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Monday, June 13, 2011

The blunting of the beak

The act of eating out, in my opinion, is a special occasion thing. Unless you do it as part of your profession, dining out is small indulgence that serves to celebrate or soothe. Not that everyone shares in this opinion. But this reasoning is why I tend to order items in restaurants that are too much trouble to prepare at home or are special occasion foods (and why I let nutrition worries slide for these infrequent meals).

Chiles in nogada are the quintessential Mexican celebratory meal. Originating from Puebla, they not only require the harmonious blending of disparate seasonal ingredients (walnuts, poblanos and pomegranates), but is a laborious assembly that has a prescribed presentation to represent the Mexican flag. I've had great luck in the past having chiles in nogada at Pico's Mex-Mex, which are stuffed with a melting melange of pork. On a recent visit, I decided to try the vegetarian version.

It was a disaster.

What it was.

What we got.

The vegetarian stuffing consisted of brown rice, raisins, and olives, and somehow, the mixture tasted vaguely of turpentine. But it wasn't the stuffing alone that let the dish down. With fresh pomegranates out of season, they opted to use dried cranberries, and it just did not bring the requisite pop and acid to the dish. Moreover, the walnut sauce reeked of some kind cloying sweetness, as if from cooking sherry that wasn't cooked off. I could go no further than two bites.

Had this been my first time eating at this restaurant, I would've been afraid to order anything else on the menu, but this is the first bad item I've ever gotten. I was pretty honest with the waiter who inquired how the meal was - I told him I didn't like it. But I didn't expect him to do much about it; perhaps this was how it was meant to be. In which case, I'd advise everyone to steer clear.

1 comment:

  1. I love olives and raisins, but I usually have them with browned onions too. But even the one time I didn't have onions, I didn't taste turpentine. For kicks, I searched "rancid rice turpentine", and actually got a few hit:

    Sounds like it could have been the rice that was off.