Welcoming Inn

Text published in Martha Stewart Living magazine

Photographs by Gael Towey

Enter through an allee of giant cottonwood and elm trees, their branches arching majestically overhead. Pass by a lavender field, blue-green rows against the red earth. Take a moment when you get to the low-slung, unassuming adobe porch—thank goodness there’s a sign—to look out towards the pond crowded with lotus, their pink swan-like heads rising up to touch the unobstructed view of the ancient, craggy Sandia Mountain Range in the heart of the Rio Grande River Valley.

Here at the 20-room Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, the Rembe family has created a special place that celebrates the setting and honors the past, all while looking toward the future. As a guest at Los Poblanos, you have the rare opportunity to live—if just for a few days—in rooms of uncommon craftsmanship and significance. And yet, this is no stuffy museum. As you have a cocktail in the courtyard or sit by the fire in your room, as you visit gardens where food is grown that you will eat at delicious meals on the sunny porch, you relax and explore and feel deeply connected to America’s southwest.

The Rembe family has worked hard to create this warm, welcoming experience, and in the process they have created a unique and successful business model, created jobs, and furthered a cause they believe in.

Penny and Armin Rembe, who have been married for 52 years, raised four children in the classic courtyard adobe house where guests now check in. In the late 1990s, the building next door, known as La Quinta —which was built originally as a cultural center in 1934—was under threat of being demolished and the land developed. Penny and Armin, a now-retired oncologist, and their children decided together to buy the property. In order to pay for it, they would turn their own home into a six-room bed and breakfast.

The idea did not seem so farfetched to the ever-optimistic Penny; she had been the proprietor of a catering business in town for five years and is proud to say she introduced the baguette to Albuquerque.

In embarking on this venture, preservation was foremost in their minds. In the 1930s, both buildings—their home and La Quinta—were part of the same property, a dairy farm owned by Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms and congressman Albert Simms. Ruth—herself a congresswoman as well as a suffragist and newspaperwoman—had a firm belief in engagement with the local community. She hired New Mexico’s leading architect, John Gaw Meem, to enlarge their L-shaped farm house, and to build the cultural center she would name La Quinta.

Meem was a leader in the Santa Fe style, which combines classical and Spanish colonial architecture. Indeed, at La Quinta, beaux arts details combine seamlessly with traditional regional shapes and color palates. Meem brought together craftsmen from all over New Mexico to create pieces—tin chandeliers, colorful tile, intricate hardware—that remain in place today.

The idea of preservation extends beyond the doors of the buildings. Penny and Armin brought sustainability to the farm by planting lavender, which uses less water than many crops and doesn’t deplete the soil. Armin experimented with various techniques, finally contriving his own steam distiller to make lavender oil. When they started the bed and breakfast, Penny used the oil to make her now-famous lavender salve on her own kitchen stove as an amenity for her guests, who were also served warm lavender shortbread cookies when they checked in.

In 2004, Matthew Rembe took over the business from his parents, who had been working seven days a week in their retirement. The first thing he did was create a pragmatic business plan with the goal of making Los Poblanos profitable while advancing the family’s preservation goals. They built their staff into the creative force that elegantly manages a busy event business, and added guest rooms and a superb restaurant. And as Matthew realized that the lavender products that Penny was making in her kitchen represented an opportunity, he started the Farm Shop, in a sunlit, white-washed farm building. Today, Matthew and his team balance what are essentially six distinct but interdependent businesses—lodging, retail, wholesale production, farming, restaurant, and events. This dynamic model results in a property that may be deeply rooted in history but feels very much alive.

An allee of Cottonwood and Elm trees form the formal entrance to Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. They were planted in the 1930’s when Ruth Hanna Mc Cormick and fellow senator Albert Simms hired architect John Gaw Meem to rebuild the farmhouse called Los Poblanos and design a new community building called La Quinta.

An allee of Cottonwood and Elm trees form the formal entrance to Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm. They were planted in the 1930’s when Ruth Hanna Mc Cormick and fellow senator Albert Simms hired architect John Gaw Meem to rebuild the farmhouse called Los Poblanos and design a new community building called La Quinta.

The entrance to the Inn is in the original 1930’s ranch designed by John Gaw Meem where the Armin and Penny Rembe raised their children. The Spanish style courtyard has an eight-pointed star fountain made of colorful Spanish tile and comfortable places to sit with an outdoor fireplace and planting beads with seasonal flowers roses and fragrant vines. Large hand carved doors open out onto a view of the Sandia Mountain range. 

The entrance to the Inn is in the original 1930’s ranch designed by John Gaw Meem where the Armin and Penny Rembe raised their children. The Spanish style courtyard has an eight-pointed star fountain made of colorful Spanish tile and comfortable places to sit with an outdoor fireplace and planting beads with seasonal flowers roses and fragrant vines. Large hand carved doors open out onto a view of the Sandia Mountain range. 

