"
Last year, for reasons that remain unclear, organizers decided to do away with awards at TOSF. But not to fear! They're back. "We heard from some of the restaurants that they wanted us to do the awards again," Carolyn Gonzales of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, says. And because I'm cynical and jaded, I reply, "Oh really? Did you hear that from some of the restaurants who've won in the past, by any chance?" And she says, no, sounding rather surprised. In fact, the requests came mostly from new participants. Not that it really matters. These folks donate their food and their hard labor just for the museum, so it seems only right that they also should get the chance to be recognized with awards from the guests.
One of the chefs who'll be there on Sunday night is Malik Hammond (pronounced like "Alec" with an M), executive chef of the Blue Heron restaurant at Sunrise Springs. His crew will be serving Asian ceviche on a sesame cracker. The ceviche is not a dish from the restaurant's menu; it's something his sous chef, Rob Starr, came up with specifically for the Taste of Santa Fe. "Basically, the stuff that's on our menu wouldn't translate for an event," Hammond says, "because of [considerations like] complexity, travel, ease of preparation, ease of serving and ease of eating." The Asian ceviche is "easy to transport, it's fairly simple to serve and it's cold so we don't have to use any heat," he explains. "Plus it has lots of flavor and good texture."
Is he excited about the possibility of winning an award for the dish? "Honestly," Hammond says, "I'm not as much of a showboat as some other people." (Hammond previously cooked at several Santa Fe restaurants, including 315. He couldn't possibly be referring to the charming and gregarious Chef Louis Moskow, could he?) "It is fun," he concedes. "You get your name out there, you schmooze and have a good time. But when it comes down to it, it's for fundraising."
Catherine O'Brien says, "We don't need a lot of exposure-we're incredibly busy-but it's always good to do these things." O'Brien owns Peas 'n' Pod Catering with her partner, Glenda Griswold. "It gets us out of the routine," she says. "We get to talk to the other cooks and see what they're doing. And it gives us an excuse to put on a nice outfit and some makeup!"
Because they're caterers, serving food in unfamiliar environs is a piece of cake for Peas 'n' Pod. "This is what I do," O'Brien says. "I'm often dealing with no refrigeration or having to set up in a tent in the middle of Ghost Ranch with one electrical outlet. It is very hard."
O'Brien and Griswold have yet to decide exactly which dish they'll be bringing to the Taste of Santa Fe, but O'Brien says she is leaning toward something with Asian flavors. "We just got back from Malaysia," she reports, "and I'd like to do something Thai/Malay with seafood. I'm thinking about a Thai/Malay crab cake with lemongrass and kaffir lime pesto." The crab cakes would be served in butterhead lettuce cups so that guests won't need to use forks.
According to O'Brien, Peas 'n' Pod donates between $30,000 and $40,000 of its services every year. "We try and give to the community in ways that feel good for us," she says, specifically mentioning events that benefit women's issues and animal rights. "We don't expect anything in return," she says, but this strong believer in karma says that she believes a good deed will eventually come back to her. "When it does," O'Brien says, "It's a really good feeling."
The Taste of Santa Fe
5:30-7:30 pm, Sunday, June 3
La Fonda Hotel (Lumpkins Ballroom)
100 E. San Fransisco St.
Tickets cost $30 in advance; $35 at the door.
Call 982-6366 for information.
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