Friday, April 23, 2010

I Tried To Hate It

Cafe Pasqual's is the kind of place I try to avoid, snobbishly try not to like. It is super popular, mentioned in every guide book, and packed with visitors any time of day. Hardly the secret local find traveling foodies like to brag about. It's not a great bargain. The ingredients are organic (they have copies of Michael Pollan's latest book for sale on the counter). The waitstaff is nearly unbearably cheerful. Sitting at the communal table, I tried to hate Cafe Pasqual's, but I couldn't -- the food is just too darn good!
I'd already been a few times when I took this picture of house specialty, Huevos Motuleños which the menu describes as "Eggs Over Easy on Corn Tortillas with Black Beans Topped with Sauteéd Bananas, Feta Cheese, Green Peas, Roasted Tomato-Jalapeño Salsa, Served with Green Chile or Tomatillo Salsa." On each previous visit I'd avoided this dish, I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea of the bananas in that combo. Once (another stop at the communal table) the man next to me (a retired history professor I've decided) ordered this dish (his "usual") and when -- while making conversation I said I felt unsure about the bananas, he offered me a bite. I declined, but it is that kind of place.
The chili sauce is delicious and unexpectedly a great match with the feta cheese. The peas -- well, they seemed like pleasant visitors -- not bad but not really adding much to the overall. The beans were plainly cooked and tasty enough -- I'd probably have liked a bit of a sauce on them. All in all, well executed but not really the dish for me. In fact, I wonder, if I had ordered Huevos Motuleños on my first visit would I have been back.
As luck would have it my first time in the door I ordered Eggs Barbacoa with Chile D'Arbol. Sheer breakfast bliss -- "slow Cooked, Marinated Niman Ranch Beef with White Onion, Cilantro and Queso Cotija on White Corn Tortillas and Two Eggs Any Style with Refried Pintos and Chile D’Arbol Salsa. I've eaten barbarcoa and it's international relatives at restaurants around the world, and this may be the best version I've ever tasted. The succulent, slow cooked Niman Ranch beef whispers with flavors of chiles and onions. Deeply spiced and yet delicately flavored, it's a dish that could keep me coming back for decades.

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