The most successful Indian revolt in North American history occurred on August 10th, 1680. On that day, more than 8,000 warriors from the various Native American pueblos in New Mexico put aside deep historical differences and banded together to drive the Spaniards from their ancestral lands. This event is celebrated each year in Tesuque Pueblo.
Tesuque Pueblo played an integral role in the rebellion. Two Tesuque runners were dispatched by pueblo leaders to enlist support for the revolt. The runners carried knotted deer hide cords to the various pueblos, each knot signifying a day. On each successive day, one knot was untied. When the final knot was untied it signified the day of attack.
The annual celebration of this event includes a relay run reenacting the famous run. Runners depart from Tesuque plaza carrying a knotted cord made of yucca and an ear of corn. The yucca cord symbolizes the spirit of the people and the ear of corn their physical body. It is an inspiring event.
Led by Diego Jose de Vargas, the Spanish returned to New Mexico in 1692 and within a year regained full political control of New Mexico. Their return marked a significant change in Spanish policy toward the Pueblos. The Spanish became more civil toward the Pueblo peoples, allowing them to maintain sovereign rule over their own villages. More importantly, the Spanish did not force the Pueblos to accept Christianity.
The venerable Spanish village of Tesuque was founded in 1740 and is situated a few miles south of the current Pueblo and just north of Santa Fe, the heart of Spanish colonial occupation. Today, the village is a haven for the wealthy. A pantheon of Hollywood celebrities and famous artists now make Tesuque their home (or in many cases, their home away from home).
Ironically, Tesuque is a Tewa word which refers to the village’s river’s alternating from and disappearance into the sand. That word may also describe the behavior of many of the village’s celebrities. They appreciate the fact that Tesuque is a place to which they can escape and are not bothered by locals who respect their privacy.
For celebrity sighting there may be no better venue than the Tesuque Village Market in the center of the village. Established in 1969, this combination market, deli, bakery and restaurant has the sort of neighborhood feel many Santa Fe restaurants lack.
Moreover, it’s so laid back and unassuming that it’s not uncommon to see pristine Range Rovers and BMWs parked next to careworn pick-up trucks which are hosed down only when it’s time to remove salt residue after a snowfall. That speaks volumes to its broad appeal.
Like much of the village, the Tesuque Village Market is blanketed by a canopy of centuries old cottonwoods. The on and off again river for which the village is named is within easy walking distance.
After three decades under an ownership which some say had become indifferent, the Tesuque Village Market was purchased in 2006. Its new owners previously owned restaurants in Los Angeles and New York. With credentials like that come expectations of improved service with no degradation in the quality of the New Mexican food for which the restaurant has long been known.
The restaurant portion of the Market complex includes a relatively small dining room into which a surprising number of diners can be seated comfortably, albeit in close quarters. It’s not uncommon to wait for a table to become available inside the restaurant which, in the summer, is fine because the porch accommodations include tables and chairs.
In the winter the porch is enclosed (you could call it that) in a thick plastic sheathing with a couple of small fireplaces working assiduously to cut through New Mexico’s sometimes bitter cold. Imbibing the seductive fragrance of wood smoke make this my preferred seating area.
In November, 2006, the pulchritudinous Food Network glitterati Giada Delaurentis had lunch at the Tesuque Village Market. As one can assume, her legion of fans visiting her restaurant stops make it a point to order exactly what she had during her weekend sojourn to the City Different.
Giada started off with the restaurant’s guacamole and chips–an excellent choice made even better with the addition of salsa. The guacamole is thick and buttery with a prominent infusion of lime. Fortunately the chips are formidable enough to scoop large amounts. The chips have a pronounced corn flavor and are low in salt. They are infinitely better than grocery store tortilla chips, many of which are direly in need of desalinization. The salsa is somewhat thin and only mildly piquant, but with a fresh cilantro influence.
Giada also had the tortilla soup, regarded by some as the best in the area (they obviously haven’t tried the tortilla soup at the Ó Eating House). The gastronomic goddess proclaimed the soup as “awesome,” calling it “a burst of Southwest flavor.”
This burst of Southwest flavor is made with roasted tomatoes, onions, Anaheim green chiles, red chile powder, jalapenos and cumin in a chicken broth. The finishing touch is a garnish of Cojita cheese, creme fraiche and tortilla chips.
