Downtown Santa Fe just got a little bit sweeter.
La Lecheria, Santa Fe’s premier (and really, only) craft ice cream purveyor, began life in a cozy little space at the Lena Street Lofts. It was a bit out of the way for an ice cream parlor, but still the people came, drawn by rumors of strange flavors laced with exotic herbs, spices and sometimes even meats.
The Lena Street location, across from Iconik coffee, is still hopping, but La Lecheria has expanded this week to a second iteration, filling the literal niche on West Marcy Street that was formerly the home of Beestro.
“I think we knew from the beginning we would need some downtown presence at some point,” says La Lecheria owner Joel Coleman. “We just don’t have the foot traffic [at Lena].”
With a focus on simple ingredients (cream, sugar, eggs, repeat) and adventurous flavors, La Lecheria has, in the two years since it opened, quickly expanded to become one of Santa Fe’s notable must-eats. To accommodate growing demand for its ice cream (it wholesales to both lucky restaurants and select grocery stores) La Lecheria has moved its production space to a much larger facility in the basement of the downtown building.
Coleman, who is the chef and co-owner of gastropub Fire & Hops on Guadalupe Street, opened La Lecheria two years ago as an outlet for his insatiable urge to create bespoke — and sometimes surprising — ice cream flavors. He keeps four staple flavors on hand at all times (vanilla, chocolate sea salt, coffee and mint chip) and fills the rest of his freezers with an ever-rotating litany of culinary flavors like banana leaf candy ginger (all one flavor), avocado, orange rosemary, chamomile honey, peach pie (instead of pie crust, La Lecheria uses sweet shards of broken ice cream cones), green chile, brown sugar red chile, black sesame, mole (yes, mole) and coconut miso (which happens to be dairy-free). It has even featured a black garlic ice cream, which sounds appalling but, in the hands of Coleman and his general manager and co-creamer, chef Matt Ostrender, was rendered into a smokey, caramel-tinged umami dream.
Coleman has an adventurous palate and a penchant for quasi-savory ingredients, and while he has featured some of his more daring creations only as scoops on Fire & Hops’ dessert menu, the increased scoop space at the downtown location (12 flavors on hand instead of eight) also will allow Coleman to rotate in some of the more adventurous items like, for example, the Benton’s ham ice cream currently on offer at the gastropub.
“People think, ‘Ham ice cream? Really?’ ” Coleman says with a laugh. “But then they try it. It’s one of my favorites. Benton’s is arguably the best country ham in existence — you can only get it directly from Benton’s in Tennessee — and the ice cream is super smoky and just a little sweet.”
While the downtown La Lecheria is starting off slow with just coffee, pastries from local bakery American Pie and bespoke ice cream, later this week, it will will begin to roll out lunch items. As befits a small space, it will offer just a few things at a time, with room to grow, filling a desperate need for quick, inexpensive lunch options downtown.
“Being downtown, it made sense to offer savory lunch items — the space was already established as that before,” Coleman says. “It’s really simple, a couple of salads, some sandwiches, a soup.”
Its opening salvo for soup will be a farm-fresh vegetarian green chile stew with potatoes from Romero Farms, mushrooms and carrots. For salads (to balance out all that ice cream, you see), you’ll be able to get an arugula salad with shaved fennel, pickled onions, radishes and Marcona almonds with a red chile maple vinaigrette, or a cabbage salad with roasted carrots and pickled apple with a miso vinaigrette, both for $7.
And those who hold a space in their heart for Fire & Hops’ distinctive and addictive Cubano know already what magic Coleman can do with a sandwich. It is an art to do simple things well, and for the downtown La Lecheria, Coleman will offer his version of the ultimate ham and cheese sandwich.
“It’s classic French style, with good European butter smeared on the baguette, with a vadouvan aioli,” Coleman says. “Vadouvan is basically French curry.”
It also will have a vegetarian sandwich with avocado, pea shoot sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and kalamata olive tapenade, as well as an ever-changing grilled cheese of the day — any iteration of which, at the hands of Coleman and Ostrender, could potentially become an ice cream flavor as well.
IF YOU GO
La Lecheria, downtown
101 W. Marcy St.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday, closed Sundays (extended hours in summer)
La Lecheria, Lena Street
1708 Lena St.
noon to 6 p.m. Monday-Sunday
More information: www.lalecherianm.com