Friday, December 13, 2013

When You Dine Out as Often as We Do…

the restaurants all begin to run together in your memory. Especially in the case of Mexican ones. Sure, some are unforgettable like Red Iguana in Salt Lake City, Barrio Café in Phoenix, and Casa de Pico in La Mesa (CA). And I will be forever looking for “street tacos” like those at La Fortuna in Williams (CA). And this unforgettable list also includes Alebrijes Mexican Bistro in Lodi, CA, that we last visited in 2010.
What I remember from that visit are the colorful and fanciful paper mache figures (alebrijes), the uncomfortable chairs, and the wonderful and distinctive food. Since then, the restaurant has moved to downtown Lodi into larger and more comfortable quarters that includes a small bar area and two colorful dining rooms.

I also remember that co-owner (with his wife Adi) Reuben Larrazolo was in Mexico at that time studying with Rick Bayless. (In the top photo in this montage, Larrazolo is on the left and Bayless is on the right.)
(Rick Bayless is the owner of the acclaimed Frontero Grill and Topolobampo restaurants in Chicago and was the winner of the first season of Top Chef Masters on Bravo.)

While studying the extensive menu, we snacked on a basket of crisp tortilla chips served with a cup of smoky salsa that Adi Larrazolo told us was made fresh every day and was almost entirely made of roasted tomatoes.
If you expect a lot of heat in your salsa, this may be disappointing. But the intense flavor more than compensates for the lack of heat although after more than a few bites you do detect a mild mouth burn.

The menu is extensive with a large number of unique and seldom seen options. “From large burritos to homemade guacamole and vegan options, the menu includes the same customer favorites that were available at the first restaurant. But there are a few new things the Larrazolos are trying with their contemporary Mexican cuisine, including dishes that aren’t just comprised around your basic steak or chicken…
“Lately, Larrazolo has been focusing on making sauces. He spent part of last year studying the art of mole in Oaxaca, Mexico, with chef Rick Bayless, host of the PBS series ‘Mexico: One Plate at a Time.’

“Visiting a food’s region before he puts it on his menu is something Larrazolo does often, because he likes to know the reasons for cooking an ingredient a certain way. In Oaxaca, he perfected the techniques for seven new moles, which are part of the 45 different sauces Larrazolo uses at Alebrijes” (lodinews.com).

Starters include: Moyetes Capitalinos—a sliced baguette with black bean spread, topped with chorizo, pico de gallo, and melted cheese; Jalapeños Rellenos de queso—sweet stuffed jalapeños with queso fresco topped with pico de Gallo over a black bean sauce (kind of like a Mexican popper); and Cocktail Vuelve a la vida (Back to life)—ceviche cocktail that originated in Veracruz Mexico with shrimp, octopus, oysters, and clams.
Two entrees that sounded interesting were the Camarones A La Diabla o Al Mojo De Ajo Estilo Guerrero (whole prawns sautéed in either a spicy sauce or a mild garlic sauce) and Chile Rellenos Monterry (gancho chiles stuffed with beef tenderloin, goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and onions and served with a roasted tomatillo-chipotle sauce).

But I couldn’t resist ordering the Oaxacan-style mole over chicken breast that I had eaten (this was my first experience with mole) back in 2010. I wanted to see, especially following Larrazolo’s studies with Rick Bayless, whether it was as good or even better than I remembered.
Mole is a complex sauce that can contain over twenty ingredients that somehow fuse together so that it achieves that proverbial “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” taste. “Moles come in various flavors and ingredients, with chili peppers as the common factor. However, the classic mole version is the variety called mole poblano, which is a dark red or brown sauce served over meat. The dish has become a culinary symbol of Mexico’s…mixed indigenous and European heritage, both for the types of ingredients it contains as well as the legends surrounding its origins.

“The most common version of the legend takes place at the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla…. Upon hearing that the archbishop was going to visit, the convent nuns went into a panic because they were poor and had almost nothing to prepare. The nuns prayed and brought together the little bits of what they did have, including chili peppers, spices, day-old bread, nuts, and a little chocolate. They killed an old turkey, cooked it and put the sauce on top; the archbishop loved it” (wikipedia.org).
So was it as good as I remembered? No. It was even better. There was a medium heat from the chiles and, since many of the components like the nuts and spices are toasted before adding to the pot, an underlying roasted flavor. And this version had a more pronounced flavor of the dark Mexican chocolate that is such an integral part of good Oaxacan mole.

Chuck selected the Lomo De Purco Con Salsa De Ancho Y Bourbon or pork tenderloin served with an ancho bourbon sauce that, to me at least, tasted slightly of cinnamon.
What was so remarkable about this pork (and the same can be said of my chicken breast) was how moist and fork tender it was. I thought that both had been brined but learned from Adi Larrazolo that instead both had been prepared using the technique called sous vide.

“Sous vide [soo VEED] French for ‘under vacuum,’…is a food-packaging technique pioneered in Europe whereby fresh ingredients are combined into various dishes, vacuum-packed in individual-portion pouches, cooked under a vacuum to the precise serving temperature then chilled or dried well and quick seared. Sous vide food is used most often by hotels, restaurants and caterers, though it's expected to become increasingly available in supermarkets” (reddit.com).
“In August 2005, the New York Times Magazine published an article…that effectively introduced sous vide…to the American public. Since then it seems, foodies have been simmering in a low-temperature, never-ending debate. On one side, we have the proponents of sous vide, many of whom trace their culinary roots to the modernist movement made famous at restaurants like El Bulli and Noma. These men (they're almost all men) champion the technique because it allows even the most unskilled kitchen hack to reliably produce restaurant-caliber results with the press of button. On the other side are the skeptics, who counter that sous vide imparts unpleasantly spongy textures to food and, most importantly, that it drains the romance and skill from cooking” (Rob Mifsud at slate.com).

Although I have seen this done numerous time on Top Chef (it seems to be popular with young chefs), this was my first experience—or the first that I know of—with food prepared using this technique, and while I wouldn’t describe the texture as spongy, it did produce “softer” pieces of meat and one that I didn’t find at all objectionable.

We finished our meal by sharing a slice of Impossible Cake—a chocolate cake with a flan topping.
I absolutely love this 5.0 Addie restaurant and would expect to find food of this caliber in a much larger city than Lodi. But there is something to be said about the “big fish in a small pool” philosophy.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

4 comments:

eyad ammar said...


شركة تنظيف بالطائف شركة الهدي افضل شركة نقل عفش بالطائف كذلك هى افضل شركة رش مبيدات بالطائف
شركه الهدى
شركة رش بالطائف
خدمات الطائف
شركة تنظيف بالطائف
شركة تنظيف فلل بالطائف
نظافه عامه بالطائف
شركة تنظيف منازل بالطائف

eyad ammar said...


شركة تنظيف شقق بالطائف
نقل عفش بالطائف
بالطائف شفط بيارات
تسليك مجارى بالطائف
تنظيف خزنات بالطائف
رش مبيدات بالطائف
نقل عفش بخميس مشيط
شركة عزل اسطح بالطائف

eyad ammar said...


ان اردت نقل عفش منزلك بالدمام ابيات الشرقية من اهم شركات نقل العفش بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والقطيف والاحساء
شركة المتحدة
شركة نقل عفش بنجران
شركة نقل عفش بخميس مشيط
شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
شركة نقل عفش بمكة
شركة نقل عفش بينبع
شركة نقل عفش بابها

eyad ammar said...


شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
شركة نقل عفش بجدة
شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
شركة نقل عفش ببريدة
شركة نقل عفش بالقصيم
شركة نقل عفش بتبوك