Food, Passion, Politics, and Death: Gabriel’s and Tosca

Summer is officially over this weekend, so I wanted to share our last summertime activity because it may inspire you to think about including this event in your family outings for next summer.

I followed the forecast all week and hoped Mother Nature would be cooperative, but dark clouds loomed overhead and to the north in the direction of Santa Fe. It was Family Night at the Santa Fe Opera so we did not want rain. This was our first time to the opera and we were so looking forward to the open-air venue with a beautiful sunset in the background. More importantly, we were excited to see my son’s three schoolmates perform in the opera, Tosca.We crossed our fingers and headed towards Santa Fe because the show would go on even in the rain.

Gabriel's and Tosca
Santa Fe Opera: Tosca

Many opera patrons tailgate before the performance but we chose to dine at a restaurant called Gabriel’s. It’s friend recommended and highly rated by the locals. Plus, it’s conveniently located 5 minutes away from the opera (on Hwy 285/84) away from city center. Dining in downtown Santa Fe would have been an option any other weekend, but the Indian Market was that weekend and the Plaza would be very crowded.

Gabriel's and Tosca
Tailgating in the parking lot of the Santa Fe Opera

Gabriel’s serves Mexican and Southwest cuisine. It’s well known for its guacamole experience and outdoor dining (it was a good thing I had reserved a table indoors because the dark clouds were getting darker). On the patio, people dined under sun umbrellas among the beautiful flowers. It was also very festive indoors. There was a large family seated right near us and they were having a great time laughing and sipping their margaritas. Colorful paintings of animals and Native Americans decorated the walls, and pottery filled niches.

Gabriel's and Tosca
Gabriel’s of Santa Fe: The Patio

We put our order in for the Guacamole Especial! We were ready for the culinary performance- guacamole made fresh for us right at the table side. A woman appeared with a large cart topped with a large black bowl surrounded by avocados and all the fixings for a great guacamole. We chose onions, tomatoes, garlic and some cilantro (jalapenos are also available). She scooped out 2.5 avocados, juiced ½ a lime, added the extras plus salt, mashed, whisked, and in about 2 minutes we had our guacamole especial on the table. Now that I’ve seen it, it’ll be fun to do this when we have guests over!

Click here to see a video on assembling the Guac Especial!

The guacamole especial is a fairly large appetizer for four so we were half full by the time our entrees came. My son, who is not a fan of Mexican, ordered the Lone Star ribs but the rest of us order Mexican. My hubby, who is always eats healthier than I, ordered the mesquite grilled half chicken, while I ordered the Taos platter which consisted of a blue corn beef taco and a blue corn beef enchilada covered with green chile. My daughter decided to try the crab enchiladas (chicken or pork would have been better).

Gabriel's and Tosca
Gabriel’s Taos Platter

While we dined, it rained. Luckily, there was a break in the precipitation while we traveled between the restaurant and the opera house. It started back up just as we arrived in the parking lot; the tailgaters quickly guzzled their wine, wrapped up their portable tables and chairs and headed towards cover. The rained poured and the wind whipped for about 25 minutes pushing the rain under the cover of the roof. Ten minutes before show time, the rain stopped, the skies cleared, and the opera staff worked quickly to sweep the water away from the seats. To our surprise our seats were dry by the time we found them.

Gabriel's and Tosca
Storm moving in before the opera started

The opera venue is amazing. There are two levels and the stage is set against the western sky allowing for beautiful sunset colors to filter through. Even though our seats were close to the outer edges of the venue, we still had a decent view of the action. The acoustics were outstanding and we really liked how each of us had our own personal translator so we could understand the dialogue. Our kids enjoyed every minute of the opera and didn’t even ask to leave early.

Gabriel's and Tosca
Opera Stage (I secretly snapped this photo)

Despite the rain, we had a wonderful night. The 2012 season is over now. However, the lineup for 2013 is already available on-line and tickets are available for purchase. We look forward to the 2013 season. It’ll be a hard decision- will it be Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro or Verdi’s La Traviata? Maybe we’ll even give tailgating a try!


  1. Make reservations if you plan to dine at Gabriel’s otherwise you will be waiting in a very long line even if you get there before 5:30pm.
  2. We recommend the traditional Mexican entrees at Gabriel’s.
  3. Family Night at the Santa Fe Opera is a really good deal! Purchase your tickets well in advance since there are limited seats. Usually by the end of May, you can find the family night schedule on-line. Tickets for full-price seating are available now for the 2013 season.
  4. Don’t forget to bring binoculars to the opera.
  5. Bring a light jacket or shawl because the Santa Fe nights can be cool especially after a summer rain.
  6. Avoid drinking anything alcoholic two hours before you head home because you may encounter a sobriety checkpoint like we did on Hwy 599.

Date visited: August 18, 2012

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