Local Hero: Best Café, Santa Fe
An Interview with Andrée Falls, Owner
Photos by Douglas Merriam
Andrée Falls grew up in the restaurant business. At age four, she was sitting on the kitchen counter of her mother’s restaurant watching the cooks prepare the day’s lunch, and by age eight, she was wearing an apron—she’s been cooking and baking ever since. In 1981, Andrée went to Paris for a semester abroad that turned into a three-year stay. When she returned home to Dallas in 1984, she opened Parigi Restaurant, which she helmed until 1995. After selling Parigi, she moved to Santa Fe and opened the Sage Bakehouse, an artisanal bread bakery, pastry shop, and café.
Long before moving to New Mexico, you spent three years in France. How did that experience shape your approach to baking bread, and your approach to food more generally?
The experience of living in France was transformative. It was the first time I ever experienced sourdough bread. Pretty much from the first bite of Poilâne bakery bread, I was addicted. I have always been extremely taken with the idea of very simple, delicious, nutritious food. Poilâne’s bread, with exceptional flour, salt, and water (and nothing else), was a perfect example of this sort of food.
Describe the backstory of one of your loaves. Where does the wheat come from and how is it ground?
Our whole wheat and rye flours come from the San Luis Valley, west of Alamosa. They are stone ground by Kris Gosar in Monte Vista, Colorado. We’ve worked with Kris since the day we opened back in 1996. Our other flours come from a cooperative of farms in southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas. They are milled with a pneumatic system at a mill about forty miles north of Denver.
In addition to being a bread bakery, your shop is also a café. How much of the menu is sourced from local farms? Is there a seasonal item that you are particularly excited about to look out for this fall?
As for local sources for the café, it really depends on the season. We use local eggs for our most popular item, the scrambled egg tartine, year round. Now, of course, we feature local tomatoes and will soon have soup with local corn. As we transition out of the pandemic, our menu is quite small, but everything that we can purchase from local suppliers, we do. As we move into fall, there will be soup with autumn squashes and salads with wilted local greens.
Along the way, you’ve earned master’s degrees in both liberal arts and English. How have those degrees helped shape your work?
I think there is actually a book-length answer to this question, but in general, I think having the good fortune to study where and what I have has really made me appreciate the complexity of all that is going on in my little business. So many of the issues—environmental, political, and social—that one reads about daily are actually unfolding right in front of me every day. I am very motivated to produce food that is good for people and easy on the environment, to provide opportunity for the team of people I work with, and to nurture a spot that supports the local community. I think doing this is deeply important.
Is there a local food issue that particularly matters to you?
There isn’t one particular food issue that matters most to me. I’m really interested in how my little food business affects the local community, from paying a good wage and having excellent working conditions, to providing our customers with delicious products and genuinely kind, caring service, to working with local vendors . . . it’s all part of an interconnected puzzle that I find challenging, fascinating, and rewarding.
535 Cerrillos, Santa Fe, 505-820-7243, sagebakehouse.com