Santa Fe’s Sweet Spots with Susan Curtis and Nicole Curtis Ammerman

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts · April 1, 2017

Susan Curtis and her daughter Nicole Curtis Ammerman are co-owners of the Santa Fe School of Cooking & Market.  Susan combined her love of entertaining and good food with her business acumen to found the school in December 1989. The philosophy of the Santa Fe School of Cooking was and still is to celebrate local food – a novel idea in 1989.  During her years as director of the cooking school, Susan co‐authored three cookbooks, including The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook, Salsas and Tacos and Southwest Flavors. She is currently active in the school as CEO and involved in community projects.

Director and co-owner of the Santa Fe School of Cooking & Market Nicole Curtis Ammerman, a Santa Fe native, directs all retail, inventory, customer service and staff activities,  as well as overseeing daily operations. Since she joined in 1993, Nicole has developed dynamic new programs such as the Southwest Culinary Bootcamp, an intensive three-day cooking program on the intricacies, tips and history of Southwestern food that make it so unique.  She also conceptualized and implemented the wildly popular “Restaurant Walking” which now include over 16 different restaurants in Santa Fe.  In recent years, Nicole has pushed Susan’s mission of supporting local ingredients even further, implementing a program at the school where local produce is purchased from the employees’ personal gardens at the Farmer’s Market prices.

What’s the best way to spend a Sunday morning?
Nicole: On Sunday mornings, I always go on hikes with my dog. There are a lot of really accessible hiking trails in Santa Fe such as the Dale Ball Trails, which are just minutes from downtown Santa Fe and cover many miles of trails through the Pinyon-juniper woodland range surrounding the town. When the weather warms up, I head higher up in the mountains towards the Santa Fe Ski Basin to enjoy the tall pine trees and fields of wild flowers. It is a peaceful way to start off the day and spend time with my dog.
Susan: Santa Fe is situated at the termination of the Rocky Mountains. Because of this geographic location, there are numerous outdoor activities. I spend most Sunday mornings either hiking the trails off of Hyde Park Road or snow-shoeing in the winter months.

Where do you go in Santa Fe for an authentic cultural experience?
Susan: One of the best ways to become familiar with the culture of this area is through the cuisine, and there is no better way to do that than by taking a class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. Even if guests aren’t interested in food, they will learn about the history and influences of the Native American, Spanish and Anglo cultures of the region while enjoying a great meal and having a good time.

How do you like to end your day?
Susan: For me, the end of a day always involves food. Santa Fe is noted for its cuisine, offering numerous restaurants from home-style to fine dining. In the summer months, outdoor dining in Santa Fe is my favorite and in the winter months, dining by a crackling pinyon fire is a warm and inviting experience. Live music is common for both indoor and outdoor dining.

Is there a special vantage point in Santa Fe to watch the sunrise or sunset?
Susan: Sunsets in Santa Fe are spectacular from almost any location because the sky is so vast here, but my favorite place to watch the sunset is from the Santa Fe Opera when I am tailgating. Opera Season runs mainly in July and August and tailgating is a major part of the experience. Tailgating at the Opera can consist of anything from a simple picnic in the back of your car to an elaborate, fine dining experience, but the sunsets are always spectacular and the people watching is unmatchable.

Can you describe a perfect scenic drive?
Susan: There are so many scenic drives around Santa Fe, but one of my favorite drives is taking the high road to Taos and then looping back down the Rio Grande River Road. The terrain varies from high desert to alpine and there are several villages to stop in along the way such as Chimayo, Truchas, and of course, Taos.

If you had to recommend a spa experience, what would it be?
Nicole: Ten Thousand Waves is a very memorable spa experience in Santa Fe. With its Japanese setting and meticulous attention to detail, it is truly unique and special. It’s a quiet place to soak up Santa Fe’s landscape, with amazing treatments and wonderful customer service. I often treat myself to a massage, a hot stone treatment or a private hot tub experience. I have visited spas around the world and Ten Thousand Waves is in a league of its own!

Do you have a favorite local market?
Nicole: I have shopped at The Santa Fe Farmers Market since I was a grade school child, in several different locations, but always in the spirit of enjoying New Mexico’s unique traditions of farming, fresh food and celebrating the community. I always enjoy seeing the farmers, friends and other fresh food enthusiasts! I now take my kids to the Farmers Market where we enjoy sampling the local cheese, jam and first peaches of the season. It is always fun to see the bees, live music and smiling faces, and then go home and prepare a dinner celebrating New Mexico’s unique harvest.
Susan: Kaune’s Grocery Store, located on the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail, is an independently owned and operated gourmet grocery store. It has always been known as an old fashioned grocery store, but it has the best meat market in town. Recent renovations position it as a small, modern, very convenient gourmet market with hard to find items.

What’s the best place to visit for a day trip?
Susan: After living in Santa Fe for over 35 years, I never tire of visiting Bandelier National Monument. An area over 33,000 acres preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Pueblo People, which date back as far as 1150 to 1600 CE (Common Era). It’s a spectacular site filled with these amazing cliff dwellings, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings and petroglyphs.

What art gallery do you enjoy most?
Susan: A must for all visitors is a stroll up Canyon Road (Santa Fe’s art district) and the new Rail Yard, which has a number of fine galleries worth exploring. My personal favorite is the Niman Gallery downtown, which showcases the art from the Namingha family, most notably Dan Namingha.

What routine activity do you do first thing each morning?
Susan: On many mornings in Santa Fe I head to Tia Sophia’s restaurant for a breakfast burrito. There you’ll often find local politicos, businessmen, Native Americans and visitors, all rubbing elbows over a plate smothered in Chile. It is a true Santa Fe hang out.

What do you consider to be the best local coffee shop?
Nicole: I usually start my day off at Downtown Subscription. It’s a great local coffee shop that offers a wonderful mix of local characters, a wide selection of magazines, and of course, great coffee.

Do you have a special neighborhood stroll that you really enjoy?
Susan: One of my favorite ways to start the morning is with a brisk walk through the Aceqia Madre/Canyon Road/Alameda area. The Aceqia Madre (Mother Ditch) parallels the Santa Fe River (you won’t recognize it as a river) so the area is lush with lilacs in spring and mature trees throughout the year.

How do you like to spend rainy days?
Susan: The museums in Santa Fe are wonderful to visit on both rainy and sunny days. For a small town, the number and quality of museums that we have here is outstanding. From the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to the Palace of the Governor’s and Museum Hill, there is something for every interest.

Susan: Santa Fe is situated at the termination of the Rocky Mountains. Because of this geographic location, there are numerous outdoor activities. I spend most Sunday mornings either hiking the trails off of Hyde Park Road or snow-shoeing in the winter months.


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Written By: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts


Locations: Santa Fe

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