PärCht Bottleshop + Bites: the place to quench your thirst

PärCht Bottleshop + Bites

Nathaniel Evans and Monserrat Oyanedel celebrate their third wedding anniversary at PärCht.

Originally published in Taos News

When Nicolette Casale and Kevin Hunter opened PärCht on April 15th they had a clear picture in mind—they knew exactly what they wanted to create in the cave-like space under The Gorge Bar and Grill, which had been empty for a long time.

With an extensive background in the wine and liquor distribution industry, the couple conceptualized the place from the ground up to offer both a bar experience and a full retail shop.

“We are small by design,” Hunter said. “We don’t want to be overwhelmingly big or sell exactly the same thing that you can find in the grocery store.”

“This is a boutique-style shop where clients can have charcuterie and cheese, spreads and jams, and a carefully selected variety of wine and beer,” said Casale. “People can also take home anything that is on our menu, from wines and beer to the Serrano ham to the different kinds of cheese we serve.”

They are affiliated with The Gorge Bar and Grill, which is their sister restaurant.

A happy couple celebrates at PärCht

The walls are decorated with work by New Mexican artists, some of them local like El Moises, and others from Albuquerque.

All the photographs are from Taos-based artists who exhibit in the gallery across the hall.

“Our goal is create an inviting, casual and comfortable atmosphere,” Casale said. “This is the kind of place where you can come with friends, chat and have a glass of wine or a beer, or spend a romantic evening with your partner.”

Which is exactly what Nathaniel Evans and Monsterrat Oyanedel were doing on Tuesday, July 7th.

The couple decided to celebrate their third wedding anniversary at PärCht.

“This is our favorite place to relax and have a good time,” Oyanedel said. “We have been PärCht regulars since day one. It has a great selection of good wines and awesome costumer service.”

“When we opened, at first we thought this would be mostly a tourist destination,” Hunter said. “But we were pleasantly surprised to see that locals love it too. Many of our patrons are from Taos and we are very grateful for that.”

The products: wine and beer

PärCht offers a global selection of wines (twenty different kinds by the glass) and five drafts of beer.

The wines include Vara “Silverhead” Cava from Spain, Gruet Blanc de Noir from New Mexico, Nicolas Feuillatte Brut and Chateu la Coustarelle Cahors from France, and Bisceglia “Gudarra” Aglianico from Italy, among others.

Featured beer drafts are Bosque “The Last Straw” Hefe, New Belgium “Rampant” Imperial IPA, Stone “Go To” IPA, Scrimshaw Pilsner, and Deschutes River Ale.

Bites, boards and more

PärCht’s menu consists of light fare such as “bites”—buratta cheese, heirloom tomato and basil, chilled Castelveltrano olives or a sweet and savory combination of chocolate, fruit and nuts.

The boards feature a selection of cheese and charcuterie that are served with crostini, Lusty Monk Mustard and those delightful miniature French pickles known as cornichons.

Spreads, jams and more pickles are other accompaniment options. The crushed chickpeas, lemon and garlic spread can be added to any board, and there is always seasonal fruit compote.

I asked Hunter for his personal pairing favorite.

“Our two Spanish cheeses, Campo de Moltalban and Manchego, served with classic Serrano ham, can be nicely paired with almost any wine that has a bit of dryness, like Malvira Barbera D’Alba or Ontañon Reserva Tempranillo,” he said.

Coffee, tea and more

Though primarily a wine and beer shop, PärCht is designed to offer a nice tapas experience to nondrinkers as well.

The nonalcoholic beverages include iced and hot teas (jasmine green, Early Grey, and others), San Pellegrino and Badoit Sparkling Water, and Fiji Still.

They also serve Iconik Pour Over Coffee.

“Iconik is a coffee roaster from Santa Fe,” said Hunter. “I like because it isn’t too strong: it’s mild and really nice. We also pour it to order, which means we don’t make a big pot of coffee in the morning and serve stale coffee all day long. No, we grind and make every cup of coffee individually.”

“So you can have coffee and tapas,” Casale said, “and add a bite of dark chocolate, nuts and fruit. Delicious.”

