BEST TAMALE - 2006
Readers' Choice: Tamale Kitchen
For generations, the tamal was the humblest expression of Mexican comfort food. But in recent years, with the popularity of all things Mexi-culinary exploding, tamales have been brought out of the cocinas and into the limelight, subjected to all manner of torturous revisions that have done nothing whatsoever to improve on their essential perfection. A bit of meat, a bit of sauce, a corn husk and a masa jacket -- that's all a proper tamal needs. And at Villa Cafe, the tamales -- which are handmade daily -- are just that and nothing more. The masa is soft and flavorful, the tiniest bit sweetly sour, and rolled thin so as not to overwhelm the shredded beef inside, which is braised until tender. The tamal is then topped with its perfect match -- an unusual orange chile that adds tomatoes to a Colorado-style green. This is one kitchen that doesn't feel the need to improve on what's already the best.