Reaching its quantercentenary, Santa Fe is proudly the oldest U.S. capital city. But the old draws the new, the hip, the chic, the vibrant, the eclectic, and the infamous to an alluring hideaway with adobe architecture, Southwestern cuisine, azure trails, turquoise skies, and an annual film fest.
Known as the “Land of Enchantment,” Santa Fe’s residents include Randy Travis, Tom Ford, Shirley McClaine and Val Kilmer. It’s the city that inspired Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning performance in “Crazy Heart.” He recently returned to shoot the Coen Brothers’ version of “True Grit.”
“I love Santa Fe,” said the actor. “It’s such a relaxed setting and I can still be a cowboy here!”
Matt Damon, who’s filming “Thor,” had dinner at The Compound’s bar with, of all people, the Coen Brothers. His cast mate, Natalie Portman, just joined El Gancho, a local gym. Rosario Dawson and Lyle Lovett were seen strolling. Gene Hackman and Val Kilmer dined at Geronimo’s. Both Megan Fox and George Clooney stayed at the elegant ranch resort, Posada de Santa Fe. Michael Douglas was just in town.
Last summer, Paul McCartney, who made Abbey Road infamous, sought out another road on a New Mexico road trip. The former Beatle fulfilled a lifelong dream with girlfriend, Nancy Shevall. They drove through Route 66, before stopping at the famed Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, a favorite with both locals and tourists.
What draws the A-list to this ever-popular, seemingly tiny adobe-lined city in the middle of nowhere? Until recently, finding non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Santa Fe to experience its regional flavors was like seeking a needle in a haystack.
Much of Santa Fe’s seduction is the cuisine, as well as the restaurant-owner hospitality. In most eateries, you feel like a guest in a friend’s living room.
Al Lucero owns and operates Maria’s, a casual New Mexican dining spot that boosts 100 types of tequila. Lucero has been known to give tequila classes and pen “The Great Margarita Book,” which includes a forward by Robert Redford.
Fernando Olea’s Epazote, a 300-year-old building that was formerly military barracks, looks like an art gallery. Besides his appreciation for the arts, Chef Olea teaches students the art of cooking and is very active with charity work.
A group of us were treated to a flamenco guitar serenade by Fernando Antillas, chef/owner of Los Mayas. While watching his fingers fly to the rasgueados of his raw guitar talent, we thought we were convening in Spain.
Nicole Ammermann, manager of Santa Fe Cooking School (which hosts a walking tour/restaurant crawl with private tastings), says, “This city’s cultural diversity is magical and special. Its natural beauty and historical nature draws you in. A celebrity can walk down the street and there’s a good chance no one will recognize them.” She adds, “The area is very European and exotic at the same time.” The school, founded by her mother, Susan Curtis, is near the famed Plaza. (SantaFeCooking-Schools.com).
This month, Redford launches Milagro at Los Luceros, a training center for Native American and Hispanic filmmakers. Located outside Santa Fe, it’s modeled after his Sundance Institute.
“I’ve always wanted to explore new ways to enable underrepresented voices to tell their stories on their own turf,” said Redford. “I also believe in arts as an economic driver. A new generation of storytellers will prove that.”
The handsome and acclaimed filmmaker loves the area so much, he recently moved into a new house in Tesuque, near town.
Sue Facter writes about all things A-list including entertainment, travel and beauty for publications worldwide.