The name

Hunter explains why they chose the phonetic spelling of the word “parched” as part of the shop’s name.

“When you are ‘parched,’ it means you are really dry and need to drink,” he said. “Here, we have already tasted many, many wines in order to offer what are, in our opinion, the best brands to quench your thirst so you are not ‘parched’ anymore.”

“We didn’t want anything generic,” Casale said. “And PärCht is definitely unique.”

Plans for the future

Casale and Hunter are planning to organize wine and beer tasting events.

“We are also going to add some dessert options later on, in August,” she said. “And maybe serve diners some nights. There is a lot we have in mind. Stay tuned, and come to visit us.”

PärCht is located at 103 East Plaza Taos, New Mexico

Phone: (575) 758-1994



Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays 12 noon to 9 p.m.


Amina’s Children Boutique: a business brings community and family together

SymOwner Symone Arguello-Dada

Originally published in Taos News

Three years ago Symone Arguello-Dada came to Taos with no car, no money, and no job. She was eight and a half month pregnant.

“I got a part-time job at El Monte Sagrado in the accounting department,” she said. “I also bought a hot dog cart so I could spend time with my little girl and still make some money.”

People came to know her as “the hot dog lady of Taos.” She brought her cart to the John Dunn Shops in the weekends and Taos Plaza Live on Thursdays, during the summer.

A brick-and-mortar store

Last September Arguello-Dada learned that a space would be available at the John Dunn Shops (where G. Robinson Old Prints & Maps used to be) and “a light bulb went off in her head.”

“I saw it as an opportunity to offer trendy clothes for children,” she said. “Here, there are only two places when people can get children’s clothes: Wal-Mart and Bealls. I had troubles finding the kind of dresses that I wanted my daughter Amina to wear so I rented the space and opened the boutique. I named it after my daughter because she inspired me to take that leap of faith. ”

The walls are decorated with photos and sketches of Amina modeling the merchandise.

“The photos were taken by Liz McCabe and the sketches were done by local artist David Borenstein,” Arguello-Dada said. “They have been so helpful and nice!”

The merchandise

Amina’s Children Boutique carries clothes, toys and shoes for infants and children up to six years old kids.

“We have fancy, classy, trendy, and unique clothes for boys and girls,” Arguello-Dada said. “I order the items I like, in the styles I love, and I hope that my clients enjoy them as much as I do. I now have beautiful dresses for the holidays, as well as tuxedos and cardigans, and many winter jackets.”

She also has sweaters, socks and beanies and will be getting more winter clothes soon.

“Don’t forget our toys,” she said. “I have everything, from rattles to educational games, like a USA Map Puzzle.”

A new concept for diaper bags

Recently, Arguello-Dada began carrying Betsey Johnson purses and handbags.

“All her products are fun and trendy,” she said. “I also want to change the image of the diaper bag. I am offering a few big purses that could be used for diapers. They are stylish and easy to clean. Perfect for chic moms!”

Chewable jewelry

Among the most interesting items one can find in the store are the chewable necklaces, a special kind of jewelry for both babies and mothers.

The Baltic Amber teething necklaces can be worn by boys or girls.

“It’s a natural, drug-free way to relieve the symptoms of teething in babies and toddlers,” Arguello-Dada said. “And they look pretty so kids are attracted to them.”

There are also chewable bead necklaces (“Chewbeads”) designed for mothers, available in a variety of colors.

“You know how babies are always grabbing their mother’s necklaces and earrings,” Arguello-Dada said. “Well, now they can do it safely. Made out of silicone beads (similar to pacifiers), Chewbeads necklaces are soft on babies’ gums and can be easily cleaned.”

Amina’s place

One of Arguello-Dada’s main goals with the store is to encourage her daughter, Amina, to follow her own dreams.

“This is really Amina’s place,” she said. “Sometimes in the evening she comes here and helps me choose outfits. She would say, ‘Mom, let’s go to my store and hang pretty clothes there.’ That convinces me that I made the right decision when I opened the boutique. I hope Amina inherits it someday.”

Help from the community

Since Arguello-Dada works during the week at El Monte Sagrado, she counts on a committed team of volunteers to keep the store open every day.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” she said. “Well, it takes a community to keep a merchant in business. I want to thank Polly Raye, my generous landlady who believed in me when I approached her about the store, and my parents, who have helped me immensely. They are my rock!”

