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Monday, October 12, 2009
2nd Annual Mole Fair at Placita Olvera:Puebla vs. Oaxaca
This past Sunday,October 11,2009, the second annual Mole Fair was held at Olvera St. It was billed as a celebration of flavor and tradition between the two states of Oaxaca and Puebla. This is a collaboration between Association of Oaxacan Business Owners(AON), and the Union of Pueblan Expatriates(UPEX).
This was one of the most well organized culinary events put on my the Mexican community in Los Angeles, and there was an impressive gathering of the famous moles of the two gastronomic giants, Puebla and Oaxaca.
The Oaxacan community in Los Angeles has substantial presence in the local restaurant scene. Most major cities in Mexico don't have the variety and number of Oaxacan establishments. Always serving fantastic cuisine and dedicated supporters of Oaxacan cuisine and culture in LA, Guelaguetza was busy serving up moles, Oaxacan appetizers, and even included some Pueblan treats. Also present were Eibis, La Morenita Oaxaquena, Juquila, Rincon Oaxaqueno, and many more.
There were no official Pueblan restaurants here, but some Pueblan families showed up to represent their state,they did that and more.
There were women in traditional dress cooking and working the various booths.
The mole corridor was packed with people vying for a space in which to place an order. It was madness, but my friends were eager to sample as much mole as possible, and we didn't do too bad.Javier Cabral caught up with us with after judging at the Pasadena Chocolate Salon, and helped finish off the mole crawl.Nothing like showing up to a mole tasting in a sugar trance.
Seating was prime real estate and we would have to vigilently attend to some spots once we found an edge of a table. This could have been better handled, but the crowd was so busy eating, the various curbs and patches of grass near the kiosk at Olvera St. were grabbed without any moans or groans.
We decided to start in the state of Puebla at Delicias Poblanas, a family run operation that had the lionized mole poblano, but we had our eyes on the pipian rojo.This mole is from Puebla and uses ancho chiles and pumpkin seeds as its principal components. There was a low heat that crept on the back end of this mole, smooth with hints of its multiple spice characteristics. A very well balanced mole and delicious and tender chicken.
The best mole we tasted this day, from the booth simply called Mole Poblano, the most ingredient intense in the idiom:chocolate, various dried chiles including the pasilla, mulata, and pasilla, bread crumbs, spices,herbs, and vegetables varying in number from 20 components on up.This was served classicly with turkey pieces, simmered in the rich, and well structured sauce.
The turkey leg was no afterthought, fresh, flavorful, and fully integrated to make for a superbly, baroque "mole poblano de guajolote".
From the same family we sampled the adobo with goat.A lighter redering with a reserved chipotle heat and drive. The cooking here was amazing, and I could have parked here for the day, but there was more to sample.
Off on our Oaxacan tour of mole, we encountered the rare chichilo, one of the seven sacred moles of Oaxaca. It has a burnt taste, and utilizes the chihuacle chile, specially imported from Oaxaca. This was a first for me, it was very intriguing and I will be checking up on this one when I'm traveling around Mexico.The La Zandunga Meat Market booth was responsible for this surprise, it was hiding in the back behing their other moles,great find.
They also had a mole amarillo(yellow)with rabbit.Ancho, guajillo, and costeno chiles spiked with cumin and cloves mark this lighter expression of mole.
A restaurant that always is a safe bet, Juquila, was our stop for some Oaxacan coloradito(little red).This is among the simplest of the seven moles with ancho or guajillo chiles, tomatoes, and a facile sweetness from sugar.
In Oaxaca even a stew is a mole sometimes. This chicken estofado from Guelaguetza rounded out our mole tour.Guelaguetza always has about five moles on hand in their restaurants, and was the only booth at the fair acknowledging both state traditions.
The music was Quadrophenia loud, but the crowd didn't seem to mind.There was a good number of traditional music groups, the most enjoyable played Son Jarocho, a folk music from the state of Vera Cruz.
The most popular show of Oaxacan ancestral dances delighted the mostly latino audience.
While we were studying the moles of Oaxaca and Puebla, many others were all about the clayudas,the so called Mexican pizzas topped with Oaxacan meats:tasajo,cecina, and chorizo.
Making time for a few non-mole noshes, Javier and I grabbed some Pueblan chalupas from La Guelaguetza. These were delicious renditions of the griddled soft mini-tostadas, topped with the Lopez family's authentic quesillo(Oaxacan string cheese), performed in red and green sauces.
No room for La Morenita's moles, OK, let's get some rolled birria tacos and consome? Nice call,thought I was done for the day, but these delectable goat tacos are worth paying a visit to this restaurant very soon.
I sampled a savory tepache, fermented pineapple puntuated by chile powder, birthed in a clay pot. This was funky street goodness, not of the suburban variety.
There was no shortage of culinary treats at this event. In addition to the Oaxacan chocolate and corn drink, Tejate, pickled mangos were available at the Cotla stand, where I got the tepache.
I can't wait to see what they have in store for next year. A few more invitations to area Oaxacan restaurants and some other ambassadors from the Pueblan communities and this event could be one the best Mexican food fairs in town, if it isn't already.
There is no better opportunity to try such a variety of moles from Puebla and Oaxaca, two of the most important centers of Mexican cooking.