As I entered Geronimo, occupying the famous Borrego House on Canyon Road, a warm feeling came over me. I was politely welcomed and asked the hostess for a seat at the bar, my preference for dining solo. As I thoroughly studied the menu and wine list, it was clear Geronimo had a serious pedigree. The Borrego House was built in 1756, providing Geronimo with style and significance.
Sampling Great Wines and Getting to Know Geronimo
On the bar in front of me, I spied a bottle of Luigi Bosca Malbec amongst their red wines-by-the-glass. Luigi Bosca is the finest Malbec I’ve ever had. A former real estate investing student of mine from South America had prepped me for a visit to Buenos Aires in 2005. The student said to try a bottle of Luigi Bosca Malbec while in Argentina, and the red wine proved to be worthy of his praise. I'd never seen it sold by the glass until my experience at Geronimo.
I was in Santa Fe for the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association’s annual meeting. One of the panel discussions at our conference was a culinary group consisting of a restaurateur, a cattle rancher, Chef Sllin from Geronimo's, and the founder of a farmer’s co-op. While I was impressed with all four on the culinary panel, Chef Sllin’s story was especially interesting. Chef Sllin isn’t one of those flashy, high-maintenance kind of chef, but underneath his calm exterior, he exudes star qualities.
He came from Mexico as a young teenager, landing in Santa Fe, speaking no English, with little money for survival. Sllin soon found work in a local restaurant and over the years showed how determination and hard work could make the American dream come true. Sllin worked at notable restaurants such as Bouche Bistro, The Compound, and Las Campañas before being hired at Geronimo. When the previous Executive Chef Eric DiStephano died two years ago, Chef Sllin was chosen to take over the executive chef position at Geronimo.
Reservations are Advised at Geronimo
I decided to eat at Geronimo on the spur of the moment. Dinner wasn’t provided that second night of the conference as I thought, so I needed a place to dig into Santa Fe’s legendary cuisine. I asked the concierge at La Fonda On the Plaza where I could find Geronimo, and she said, “It’s up Canyon Road, but you better get reservations because they are always busy.”
When the bartender asked for my order, I chose the four-course vegetarian tasting menu paired with a glass of Malbec and settled in to enjoy the ride. This meal looked to be an excellent fine dining experience.
Savoring the Flavors at Geronimo
As my bread plate showed up, so did the first of several bar and lounge diners. The customer was seated two seats to my left, and over the next few minutes, many of the staff welcomed him. I figured if a solo diner came that often, this must be a great restaurant.
The bread plate consisted of a brioche bun and a dinner roll with a lavash cracker tucked between the two. Crowned with just a touch of fresh thyme for color and flavor were a couple of triangles of butter for the bread.
The first course was an endive salad dressed in a sweet onion vinaigrette. The salad's supporting cast was Tucumcari organic goat cheese, fresh spinach, and candied pecans. The crimson-colored endive was so fresh, it seemed like it was just picked that afternoon. The Tucumcari goat cheese smoothed out the bitterness of the endive, and the pecans added a perfect touch of sweetness.
Next up was a wild mushroom and sherry bisque. A blend of shitake and oyster mushrooms were married with asparagus. Some restaurants overdo the heavy cream in soups like this bisque, but Chef Sllin held off on the dairy richness and delivered an intense mushroom essence worthy of asking for seconds. My glass of Luigi Bosca paired well with the bisque, and I somehow restrained myself to make one glass last into the next course, the basil pesto risotto with mushrooms.
On a four-course tasting menu, it’s a bit unusual to have mushroom bisque followed by risotto with mushrooms. For mushrooms lovers like me, it felt like I’d hit the dining jackpot. When the risotto arrived, I observed a perfectly-shaped round disc of risotto topped with whipped burrata, frisee, porcini mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, and mild peppers.
Often, when I order risotto in restaurants, it seems to come out either overcooked or undercooked. This risotto was an example of how to cook the precious Arborio rice correctly, and it was piping hot! The only fault I could find in the dish was it might be a bit too salty for some diners.
All Good Meals Come to an End
With the first three courses a fond memory and my glass of wine finished, I looked forward to the fresh Meyer lemon crépe. Chef Sllin and I had talked briefly at the conference after he was done speaking on the culinary panel. At Geronimo, he recognized me seated at the bar and instructed the bartender to allow me to modify the dessert selection if I wanted something different.
I chose the sous vide strawberry shortbread as an alternative. This tall, tubular taste treat was not only elegant looking, but it also tasted heavenly. The sous vide strawberry sat atop the tower with a delicate veil of sugar lace. The concentrated flavor of the slow-cooked strawberry went well with the creamy cover that hid the shortcake.
My meal at Geronimo had been one of the best fine dining experiences of the year. By the time I was ready to leave, the bar and lounge were nearly full. Another solo diner showed up some ten minutes before I was finished and was seated next to me. He said he was from Washington, DC and considered Geronimo's food and ambiance on par with DC’s best restaurants.
It would be great to return and have a meal with my wife or others so I could get a better idea of the meat items on the menu. But for a spur of the moment solo dining experience, my dinner at Geronimo will be as memorable as the famous Apache warrior of the same name. Be sure to check out more suggestions from Wander writers on what to see and do when you visit New Mexico.