In the 1880s, Northern New Mexico was a prolific wheat growing region. More than 250 varieties of wheat grew in its rocky but fecund soil. Thanks to a rural revitalization program called the Northern New Mexico Organic Wheat Project, the region’s wheat production is becoming genetic diverse once again.
Today under the program’s auspices, more than 20 families are growing several heirloom wheat varieties which are marketed under the very popular Nativo label.
The driving force behind the program is Willem Maltem, a former Zen monk who arrived in Santa Fe in the mid 1980s. To earn bread, Maltem sold bread, in 1984 founding the Cloud Cliff Bakery, Cafe and Artspace. The artisan Bakery now produces 35,000 loaves of bread a month, but the staff of life is but one of the many things that makes Cloud Cliff truly unique and special.
Grace, beauty and harmony–hallmarks of Zen–are immediately obvious when you stride into the sprawling 8,000 square-foot complex whose distressed oak floor was recycled from a high school gymnasium. The walls are adorned by intricate paintings and weavings, the work of the Shipibo-Konibo people of the Peruvian Amazon. The patterns are said to have spiritual healing properties, and indeed there is a sense of tranquility and harmony about the complex. There’s no doubt the restaurant is committed to nourishing its customers’ souls as well as their appetites.
In Santa Fe, there may be no stronger sense of community than when breaking bread than at the Cloud Cliff. Tables seem overfilled with couples, friends and family; you just don’t see anyone dining alone. That sense of “oneness” seems to inspire gaiety and laughter as if the world’s ills disappear when you enter the restaurant. No one seems to mind the raucous laughter coming from one corner, the fussy baby at another or the entangled, groping couple who maybe should get a room at some motel.
On weekends the restaurant tends to be even more crowded as hungry dining patrons seem preternaturally drawn to the olfactory arousing fragrances emanating from the exhibition kitchen and the artisan bread products under glass as you walk in. The Cloud Cliff Bakery is truly nirvana for your nostrils and a feast for your eyes and stomach.
The menu’s reverence for local, fresh produce is obvious. Organic eggs (from Taos Farms), fruits and vegetables are used whenever possible. For a dollar more, you can even have real maple syrup on your hot cakes (delicious, fluffy orbs served with fresh, seasonal fruit) instead of Aunt Jemima. The hearty breakfasts include your choice of grilled home fries (absolutely wonderful) or organic red wehani rice, salsa, and a homemade hearth oven bread basket that showcases the bakery’s best.
The Sunday brunch menu features several Mexican or New Mexican entrees, including migas which you just don’t see in many restaurants outside of Texas. Originally a Lenten dish, migas are scrambled eggs tossed together with torn bits of tortilla, diced fresh tomatoes, diced onions, cheese, green chile and pico de gallo. Neither the green chile or the pico have any heat and that may detract from your enjoyment of an otherwise terrific entree.
Smoked chicken enchiladas start with free-range chicken cubed and blanketed under blue corn tortillas, spinach and cheese then smothered with red or green chile. The highlight of this particular entree is the wonderful smokiness of the chicken. Once again, the chile could be hotter.
You can’t leave the restaurant without picking up some of the bakery’s wheat-based bounty–a loaf of homemade ciabatta, a plump cinnamon roll, a croissant stuffed with goat cheese and green chile….the possibilities are deliciously limitless.
Cloud Cliff Bakery & Cafe
1805 2nd Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 6 August 2006
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Migas, Smoked Chicken Enchiladas, Mexican Hot Cocoa, Pancakes
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