I’m baaaccckkkk! World traveller that I am! Ha! I spent the majority of last week in San Jose, California for my company’s yearly User Conference. What an event! It drew 6,500 people from around the world and was very successful. It’s always fun to be a part of such an endeavour and I love to be able to put faces to names of people that I speak to on the phone all the time.
Anyway, not a lot of highlights to tell you about since I spent the majority of the time indoors in a convention centre. Two events speak out to me though and I’d like to share them with you. Funny enough, they were both at the same venue. There was a cocktail party at Mezcal, which I describe in detail below, and a particular memory that I think you’ll find funny. At least I hope you’ll find it funny because, dear readers, I failed you.
After a delicious Margarita and about half way through a glass of sparkling Chandon (an incredibly good California sparkling wine done in the same fashion as Chandon Champagne from France), a tray of fried crickets was presented to me. The group I was speaking with urged me to try them, after all, they are very high in protein. One of the guys I was with popped one in his mouth and chewed enthusiastically. Another went along for the experience. I kept looking at them, but alas, I just could not bring myself to indulge. One of the women who was in the circle bit the bullet—er cricket—so to speak and I could tell by the expression on her face that she was having a difficult time chewing and swallowing. When she was done, I asked for her opinion. She, in a very graphic way, exploded with a “Yuck! That was the WORST thing I have ever eaten in my life!” So there you have it. I couldn’t bring myself to try it—me who will try anything once—well, I guess it’s just about anything now. And I’m not sorry in the least that I didn’t!
Monika and I went to Mezcal Restaurant and Bar last year at the conference and we just had to go back again this year to see if it really was as good as we remembered. And the take away? It was. What a delicious taste experience and beautiful restaurant. The d?cor is cozy and friendly and the atmosphere cordial—even if there was a table of very loud people next to us. The covered patio is great to sit in but was totally full when we went this time. Too bad because that’s where we wanted to be. Oh well.
Mezcal serves Oaxacan food which is one of Mexico’s most celebrated and complex cuisines. And in my book, just simply magnificent. One of the cornerstones of Oaxacan sauces is mole which can be made with upwards of 35 different ingredients and slow cooked until perfect. Mezcal serves up three different ones on many of their dishes but what I find very interesting—not to mention delicious—is that they serve them in place of the normal red salsa with house made tortilla chips for dipping. There’s estofado mole that’s made from tomatillos, peanuts, chiles and spices. Tomatillos are like green tomatoes but somehow different. You can sometimes find them in the store or an occasional farmers’ market with a papery husk surrounding a green tomato-like fruit. This mole was flavourful yet light with an almost sweet taste. Then there’s red coloradito mole with its chiles, spices, seeds and yes, wait for it, chocolate. This is one of my favourites. It has a heat that starts on the sides of your tongue and ever so gently lets you know it’s there, yum!
And finally, and I think my real favourite, negro mole, again with chiles, spices, seeds and chocolate but cooked longer to bring out a rich and dark smokiness that just can’t be beat. I wish I could find somewhere here in the city that had mole approaching how delicious these are. They serve them on top of chicken, enchiladas or tamales, simply excellent. Hmmm… I wonder if they have a mail-order business? Could I order some mole to be delivered here? I’ll have to look that up!
Anyway, thoroughly enjoying the chips and dips with one of the most delicious Margarita’s I’ve ever had (OK, two!), Monika and I both ordered our mains without mole. We both had enchiladas suizas: Monika’s with corn tortillas rolled with saut?ed veggies and mine with seared beef and both with a mild tomatillo salsa. Again, incredibly tasty. I love a tomatillo sauce. It’s like a normal salsa but the tomatillos add a piquantness and a zing that you just can’t get with any other fruit. If you haven’t tried it but see it on a menu somewhere, experiment. I know you’ll like it.
So there you have it. Another great dinner. Fortunately for me, our conference is back in San Jose next year and you know exactly where I’ll be having dinner again. Maybe this time I can swing by there more than once. Yes, I really would go back to the same place over and over again—it’s just that good! But will I have enough nerve to try the fried crickets? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
’Til next time,
Mezcal Mexican Restaurant and Bar
25 W. San Fernando Street
San Jose, California