ON A SATURDAY EVENING AT LAMBERT’S of Taos, the intimate dining rooms are full of people. A joyous atmosphere reigns, accompanied by enticing aromas of grilled filet mignon, house-made pasta with lobster and prawns, and other fresh fare. A low din of delight is audible from where I sit at a linen-topped table in the bar.

The bartender greets guests like old friends as he pours signature Treehouse margaritas and other craft cocktails. Locals and out-of-towners alike slide into bar chairs, happy to be in this turn-of-the-century adobe residence turned charming restaurant on historic Bent Street.

I’m joined by Nathaniel Troy Jr., whose family owns this revered restaurant. “We’re known for contemporary American cuisine with locally sourced ingredients,” Troy tells me. I’m about to cut into a grilled petit filet mignon with a luscious mulled-red-wine demi-glace. “A lot of people order the filet consistently, along with the game and seafood specials.”

Lambert's executive chef James Crowther III.

Servers wind their way through four romantic dining rooms connected by arched doorways and thick adobe walls. Light glows from beehive fireplaces and glass candle holders on tables. The windows in the Governor’s Dining Room overlook the former adobe home of Charles Bent, New Mexico’s first territorial and American governor, who was appointed in 1846. (Bent’s house is now a museum, and Bent Street is named for him.) From the bar window, a view of a towering apple tree on the patio reminds me of the iconic Apple Tree restaurant, which occupied this building for more than 30 years before closing in 2009.

You can feel the history in these rooms—not just of Taos, but also of this storied restaurant. Troy says its origin story is well-known: In 1985, Zeke and Tina Lambert traveled from San Francisco to Taos for their honeymoon and never left. Zeke, a chef inspired by Alice Waters’s commitment to local, seasonal cuisine at her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, earned acclaim as the executive chef at Doc Martin’s at the Taos Inn. The couple launched their own restaurant in 1989 in a small house on Paseo del Pueblo Sur. The elegant cuisine and warm ambience made Lambert’s one of the best-loved restaurants in Taos.

“Zeke was in the kitchen, and Tina was often the maitre’d,” says Troy. “It was elegant but not stuffy, the same kind of thing that we’ve tried to carry on. It was very Taos, so it kind of captured that eighties era.”

Light glows from beehive fireplaces and glass candle holders on tables.

A year before Lambert’s opened, 15-year-old Troy moved to Taos from Monroe, Louisiana, with his father, Nathaniel Ragland Troy, and mother, Connie. The family had discovered the town on a ski holiday in 1973 and bought a condo in the ski valley for frequent visits. They became Lambert’s regulars. “It was one of our favorite restaurants,” Troy recalls. “I remember a really good rack of lamb. I loved the duck. They always did a game special and a seafood special.”

Troy’s father knew a few things about excellent food. In Monroe, where he ran the family mortgage banking business, he opened the first of several steak houses and went on to open more in New Orleans; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Maui, Hawaii. “My dad had always been a side investor in restaurants,” Troy says. “He loved the restaurant business and he had a passion for people.”

After 18 years, the Lamberts were tired of running a restaurant and put Lambert’s up for sale. By this time, the Troys owned a few eateries in Taos, including Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina and the Old Blinking Light. To ensure that Lambert’s wasn’t lost to history, the Troys bought the restaurant in 2008.

In 2013, they more than doubled the seats with a move to the Bent Street location. Upstairs, they opened the laid-back Treehouse Bar & Lounge to serve hip cocktails and snazzy bar food such as mole tostadas. “It feels like you’re in the apartment of a friend who’s throwing a party,” Troy says.

The old house’s rooms glow with muted light and sparkling service.

Executive chef James Crowther III oversees the food for the bar and restaurant. A native of St. Thomas, he’s helmed the kitchen for eight years. The menu changes monthly, often paying tribute to the original Lambert’s with the items that don’t change, like duck and lamb. “They always had sea scallops, and we still carry that on,” he says. “People really appreciate the longevity.”

Then and now, Lambert’s relies on locally sourced ingredients, which helps to “build connections with other local businesses that share our values,” Troy says. “Our fruits come from Freshies in Velarde. Our microgreens come from Midori Acres Microgreens in Taos. We source our honey from Taos Honey Co. and our coffee from Taos Coffee Roasters.” Meats including lamb loin, bison short ribs, boar, and beef tenderloin come from Beck & Bulow, in Santa Fe.

The cocktail menu includes a genuine holdover from the original restaurant. “Zeke’s Manhattan was one of those items that we were proud to continue,” Troy says. “So many Lambert’s patrons, including my own family members, always loved that cocktail, especially during the winter holidays.”