John Gaw Meen designed La Quinta, melding the Baux Arts architectural tradition with pueblo inspired architecture. This combination of classical architecture and Spanish colonial architecture became know as The Santa Fe Style.  The color palette is also typical of the Santa Fe style with white stucco, and moldings, brick cornices, and terra cotta glazed tile floors. La Quinta is a one story building with high ceilings designed in an H-plan around the first swimming pool built in the area.  Many historians have called La Quinta one of the great South Western architectural treasures. John Gaw Meem designed the tin chandeliers and sconces throughout La Quinta and commissioned local New Mexican craftsmen to carved the hand hewn beams and tinsmiths to create each unique light fixture.

John Gaw Meen designed La Quinta, melding the Baux Arts architectural tradition with pueblo inspired architecture. This combination of classical architecture and Spanish colonial architecture became know as The Santa Fe Style.  The color palette is also typical of the Santa Fe style with white stucco, and moldings, brick cornices, and terra cotta glazed tile floors. La Quinta is a one story building with high ceilings designed in an H-plan around the first swimming pool built in the area. 

Many historians have called La Quinta one of the great South Western architectural treasures. John Gaw Meem designed the tin chandeliers and sconces throughout La Quinta and commissioned local New Mexican craftsmen to carved the hand hewn beams and tinsmiths to create each unique light fixture.

Los Poblanos was inhabited by the Anasazi or ancient Pueblo Indians in the 14th century. The land was part of a land grant from the Spanish Crown 1716. In the 1930’s Ruth and Albert Simms named their ranch Los Poblanos, of the People, where they farmed alfalfa, sugar beets, oats and corn. Home to Creamland Dairies, their 400 head of prize winning Holstein and Gurnsey cows were famed for their butterfat production, and provided much of the milk to the Albuquerque area. The Rembe family uses the old hay barn to dry the lavender that they use for their Los Poblanos spa products. 

Los Poblanos was inhabited by the Anasazi or ancient Pueblo Indians in the 14th century. The land was part of a land grant from the Spanish Crown 1716. In the 1930’s Ruth and Albert Simms named their ranch Los Poblanos, of the People, where they farmed alfalfa, sugar beets, oats and corn. Home to Creamland Dairies, their 400 head of prize winning Holstein and Gurnsey cows were famed for their butterfat production, and provided much of the milk to the Albuquerque area. The Rembe family uses the old hay barn to dry the lavender that they use for their Los Poblanos spa products. 

The Farm Shop is in an old dairy building and sells local hand made food products such as Organic Lavender Raspberry Jam, lavender sugar and salts, honey and a variety of teas. The shop also sells the culinary lavender that they grow at Los Poblanos; I have since used it to make poached pears, lavender applesauce and lavender biscotti. The Los Poblanos kitchen makes the unforgettable lavender caramels along with chocolate truffles for all tastes from savory red and green chili to salted caramel. Local artisans make unique kitchen and garden products. The intensely fragrant Los Poblanos lavender products are all made locally in small batches except for the famous salve, which is still made in-house according to Penny’s original recipe, created on her home stove to serve as amenities for her fledgling bed and breakfast. The products are all available on line for those of us who get hooked while visiting the Inn. The Inn and shop offer events and workshops regularly to bring the community together.  

The Farm Shop is in an old dairy building and sells local hand made food products such as Organic Lavender Raspberry Jam, lavender sugar and salts, honey and a variety of teas. The shop also sells the culinary lavender that they grow at Los Poblanos; I have since used it to make poached pears, lavender applesauce and lavender biscotti. The Los Poblanos kitchen makes the unforgettable lavender caramels along with chocolate truffles for all tastes from savory red and green chili to salted caramel. Local artisans make unique kitchen and garden products. The intensely fragrant Los Poblanos lavender products are all made locally in small batches except for the famous salve, which is still made in-house according to Penny’s original recipe, created on her home stove to serve as amenities for her fledgling bed and breakfast. The products are all available on line for those of us who get hooked while visiting the Inn. The Inn and shop offer events and workshops regularly to bring the community together.

 

Armin Rembe started keeping bees about ten years ago, after he planted the first lavender fields. Armin says that the hives have a healthy yield because the farm is organic and there are no pesticides used on the property.

Armin Rembe started keeping bees about ten years ago, after he planted the first lavender fields. Armin says that the hives have a healthy yield because the farm is organic and there are no pesticides used on the property.

A barbeque party is set up on the lawn with a simple table setting. Chef Jonathan Perno is originally from New Mexico. He manages the food for the Inn which includes a sumptuous breakfast every day, dinner four nights a week at the Inn restaurant, la Merinda and all of the events at La Quinta. Jonathan chooses what to grow in the organic vegetable garden, ordering the seeds for what he is interested in serving during the year and he feels that involvement in agriculture makes him a better cook. 

A barbeque party is set up on the lawn with a simple table setting. Chef Jonathan Perno is originally from New Mexico. He manages the food for the Inn which includes a sumptuous breakfast every day, dinner four nights a week at the Inn restaurant, la Merinda and all of the events at La Quinta. Jonathan chooses what to grow in the organic vegetable garden, ordering the seeds for what he is interested in serving during the year and he feels that involvement in agriculture makes him a better cook. 

The desert at the Los Poblanos barbeque was delicious: blueberry and peach pie, berry cobbler and lavender sugar cookies. 

The desert at the Los Poblanos barbeque was delicious: blueberry and peach pie, berry cobbler and lavender sugar cookies. 

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