The Culinary Wizardry of Joseph’s of Santa Fe
Where a decorated chef constantly updates his menu with creative seasonal fare...
Years ago, on a winter getaway to Taos, my husband and I found our way to Joseph's Table, prompted by a rave recommendation from some food-loving friends. It was a night we never forgot. The intimate restaurant was warm and cozy, filled to the brim with diners who were clearly having a grand time. I chose a scallop dish, which was delicious, but it was my husband's entree that has endured in his memory for nearly two decades, a perfect combo of flavors and a steak so tender he could cut it with his fork.
I had to phone Joseph Wrede, who's now in Santa Fe with his acclaimed Joseph's of Santa Fe, to find out exactly how he made that steak 16 years ago for this Gourmet Girl blog post, and he instantly recalled the dish—a flank steak marinated for 24 hours in a sauce of basil, ginger, cilantro, dark molasses and orange juice, then seared to a rich caramel color and served with a blue cheese sauce. And that's how it is with a decorated chef who's constantly updating his menu with creative seasonal fare. He can sift through his vast repertoire of recipes spanning 20 years and find the one requested in a matter of seconds.
Regulars at Joseph's know that Wrede has earned top accolades in his career, starting with the prestigious selection by Food & Wine magazine as Best New Chef, then earning several AAA Four Diamond and Distinctive Restaurants of North America Awards, along with Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast distinctions.
The New York Times has written about Joseph's of Santa Fe several times, extolling the chef's “culinary magic,” and his “globally informed take on New Mexico cuisine.” His creations have made the coveted Top Ten Best Dishes of the Year list—penned by Johnny Vee for Local Flavor magazine—multiple times, including the Crispy Duck Salt Cured Confit Style, The Little Duck Dinner and the Mustard Seed and the Crème Fraiche Crusted Cauliflower with White Beans and Anchovy tomato Sauce.
Wrede has been called one of the best chefs in the Southwest, and for 16 years, Joseph's Table in Taos was packed. Bu then it closed in 2010 in the wake of a bad economy and he moved around a bit before opening his Santa Fe spot in 2013 to instant raves. Tucked away in a romantic downtown adobe, Joseph's of Santa Fe continues to draw crowds to the intimate dining room as well as the bar, which has its own menu. The single-room restaurant features wood-beamed ceilings and walls filled with art, as well as life-size statue of an angel with wings that seems to be watching over the restaurant with reverence.
Wrede works with local ingredients and a penchant for vegetables, showcased as stars of a dish rather than relegated to sides. Consider his Vegetable Napoleon entrée, which features roasted root vegetables, Brussels sprout leaves, carrot custard and phyllo leaves dusted with honey cardamom espresso and sherry wine buerre blanc. Veggies...? Yes, please! Then there's Organic Chicken with Kale and Mushroom Roulade, which sounds divine on its own, but Wrede tosses in fresh peas and corn, fava beans, leeks and shallot spaetzle, lemon butter and red pepper coulis to take the whole dish over the top...oh, and there's bacon, too. This is a place where vegetables will never become leftovers.
Wrede's menu features seasonal dishes such as Rabbit Lasagne, made with braised, tender meat and root vegetables, mascarpone cheese, wild mushrooms and fresh pasta that melts in your mouth. But there are a few signature dishes that remain on the menu, like Joseph's Table Steak au Poivre with Duck Fat Fries, a winning combo of New Mexican grass-fed beef tenderloin with a sauce made of Madeira and local mushrooms. Duck lovers flock to Joseph's for those famous fries, but there are other duck dishes, too, including Sweet & Spicy Glazed Half Duck Confit with orange star anise and red wine reduction, Thai style cabbage and mint and yogurt grape crude. The bar menu offers The Longmire, named for the TV series filmed locally and featuring three duck-fat fried jalapeno poppers stuffed with cotija, asadero & cilantro. And this must be the only place in the world where you'll find duck for dessert, a la duck fat caramel ice cream.
The bar menu features other items that re-define traditional pub grub, including Pumpkin, Kale, Corn & Local Porcini Enchiladas with cotija cheese, corn tortillas, East Indian spinach purée and spicy green rice. If you're in the mood for something simpler, but equally hearty, try the New Mexican Burger made with local lamb, local feta & green chile on an English muffin.
No matter what, leave room for dessert. The Cloud Cake is sublime— an Italian meringue cake with caramel sauce, fresh tarragon and grapefruit supreme. And when was the last time you indulged in butterscotch pudding, a favorite childhood treat? Here, it's served with caramel sauce and sea salt and it's elegant and divine.
Photo Credit - Joseph's of Santa Fe