New Mexican cuisine, meaning the cuisine of the New Mexico region of the United States—not to be confused with Mexican cuisine—can be divided into two subcuisines: southern New Mexican food and northern, “Santa Fe”–style cuisine. “I get the sense, perhaps erroneously, that the food of the south is more down-home and traditional while that of the north is more innovative and sophisticated,” says Perilagu Khan.
That’s true, says gordeaux, though it’s a matter of personal taste whether this “sophistication” is for good or ill. The term Santa Fe–style is often applied with derision by those in other parts of New Mexico, says gordeaux, “because of the perceived ‘worthless fanciness'” of the northern, urban style. “For me,” he says, “if there were two restaurants offering ‘New Mexican’ fare and ‘Santa Fe’ style fare, I’d more than likely go to the former over the latter.” Critics might say that the Santa Fe style “interjects a great deal of pretentiousness into food that does not support it easily,” says Perilagu Khan. Not that practitioners of Santa Fe cuisine have a monopoly on pretentiousness. “This is a phenomenon that happens to pizza a great deal, too,” he says.