Before Arguello-Dada opened the boutique her father, Andres Arguello, painted the place and built all the shelves while her mother helped choose the merchandise and take care of Amina.

“Then there are the great and dedicated volunteers who want to see me succeed and are making this venture possible,” she said. “I couldn’t keep Amina’s Children Boutique if it were not for them.”

She also wants to thank the many people who knew her as “the hot dog lady” and are now spreading the word about the store.

“Business is a way to bring family and community together,” she said.

The Halloween Party

A Children’s Halloween Party with carnival games, a costume contest and plenty of treats will take place on Saturday, October 31st from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Taos Plaza, Teresina Lane, John Dunn Shops and Bent Street. Arguello-Dada, like most merchants at John Dunn Shops, plans to participate.

She has her costume ready. Every year, for Halloween, Arguello-Dada crochets special outfits for her daughter and for herself.

“Last year, Amina was Little Red Riding Hood I was the wolf,” she said. “This year, she will be Snow White and I will be the Evil Queen.”

With two jobs and the responsibilities of being a single mother, I wonder how she still finds time to crochet

“I do it late and night to wind down, after Amina is asleep and I have finished my orders,” she said. “It’s so relaxing! I love it, and I love my job. Thank you, Taos, and all the wonderful people who keep me in business!”

Amina’s Children Boutique is located at 124D Bent Street

Phone: (575) 770-2963

Hours: Mondays through Sundays 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


Aceq: fun comfort food and esoteric wines

Fun comfort food & esoteric wines at Seco eatery

Chef Johnny Treasaigh

Photo: Katharine Egli

Picture and story originally published in Taos News

With an extensive wine selection and unique house-made specialties, Aceq has been called “a hidden gem in Arroyo Seco” by a number of patrons. The restaurant has outstanding reviews in Yelp and other online guides.

Owner and Sommelier Michael Wagener and Chef Johnny Treasaigh have teamed up to create a wide selection of entrees. Their collaboration resulted in a menu that features their own interpretation of comfort food.

“Johnny is the main creator of our menu,” Wagener said. “We have a shared vision about keeping the restaurant locally sourced, changing dishes often and having fun with traditional fare.”

A new vibe for Aceq

A Wisconsin native, Wagener graduated from the University of Minnesota in Duluth and moved to Taos nine years ago, beckoned by the Ski Valley. Treasaigh grew up in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area and has been in Taos for around eight years.

They shared similar paths, having worked at El Monte Sagrado—Wagener running their food and beverage program and Treasaigh as a sous chef—and at El Meze, under Chef Fred Mueller.

“I also worked for the beautiful young couple who started Aceq,” Wagener said. “I was a waiter and also handled their beers and wines, as this had been my background in other places. After a year and a half, I was ready to take over the restaurant and they were happy because family responsibilities didn’t allow them to continue running it. Then I brought Johnny in.”

Wagener began remodeling the space in the spring. By the end of June, Aceq had gotten “a new vibe.”

“We went back to making everything in house,” Wagener said. “We are also big on recycling and keeping the restaurant eco-friendly.”

A Juicy Lucy, Taos style

Treasaigh comes from a family where cooking together was a daily occurrence. He has always enjoyed being in the kitchen, bringing flavors to life.

“I put my heart and soul into a plate,” he said. “Some may call me standoffish, but when it comes to food, I want to show people who I really am. Some of our dishes are my personal interpretation of old classics while others are kind of wild.”

So what exactly is a “wild dish”?

“Both Johnny and I spent a lot of time in Minneapolis-Saint Paul,” Wagener explains. “Well, the area is known for a Juicy Lucy— a cheese-stuffed burger. We turned it into a fun and wild plate when we stuffed the burger with Wisconsin cheddar and Hatch green chile, to bring together the Midwest and the Southwest in a tasty and eclectic dish.”

The five-ingredient rule

Both Treasaigh and Wagener follow the five-ingredient rule. “If you are going to cook salmon, then let the salmon shine,” Treasaigh said. “Don’t overdo it with spices and sauces.”

