Saturday I was down in Greenfield for a ranch cook-out in Arroyo Seco. My childhood friend has been living in Charlotte, NC for a couple years where hes learned to make GREAT pulled pork (smoked for 13 hours), and his brother-in-law, not to be outdone, fired his own barbecue salvo by making wonderful grilled tri-tip for us.
Anyway, on the drive back up to Salinas, I detoured through the small towns in search of a misty memory of a Swiss-Italian bakery somewhere around there that makes fabulous almond macaroons. Unfortunately, I didnt find it but I did see lots of Mexican restaurants, bakeries and grocers that looked like theyd be fun to explore. Downtown Greenfield is saturated with the unmistakable deep porky aroma of carnitas bubbling in lard.
Further up valley, the town of Gonzales looks like it has benefited from some urban development funds and is much spruced up. I spotted a restaurant, El Oaxaqueno, on a side street with signage offering Comida Tipica Oaxaqueña. Oaxacan food isnt common in these parts, so I had to stop and check it out.
The place has been open for two months. In addition to mariscos and standard taqueria fare, the Oaxacan side of the menu offers:
Estafado de pollo
Coloradito de res
Salsa de chicharron
Pollo enchilado con arroz
Tortas de quesillo
Gorditas con asiento, queso y frijoles
Tamales en hoja de platano
And the beverages include Chavelas, regular o preparada.
I ordered a grande tamale ($3.50) to go, and while I was waiting had a sample of the two aguas naturales offered to me. The agua de limon is translated as lemonade on the menu but its actually made with the floral-tinged Mexican lime. Quite delicious and refreshing but sweetened a bit too much for me, so I chose the housemade aqua de horchata ($1.50) instead.
At home I shared the tamale with my mom. Folded in a flattish rectangle, the very smooth and lardy masa was filled with chicken in black molé. Mom said, mmm, thats got some kick to it. Medium in heat with a complex backdrop of spice, the molé had a bit of shredded chicken in it but was mostly sauce. We both liked it.
No business cards were printed yet, but the owner gave me the take-out menu for his other restaurant that turns out to be in Salinas (737 S. Sanborn Place, 831-754-1968). The Gonzales location is on a side street just east of the main drag on the south end of town (maybe First St.?). The phone number is 831-675-2387. Im looking forward to checking out the Salinas location sometime.