Celebrating at Lambert’s is a Taos tradition. The restaurant joins Bent Street merchants and John Dunn Shops for the annual Bonfires on Bent Street, when farolitos and luminarias light up the night. This year’s celebration takes place on Saturday, December 9, from 4 to 7 p.m. In between joining the caroling, holiday gift shopping, and admiring the festive lights, more than a few revelers, I imagine, will duck into Lambert’s to raise a glass of holiday cheer—perhaps a Zeke’s Manhattan.

Demi-glace, a classic French brown sauce, is traditionally made with beef stock and simmered for days until it’s reduced to a thick, velvety consistency. While shortcuts exist, including substituting gravy, Lambert’s recommends using store-bought demi-glace to save yourself time, which is so essential during the holidays.

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 cup demi-glace
  • ½ tablespoon dark-brown sugar
  • 1 orange
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 to 6 filets (ask butcher to cut portions of 4 to 5 ounces each)
  • Olive oil

Serves 4 to 6

1. In a sauce pot, lightly toast the spices over low heat until aromatic. Add the red wine, chicken stock, brandy, demi-glace, and brown sugar and bring to a simmer.

2. While the sauce is coming to a simmer, using a peeler, add two peels of orange zest to the pot. Slice the orange in half and squeeze juice into the sauce. Simmer sauce until you have 1½ to 2 cups sauce. The sauce should be silky and shiny and nicely coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, strain into a smaller pot, and season to taste with salt and pepper.** Reserve for plating.

3. Heat grill to hot. Rub steaks with olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place on grill and don’t touch for 4 minutes. Lift and turn filets 45 degrees to get proper grill marks. Cook for another 2 minutes, then flip. Cook on second side for 3 to 4 minutes or until desired doneness. (Using an instant-read thermometer, cook to 130° for medium rare; 140° for medium; 150° for medium well.) Remove from heat and keep in a warm place to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

4. To serve: Plate a nice scoop of creamy mashed potatoes and lay a steak on top. Pour mulled-wine demi-glace over it, and serve alongside a simple roasted vegetable.

**Store-bought demi-glaces vary in salt levels. Be sure to taste the sauce as it reduces to make sure it doesn’t get too salty. You may not need to season finished sauce with salt. Alternately, you can add a couple of drops of red-wine vinegar to season strong sauces instead of salt.

Steak and potatoes are always better together, but during the holidays, it’s nice to dress them up a bit. This recipe for creamy, buttery mashed Yukons makes an elegant addition to your festive table, especially served with Lambert’s petite filet mignon.

  • 3 pounds Yukon potatoes, peeled and
  • cut in quarters
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • ½ pound butter (2 sticks), cold and cut
  • in 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • Black pepper, to taste

Serves 4 to 6

1. Put cut potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and gently simmer potatoes until tender.

2. Strain potatoes. Push them through food mill or ricer, using smallest holes. Return potatoes to the pot, and stir on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes to dry the potatoes.

3. Stir in butter a few pieces at a time, completely incorporating each batch.

4. Stir in milk little by little, completely incorporating each batch until you get the desired consistency. You may not need all the milk. (Reserve any leftover milk to “remoisten” mashed potatoes at time of serving, if making in advance.)

5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or reserve and gently reheat with a bit of milk.

This rich, chilled chocolate dessert originated in France. According to some, the recipe honors 17th-century French aristocrat Marquise de Sévigné, who often extolled the benefits and joys of chocolate.

  • Oil for terrine mold or loaf pan
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate,
  • or mixture of the two
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon raspberry liqueur
  • Crème anglaise and fresh berries for topping

Serves 4 to 6

1. Rub a terrine mold or loaf pan with oil and line with plastic wrap. You want enough wrap to hang over the edges like flaps. These should be long enough to cover the top of pan.

2. In a stand mixer, add egg whites and cream of tartar. Whisk until soft peaks form, then add sugar and beat on high for another minute until stiff but not dry. Reserve.

3. Add chocolate and butter to a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30-second increments, stirring after each increment, until chocolate is melted. (You can also melt the chocolate and butter on a stove using a double boiler.)

4. Whisk in yolks and liqueur.

5. Gently fold chocolate into egg whites, being careful not to deflate the whites.

6. Once combined, scrape into the prepared loaf pan or terrine mold. Fold over plastic wrap flaps to cover. Refrigerate overnight.

7. When ready to serve, flip pan and gently remove marquise. Unwrap and slice with a warm knife into 4 to 6 portions. Top with crème anglaise (or melted vanilla ice cream, in a pinch) and some fresh berries.