Farm to Table is more than a concept.
In Northern New Mexico, it’s a way of life.
Farmer’s Daughters founders (cousins), Ashley and Chantelle Wagner are part of a fourth-generation New Mexico farming family in Corrales, who founded Farmer’s Daughters to “maintain, preserve, and protect New Mexico’s agricultural heritage.”
They’ve held community events and special dinners in partnership with Meow Wolf and the Save The Space farmland preservation initiative, and have lately partnered with Heritage Hotels to bring this awareness of the value of eating fresh and local, to the lucky diners participating in the Farm to Table series at the Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town.
After I wrote about a Farm to Table event here in Taos at El Monte Sagrado Resort & Spa, last summer, Heritage invited me to cover one of their events at Hotel Albuquerque.
Hotel Chaco is a luxury boutique resort, designed by the international award-winning architectural firm, Gensler. It is the first Heritage property that was built by the company, who are known for having acquired, restored and renovated, several of the most spectacular resorts and hotels in New Mexico.
Hotel Chaco’s architecture takes Pueblo Revival style light years into the future, fusing modern design with sustainable building practices that nods to the historical, Heritage site for which it is named,
In June of 1823, while leading an expedition to the heart of Hopi lands, Mexican soldier José Antonio Vizcarra (soon to be the third Mexican governor of New Mexico) discovered the remains of the largest series of structures built by man in North America.
Constructed of sandstone and timber, Chaco Canyon was the cultural center for the Ancient Pueblo people between 900 – 1150 AD
In 1987 Chaco Canyon was designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
A little known fact: There are only 802 designated UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites in the world. Of those, nine UNESCO designated sites are in the United States and three are in the Southwest: Chaco Canyon, Taos Pueblo and Mesa Verde.
Past and present come together here in other ways too. Hotel Chaco adjoins another Heritage property, the grand old Dame, Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town.
The gateway to Albuquerque’s past, Old Town is where the city was founded by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez in 1706.
Built around a central plaza with a gazebo in the tradition of Old Spain, the historic district spans several blocks of walkways and porticos, cloistered courtyards and restored adobes dating back to the Spanish Colonial era, including the San Felipe de Neri Church, which was built in 1793.
Riffing on Chaco Canyon’s past as a center for trade and commerce, Hotel Chaco is also the central landmark to the new Sawmill District, just north of historic Old Town. Originally occupied by the American Lumber Company, it is currently being redeveloped into an eclectic neighborhood with loft-style housing, artist studios and other buildings that are home to hip new businesses.
By integrating Hotel Chaco with this exciting new entrepreneurial vision, once again Heritage tips its hat to its historical roots.
Entering the lobby one is immediately struck by the respectful homage paid to the hotel’s inspirational namesake; the sandstone and neutral tones used throughout the space, along with the gorgeous sculptural chandeliers (one made to resemble antlers, crafted from glass), and fixtures that were all commissioned by local, mostly Native artists.
Heritage pride themselves on offering a uniquely New Mexican experience at their properties, but with Chaco they’ve managed to fuse its rich cultural past with the future of this enchanting region, bringing them together in the heart of Old Town.
The lovely young lady at the desk (outfitted in a striking dress designed by Patricia Michaels, who designed all the staff uniforms at Chaco), greeted us warmly and directed us to our double room on the third floor.
And of course, as always with Heritage, the attention to detail is evident in the high quality amenities provided, along with the courtesy coffee and teas, the spotless linens on the beds. And the beds themselves; comfortable, with more down pillows than one could ever need to prop oneself up with, while reading a book or watching a movie, which we did after dinner.
We were running a little late and called the front desk to relay a message to our hosts next door, that we would arrive shortly, and once downstairs, back in the lobby, we asked the concierge for directions.
A short walk along a winding passage that afforded us yet another look at the spectacular architecture of Hotel Chaco, we exited a door and found ourselves in the gardens of the Hotel Albuquerque.
We soon spotted our destination, where a long table, covered with white linen and low bouquets of white hydrangea, sparkled beneath two huge crystal chandeliers hanging from the wisteria covered arbour. It was a magical setting for an early Autumn dinner, and the weather was perfect.
Guests mingled while champagne was served as we introduced ourselves to Ashley Wagner, one half of Farmer’s Daughter’s, our hosts for the evening.
“I recognize you,” she smiled as she welcomed us. “From your social media,”
Her warm and friendly manner made one feel immediately welcome. As we chatted to her about her work with Farmer’s Daughters and her family history, farming the land outside of Albuquerque for a century, a tall young man approached us and introduced himself.
Jon Murray is a Sales Rep for Vivac Winery, featured here on the blog, last month. He and my daughter Genevieve (who managed the Love Apple here in Taos, for three years), discovered they knew several people in common, and he spent much of the evening, when not making the rounds of the table, seated beside us.
Our seats were toward one end of the table, where perhaps a hundred people had gathered for the evening.