“We want the food to speak for itself,” Wagener said. “Less is more.”

A movable menu

They also agree that changing the menu as often as possible—weekly is the norm— is a great way so to keep their patrons intrigued and surprised.

“I don’t like the idea of a restaurant where everything looks the same day after day,” Treasaigh said. “You can get that at Burger King or Taco Bell. I believe that when people go out to eat they deserve to enjoy a culinary experience, instead of a dish they can prepare at home or get it precooked in the grocery store.”

The wine selection

Wagener is a sommelier with the American Court of Master Sommeliers. Finding the right wine or beer to pair with the food is one of his passions.

“When you take a perfectly flavored and seasoned dish and complement it with a great wine, magic occurs,” he said.

There were only six wines when he started working at Aceq.  Now, there are forty-eight.

“They are all unique, esoteric selections that fit well with our entrees,” he said. “We have wines from all over the world, and locally. We also have craft beers, and many of them are local too.”

The farm-to-table approach

Wagener and Treasaigh know the names of most the people who grow their produce and provide them with meat.

“This personal connection is a very important part of what we are doing,” Wagener said. “The farm-table approach is the core of our menu: we use the absolute best products, and always local when available.”

Aceq is located at 480 State Road 150 Arroyo Seco, NM 87514

Phone: (575) 776-0900


Orange Creme Brulee:


zest of 2 oranges

1 quart of cream

1/2 cup of sugar

6 large egg yolks

1 vanilla bean split and scraped (1 teaspoon of extract if fresh beans aren’t available)



In a saucepan, bring cream zest and vanilla to a boil and remove from heat. Let stand for 15 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, lightly cream eggs and sugar with a whisk.

After 15 minutes, remove vanilla bean and strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Place in custard cups and bake in a water bath for 45-50 minutes at 325 degrees until the custard is set up.

Chill for at least 2 hours.

Top with a tablespoon of superfine sugar and evenly cover it.

Carefully, with a torch, melt and brown the sugar.

Chill for 10 minutes before serving.

Never touch melted or hot sugar! It will burn you severely and does not come off. Use extreme caution with this recipe.


Charred tomato vinaigrette


3 vine ripe tomatoes, local when possible

1 medium shallot

1/2 cup sherry vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive

1/4 cup of olive oil blend

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


Cut tomatoes in half and season with salt and pepper. Heat large sauté pan on high until it just starts to smoke.

Carefully put tomatoes, cut side down, in the pan with NO oil. Once you have all the tomatoes in the pan, turn down the heat to medium high till the tomatoes are soft and you can easily push your finger in them.

Once you’re at this point, take a spatula or the back of a large spoon and press them down (be careful for the pan is extremely hot and the juices can splatter and burn you).

Add the olive blend. The olive oil will deglaze the pan and lift all the charred tomato on the pan. Use your spatula or spoon to scrape the pan as it deglazes. Put in blender when cooled and puree it.

Mince the shallot and put it in a mixing bowl. Add sugar and salt and mix, this will macerate the shallot and create a liquid.

Let sit for about 5 minutes to get it to macerate. Add pepper, sherry vinegar and tomato puree and mix.

Next, slowly whisk in extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste.

Use hearty greens for this dressing, local when possible.

San Francisco de Asís Church: faith, mystery and a labor of love


El enjarre

Photo and story originally published in Taos News

The San Francisco de Asís Church is the heart and soul of the Ranchos community. It is also a National Historic Landmark and one of the most photographed and painted buildings in the country.

“But, above all, our church was, and still is, the hub of social and spiritual life in the Ranchos Valley,” says Ranchos resident David Maes, whose ancestors came with the Spanish settlers who settled the Ranchos Valley sometime around 1720. “She is also an icon of the Spanish colonial era and this year we are celebrating her two hundredth birthday.”

There aren’t precise records that indicate how long it took to build the church, but Señor Maes estimates it would have taken at least several years.

