When you think Santa Fe epicure, one person comes to mind: Cheryl Alters Jamison. She alongside late husband Bill authored a battery of cookbooks venerated as foodie bibles, including Smoke & Spice: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue and The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. I caught up with Cheryl at Tia Sophia’s, where we both indulged in Christmas breakfast burritos and shared tales of recent culinary travels. Me strolling down Montreal’s Quartier Latin at 3 am, munching on poutine; her visiting Peru and enjoying local delicacy cuy—charred guinea pig. “I didn’t eat it in the markets, where it’s deep-fried whole and you see its little face,” she says with a chortle. “I did have it in Gastón Acurio’s restaurant in Cusco. It was presented like a fine dish, with scallops on a plate, and I hate to say it, but it was a little bit like a more robust chicken.”
Where do you source your food?
Santa Fe Farmers Market for lots of fresh things; Santa Fe School of Cooking has really great chiles, and I get certain things from North of the Border, which is owned by friends of mine down the road in Tesuque.
Out-of-town friends are here for 24 hours. What do you tell them are Santa Fe musts?
The Shed. If you’re only here for 24 hours, I think you should be eating a lot of New Mexican food, because it’s not available anywhere else. For breakfast, I like this, Tia Sophia’s or Pasqual’s, where I would tell them to try the chorizo with red burrito and the polenta with red chile and corn, and maybe Atrisco. It always stuns people that I would recommend something that’s in a mall [laughs].
Most unforgettable meal?
Here or ever? Ever. Probably Alain Chapel in France. He’s a chef the world lost very early. I went in 1988, and I was expecting it to be good, but I wasn’t expecting the full orchestration of a meal experience in such an incredible way. It was an eye-opening thing relatively early for me in how a meal can transcend just being food.
Frito pie or chicharrón burritos. Let’s see, I like El Molero’s chicharrón burrito with green.
Most interesting food trend?
Well, probably the best thing to have happened in recent years is the emphasis on fresh foods. Restaurants have really tried to make those connections with chefs and farmers in ways that a lot of lip service was given in the past. And I’m kind of over poutine now, unless I’m in Montreal or Quebec City. I don’t need to see poutine in Santa Fe anymore, even when it has green chile.
The best part of doing what you do?
The passion that I have for it. I get to live in that every day. Food is such a communal kind of experience, and I love that opportunity to have a meal with someone that I enjoy talking with or cooking for. I love what I do, and somebody out there usually pays me for it [laughs].