The food is served family style, and the close proximity to fellow diners, makes for a cosy, intimate gathering. To my right sat Brian, a young man who works in the film Industry in New Mexico as a lighting director. His girlfriend was an optometrist. Across from us, two older couples joined in our conversation as bowls and platters were brought to the table and passed around.
There were four empty seats next to Genevieve – two couples were a no-show – enabling Jon to sit there, and the two couples directly across from those seats kept to themselves, but for the most part, it was a lively group of all ages seated along the two sides of the banquet table.
And a banquet it was!
After a short introduction with remarks from Ashley, her father, her cousin Chantelle, Jon from Vivac and Chef Gilbert Aragon, telling us a little about their collaboration, the food, the farm and the wine, we all began to serve ourselves the first course that had been brought to the table along with baskets of fresh bread and bowls of cultured butter,
All the produce used in these dinners, is grown and harvested locally; from the flour the bread is baked with, to the wine in our glasses, this was an authentic farm to table experience.
We started with small bowls of Late Harvest Green Chile Stew, apropos for this fall event. The stew came to the table in big tureens and was passed around together with hand pressed flour tortillas made in house. The stew had chunks of tender pork and just the right amount of “bite.” It was a warming and delicious start to the meal.
Roasted Beets with Goat Milk Feta and Autumn Granola followed together with a green salad tossed with sugar sweet heirloom tomatoes (grown by Michael Wagner), and Sage Roasted Pumpkin with a cider glaze, served on a bed of creamy polenta.
Genevieve and I were in gustatorial heaven as the flavors married and melted in our mouths, perfectly paired with the wines that were poured for each course.
The oohs and ahhs at the table were audible throughout the evening, in between the chatter and the laughter. People were having fun!
By the time the main courses arrived, our hunger had already been satiated but we, being troopers dug in to the Pollo Real Chicken Roulade with Butternut Hash, and as if that were not enough, a Beck & Bullow Bison Pot Roast suddenly appeared.
Accompanied by roasted Rosemary Potatoes with green chile sausage, braised green cabbage and big bowls of roasted harvest vegetables, it was the stunning centerpiece of an already, exquisitely satisfying and very unpretentious, yet elegant dinner.
By this time, everyone at the table was relaxed and it truly felt like a big family; people were talking across one another, glasses were clinking in small private toasts, and the laughter grew louder as the desert course was served.
A Sweet Potato Cake with (baked) Honey Crisp Apple and Taos White Honey Ice Cream would have been the end of me, but my daughter tried it and said it was sweeter than honey. My neighbor seemed extremely happy with his.
Heritage’s landmark luxury Hotel Albuquerque has partnered with Farmer’s Daughters and several New Mexico farms for this series of farm-to-table dinners featuring local, in-season produce and products.
This special series highlights the importance of New Mexico’s agricultural and farming industry in today’s fast-paced world. These dinners are a collaboration between the hotel’s executive chef Gilbert Aragon and Farmer’s Daughters founders Ashley and Chantelle Wagner, with cuisine built around seasonal ingredients.
Each dinner features a tasting menu with drink pairings. There are two more dinners coming up this Season, Saturday, October 20th and Friday November 2nd.
For more information about the dinners (6:30 p.m., $75 ($37.50 for children aged 12 and younger), and how to purchase tickets please visit their site linked below this post.
We said our goodbyes and walked back the way we had come. As we got to the far end of the table, we noticed a lone vase of hydrangea looking forlorn, and decided it should be relocated for the night. To our room! So we carried it with us across the gardens, and as we transitioned from the old to the new, I took note that it was not unlike the passage of history connecting all of us to this sacred land, we call home.
Our room looked even more inviting with the addition of the flowers and soon we were tucked in our comfy beds with cups of tea, watching a great movie (Five Flights with Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman.) The perfect ending to a magical evening.
We woke early the following morning to balloons in the sky – the annual Balloon Fiesta is this weekend – and after coffee (and yoga for Genevieve who was thrilled by the wood floors), we went up to the hotel’s Level 5 (thankfully NOT five flights of stairs, but an elevator as beautifully designed as the rest of the hotel), for a scrumptious brunch.
The views from the restaurant are stellar and if you are in Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta (or to see Bob Dylan), this weekend, I highly recommend it for an early breakfast and sky watching experience extraordinaire!
As we checked out, we relocated the vase of hydrangea once again; to the front desk.
For more on Hotel Chaco see their site linked below.
If you decide to stay at Hotel Chaco, do visit the Sawmill District while you are there!
For more information about Farmer’s Daughters and what they do in collaboration with Hotel Albuquerque and beyond, those sites are linked as well.
And last but not least, Vivac Winery are just a short drive away so do visit their tasting rooms in Dixon and Santa Fe (at the Railyard) and their site linked here.
All images thanks to Heritage Hotels & Resorts except for those taken on my iphone, including Genevieve at our breakfast table. Genevieve took the shots of a lone balloon seen from our balcony, and the candlelit dinner table.
Image of Chaco Canyon and the church in Old Town, Stock Files.