Nestled among the pottery displays and jewelry stands of the Railyard Artisan Market are the gorgeous tiered cakes, layers of pastries and mouthwatering confections of Drift & Porter, Santa Fe's latest bakery pop-up. It isn't immediately obvious from the outward appearances or taste of the
delicately decadent treats, but everything on the menu is vegan and gluten-free. What is obvious within seconds of meeting founders Matthew Spano and John Partazana, however, is that they are committed to health, beauty, art and food. They left my head spinning from the sheer joy of a conversation that leaped from current health trends, the diversity of American baked goods, the inspiration of Alexander McQueen dresses, and helping kids with serious food allergies discover the delights of biting into their rainbow cookies for the first time.
Drift & Porter opened its doors in January. Santa Fe has a mysterious magnetic power, and New York expatriates Spano and Partazana heeded the call. Spano worked in a vegan restaurant and Partazana as a hairdresser, but each tired of the cramped and claustrophobic energy of a city with no room or opportunity to create amidst the outrageously expensive real estate. They went west.
"When we got here, I had multiple deja-vus," says Partazana. "I almost wanted to go the hospital, it almost felt like something was wrong with my brain. But ultimately it felt like I was home. Then there was a snowstorm, and we couldn't go home for two weeks, so we just decided to stay. Land of Entrapment, I guess."
Six months after opening, the menu has grown from 12 items to 28, with an emphasis on sweet rather than savory, though said savory offerings cannot be denied. One of the most popular menu items is the Brooklyn street pie ($8.50) which reliably sells out within the first hour of Sunday market appearances. It's made with lentil, spicy fennel bean and quinoa sausage rolled in homemade American cashew cheese, roasted red pepper and caramelized onion, then baked in a rich puff pastry made from white rice flour. It's the kind of food rarely encountered in Santa Fe: undeniably East Coast in its inspiration, reinterpreted with a gluten-free and vegan twist. "It's inspired by the rough, hardcore vendors on the streets of Brooklyn," Spano says, "and these men are serious when it comes to food. Or from going to Coney Island and getting these bizarre, amazing things you can't find anywhere else."
But Drift & Porter's creative vision extends far beyond East Coast roots. They constantly incorporate new themes into their baking, drawing inspiration from the worlds of fashion, art and history.
"I also used to make clothes, and I can make earrings, necklaces and all sorts of art," Spano says. "I can get a little out of control when I see opportunity and potential, and now I want to show that gluten-free and vegan food can be really beautiful, and it's not a sacrifice or giving up of anything."
"Last week, we did a Marie Antoinette theme that celebrated the beauty of food in France, the lavish lushness and indulgence," Partazana adds. "Our mantra is to keep food amazing for people without excluding them."
In that vein, everything at Drift & Porter is gorgeous and outwardly decadent in appearance, paying tribute to pastries normally inaccessible to anyone with serious food allergies. For example, the whoopie pies ($6), a treat with Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch origins, are now reimagined as almond flour-based cakes filled with a wide array of vegan butter creams such as vanilla, strawberry and chocolate—but it's a dead ringer for the real thing, luscious filling sandwiched between two soft chocolate discs that demonstrate none of the inconsistent grittiness that frequently plagues gluten-free desserts.
This is due to a high level of customization. Normally, gluten-free flour is heavy and dense, made from almond and rice, an enormous hurdle when it comes to creating light, delicate pastries.
"Each item is a different flour," Spano points out. "We make a different blend by hand for everything, and we don't have an all-purpose that we use across the board."
As for excluding meat and animal byproducts, they are fully committed to celebrating plant-based options—with one caveat. "We are a fully vegan business, we do not support the replication of fake meat substitutes," Spano emphasizes. "We want nothing mass-produced in a laboratory to try and mimic the exact texture, smell and taste of meat." Partazana agrees.
And excluding eggs, cream, milk, refined sugars and artificial dyes? Both men treat it as an opportunity to flex their creative muscles. After all, the ultimate inspiration is the customers. "It's such a spiritual connection, and that's why we want to keep moving and keep growing," Partazana says. "There's a light that turns on in people's eyes, and it's like their inner child comes out right in front of me."
Drift and Porter
10 am-4 pm Sundays
Railyard Artisan Market, Farmers Market Pavilion,
1607 Paseo de Peralta,