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Coffee & Tea

San Francisco Bay Area

Café Euro – Tortas ahogadas, molletes, licuados, Mr. Espresso, great raspadas - great

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Café Euro – Tortas ahogadas, molletes, licuados, Mr. Espresso, great raspadas - great

rworange | Oct 9, 2005 01:07 AM

A respada is the Latin version of a shave ice or slushie. At Café Euro they pour a fresh fruit, house-made nectar on the ground ice.

There’s a list of flavors on the wall, but it depends on what is made that day. Today it was tamarindo or guyaba. The blend of the thick, almost pear-like, guyaba nectar with the crunchy ice was beyond fine.

This was just the best thing I’ve had in a long time. It beat out the best Hawaiian shave ice I’ve ever tried. Like a Nicaraguan ice, because of the course grind of the ice, these things last a long time. It took a half an hour to finish a small respada ($1.50).

Watching the ice being thrown into the Rube Goldberg-like ice crusher and hand ground is sort of a kick too.

Licuados are a drink like a smoothie that has fruit, milk and ice. Sugar can be added upon request. Actually, they will omit the milk and make a smoothie if you like.

All of the fruit was fresh cut except the strawberries which were frozen. You can also add boosters (botanicos) to your drink. I let the owner select the fruits and he made up a tasty mix of mango, papaya and a few more fruits I forgot that was light, tasty and not overly sweet because it depended only on the sweetness of the fruit.

They also have fresh fruit and vegetable juice. Some of the vegetables include nopales, pepino, beet and celery. You can mix and match the fruits and veggies to come up with the flavor that is best.

There is also Mexican hot chocolate and the Euro part refers to the coffee drinks like espresso. The house coffee is Mr. Espresso. Chai is available too.

On the European side there are bagels and sandwiches. On the Latin side there are molletes and tortas ahogadas (drowned sandwiches). The owner is from Guadalajara, the home of the torta ahogada, so if you are a fan of this sandwich, it is probably a good place to check it out.

I haven’t tried it yet; having sampled this sandwich at the now departed Red’s Seafood down the road. Needing to conserve my sandwich calories I went for the mollete which I’ve never tried before.

I am an idiot. I will tell the idiot story at the end about how I ate this sandwich so you can skip that part easily, but I am really a food idiot.

Looking around on the web, there are few different foods with the name mollete. This is the open faced sandwich on a toasted French roll that is sometimes called Mexican Pizza. It’s a pizza in the sense of a Stouffer’s French bread pizza is a pizza.

Basically it is a hot open faced sandwich. The bread is heated, spread with beans and sprinkled with cheese then broiled and served with salsa fresca. In Mexico it seems the cheese is queso fresco however here it is usually a cheese like jack.

In this case it was more like the Spanish version, a French roll topped with cheese cold cuts and heated until cheese melts and the bread is toasty and crunchy. It was topped with slices of fresh avocado. On the side was a salsa fresca that included jalapeños.

There was a simplicity in it that reminded me of the tortas of Mexico. As one recipe said “like so many foods, sometimes when a very simple thing is done very well it achieves its own little bit of magic: A meal of mollete is incredibly satisfying, earthy, clear, and direct, and, in the simplest possible way, excellent”

In fact the café is very authentically Mexican. When I told the owner I liked his shop, he said “ Yes, it is like the type of cafes you find in Mexico with a little of this and that”.

You enter the café through a screen hung from the door and cut in half. The type of Mexican screen door used to keep flies out of the shop.

The little café also has Bud’s Ice cream by the scoop. Those big glass jars that are often used for aqua fresca are filled with Mexican candies, bagged nuts, bagged seeds and even pickled pigs feet. There are bags of Mexican cookies and snacks. There are a few tables and some nice Mexican music playing in the background.

There is a case selling soccer shirts and caps. Not a lot of odd things, but on a high self they were selling a few decorative rain lamps. One had Jesus on the cross in a gazebo. When the light is turned on it looks like there is rain outside the gazebo - $25. I spent a good deal of time contemplating the lamp.

So, that’s about it. Here’s the idiot story.

There is a communications problem with us. He has trouble with my Spanish. I have trouble with his English.

The conversation goes

Me: I’ll have the xxx\
Him: The xxx?
Me: I wind up spelling it out, first with the English letters, then Spanish. Then I wave at the sign.
Him (every time): Do you know what that is?
Me: Yes … explanation
Him: Explanation which I catch ever other word
…. We are both confused …
Me: Sounds good. Yeah, I’ll have one.

And so it went with the mollete. The explanation didn’t sound like what I read on the web, so I just thought I’d order it and see what showed up. I had keyed the wrong name in during my pre-visit web search and was not expecting an open faced sandwich.

So he brings it out with this look of pride on his face and I say it looks like a very nice sandwich. Here’s the idiot part … instead of eating it open face, I put both halves together like a sub … the equivalent of taking two pieces of Stouffer’s French bread pizza together and making a sub.

The look on this guys face just told the story. He put all this care into a sandwich to be eaten by a food barbarian. He recovered quickly but the way his face fell … I knew.

So I say, “Wasn’t supposed to be put together, right”. He was really nice saying it was fine. Then I get home and find out, yeah, I screwed up.

When ‘talking’ about Guadalajara he did mention something about the sandwich having beans, but I’m not sure if he offers a bean version or was out of beans or that is just the way they make molletes in his home town.

Someday, when my Spanish gets better, I'll ask him what he uses the quail eggs for. And I'm not yet there where I could try to talk him into making paletas. If he makes those great respados, why not paletas?

For you torta ahogadas fans, here’s a place in Napa that makes them.

Cafe Euro

931 23rd Street
Richmond, CA 94804
510.235.9912

Link: http://napanews.com/templates/index.c...

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