Best lamb in Northern New Mexico
First visit: April 7, 2012
You mean that there’s a really good New Mexican restaurant in Española?
Well, yeah, there are several, and Angelina’s is among the best. If you crave some tender and strong-tasting lamb, then this is the place for you. And me.
Originally from the Velarde area in Northern New Mexico both Angelina and Fidel Guiterrez had both been raised farming and gardening food since very early ages. These lessons taught from both their parents and grandparents for generations were deep rooted in the understanding the earth (the cultivation, consideration and treatment), hard work and determination would serve both Angelina and Fidel throughout their lives. Fidel Guiterrez and Angelina Salazar are true New Mexico Living Legends for keeping alive the valuable and time-honored traditions of 400 years of food in Northern New Mexico.
For nearly 20 years now Angelina and Fidel Guiterrez have both been the owners of this very successful restaurant. They serve up a large menu on Northern New Mexican dishes as well as such usual dining fare as steaks, chicken, fish, chops, and burgers. What really drew me here is the lamb. This is certified organic grass-fed lamb from a family ranch near Tierra Amarilla, about 100 miles north of Santa Fe. You can get this lamb at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Do it.
Roast Leg of Lamb
6 oz of sliced roast lamb grilled in au jus and and served with a bowl of whole beans, 2 sopaipillas and your choice of red or green chile.
This is as succulent and delicious a roast lamb as I can remember having tasted. It is served with a small cup of powerfully tasty jus. Get a cup of beans as your side, and ask for them in red chile, which is excellent and made from locally-grown chiles.
Costillas — Crispy Lamb Ribs
10 oz of crispy lamb ribs served with a bowl of whole beans, 2 sopaipillas, and your choice of red or green chile.
Again, you want the beans in red chile.
These ribs are masterfully cooked. Crisp, tender, and lightly spiced, they are like no other ribs that you will get. No sloppy sauce, no arguments about which style of ribs are best, and no pretensions—just a pile of the best ribs of any kind that I have had in New Mexico. I could eat these all afternoon. And evening.
We here in New Mexico are used to pork belly chicharones. Well, hold onto your hats and get some of these lamb chicharones. Crisp and never greasy, these morsels can become habit forming—like peanuts, you can’t stop at just one mouthful. .I couldn’t stop eating them, and my costillas started to cool off. You might want to dunk them in some of the red chile that accompanies your beans. I did, and the combination is fantastic.
Perfect puffy pillows. Flaky, non-greasy, and tender. Eat’em while they are still hot. These are among the very best sopaipillas I have had anywhere.
Flan is a custard dessert with a layer of soft caramel on top, as opposed to crème brûlée, which is custard with a hard caramel top. The dish is eaten throughout the world. It is especially popular in Mexico and the American Southwest, where all Hispanic children are taught how to make by their abulitas.
My wife learned how to make flan after our first visit to New Mexico. She probably used the recipe bu Elizabeth David, the author of my favorite Mexican cookbook. Jane’s version is very thick and creamy with a caramelized topping made of granulated white sugar. Properly caramelized, this provides a perfect foil to the sweetness of the custard.
Angelina’s version uses a caramelized Mexican brown cane sugar (piloncillo) that caramelizes to a sweeter version that that made from white sugar, and is somewhat lighter in color. I prefer the custard a bit denser and smoother, but this flan is remarkable for its intense taste. Beautifully done.
This sugar is similar to brown sugar, but far more flavorful. It is smoky, caramel-flavored and earthy. It is unrefined and bought in rectangular pieces or cones. Piloncillo contains large amounts of proteins, calcium, iron and ascorbic acid and originated in Mexico.
In Mexico they often make it into a drink (agua de panela), like they do with tamarind, (agua de tamarind) and flor de jamaica. You could probably find both in a Mexican or Latin market. To use the piloncillo warm it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds first to soften it enough to cut, grate it if finner sugar is needed.
This is similar to the jagery that we brought back from India. We will make our next home-made flan with jagery if we can’t find piloncillo in the local markets.
The service in Angelina’s is exemplary. Our server was Joani Guiterrez, the affable daughter od Fidel and Angelina. She carefully explained the family histiry as well as the source of the excellent lamb. We travel to Taos from Corrales many times each year, and will surely make this a regular stop. Maybe I’ll even try some of the other menu items. Unless the lamb calls out to me louder.
You won’t find this place easily in your Garmin. Persevere. It’s worth the search.
What others are saying
Gil Garduño — New Mexico’s Sesquipedalian Sybarite
“Angelina’s Restaurant was founded in 1984 by Fidel and Angelina Gutierrez as a way to honor their recently deceased son’s love of his mother’s red chile and beans. The specialty of the house at Angelina’s is lamb, raised on the verdant high-mountain pastures of Northern New Mexico by the Patricio Martinez family, sheep herders for generations. The “other white meat” has long been a staple in Northern New Mexico kitchens though it’s increasingly uncommon to find it on restaurant menus, save for pricey Colorado lamb entrees served in high-end dining establishments. Angelina’s offers lamb in several forms–and it’s the real thing, with its characteristic gaminess and flavorful fat.
“The beautiful Española valley has been home to the Gutierrez family for centuries and home to their wonderful family restaurant for going on two decades. Forget any disparaging comments or jokes you may have heard about this beautiful little city and discover some of the best dining treasures in Northern New Mexico.”