Many restaurants line Santa Fe’s downtown area, where locals and tourists gather for pleasant dining experiences. There are few that source locally and organically, like Tabla de Los Santos, a contemporary restaurant. Of the nearly six hundred restaurants in Santa Fe, Tabla ranks in the top ten according to Trip Advisor. “Farm to table” restaurants are the future of the restaurant industry; consumer demand now valuing the “slow food” movement.
I used to work in a hotel near Tabla de Los Santos, and was often encouraged to recommend the restaurant to my guests. As a college student, their prices dissuaded me from ever trying the food (I am used to a $3 bean burrito as my go-to meal). I stubbornly went on my way, recommending restaurants at which I could afford to eat. The owners of the restaurant would occasionally become annoyed at my disregard for their business (and now, looking back, it is comical to say the least…sorry, Julie!).
One day I caught word that Tabla is a farm to table restaurant and that they source locally and organically as much as possible. I quickly stopped being cheap, and splurged on a Christmas style breakfast burrito. Beyond full and $15 later, I was impressed. The food is incredible. Not only that, but farm to tables are the types of restaurants I want my dollar supporting. I was amazed that I had never paid this restaurant any mind, even though I’d lived in Santa Fe most of my life. I was also surprised that Tabla de Los Santos does not necessarily capitalize on their efforts to be a sustainable business. Keep in mind that I’m imagining large banners with “FARM TO TABLE – EAT HERE!” written on them, and someone with a bullhorn shouting that Tabla is a sustainable business. Anyway, now a loyal customer, I’ve decided to share why it is amazing that Tabla differentiates themselves by being a farm to table restaurant.
Farm to table is a movement that values the concept of slow food and eating locally and organically. This boosts the local economy as well as increases the quality of food we consume. Alice Waters is the chef primarily responsible for the creation of this movement. In pursuit of good quality food for her Berkeley-based restaurant Chez Panisse in the 1970s, she ended up identifying and building a network of the best local and organic producers in the Bay Area. It was initially not an intentional act, but it resulted in food with the best taste and encouraged consumer demand for farm to table cuisine.
There are many benefits to this system. Marissa Iacono at the University of New Hampshire eloquently states, “If you buy from a farm locally instead of going to your grocery store you help the economy of your local community by putting money into the hands of local farmers instead of chain retailers. The quality of the food you buy locally could easily out compete produce purchased at your grocery store from a vendor whose main goal is quantity not quality.” By making the decision to buy from the little guys who are producing quality foods, the consumer makes a statement. Not only is the person buying locally and organically demonstrating that they value quality, but they also are underscoring that the conventional system is not producing food that they want to eat. In doing so, individuals are supporting the slow food movement. Iacono goes on to mention, “restaurants as well can benefit from farms in their area while also supporting their local economy.” She adds, “This provides their guests with a menu that will vary season to season.” This is exactly what Tabla does, as a farm to table restaurant.
Tabla de Los Santos has been around for a couple of decades, but came under new ownership in 2013. Clay Bordan grew the farm-to-table model at Tabla de Los Santos when he became the owner of the restaurant. Upon talking to Clay, I gathered some insight as to how complicated and diverse his producers actually are. He noted that they source within New Mexico as much as possible for needed ingredients, but they also support small producers in other states. There are numerous producers that Clay buys from, all in order to provide the best quality of food. He says, “Tabla sources from Santa Fe for its goat cheese, Tucumcari for its feta, a large part of our produce from Romero Farms, and our beef is on a regional buying program from farms in Las Lunas to Clovis. We arrange a lot of specialty products through the local farmers’ market and put New Mexico products first, but we also find interesting items outside the state as well – for example, our organic stone ground grits are from War Eagle Mill in Arkansas.”
Clearly this sounds like a great deal of work and attention to details. So why do it? Why put in so much effort for ingredients in larger dishes? Clay mentions, “As the chef/owner of Tabla it is my job to create and innovate using not just locally sourced farms, artisans and businesses but from these businesses that share the same view of food as I do.” These values coincide with being organic, free of chemicals, and having humanely raised animals. Aside from the meat and potatoes of their sourcing (pun intended), he even makes an effort to buy spices, jams, cheeses, and other items from artisans to enhance his dishes. In doing so, Tabla can “showcase the maker’s passion for their products and in return we can share their passion and help support those businesses so that we both thrive.” Supporting small businesses is also a crucial piece of this slow food system.
If you happen to be dining in Santa Fe, check out a farm-to-table restaurant, like Tabla de Los Santos. A restaurant that embodies the slow food movement. A restaurant that values great quality of food and supports the local economy.
-Posted by Selina