Traditions with a Twist

A small town with a big mountain—and a personality to match—Taos always offers something out of the ordinary. Let's see what's cookin'.

Revving Up El Camino
El Camino Cantina brings a dash of urban glam to Taos, from the creative cocktails to the vintage décor—the rear half of a red ’65 Mustang sticks out of one wall. Go along for the ride with a Rock Star cocktail of berry-flavored vodka with a Pop Rock–candy rim, or the Norteño margarita of green-chile–infused tequila with green-chile–powder rim. If the cocktails don’t knock you out, El Moises’s art will, sharing the walls with Alex Harris’s lowrider photos, which drive the car theme home. On a mild evening, the upstairs bar’s patio is the place to be, with views over the main Taos drag and the mountains. The owners (who also run local favorite Stray Dog Cantina, in Taos Ski Valley) boast a “nothing is fried” policy on the bar menu; try El Camino Caprese or BBQ red-chile beef brisket. 122C Paseo del Pueblo Sur; (575) 758-1779.

Lenny’s Angels
Fine-art photographer Lenny Foster—a.k.a. the man who knows everyone in town—moved his Living Light Gallery from Ledoux Street to an equally historic spot on Kit Carson Road. Pioneer scout Carson used to hitch his horses out back of this building, which during the 1950s housed Foster’s Café—a coincidence the present-day Foster discovered after moving in. Six rooms showcase Foster’s series of landscapes, horses, sunflowers, and healing hands images, plus “Taos Love” sunflower T-shirts. The gallery has already become a hub for community events and book launches. Foster’s new Calling All Angels collection, starring people he spots in the street, opens March 24. In the series, he pops huge angel wings (such as the ones he’s wearing here) on his subjects, and lets the camera do the rest. 107 Kit Carson Road on the boardwalk; (575) 737-9150.

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The menu offerings include red-chile scones.

A Good Egg
Tuck into a gourmet breakfast at
La Posada de Taos Bed and Breakfast while owner and historian Brad Malone chats about local history and its defining characters, from Kit Carson to Mabel Dodge Luhan. La Posada de Taos celebrates its 30th year as a B&B in 2012, although the house itself has a much older heritage: It was built more than a century ago by Bert Phillips, a co-founder of the Taos Society of Artists. The B&B is matching its 30 birthday-cake candles with a 30-percent discount on rooms booked during March for stays now through 2012, excluding holidays. The chefs recently added New Mexico breakfast tostadas to the repertoire, to join such established favorites as red-chile scones and blue-corn, toasted-piñon waffles. 309 Juanita Lane; (575) 758-8164.

Fireworks and Frosties
Taos Ski Valley knows how to put on a fab fireworks display, and they’re going just that on March 24 at 8 p.m. with a torchlight parade to celebrate the birthday of founder Ernie Blake,who passed away in 1989, but whose legacy lives on. It’s always a thrill to watch skiers snake down the dark mountain at night bearing their flares aloft, followed by the dazzle of fireworks against snow. Get there early to sip New Mexico and Colorado brews in the ski valley’s Spring Beer Festival from 4:30 to 7 pm. For $20 admission (over-21s only), sample beers from 25 breweries, nibble appetizers from the local favorites Bavarian Lodge and Stray Dog Cantina, and take home your souvenir glass. (575) 776-2291.

 

 

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Former woodworker Jesse Cook now handcrafts seasonal brews along with his ever-popular IPAs.

A New Brew
Expect a different taste on tap with each visit to Taos Ale House, where owner Jesse Cook brews handcrafted ales in small batches to guarantee an ever-revolving selection. Keeping his kegs in sync with the season, Cook might mix up his magic on a Dunkelweizen dark wheat beer, a Belgian-style Saison, or a Citra hop pale ale. One thing’s for sure: You’ll always find an IPA on tap—the super-hoppy Unprincipled IPA is a popular pour. Check out the fermenting action off the main pub room in this 1932 building, a former gallery that was also the first auto mechanic shop in Taos. Simple eats include empanadas, burritos, and gourmet pizzas. Former woodworker Cook also crafted the sleek walnut bar, and the surprisingly chic tables fashioned from old horse corrals from Cuba, New Mexico. Ale to the chief! 401 Paseo del Pueblo Norte; (575) 758-5522.

Tea Time
Lily’s, in the Garden of San José is a fragrance-and-flavor sensory experience, from the scent of orchids for sale, to super-fluffy fresh-baked scones and Kakawa of Santa Fe truffles and hot chocolates. Take tea inside at one of four tables or in the garden in summer, where plants and heirloom Italian vegetables will be available starting in April. Don’t drink tea? The 1775 Marie Antoinette chocolate elixir flavored with orange-blossom water is well worth a swoon. A warren of rooms displays jewelry, incense, candles, garden bulbs, furniture, Dr. Hauschka skincare . . . If you can’t find a girly gift here, you’re not trying very hard! 605 Camino de la Placita; (575) 758-1299

 

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Mayor Córdova

The Mayor’s Table
Taos Mayor Darren Córdova’s restaurant, Casa Los Córdovas, aims to win diners’ votes for its casual, eclectic American fare at affordable prices. Although the restaurant is new, the menu draws on Taos culinary customs: Manager Matthew Timber’s father owned the nationally acclaimed La Doña Luz restaurant in Taos in the 1980s, and won multiple awards for his chile. You can bet that Timber borrows from dad’s recipes, dishing up his champion green-chile stew and contemporary takes on classic New Mexican flavors, including Rib Eye Steak Blue Corn Enchiladas and Crab Cakes and Green Chile Chutney. Casa Los Córdovas opened its doors (on the site of the former Shadows Lounge and Grill) in December, serving lunch and dinner daily, plus a late-night bar menu. Sundays turn sporty with tailgate-style food and games on the big screen. When the weather smiles, you’ll find ’em cooking outside on the grill. 330A Paseo del Pueblo Sur; (575) 751-9600.