In five years, Joseph Wrede has turned Joseph's Table, his quirky Taos restaurant, into a nationally recognized bastion for food and wine. While the European-influenced cuisine that earned him a Best New Chef award last year might be a draw for visitors from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, he attributes a lot of the eatery's success to his local clientele. "This is a great time to be a chef in a ski town," he says. "People are looking beyond skiing for their livelihood. They're supportive of chefs doing good food and contributing to the atmosphere of the area."
Atmosphere is in large supply at Joseph's Table. The 60-seat restaurant consists of two dining rooms: the friendly, Provence-style "front" room, with a brick floor, adobe walls the color of sunflowers and a viga-and-latilla ceiling; and the dramatic, Spanish-style "back" room, where murals depicting El Greco's Burial of Count Orgaz accent the red-and-black color scheme. Regular customers have strong preferences for one room over another. "You have to go through the kitchen to get to the front room," says Wrede. "Some people love watching the preparation and chatting with the chefs. Others don't want anything to do with it and head for the back."
Once you're seated, it's the food that steals the show. It combines the best of Wrede's classical training (Peter Kump's cooking school in New York) with the bounty of products available from local purveyors. "In New York, you have to go to farmers markets for produce," he explains. "Here, it's brought to your door."
For an appetizer, Wrede might lace a warm spinach salad with local goat cheese and bacon, or crisp a caramelized onion and Gruyere pizza on the grill. He'll crust Chilean sea bass with sweet onion jam and organic chicken with mascarpone, lemon and rosemary. When it's available, white truffle-filled gnocchi with balsamic brown butter, and the risotto cakes are a must. The restaurant's popularity hasn't gone to Wrede's head. "I'm not here to solve world problems," he says. "I'm here to feed people really good food."
In the interest of mixing favorite ski town pastimes (eating and shopping), dining opportunities can now be found in some unexpected places.
Knives & Things/Espresso West
Start your day at this pint-sized log cabin on S. Glenwood and you'll be ready for anything. Local chefs give it a thumb's up for coffee and flavored espresso drinks. It's also the place in town to shop for knives (hunting, kitchen, Swiss Army), numchuks and bear spray.
Opened in January by World Cup racer Marco Tonazzi and local restaurateur Marco Cingolani, this snazzy Italian ski shop/wine bar/café offers upscale clothing from Napapijri and Vampire. Suit up for the slopes, then mangia on panini and piatti, with Vini, Spumanti, Vini Dolci or Porti.
Neil Loeb Art Gallery and Cyber Café
Through a narrow doorway on Main Street awaits an edgy combination of art, technology and caffeine. The 8-by-86-foot space features a lineup of eight Pentel computers on one wall, colorful artwork on the other, and the fixin's for coffee and cappuccino in back.