Common Fire – A Soulful Place to Eat, Drink and Reflect
While traveling in Taos, NM with friends, our hunger pains hit close to the Ski Valley/Rio Grande Gorge area so we headed to Common Fire on ski valley road.
The Rio Grande Gorge, a popular attraction just outside of Taos, New Mexico, is always on my must see list when I visit New Mexico. This 800 foot gorge caused by the separation in the earth’s crust some twenty-nine million years ago never fails to amaze me. I always spend time taking numerous photos, watching wildlife and gazing into the depths of the gorge.
After about an hour of enjoying nature however, we are ready to find a place to eat. And as I soon learned this trip, one of this area’s best eateries is barely a stone’s throw away from the gorge and the ski valley. Common Fire’s orange door, located in El Prado on Hwy 150 next to the Quail Ridge Inn, definitely caught my eye when we approached. Upon entering the door, I knew immediately I had reached a special place. Greeted by warm smiling faces and the aroma of roasting vegetables and warm bread (made fresh here), I was instantly drawn into this space. I also noticed that the kitchen and dining area are in the same room with the focal point being the wood-fired hearth oven, hence the name Common Fire, where we could watch our food being cooked.
The second thing I noticed were the many bottles of a fine wine collection, a delight that caught me off guard for this hidden-away cozy restaurant. But when I met Andy Lynch, owner of Common Fire, I realized this wine selection isn’t by chance. Andy is also a sommelier and a wine connoisseur who has had a love with wine for many years. So I knew I was sure to find great wines from all over the world and I knew Andy would be happy to help me pair one or more of them with whatever I happened to order from the menu. They offer a good selection of wines by the glass too. Common Fire also has a couple of Ciders and a handful of beers, some being local brews.
Today I also noticed a large bowl of fresh garlic, sitting atop the wine rack. The garlic, I was told, is from Stanly Crawford, a famous writer from Dixon New Mexico who also happens to farm garlic. This was a photo opp I couldn’t pass up. I am a little familiar with this area of New Mexico and I know it is filled with talented artists, writers, painters, jewelry artisans and the like. I am happy to include many of them in my stories about my New Mexico travels.
We were lucky to have sun on this crisp fall day, so we sat out on the patio under the colorful foliage. Enjoying some local craft brews like Ambear Boxing Bear from Albuquerque mellowed our already relaxed day. An added bonus was the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in our viewing window. When asked how he liked living here, Andy pointed to the mountains and said, “What’s not to love about this area!” Yes, he has a point there. I am starting to see why this place came highly recommended.
Once we could break away from the view long enough to look over the new seasonal menu, we were delighted to find fall’s bounty in every dish. Andy was also giving us some options he felt we should try including a variety of tomatoes grown in the area and delivered just days ago. So the salad today was a simple chopped tomato plate with a sprinkle of sea salt, chopped parsley and EVOO. “YES PLEASE”, we all said in unison!
One of the most popular dishes here is the Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Now don’t skip ahead just yet cause this dish is very unique. Stuffed with Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar and kimchi on a special wheat home loaf with wheat grown in this area, I had most assuredly never had THIS grilled cheese. The kimchi is from Jenn’s Kimchi in Pojoaque, NM. There is a crunch on this sandwich I couldn’t wait to bite into and a flavor that had me wanting to devour this dish.
The Flatbreads are write-home-about special. The Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese has tons of flavor and was my personal favorite. The Sausage Pizza had a flavorful Italian sausage, cheeses and basil oil making it hard to stop eating. I am sure the pizza sauce on this one was made from those fresh tomatoes.
Another popular item on the menu is the Pork and Noodles Soup. This dish was just made for a cooler day like today using slow roasted pork belly and shoulder from Kyzer Farms Heritage Pork in Albuquerque, which keeps things local. The poached egg, scallion, egg noodles, togarashi and Thai-chili vinegar made it a great warm my innards Pho.
Needing some sweet spice in my life, I really needed to try the Root Vegetable Curry with roasted carrots, parsnip, cauliflower, onion, red curry for some fire and sweet coconut milk all mixed with jasmine aromatic rice. I certainly don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy this wonderful dish.
The Short Rib did wonders for the carnivores in my group. This beef short rib from Four-Daughters Ranch in Los Lunas, is filled with flavor from fragrant spices of cumin, smoked paprika, clove, cinnamon, aleppo & szechuan peppers. Added black beans and jasmine rice round out this dish.
Common Fire alao has a few fascinating dessert selections.
First is the Budino a wonderful butterscotch pudding with a layer of caramel, crème fraiche, topped with a sprinkling of sea salt and an almond lace cookie. Not too sweet, a little salty and very creamy.
My personal favorite was the Lemon Tart made with lemon curd and a shortbread crust. Tart, rich and creamy made this treat, very simply, divine!
Common Fire is only open on Thursday – Sunday so plan your trip wisely. I don’t want to miss this wonderful spot. They don’t take reservation. Andy says do what you have to do, then come by when you are ready. They will be ready for you!