“The only thing we know for sure is that it was completed in the fall of 1815,” he said. “But for me, the big question is how it was built, considering that there were only about seventy families living in the plaza-fort at that time. How many were able-bodied young men, physically able to cut and haul trees from nearby mountains to make the vigas, and to produce the thousands and thousands of adobes needed to build the original church? Beyond working on the construction of the church, they had to plant crops, irrigate, hunt, grow and store food for the winter…How did they manage to complete it?”

This is one of the mysteries surrounding the church, but it’s not the only one.

Photo taken from this website

The mystery painting

“The Shadow of the Cross” is an eight-foot painting made by a Canadian artist, Henry Ault, in 1896. It was donated to the Ranchos Church by Mrs. Herbert Sidney Griffin, a wealthy parishioner, in 1948.

The painting is known for its unexplained luminescent quality, which can only be appreciated in the dark. In regular light, it shows a life-size image of Jesus standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. When the lights are turned off, the image becomes a luminous three-dimensional silhouette and over his left shoulder, the shadow of a cross becomes visible. There is also a small boat in the distance. Neither the cross nor the boat can be seen in daylight.

Julia Katz, from New York, is visiting the Ranchos Church.

“I find the painting mysterious inspiring and intriguing,” she said. “I am also very curious about what materials the artist used.”

Janet Oliver, a Taos resident, came to see it for the first time.

“I have only one word,” she said. “Awesome.”

Tina Torres, who works at the gift shops, explains that scientists have confirmed that no radium or other luminescent materials are present in its composition.

“For me, the importance of the painting is the impact it has on people when they first lay eyes on the barefoot Jesus standing on the shores of Galilee.” said Señor Maes. “I believe the painting is an actual representation of Jesus, the man-God. Notice that his skin isn’t white, but coffee colored. The Jesus in the painting looks like a God. Maybe He is trying to tell us that the painting is a true representation of the way he looked when He walked the earth, and perhaps that is what produces such a miraculous effect.”

The enjarre: a labor of love

Cindy Miera Jeantette is the parish secretary. Born in Ranchos de Taos, she has attended the Ranchos Church all her life. She was baptized, made her first communion and was confirmed and married there.

“All the sacraments, up to now,” she says.

She has also helped in different manners during the enjarres, the annual re-plastering of the exterior walls and buttresses of the building that is done every June by local parishioners and volunteers.

“In the sixties, the walls were coated with cement stucco, but it didn’t work because the adobe bricks need to breathe,” Miera said. “We almost lost the church! So we went back to the way of los viejitos, doing what our ancestors did. The cement coating was removed and we started enjarrando every year after that.”

They use traditional adobe (sand, straw and clay) to replaster the building.

The enjarre has also a spiritual meaning for Miera and many other participants in the annual ritual.

“The church is alive because of the labor of love done by the enjarradores,” says Margarita Martinez-Maes, a native of the Dominican Republic who considers herself “an adopted Taoseña.” “When we come together we are not only repairing the church but also renewing our faith.”

Between forty and sixty people show up every day during the two weeks that the enjarre work lasts.

“The mayordomos make sure that everyone is fed,” Martinez-Maes said. “We all bring something to eat and it’s like a big family feast.”

The mayordomos are stewards who help prepare the liturgy of the mass and keep the church clean at all times. There are eight couples of mayordomos that take care of the Ranchos Church and four for the chapels associated with the parish: Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos (Talpa), Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Llano Quemado), and San Isidro Labrador (Los Cordovas).

Frank and Nancy Zinno: bound by love and scones

Nancy Zinno

Nancy Zinno finishes a batch of scones

Photo: Katharine Egli

Image and story originally published in Taos news

Taos Farmers Market vendors and habitual customers will readily point to the booth manned by Frank and Nancy Zinno when asked about a place to buy scones and coffee.

“Not just regular ones, but the best scones in Taos,” says Mariah Arencibia, who comes from Valdez every Saturday to buy half a dozen from them.

Frank and Nancy Zinno, owners of ‘Z Best’ Scones, met in Santa Fe in the late eighties. They got married and moved to Taos to build an earthship and establish their massage business—they became licensed massage therapists in 1992.

“But there came a time, in 1997, when we needed some extra money and thought about baking scones,” Frank Zinno said. “We started with a couple of accounts in Taos and in a few months we were selling them to Alfalfa’s and Whole Foods in Santa Fe, and several local coffee shops.”

