Hot Tamales at El Meze

Tamales are neat little packages of corn masa steamed in husk wrappers. They typically contain chile — green or red — vegetables, cheese, and meats. I haven’t made tamales but I don’t need to since good quality ones are easily available here in the high desert.

Tamales are big at Christmas. Just before the holiday, a woman comes to the newsroom to take orders by the dozen for the tamales she makes. But I eat them any time of the year. We are fortunate the local natural food store carries tamales made without lard from Tamale Connection across the border in Antonito, Colorado. I buy them frozen and steam them at home. I’ve had chicken and vegetarian.

Pork is a common tamale ingredient. I don’t eat pork. But I will eat buffalo and that’s what I had at El Meze, a restaurant in El Prado, a little north of downtown Taos.

Fred Muller, the chef, was a James Beard semi-finalist last year. His cuisine is Southwest, a version he calls “La Comida de las Sierras” — food of the mountains. He says it is “inspired rustic comfort food that is uniquely American.” So his ingredients include trout, corn, chile, and locally grown produce. His dishes are big on taste and presentation.

So the rustic comfort food I ordered recently was the buffalo tamale or Tamale de Cárdenas as it was listed on the menu. The tamale, which was served open on a corn husk, was accompanied by Campo de Mantaban and Tucumcari feta. The chile verde was hot and chunky. The buffalo inside the tamale’s masa was well seasoned.
Make reservations if you want to eat outside. We didn’t but no matter. We sat inside the cool adobe building constructed in the 1840s by the Cárdenas family. The walls are plastered in sunset colors. Art hangs everywhere. Our server, Steve, was extremely attentive, answering our questions about the menu that has small and large plates. Fresh silverware for each course. Still and sparkling water for free. Fine wine. A comforting experience for sure.