This little Mexican grocery store in the middle of town changed hands again earlier this year, and is now owned by the Diaz family who operate Agave Restaurant.
The sign in front says Mercado and Carniceria, but like its predecessors, Los Mares, Azteca and La Luna, it has a taqueria and seating next to the meat counter. I’ve had very good and inexpensive homestyle food here over the years, as well as buying Mexican food stuffs.
This weekend I finally had a little time to check it out the newest incarnation. Everything’s been freshened up with more natural lighting and open displays, as well as a second entrance. Two overhead menu boards identify the food service as Rufina’s Kitchen.
Christmas ponche was still available, $1.25 per cup. I inquired about tamales, and the counter lady said “tamales en hoja de platano”. She did not speak much English but I was able to ascertain that the tamales steamed in banana leaves were Oaxacan style and filled with chicken in mole negro. I ordered one to eat-in, paid $3.22 at the counter, and soon she brought some complimentary chips and salsa and this plate to my table.
The tamal was about the size of a cell phone, smaller than double-wide banana leaf tamales other restaurants serve. A dab of salsa fresca, crema agria, and guacamole decorated the white porcelain plate. The masa was very slick and deeply corn-tasting, a little dry around one end. Just a thin layer of masa over the filling made this somewhat meat-heavy but that’s not a complaint. I would have liked just a bit more black mole over the top to moisten but used the condiments instead. The mole is Octavio Diaz’s mother’s recipe, but it tasted less sweet to me than when I tried it at Agave. At $1.75, the price/quality ratio can’t be beat.
The mole is available for purchase to cook at home.
The ponche was lovely, just barely sweetened with natural juices and piloncillo, and fragrant with sweet mulling spices. Loaded with pineapple, apples, and tejocote, the warm beverage provided a lot of cheer on a cold day.
More about tejocote
While I didn’t have enough time to check out the store more carefully, the produce section has more than doubled and includes some organic items. This has been my spot to buy high quality pepitas and the bulk packs are still available. A jar of dried avocado leaves sits on the butcher counter.
I’ll be on the lookout for more Oaxacan goods next time I drop in, such as these tlayudas available in two sizes.
Casa del Mole
434 Center St
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