Fresh corn tortilla chips are also blended with the soup. This gives it a thicker consistency than most soups. It is indeed a fine soup with a good smoky taste, but would be even better by subtracting the tablespoon of cumin called for on the recipe.
Hopefully I’ve now appeased the dining diva’s devotees and can proceed with the rest of my observations. The menu certainly offers a variety of options, all reasonably priced. Everything is made-to-order and portion size means you’ll have leftovers to take home.
On Sundays, the breakfast menu is available until noon, but an accommodating wait staff will fulfill your need for tortilla soup or chips and salsa even during breakfast hours if you so desire. The youthful wait staff is on-the-spot and friendly.
One breakfast entree for which you’ll be grateful you got up are the carnitas de puerco (pork carnitas). These cubes of porcine perfection are absolutely delicious–moist, tender and well-seasoned. Each morsel is an adventure in taste bud appeasement. The carnitas are accompanied by two eggs and some of the very best papitas around. Similar to the carnitas, the papitas are cubed and golden brown. They have the taste and texture of oven-roasted potatoes, skin intact.
Forget what you’ve heard or read about blue corn pancakes, the quintessential New Mexican breakfast entree is the breakfast burrito. The Tesuque Village Market’s rendition is an excellent representation of why New Mexicans get up early in the morning. The breakfast burrito is available with your choice of meat: chorizo, pork, beef or chicken and with red or green chile. Christmas style (red and green chile) is the preferred choice for many diners–for good reason (but not necessarily for this critic).
The Tesuque Village Market’s red chile has just enough of a hint of cumin to turn off (it doesn’t take much) my cumin disliking taste buds. It’s better red chile than at many New Mexican restaurants, but I’m fanatically anti-cumin in New Mexican food that just a little bit will do me. Much, much better is the green chile which is an iridescent green and which has a piquant bite that will snap you out of any residual morning drowsiness you may have. It’s a fruity, earthy green chile laden with capsaicin blessed goodness. The breakfast burrito is topped with shredded Cheddar and white cheeses and is engorged with potatoes and your choice of meat. It is served with the Market’s terrific papitas and a garnish of tomatoes and lettuce.
Lunch and dinner options are also varied. Lunch options include hot and cold sandwiches made with your choice of bread (not that anyone would choose anything other than Sage Bakehouse bread). Burgers and New Mexican entrees are also available. A menu above a spacious and well-provisioned deli case lists several sandwich options, but there’s also a “build your own” option which will appeal to adventurous diners who understand deli meats and cheeses.
Those include wine-infused sopressata, a coarsely ground, salty Italian dry-cured salami I’ve been hooked on for years. Fromage fanatics will also appreciate the cave-aged Gruyere cheese, a sweet, earthy and creamy cheese which is as addictive as any French cheese. Sandwich them together between two glorious slices of Sage Bakehouse toasted sourdough bread, add a bit of lettuce and tomato and you’ve got a terrific sandwich. Another winner is the market’s green chile infused patty melt with caramelized red onions. The green chile has a kick to it and the light rye bread is perfectly toasted and delicious.
Pedestrian desserts at otherwise excellent restaurants may have the effect of making a great meal anti-climatic. That is, a boring dessert may render a stellar meal far less. That’s certainly not the case at the Tesuque Village Market where dessert is a stand-out. An oversized under glass display case showcases a wide array of tempting desserts, all of which will beckon even the most sated diner.
Desserts include various pastries: pies, cakes, mousse, tarts and even flan. Many are big enough to share (not that you’d want to) and are deliciously decadent. An enormous chocolate éclair filled with rich, satisfying vanilla custard and topped with a luscious dark chocolate sprinkled with nuts is one such dessert. I’m surprised the dessert case isn’t laden with tongue-tracks.
The Tesuque Village Market is sometimes an overlooked dining option just outside of Santa Fe (maybe some of that has changed since Giada’s visit), but it’s worth a visit or ten.
Tesuque Village Market
Route 22 & Bishops Lodge Road
LATEST VISIT: 28 February 2010
# OF VISITS: 4
BEST BET: Tortilla Soup, Salsa and Chips, Guacamole, Breakfast Burrito, Éclair, Carnitas