Art and Sweets in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Chocolates at Kakawa Chocolate House

Chocolates at Kakawa Chocolate House

In the cold and quiet of early January, local Santa Fe residents have reclaimed their town from the masses of tourists found during the spring through the fall. Bargains are available, popular restaurants won’t require reservations or long waits, Christmas lights are still up and light ice and snow add a layer of beauty to this early 1600s desert town.

I have been coming to Santa Fe for years and my favorite time is the off-season in the winter, when the beiges of the desert mix with a grey-white sky. This part of New Mexico can be described as “O’Keeffe Country” where the artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, first came to paint in 1929.

New Mexico is also known as the state where restaurants immediately ask the question “red or green” depending on your chile favorite (green in my case), but I found two surprising treats in Santa Fe—chocolate elixirs and creative donuts.

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Near Santa Fe’s Plaza, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum celebrates the Wisconsin-born artist who later adopted New Mexico as her home. This museum is smaller, but the films, art and docent talks will make visitors wanting to learn more about a prominent American artist.

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Admission is $12.00 and visitors should be sure to watch two introductory films: “Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life in Art” and “Houses of My Own” about Ms. O’Keeffe’s life. The first film is narrated by actor Gene Hackman and tells of the artist’s struggle to be taken seriously as a female artist, as Ms. O’Keeffe began painting in 1915. Her initial abstract art was displayed in the photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s (who she later married) New York City Gallery “291” but she struggled to be understood. Critics didn’t comprehend her initial abstract art which upset Ms. O’Keeffe.

The artist moved on to instead painting themes of flowers, and later bones and desert scenery when she discovered the vast colors of Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, New Mexico. Georgia O’Keeffe loved the open spaces and colors of the West. When she lived in New York with Stieglitz, painting in areas like Lake George, New York, didn’t appeal to her as the landscape was too green. The desert, with its vast array of colors, fascinated Ms. O’Keeffe and she felt at home.

Outside the Museum

Outside the Museum

The museum contains several galleries with photos of Ms. O’Keeffe and it is interesting looking at how different photographers cast the artist in a different light. The walls include photos taken by Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams.

Ms. O’ Keeffe’s artwork can be found throughout the museum including her vibrant flowers and my personal favorites of her desert scenes. The museum includes a reconstruction of Ms. O’Keeffe’s art studio (which is surprisingly simple) as well as photos of the desert views from her home. The artist especially loved the Pedernal Mountain which has a prominent place in some of her paintings. The exhibits also include some paintings from Ms. O’Keeffe’s travels around the world and I found the artwork from Asia particularly unusual.

Georgia O'Keeffe

If a docent talk is available, be sure to make time to learn more about Ms. O’Keeffe who not only struggled to be understood, but faced challenges of making it as a female artist in a man’s world. In January, there are few tourists around and our docent talk had just seven people.

The museum includes guest exhibitions as well as a gift shop, which features books on Ms. O’Keeffe, posters, calendars, jewelry and various gifts.

I have been to this museum several times and could visit over and over. The vivid colors of artwork on display make visitors want to take a road or hiking trip into the desert to discover a scenic part of New Mexico so loved by the artist.

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
217 Johnson Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Phone: (505)946-1000

Kakawa Chocolate House

It’s chilly in Santa Fe in January but a short walk from the galleries on Canyon Road is a very special treat. Located in a small adobe house, Kakawa Chocolate House serves tasty, rich drinking chocolates (elixirs) in a blue and white china cup. Serving sizes come in three ounces or six ounces with recipes based on both historic and recent creations. For chocolate fans, this is serious chocolate served in a similar size to a cup of espresso. Be sure to ask for a glass of water on the side.

Kakawa Chocolate House

Kakawa Chocolate House

The staff is enthusiastic in helping to make selections. The most popular flavor is the American elixir which is made of 72 percent chocolate along with almond milk, which is delicious. I couldn’t have just one.

Other flavors include Zapoteca (100% chocolate, coconut and sugar), Chili (100% chocolate, chili, coconut and sugar), Chai (72% chocolate, almond milk and chai tea) and Rose Almond (100% chocolate with herbs, spices, nuts, flowers and chili). Ask the staff what is available on the blackboard and they will quickly determine what chocolate suits each visitor best.

Chocolate Elixir--oh so good

Chocolate Elixir–oh so good

This house is small but a great surprise. With blue curtains, roughly ten tables and a casual atmosphere, this is the place for visitors with a sweet tooth to indulge.

Other offerings include brownies, ice cream and chocolates. I had to take some chocolate with orange peel and cherry truffles with chili for my walk through Santa Fe. Elixirs are also for sale to take home.

In a city of “red and green”, sometimes a special taste is something completely different. For a hot chocolate that is truly memorable, be sure to stop by Kakawa Chocolate House for an amazing experience.

Kakawa Chocolate House
1050 E. Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Phone: (505)982-0388

Whoo’s Donuts

Early morning at Whoo's Donuts

Early morning at Whoo’s Donuts

In a simple strip center on Cerrillos Road, visitors to Santa Fe will want to experience donuts with an unusual taste. Made from scratch daily, these donuts are irresistible and feature flavors like blueberry lavender blue corn (definitely worth trying), cranberry glazed, vanilla cake, orange glazed, and apple cider (my favorite).

Open every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., donuts are available until the daily batch sells out. I was in Santa Fe for a long weekend and am embarrassed to admit that I was parked outside Whoo’s Donuts every morning just as the shop opened for breakfast.

The inside of Whoo’s Donuts is comfortable and relaxed, with fluffy chairs and a decadent case of donuts on display. The cost of two donuts will run roughly $3.50.

Donuts for sale

Donuts for sale

With flavors that I have never come across before, these delicious, lightly sugared donuts, make for a special experience.

For visitors around the Plaza who don’t have a car, be on the lookout for coffee shops with an owl logo on the door, as these shops also sell Whoo’s products. I noticed several coffee shops not far from the Plaza selling Whoo’s.

For a snack that shouldn’t be missed, Whoo’s Donuts should be on any Santa Fe itinerary.

Whoo’s Donuts
851B Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Phone: (505)629-1678

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