Chef Erin Wade of Vinaigrette tells us where to fuel up and wind down in this city of soul, arts and culture.
By Erin Wade and April Cumming
For a fashion-design student turned farmer turned restaurateur, it’s fair to say Chef Erin Wade has many talents. As the owner of Vinaigrette, a farm-to-table-focused restaurant that adds a creative, decadent twist to healthy salad concoctions (Try the All Kale Caesar! or The Beet Goes On.), she’s obviously comfortable mixing things up.
In early 2016, Wade made the leap from managing her two Vinaigrette locations in New Mexico (The first opened in Santa Fe in 2008 and the second in Albuquerque in 2012.) to open the first Austin location in a space saturated with natural light off South Congress and College avenues. The restaurant’s wall-high windows serve as somewhat of a reverence to the outside world, to the earth that provides the food served on that day’s menu.
Reflecting on where Vinaigrette first got its start in 2008, Wade drew up an agenda of how she would spend her ideal Sunday in Santa Fe, N.M.—a city, she says, that makes many first-time visitors feel like they are in a foreign country.
Her To-Do List
“If I’m not working, which is the idea on weekends but doesn’t always happen, I’m a late riser. I try to catch up on sleep on the weekends.”
“That particular vibe of peace and pause that is different from any other day of the week. Saturday is the go-go weekend day. Sunday is chill day. I go totally off-grid on Sundays. I think it’s important that we all disconnect from our devices and the internet and connect with the physical world, our bodies and nature for at least 24 hours a week. Sunday is a great day for it.”
“I live on a farm just outside of Santa Fe, so on a proper Sunday—that elusive day of rest, if I play my cards right—I’m in my jammies, chilling with Jeff, my fiance, and Sadie, my dachshund. We are accompanied only by some noisy chickens and goofy pigs. I drink coffee in bed, read, write in my journal and make a kale smoothie. It’s a very lazy affair.”
“My favorite stores in Santa Fe are Shiprock Gallery (The owner has the most incredible eye.), Rainbow Man (old-pawn turquoise, hand-painted ceramics, vintage and new Pendletons and kachinas) and the Rug Room at Malouf on the Plaza, where my aunt, who knows everything you could possibly know about Navajo rugs and other weavings, works.”
“We have two great coffee spots in town: Iconik and Betterday Coffee. Locals love these places and they are always buzzing. If you want my current favorite, and perhaps [a]dangerous, energy trifecta—coffee with a wheatgrass shot and a green juice—you can check out my store and café, Modern General. One of my favorite old-school institutions for coffee and snacks, though, is the French Pastry Shop at La Fonda. La Fonda is my favorite hotel in town. I went there when I was a little girl, but it goes back way further than that. The pastry shop has great, classic pastries, quiches and real-deal French onion soup.”
“Because [Santa Fe] is in the high desert, the climate and ecoregion is sort of like the love child of Colorado and Arizona. It is arid and alpine, with four distinct seasons and surprisingly cool summer nights. We also have monsoon season in July and August, when daily afternoon rains cool everything off and then pass as quickly as they came, leaving behind a clean, refreshing sparkle. It also gives the plants, trees and soil a deep drink right when they really need it. The other great thing about summer in Santa Fe is it’s just buzzing with activity, travelers and things to do. There are three huge festivals—Folk Art Market, Spanish Market and Indian Market—that bring tons of people to town and showcase the varied cultural history that makes Santa Fe what it is.”
“Tent Rocks, in Cochiti Pueblo, is an incredible day hike. It’s a must. The hike takes you through these ancient geologic formations shaped like tents on pillars and, at the bottom, you weave through them and the strange caverns carved out by their bases, winding your way up and up until you are atop a plateau with [360-degree] views of the entire mesa between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It’s transcendent, [I] promise.”
Let’s Sip Outside
“For casual drinks, I love the rooftop cantina at Coyote Cafe. The drinks are super refreshing and the queso fundido creates conflicts if you only order one. I also love La Choza for my fix of cheese enchiladas Christmas (That means smothered in green and red chili.) and a margarita. Can you tell I have an unhealthy relationship with molten cheese? The patio at Vinaigrette in Santa Fe—my first baby—is a good place to take a break from chili and cheese with a salad made from greens harvested on the farm the same day.”
“This is very embarrassing for me to admit, but I have still not been to Meow Wolf, which is this amazing interactive, multisensory art installation that went in to a former bowling alley. Everyone who goes loves it and is shocked, delighted and amazed by it. It’s sort of the hottest thing in town right now and I need to get there!”
Sweat It Out
“Ideal Sunday evening in Santa Fe: I’d take a hike or a run on the Dale Ball Trails on Canyon Road and soak up the panoramic views of the city in the setting sun, then cruise a half mile further up the mountain for a soak in the Ofuro private tub (my favorite) at Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe’s very own super-authentic and incredibly peaceful Japanese spa and bathhouse. Afterwards, I’d stop at their izakaya restaurant, Izanami, for sake and snacks, like gyoza and this super-addictive burdock-root, carrot and sesame dish they have.”
“[At night,] I wash my face and apply approximately five layers of high-desert-ready biodynamic serums and moisturizers from Mist, my favorite skin-care spa in town. I’m super girly about my skin.”
Sunday, in a Word
“Relaxing. Just slightly more engaged than slothful.”