Someone’s In the Kitchen at the Cowden Café

Museum-goers who wouldn’t mind a little nosh with their exhibits have reason to celebrate the re-opening of the History  Museum’s Cowden Café. Someone’s In the Kitchen, a longtime Santa Fe catering company, has begun serving light breakfasts and lunches in the second-floor space with a fabulous outdoor patio overlooking downtown Santa Fe.

Richard Derwostyp (“Just call me Richard,” he says, for obvious reasons) has owned and operated Someone’s in the Kitchen for 20 years.

“It’s going to be simple salads, sandwiches,” he said of the Cowden Café fare. “Some of them won’t be that simple, and some will have a Southwestern edge.

Typical lunch offerings might include gazpacho, smoked-turkey-and-pepper-jack cheese sandwiches, and salads like a Southwest Caesar; spinach with apples, Maytag blue cheese and pecans; and a chef salad. Service will be casual, with orders taken at the counter. With a minimum of two days’ advance notice, the café can prepare sack lunches for groups of visitors. The number to call for group orders is 505-424-8209.

The café is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm Tuesday through Sunday, with lunches from 11:30 am to 3 pm, and drinks, cookies and pastries until 4:30 pm. Lunches will cost $7-$13, and Richard will also have a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and breakfast pastries. Diners don’t need to pay museum admission, unless they’d also like to wander the exhibits. Besides good food and a great view of downtown Santa Fe from its balcony patio, the café has free wireless.

Set on the museum’s second floor, the cafe closed April 1 when its previous operators, the owners of the Plaza Restaurant, decided to focus on repairing their fire-damaged restaurant. A request for proposals was issued for another operator and resulted in a contract for Someone’s In the Kitchen through October, giving Derwostyp an opportunity to see how well his current operation adjusts to the space.

“Richard was the most responsive in trying to work with us and our needs,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the museum.

The café is named for New Mexico’s Cowden family who, from 1883 to 1915, ran the JAL Ranch (for which the southeastern town of Jal is named). The JAL was the open-range home to 40,000 head of cattle and a part of New Mexico history that included the likes of Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, skirmishes with Comanches, and tales of gutting out the pioneer life in dugouts and covered wagons. At its peak, the JAL occupied much of what is now Lea County, east and south into Texas.

So come on up to the Cowden and enjoy some tasty food from Someone’s in the Kitchen. (Just for the sake of it, and given the name of the new cafe operator, we just couldn’t resist adding this image from the Photo Archives of former First Lady Susie Miles doing her very best — and very prescient — June Cleaver imitation.)

Susie Miles, wife of John E. Miles, in the kitchen at the Governor’s Mansion. Miles served as New Mexico governor from 1939 to 1943. Photo by T. Harmon Parkhurst. Courtesy Photo Archives at the Palace of the Governors, No. 54376.

“Fire” Sale at the Cowden Cafe

PlazaCafePosterAndy and Daniel Razatos, owners of the historic Plaza Cafe on the Santa Fe Plaza, are still reeling from a fire last weekend that put their well-loved eatery temporarily out of commission. But that hasn’t stopped them from feeding the hungry hordes at the Cowden Cafe, which they operate inside the New Mexico History Museum. To sweeten the deal for customers longing for the turkey-cashew mole and other delights they whip up at the Plaza, the Razatos have lowered prices at the Cowden, including a delicious offer of 99-cent desserts.

You read that right.

And you just might have to hurry if you aim to beat the crowds of people who, in at least a few cases, are snapping up not one, not two, not three, but grocery sacks full of desserts, take heed: The cafe opens at 11 a.m. and stays open until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

On Friday, dessert selections included flan, red-velvet cake, white cake and a gooey-luscious chocolate cake.

But that’s not all.

Besides their desserts, the Razatos are offering fire-sale prices on their salads, sandwiches and daily soup choices, which on Friday included tortilla soup and (…wait for it…) MENUDO! What could be a more culturally specific dining choice during the annual Santa Fe Fiesta? (Well, other than roasted head of Zozobra, perhaps.)

A cup of menudo, packed with legendary health-giving properties, costs only $1. And a soup-salad-sandwich combo? A mere $4.

patio lunch kidsThe best part is that you can then enjoy them on the second-floor cafe’s outdoor terrace overlooking the Palace of the Governors Courtyard and the rooftops of downtown Santa Fe.

