Five years ago, the last time that I was in Oaxaca, I visited a restaurant in the nearby village of San Martín Tilcajete called "Azucena Zapoteca". There in that little rustic restaurant they served my favorite Mexican dish, a dish that I consider the masterpiece of Mexican cuisine, "chiles en nogada". I have rhapsodized about "chiles en nogada" previously on this blog. It is a poblano chile pepper stuffed with a mixture of meat, fruit and nuts. The pepper is covered with a cream walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds are sprinkled on top.
In the five years since my last visit, "Azucena Zapoteca" has opened a branch in the heart of downtown Oaxaca... and "chiles en nogada" are still on the menu. Jane and I were eager to give the place a try.
Before our meal, we were offered complementary shots of mezcal... Oaxaca's home-grown distilled liquor, a cousin of tequila. The shot is served with a wedge of orange sprinkled with chile powder. You are supposed to suck on the orange and then drink the mezcal. The orange with chile powder was actually quite tasty, but neither one of us cared for the mezcal. It was the only part of our meal that we did not like.
Of course, for our main course we both ordered "chiles en nogada." Jane had heard me talk about this scrumptious dish for years, but she had never had the opportunity to taste it herself. Now, at last, she was going to see what all the fuss was about.
Our chiles were very good, but I must say that they were not the best that I have ever had. They were not as good as what I ate at the original restaurant five years ago, nor as good as some that I have had in Mexico City. The stuffing was a delicious blend of sweet and savory, but the sauce tasted more of cream cheese than of walnuts.
Jane, however, was not in the least bit disappointed. She thought that the mixture of flavors was incredible. After finishing the chile, and sopping up the last of the sauce with a tortilla, she declared that it was a meal for the gods!