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Fiesta Tepa-Sahauyo -- worth a four-hour round trip!

Ruth Lafler | Feb 20, 200606:14 PM

A couple of years ago a friend and I stopped in Watsonville for dinner at FTS on our way to Monterey. We both enjoyed our dinner there a lot, so much so that on this visit (from NJ), the one thing she insisted we do was have dinner there again.

We didn't have anything else we wanted to do in that direction, so we ended up driving all the way from Oakland -- 180 miles roundtrip -- just for dinner.

I studied the reports from the chowdown there a while back and committed some recommendations to memory. Unfortunately with only two of us we couldn't order much, but we decided to order the tamales in pipian to share as an "appetizer," and when we asked the waitress to bring it first, she offered to bring it a la carte and knocked a couple of dollars off the price.

The first bite of the picadillo tamale elicited a "oh WOW!" that made the whole trip worthwhile: fresh, sweet masa wrapped around the nut-studded picadillo and -- in a stroke of pure culinary genius -- stuffed into a poblano chile and set in a pool of ancho chile pipian sauce. The other two tamales on the plate were shrimp and huitlacoche, with complementary sauces. I'm not fond of huitlacoche, so left that for my companion, and we split the shrimp; it was tasty but the whole rock shrimp didn't work texturally as well as the more finely grained fillings. The three sauces were all distinctive and interesting. We also ordered the shrimp in rose petal sauce and the "recomendado" -- both were unusual and delicious, but not in the same class as the tamales. I think I'd drive all the way to Watsonville just for a platter of the picadillo tamales!

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