Last night in Oaxaca (or maybe Tlaxcala)

Aug 17, 2016 | 0 comments

A Beautiful Table

On the Banks of Willapa Bay

Now that I’ve finally become adept at using some of the functions on my smart phone (like taking photos and sending them hither and thither), I find that all those great photo ops do not necessarily align themselves with the location of my spiffy all-purpose ‘device.’  Sometimes, when it’s being a pedometer, it is handily in the back pocket of my Levis.   At other times, it might have been left behind on my desk when it was being a telephone.  Last night it was out in the car plugged into its charger which, of course, was a useless occupation on all counts given the car was not running.  Nyel did have his phone and managed to get one shot of the table and first course – a gorgeous cold melon(s) soup(s).

So, readers will have to take my word for the fact that we had dinner in Mexico.  Granted, we were right here on Willapa Bay… but the chicken mole presented by our friends Steve and John was so authentic that I, for one, was immediately transported south of the border via taste buds and olfactory sensations.  OMG!  It’s a wonder that all of us at the dinner table didn’t immediately lapse into Spanish (or at least Spangish) for the duration of the evening.

It’s hard to describe mole (pronounced “molay”).  Part of the challenge is that there are many varieties and each contains its own distinctive mix of flavors.  There are black, red, yellow moles, Colorado, green almendrado moles, de olla, huaxmole and pipián moles.  All in different flavors and colors.  Chili peppers are the ingredient they have in common.  Last month when we were in Santa Fe, we went to a fabulous restaurant with friends and ordered a shared appetizer – four exotic moles served as dips for small tortillas.  The moles were all different colors and flavors and cost the world, but none was as delicious as Steve’s chicken mole last night.

In Santa Fe

In Santa Fe

His was the classic mole poblano.  The dish has become a culinary symbol of Mexico’s mestizaje (mixed indigenous and European heritage) both for the types of ingredients it contains, as well as the legends surrounding its origin.  Some say its creation took place at the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla early in the colonial period.  Others say that monk Fray Pascual invented the dish to serve the archbishop of Puebla.  Modern mole is a mixture of ingredients from North America, Europe and Africa, making it the first international dish created in the Americas.

Moles can contain two or more types of chili pepper as well as cumin, cloves, anise, tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, sesame seeds and dried fruit.  Steve’s version definitely had hints of cinnamon and chocolate.  Mole poblano recipes call for at least twenty ingredients, all of which must be ground into a paste and then mixed with water or broth and simmered until it becomes a thick paste.  It is a two-day process.

I wonder if any of us expressed our appreciation well enough to our hosts.  Probably not.  So… Muchas gracias, Juan y Esteban, por una comida fabulosa!

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