Restau­rant Review

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Lau­rel Glad­den For The New Mex­i­can

Com­mon Fire in Taos

The flat­bread crust is by far the best I’ve had in the state, with an ideal amount of hot-oven char and an ini­tial chewy tug that gives way to a mildly sweet and ten­der in­te­rior.

On the brick-paved pa­tio at Com­mon Fire, a new restau­rant on the road to Ar­royo Seco and the Taos Ski Val­ley, you feel like you could sit for­ever and watch the gold of the chang­ing as­pens roll, hour by hour, down the moun­tain. There’s plenty to draw you here in the first place — nigh-per­fect pizza-like flat­breads, ro­bust clas­sic Amer­i­can dishes, stun­ningly com­plex and sat­is­fy­ing Asian-in­flu­enced plates and bowls, a re­spect­ful but neigh­borly staff, and a care­fully cu­rated wine and beer list (when co-owner and som­me­lier An­drew Lynch men­tions, off the cuff, the rel­a­tive “breath­less­ness” of a Vin de Savoie, you know he knows what he’s talk­ing about). There’s lit­tle to make you want to leave, ei­ther — only fall’s in­creas­ingly chilly temps, per­haps, and the pesky de­mands of the worka­day world.

Re­cently, a long, bril­liant Sun­day brunch at Com­mon Fire eas­ily earned a spot in the top five din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had in New Mex­ico in the last few years. You could try to chalk that up to am­bi­ence, but crisp fresh air, warm sun­shine, ma­jes­tic moun­tain vis­tas, and bright blue skies can only go so far to­ward sat­is­fy­ing a rather de­mand­ing girl’s ap­petite.

Al­fresco din­ing at Com­mon Fire is rec­om­mended but not re­quired. The invit­ing open din­ing room has the ur­bane-rustic feel of big­ger-city hip­ster-run joints — knotty-planked wood floors; stal­wart ceil­ing vi­gas; wood-topped ta­bles ac­com­pa­nied by blond­wood benches, lad­der-back chairs, and metal stools; and in­dus­trial-style pen­dant light­ing. Dark-hued walls con­jure the oddly com­fort­ing feel of a cave. In one cor­ner is the com­mand cen­ter: a brick-and-clay wood-burn­ing oven for which the place is named and on which ev­ery­thing that can be is cooked.

Most no­tably, what comes off that fire is a chang­ing ar­ray of flat­breads. On the day we vis­ited they were topped with oys­ter mush­rooms, ex­cep­tional moz­zarella, and a sub­limely balanced mari­nara; caramelized onions (not the red va­ri­ety the menu de­scribed, but still de­light­fully sa­vory-sweet) and a con­fit of whole gar­lic cloves; and thin por­tions of lamb and beef strewn with feta and tzatziki in what amounted to an open-faced gyro. The crust is by far the best I’ve had in the state, with an ideal amount of hot-oven char and an ini­tial chewy tug that gives way to a mildly sweet and ten­der in­te­rior.

But there are also eye-open­ing bo ssäm, Korean “cab­bage tacos” that are com­plex in tex­ture and fla­vor: fork-ten­der and gamey slow-cooked pork butt, sticky-soft and sweet sushi rice napped with ssäm sauce, and crisp, funky-veg­e­tal cab­bage and kim­chi from Po­joaque.

Com­mon Fire’s ver­sion of the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar kale Cae­sar salad is re­spectable. Ten­der young red kale leaves — flat­ter and less abra­sively frilly — are slathered in a rich dress­ing (we couldn’t de­tect any heat from the Sriracha men­tioned on the menu) and tum­bled onto the plate with in­gra­ti­at­ingly crunchy crou­tons from Com­mon Fire’s house loaf. If you look closely, you’ll see that this plate, like most oth­ers here, has been given a sprin­kling of pyra­mi­dal Mal­don sea salt crys­tals, like a fan­ci­ful shower of pixie dust from Tin­ker Bell’s wand. Our salad needed a bit more of it, which the kitchen will­ingly obliged us, and we chomped down ev­ery bite.

In a com­bi­na­tion that seems like de­li­cious medicine, Ran­cho Gordo Christ­mas li­mas — look­ing like beans cam­ou­flag­ing them­selves as tiny ze­bras — lurk be­neath tur­bid chicken bone broth. Sim­i­larly cloudy and rich is the broth of the pork and noo­dle soup, a dish claimed as a hands­down fa­vorite by at least one of Com­mon Fire’s staff mem­bers. Denizens of that mag­i­cal, meaty sea in­clude Kyzer Farm roast pork belly, a poached egg (when you break the yolk, it turns the broth into a vel­vet emul­sion), egg-white noo­dles, mar­i­nated Thai green chile, and a scal­lion-gin­ger sauce.

Aunt Bernie’s mac­a­roni and cheese gets back to ba­sics, seem­ing more true to its name than other restau­rant-fan­ci­fied ver­sions of the Amer­i­can clas­sic. The in­gre­di­ent list is sim­ple — penne, Wis­con­sin sharp and Til­lam­ook ex­tra-sharp ched­dar, mus­tard, thyme — and the fla­vors were di­rect and el­e­men­tal. Still, some­how, the ro­bust, ad­dic­tive whole tasted like far more than the sum of its parts.

The dessert list is short, but please don’t dis­miss it. A beau­ti­ful rose-like galette looks like the per­fect present of fall ap­ples gift-wrapped in fine flaky pas­try and given a golden bur­nished glow. In a small clear cup comes a nutty-sweet but­ter­scotch budino topped with salted caramel and crème fraîche. The cus­tard was a bit less fudgy than it should have been, but it was riv­et­ing none­the­less. A crisp al­mond toile off­set the sheer pud­ding-like creami­ness.

In an in­ter­view with The Taos News ear­lier this year, Lynch ex­plained that “for most of our his­tory, hu­mans have cooked and baked to­gether. If you go camp­ing, every­body sits around the fire. So my idea was to build this hearth as a com­mon fire … a place for all of us to come around.” When all the leaves have fallen and win­ter’s true chill has fi­nally de­scended on North­ern New Mex­ico, come in from the cold and let Com­mon Fire warm you from within.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.