Soon, the business took on a life of its own. The couple opened a brick and mortar store called ‘Z Best Café’ in the John Dunn Shop plaza but later decided to focus on Taos and Los Alamos farmers markets.

Trying out recipes

Nancy Zinno grew up in a bakery.

“I guess baking is in my blood,” she said, laughing. “I’ve always enjoyed sweet things.”

Her family didn’t make scones, but she treasured some recipes that were later used in their business.

“We couldn’t find any scones like the ones we wanted to make so we went through a lot of testing,” Frank Zinno said. “We had to get the right combination of flour, butter and other ingredients, like the orange zest and the rising agent. We needed to try everything at first.”

No wonder they both gained weight during those initial stages. Frank admits he was up to 240 lbs at one time. Now, he is down to a comfortable and healthy 175 lbs.

“Then we found out we were sensitive to wheat,” he said, “and we started to use a white organic spelt flour that was lower in gluten.”

They now use organic flour from Costilla as well as spelt flour, plus local ingredients when available, such as peaches, apples, raspberries, apricots, pears, peppers, green chile, and corn.

Sweet and sour

Frank and Nancy Zinno have created sixteen different varieties of scones. Three are savory and the rest are sweet.

“The breakfast sausage scone is our newest creation,” she said. “It has become quite popular. We also have lemon raspberry, lemon blueberry, cinnamon walnut, chocolate, and many more.”

Every week, they bake from eighteen to twenty dozens. That means around two hundred and forty scones, which are often sold before noon.

Unlike many other vendors, they do not offer samples to their clients.

“We tell people, ‘If you are not satisfied after your first bite, we will give you your money back,’” Frank Zinno said. “In all these years, no one has ever asked for a refund.”

Love through thick and thin

The couple has been married twenty-two years.

“The key ingredient of having the business work is our commitment,” he said. “We really enjoy each other’s company. We built two businesses and a house, all by ourselves. We have been through thick and thin and our commitment to our spirit has made it work.”

“Yes, we are together constantly,” she agreed. “It can be challenging at times, but it is very rewarding.”

“You just have to get rid of the small stuff, the little I, the ego, and breath,” he said.

They also share responsibilities. Frank Zinno has a background in accounting and auditing, so he can do their bookkeeping and taxes.

“That helps a lot,” he said.

They usually bake on Fridays at TCEDC— a 5,000 sq. ft. commercial kitchen that provides a space to work for many enterprising cooks and bakers in town.

“On Fridays, we spend from four to five hours there,” he said. “The next morning we got up at 5 a.m. so we can be at the market at 6:30 a.m. and have everything ready. These are two intense workdays.”

Looking for a partner

Though the couple enjoys their work, it takes a lot of energy. They currently have one helper, and have had two in the past.

“But we aren’t getting any younger,” Frank Zinno said. “So are considering the options of selling the business or finding an investor, a business partner that we could work with. It would also be a way to ease into our retirement.”

They have a lot of recipes and a wealth of knowledge, plus a loyal clientele.

“This is a fun, sweet and profitable business which has made us happy and self-sufficient so I hope to find the right person to entrust with it,” he said. “It if is you, call me!”

To get in contact with Frank and Nancy Zinno, call 741-8288 or find them at the Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 to noon.

Z Best Scones recipes

(6 to 8 medium-sized scones)

Basic directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place 1 lb. of mix in a bowl

Measure 2/3 cups of water (non chlorinated). Add water to dry mix and stir 20-25 times just until moistened. Add more water, if necessary.

Drop mix (after adding fruit or add-ons) onto greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown on top and bottom.

Blueberry scones: Add 2 tbs. of sugar to the mix. Stir in 1 cup of frozen or fresh berries. Stir in about 2/3 cup cold water (to keep the berries from turning the batter blue). Sprinkle with sugar before baking.

Peach scones: Add 2 tbs. brown sugar to the mix. Stir in 1 cup thawed frozen or fresh peaches. Sprinkle with brown sugar before baking.

Blueberry peach scones: Same as blueberry, except use ½ peaches and ½ blueberries.

