Here, you eat and ride
Gourmet Classic is a must-do in Santa Fe
SANTA FE, N.M. — “Don’t drink and drive,” warn numerous highway signs between Grand Junction and Santa Fe, N.M. None of them, however, ever mentioned not eating and riding.
The fourth annual Santa Fe Gourmet Classic Bicycle Ride took place on a chilly Saturday morning, Oct. 5. A total of 159 fool-hearty foodies (eight no-shows) rode bicycles 65 miles through the wind, at 7,260 feet in elevation, beginning at 8:30 a.m. with bone-chilling, 35-degree temperatures — and I’m pretty sure we all gained weight.
Prior to the start and at each stop, riders were presented with the most fabulous gourmet food a bicyclist could ever dream of — catered by Walter Burke Catering in Santa Fe.
No store-bought granola bars here.
The event began the previous evening with a party at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, where registrants were given their official race bib, a glass of wine and some fabulous cheese.
The next morning for breakfast, well-bundled riders were served scrambled egg, provolone and spinach paninis.
“These are excellent,” exclaimed Fred Holbrook of Crested Butte.
Others also enjoyed homemade apple-cider doughnuts, Greek yogurt, (vegan yogurt as well), homemade granola with berries, fresh-squeezed orange juice, chocolate-almond protein shakes, and regular and decaf coffee with assorted teas.
There, each linen-covered table full of participants listened as Lavi Malhotra, the hedonistic leader of this group, explained the ground rules: There will be lots of stops for lots of food. Follow the green arrows marked on the pavement so you don’t get lost. Keep your bicycles away from anything else “green,” such as the sides of roadways, because that’s where this year’s bumper crop of tire-popping goatheads resides.
Except that temperatures hadn’t yet risen above 35 degrees.
Nonetheless, fully loaded, we peddled off. The first 20 miles or so was mostly downhill with a slight breeze pushing us along. The route took us out and about the Santa Fe outskirts to see a part of this historic town that most visitors never see.
Santa Fe is the capital of New Mexico and the oldest capital city in the United States. The city’s full name when founded was La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís (translation: The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi).
You’ve got to love a name like that.
We can thank New Mexico’s second Spanish governor, Don Pedro de Peralta, for founding and naming this city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1607. In return, Santa Fe named a major street after him.
Santa Fe is called the oldest capital city because in 1610, de Peralta made it the capital of the province, which it has remained. Jamestown, Va., is of similar vintage (1607) but is no longer a capital, and San Juan, Puerto Rico is older (1521) but is a territory, rather than a state. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)
Santa Fe is also the art capital of New Mexico with many artful pieces offered to the public for the cost of a midsized Colorado ranch house.
That artful influence had its beginnings many years ago. In 1912, when the town had a population of about 5,000, civic leaders enacted a plan that anticipated limited future growth, considered the scarcity of water and recognized the future prospects of suburban development on the outskirts.
These planners dictated historic streets and structures should be preserved and new development must be harmonious with the city’s character.
About the same time, the main line of the railroad bypassed Santa Fe, and it lost population. However, artists and writers, as well as retirees, “were attracted to the cultural richness of the area, the beauty of the landscapes and its dry climate,” according to the Santa Fe Historical Society.
Local leaders began promoting the city as a tourist attraction. The city sponsored architectural-restoration projects and erected new buildings according to traditional techniques and styles, thus creating the “Santa Fe style.”
That’s what we saw as we peddled those first 26 miles, until our “pick-me-up” break.
Here, we were served potato, carrot and/or zucchini pancakes with curried crème fraiche, sour cream and apple sauce, banana-oat-nut bars, pear and pomegranate spritzer, water and Gatorade.
It was difficult to remount the bicycle at this point, but we still looked forward to lunch at Bonanza Creek Ranch in another 13 miles.
Bonanza Creek is a working cattle ranch with 300-year-old cottonwood and juniper trees dotting the landscape.
The ranch is best known for the more than 40 movies that have been filmed here, such as “Cheyenne Social Club” with James Stewart and Henry Fonda; “The Cowboys” with John Wayne; and “Lonesome Dove,” starring Robert Duval, Tommy Lee Jones, Ricky Shroeder and Angelica Houston.
Yet, Hollywood could not have produced as fine a fare as we dined on for lunch: grilled rainbow trout served with orange-rosemary butter or homemade pesto; grilled vegetable skewer with mushrooms, bell peppers, red onion, red potatoes and cherry tomatoes; a mesclun mix with roasted butternut squash, pepitas and goat cheese (some without for vegans) tossed with an aged sherry vinaigrette; homemade truffles with red chile bittersweet chocolate (Wow! These were great.); peanut butter milk chocolate and Chambord; and fresh fruit tartlets with cardamom custard.
Good thing we had to walk a couple-hundred yards from the road to the ranch house where we were served. Otherwise, I would not have been able to get back on the bike by myself.
We were treated to a “get-me-home” break after 52 miles of riding. It included prickly pear sweetened iced tea, cantaloupe juice and horchata, a traditional Spanish beverage made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice and barley; homemade Stilton shortbread crackers, and, of course, water and Gatorade.
We finally found the finish line in another 13 miles and were showered with artisan cheese and fruit with imported crackers, homemade guacamole with tri-colored chips and salsa roja, pico de gallo that was out of this world, and, even better, a fabulous Quaker apple cake with Chantilly cream.
I could not walk.
I could not ride.
I could not drink.
I could not drive.
And, I can’t wait until next year. Hope I can shed a few pounds by then.