When I crave a stunning New Mexico view along with a top-quality meal or drink, often as not, I find myself at the Four Seasons Rancho Encantado. The hotel nestles into 57 high-desert acres on the northern stretches of Tesuque village. It’s not even necessary to keep track of when Terra restaurant and bar are serving because — as resort hotel amenities — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks are available every single day. At a time when it takes an Einstein mind to remember who is open on what days, for what meals, and when, I love this convenience.
ALWAYS IN SEASON
With 65 rooms, Rancho Encantado is among the smallest Four Seasons in the entire prestigious international hotel collection. That view, though, surely must be one of the largest, gazing across the Rio Grande Valley to Redondo Peak and the rest of the rugged Jemez range. Both the restaurant and the bar share this broad perspective from their terraces, as well as from their sleek wood- and stone-filled interiors.
Whichever meal you stop in for, it will be overseen by Chef Jose Fernandez. Originally from Barcelona, Chef Jose brings a layer of Spanish flair and creativity to his Southwestern American menu. He started his 20-plus-year career in Spain but worked with the Peninsula and Ritz-Carlton chains here in the U.S. before joining Four Seasons.
The breakfast menu offers many appealing ways to start the day. You’ll find the expected eggs and pancakes, but other dishes serve up some special twists like the huevos rancheros with pork carnitas, avocado toast topped with crab, a prickly pear granola parfait, and a platter of Spanish meats and cheeses. Lunch has a good collection of salads, sandwiches, and one of Santa Fe’s best green chile cheeseburgers.
Chef Jose’s talents really shine at dinner. Right now, there’s a peach and burrata appetizer, a nice way to incorporate peaches and cream in a savory starter. The fruit and accouterments with the burrata change through the season. The last time I had the dish, in late May, the pairing was with strawberries and balsamic syrup. The
watermelon-tomato gazpacho makes a cooling start too, as does the avocado drizzled with a luscious salsa macha, loaded with crunchy nuts. Get an order of cornbread too. Trust me on this.
Among the dinner entrees, bright piquillo peppers are the basis for a mole that accompanies roast chicken. Bison meatballs get an extra kick from green chile, and well-seared halibut comes with street corn, “esquites” style with ancho chile aioli. I haven’t yet sampled the piñon-crusted lamb with garlic-roasted green beans, but it’s next on my list. Of course, there’s paella. The man is Spanish, after all! And it’s an excellent rendition, loaded with chorizo and sea creatures, plated for two, and accompanied by a green chile aioli.
A WEEK OF NIGHTS
Seven Nights of Terra offers popular dishes on set nights each week. I have to get out there on a Monday before long so that I can try the birriaramen, a delicious sounding mash-up of — well — birria and ramen, with braised beef, pork belly, and udon noodles. As the week goes on, the specials are green chile bison stew, a crispy duck for two diners, and a roasted whole branzino also for two. Friday’s the night to treat yourself to prime rib. Saturday evenings have a brawny beef special too, with my favorite steak, porterhouse, suitable for a pair. The week wraps with fried chicken Sunday supper complete with green chile mashed potatoes and a biscuit.
Whatever else you eat here, you simply must save room for an order or three of churros. The texture of these fried treats is perfect, and they come with multiple sauces for dunking. Heavenly. If the dulce de leche cake is making an appearance on the dessert menu, you should order that, too.
After dinner, as summer nights begin to cool, there’s no more welcome spot than the fire pit on the terrace to watch a sky full of stars. Coming earlier, before sunset, is always a terrific option, to sit by the fire or in the bar. Have a glass of wine or perhaps one of the imaginative cocktails like the S.R.M.M. with mezcal, lime, and rhubarb-infused agave syrup or the Lavandula with local vodka, lemon, lavender syrup, and lavender bitters. It’s a great spot to toast to good fortune, and a treat in any season.
Story and photos by Cheryl Alters Jamison
Four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison is the host of Heating It Up on KTRC and is now the “queen of culinary content” for SantaFe.com. Find new stories about the Santa Fe food scene each week on SantaFe.com.