Raspberry chocolate scones: Add ½ cup chocolate chips to the mix, follow package directions. After putting the scones on the baking sheet, poke in frozen raspberries. There are great with the lemon glaze!

Lemon glaze: Zest and juice of 1 lemon. Add powdered sugar and stir. If glaze is too stiff, add a little warm water. If it is too thin, add more sugar. Glaze should run easily off spoon.

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House: still a living, breathing artistic hub

Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Originally published in Taos News

Photo: Katharine Egli

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House is more than a historical place: it is a living, breathing haven for all creative types. Inspiration is everywhere, from memories of famous guests like Willa Cather, Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Thornton Wilder, to the soothing sounds of the acequia that runs through the property under cottonwood trees. Workshops and educational conferences take place year round, and the property lives up to its reputation as a hotbed of visual and literary arts.

The many names of a house

The sprawling hacienda began as one big house named “Los Gallos.”

Mabel Dodge Luhan and her fourth husband, Tony Luhan, started building it in 1918 and finished the first living quarters in 1920. It originally had six rooms, but a sunporch and more rooms were added over the years. There she lived, sometimes in the company of famous guests like D. H. Lawrence and Georgia O’Keeffe and hosted salons with prominent intellectuals of the time until her death in 1962.

When Dennis Hopper purchased the house in 1970, after he filmed “Easy Rider,” he renamed it “Mud Palace.”

“I used to come by in the seventies and traded gemstones with the jewelers who stayed here with Dennis Hopper,” said Charles Franchina, also known as Taos Trader Chuck, who currently works in the Mabel Dodge Luhan House kitchen. “The place was always full of people—filmmakers, hippies, and musicians among them.”

In 1977 the property was bought by George and Kitty Otero, who did massive renovations of the place and renamed it “Las Palomas de Taos,” a nonprofit organization that offered workshops all throughout the eighties and nineties.

Lois Palken Rudnick writes in “Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture” that Las Palomas was recontextualized as a “psycho spiritual center” where Jungian dream analysts Pat and Larry Sargeant offered workshops on self-integration and Natalie Goldberg’s writing workshops attracted people from all over the country and beyond.

Currently owned by The Attiyeh Foundation, based in California, the property was renamed once more, becoming The Mabel Dodge Luhan House. It has retained nonprofit status and functions as a historic inn and retreat center, where more than twenty workshops are offered every year.

The workshops

Bonnie McManus, the Program Manager and workshop coordinator, speaks enthusiastically about the mission of the center.

“With our retreat-style meetings and literary and artistic workshops, we continue to carry out Mabel’s legacy to keep her home as a hotbed for the arts,” she said.

They host around three workshops every month.

“Our most popular ones are those focused on writing, mixed media art or yoga,” said McManus.

The Annual Taos Writing Retreat for Health Professionals is now going on. Started by writer, filmmaker, and teacher Julie Reichert, Ph.D., in 2000, the workshop has been taking place steadily for the last sixteen years at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House.

“I started it with writer David Morris as a writing workshop for medical practitioners,” Reichert said. “It’s not only for doctors and nurses, but for anybody who works in health care and wants to explore the power of narrative writing.”

“This retreat has been like the meals we have eaten here every day,” said Dr. Catherine Brandon, a participant from Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Very nourishing, plenty of it, and great variety. They will be in my heart and my hips for the rest of my life!”

Chef Melody Sayre, author of “From Taos with Love: Recipes from the Land of Enchantment,” uses mostly local products to prepare tasty, nutritious menus for the retreat participants.

“We serve three meals a day,” she said. “So I incorporate many salads, soups and healthy dishes that give them energy to create.”

Strong women in charge

Noreen Perrin is the Financial Manager of the organization.

“Something very interesting about the House is that the people who are running it are very strong women, just like Mabel, and that has been the case for quite a few years,” she said.

Julie Keefe came to the Mabel Dodge House for the first time to take Amy Bogard’s workshop, “Creating the Illuminated Travel Journal” in 2011. She returned later as Bogard’s assistant and, in April 2015, she left her job as a management/ program analyst for the federal government and became the General Manager of the House.