You don’t have to be a museum-goer to eat at the cafe — although we think you’ll be enticed to buy an admission ticket once you get a glimpse of the interior. Just enter through the Washington Avenue doors and tell the nice folks at the guard station that you’re here for the chow. They’ll send you on up.

While at the cafe, log onto our free wifi or just enjoy some time with your dining companions.

The Cowden Café is named for a historic ranching family who built the JAL Ranch. From 1883 to 1915, the JAL Ranch (which lent its name to the southeastern New Mexico town of Jal) was the open-range home to 40,000 head of cattle and a part of New Mexico history that included the likes of Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, skirmishes with Comanches, and tales of scrabbling out the pioneer life in dugouts and covered wagons.

At its peak, the JAL occupied much of what is now Lea County, east and south into Texas.Its legacy was detailed in Michael Pettit’s book, Riding for the Brand: 150 Years of Cowden Ranching (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), which won a New Mexico Book Award for Best Southwest History. Michael will talk about the JAL and family ranching lore at 2 pm on Sunday, Sept. 26, in the History Museum Auditorium. The lecture is free with museum admission (Sundays are free to NM residents) and will be followed by coffee and cobbler featuring fruit grown by New Mexico farmers, courtesy of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

You’ve waited long enough. How about some food?

sandwich casepastry cabinet

turkey sammich 99-cent dessertsflanwhite cake

Come for the Exhibits … and a Piece of Pie

Across the country, museums are looking for ways to expand visitors’ social experiences as well as become community gathering spots. (Consultant Nina Simon documents the cutting edge in her blog, Museum 2.0.) The History Museum does its part with hands-on exhibits, lectures and performances, and a shady Palace courtyard in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, perfect for a moment of serenity.

On May 20, we’re taking that one step further by offering a place to grab a snack or a light meal, hang out on a second-story terrace with a great view, get a little work done courtesy of our free wi-fi, and re-charge before charging back into the exhibits.

Plaza Cafe archiveThe Plaza Cafe, a Santa Fe Plaza mainstay since 1905, has agreed to run the long-awaited Cowden Café, on the museum’s second floor. The café will serve daily from 10 am until 4:30 pm, and on Friday from 11 am until 7 pm. Service will be “upscale self-service without the attitude,” said Daniel Razatos, whose family has operated the Plaza Café for more than six decades. All menu items will be made from scratch and designed to be quick, healthy and fresh – perfect for people on a one-hour lunch break. Beverages will include premium coffees, teas, beer and wine, creating an opportunity to enjoy not only the exhibits but sunset hors d’oeuvres and, sometimes, live music on the café’s Phyllis and Eddie Gladden Terrace.

“Museums are changing,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the museum. “It’s not just about visiting the exhibits, it’s about being comfortable in public spaces and providing amenities to help people feel comfortable. We want our museum to be a place for the community.”

Brothers Andy and Daniel Razatos operate the Plaza Café, founded in 1905 and taken over by Dionysi Razatos in 1947. A longtime favorite among locals, tourists and the occasional celebrity, the restaurant whips up a mix of Greek, New Mexican and down-home American cuisines – everything from moussaka to enchiladas to chicken-fried steak.

CherryPie“The Cowden Café will be like a little café bistro,” said Daniel Razatos. “You come in for a little snack, nothing’s very huge or expensive, and it’s a nice, comfortable atmosphere to hang out and read your newspaper – very European.”

Visitors who only want to go to the café can do so for free; access to the exhibits will remain limited to paid attendees. Up to 20 people can sit inside the café; the outdoor terrace has room for 50 people. The museum is working out the final tweaks to a wi-fi system that will enable members of the public to log on to their computers while visiting the café.

The Cowden Café is named for a historic ranching family, whose holdings at one time straddled the New Mexico-Texas border from Jal to Santa Rosa. Their legacy was detailed in the book Riding for the Brand: 150 Years of Cowden Ranching (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), by Michael Pettit.

Part of the 1-year-old History Museum’s original design, the café and terrace have been closed to the public while details on the café’s operation were worked out. The state Board of Finance agreed to the contract’s terms on April 20, clearing the way for a final construction push.