Many years ago I discovered Cafe Pasqual’s, roughly across the street from the once-great Coyote Cafe, in Santa Fe. It was there that I first tasted the pastured natural beef pioneered by Bill Niman. Since then I’ve stopped by Pasqual’s several times – never once disappointed.
So it was a pleasure last week to find that unlike most of us, Cafe Pasqual’s has remained as good as its reputation. Four mink coats attached to long blonde hair and five-inch heels passed beneath our window as we sipped a sensational red wine from the Vaucluse (the one in France, not Santa Fe) and shared the finest tamale this side of Oaxaca. Wrapped in a banana leaf and sided with a fresh fiery slaw of purple cabbage, this tamale was archetypal.
Just enough masa was used to form a thin, tender coating around the rich, mole-intensive interior of jack cheese, chiles and roasted corn. Just enough and no more. A far cry from those doughy, dry tamales that seem now to be the rule rather than the exception, this creation was just plain killer. We finished it without breathing. Then we sighed in unison.
Oh and there was more – my slow-braised local lamb shank, for example, with a rich polenta laced with local Anson Mills mascarpone, plus perfectly roasted root vegetables. And a fresh salad of julienned celery root, moistened with a curry mayo, pomegranate seeds and cilantro was bright and delicious. But frankly the tamale blew everything else away.