“This is my dream job,” she said. “I love working here and supporting the mission of the house, which is to educate people while taking good care of them in a beautiful environment.”

New building and new blog

Despite the fact that it is almost a century old, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House keeps growing. A new space called “The Meditation and Yoga Building” is currently under construction.

“Many people who come here want to practice yoga,” said McManus, “so we plan to set up a permanent space equipped with yoga mats always ready for them. We will have yoga instructors available as well.”

Writer and editor Liz Cunningham, in charge of Community Engagement, has just started a new blog in the organization’s website.

An invitation to Taoseños

As an educational institution, the Mabel Dodge Luhan House welcomes local literary organizations that can get a discount when they rent their space.

“We have also hosted activities organized by SOMOS, Holy Cross Hospital, the Fire Department, and other associations,” Keefe said. “They can use our ‘log cabin,’ a smaller meeting place in the Historic House, or the Juniper House classroom, which can accommodate up to sixty people.”

“This is not a museum, but an active learning center,” McManus said. “People are welcome to come and visit us. We have self guided tours where they can learn about the history of the place and its impact on Taos’ literary and artistic life.”

Coffee and homemade cookies are always available in the dining room.

“Come by and try them,” she said.

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House is located at 240 Morada Ln, Taos, NM 87571

(575) 751-9686


Sas Colby and friends

Photo takenfrom http://mabeldodgeluhan.com/workshops/

Latina Authors and Their Muses.

Latina Authors and Their Muses has just been published!

I feel so honored to be part of this wonderful book! Editor extraordinaire Mayra Calvani has worked so hard at it…and now we have los buenos resultados.

You can get it now at Amazon

Press Release

Wisdom and Inspiration from Latina Authors in New Compilation

Latina Authors and Their Muses features advice from 40 women writers

As the Hispanic American population of the U.S. increases, with influences ranging from Mexico to Central America and the Caribbean, so does interest in literature inspired by those cultures. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by delving into Latina Authors and Their Muses.

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has now edited a collection of interviews with 40 Latina authors living in the U.S. and writing in English. Latina Authors and Their Muses is an inspirational and informative book focusing on the craft of writing and the business of publishing, one that provides aspiring writers with the nuts and bolts of the business.

“I had the opportunity to meet Carmen Dolores Hernandez,  the book review editor at El Nuevo Día newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when she visited me in Brussels,” says Calvani. “She’d published some of my short stories and novel excerpts in Revista Domingo in the past, and I deeply admired her wisdom as a writer and woman of letters.

“She mentioned the anthology she had put together back in 1997, Puerto Rican Voices in English. I ordered a copy and became absorbed by the candor and insight of the authors as they talked about their backgrounds, books, and writing,” Calvani continues.

“Wouldn’t it be perfect to put together a similar anthology showcasing Latina authors writing in English in the United States? This book would not only showcase prominent figures but emerging voices as well, writers working on a wide range of genres from the literary to the commercial.”

The result of several years of research and interviews is Latina Authors and Their Muses. Writing in genres ranging from the literary to children’s picture books to fantasy novels to chick lit, and more, this remarkable group of talented authors shares their passion and commitment to their craft and to sharing their stories with the world in spite of the odds.

Latina Authors and Their Muses is a celebration of creativity, the writer’s life, and the passionate quest for spiritual and artistic freedom.

Read a chapter excerpt here:


About the editor:

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned more than ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.

Book info

Title: Latina Authors and Their Muses

Author: Mayra Calvani, Editor

Author web site: http://www.mayracalvani.com/

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

url: http://twilighttimesbooks.com/

Genre: Reference/Writing Skills

*Print ISBN: 978-1-60619-063-0

Format: 6×9 trade paperback; 340 pages; $19.95 USD

Distributors: Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Brodart, Follett, etc.

*eBook ISBN: 978-1-60619-062-3; $6.50 USD

Format: ebook in pdf, ePub, Kindle, Mobi, PRC, etc.

Distributors: Amazon Kindle; Apple iBookstore; BN.com Nook; Kobo Books; OmniLit; OverDrive, etc.

Release date: September 25, 2015 ebook; December 15, 2015 print

LCCN: 2015952662

Mayra Calvani, la editora!