Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Paradise Awaits

Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle. For the most part, the rainy reputation we have is a myth—we really do have amazing, sunny, hot summers. We usually get just the right amount of snow in the winter. We have beautiful views, mountains, lakes, and the sound all in our backyard. We have great food, a good music scene. We also have that stretch of time between fall and winter, right after the time-change, when the sun takes a vacation.

Sure, we have bouts of sunlight…I know we’re not as desperate for daylight as some places (like Alaska… 30 Days of Night, anyone?), but the dreary gloom and general lack of sunshine can really start to take a toll the second week in. It doesn’t help when everyone you know is taking tropical sunny vacations while you’re stuck in the dark so much that you’re turning into a vampire. Mel is in the Dominican Republic with her BFF Shell. Robb just took off for the Virgin Islands. Tasha just returned from a romantic Hawaiian vacation, and Bree is in Mexico with her family. I’m in the hole on my allotted vacation days at work, so the only heat I’m going to feel for awhile is the kind that comes from a hot oven.

Over the weekend, to beat the pre winter blues after a particularly stormy couple of days, Evan and I needed a little taste of Mexico. We love travelling together, and our most recent trip—last spring—was to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Our Cabo Trip in April '09 (and the best shrimp tacos ever)

That trip and a college graduation trip to Puerto Vallarta sealed the deal for me and Mexican food. I’ve always loved Americanized “Mexican” food, but after going to Mexico twice and tasting the real flavors of the Mexico, I crave authentic Mexican cuisine. To satisfy my cravings for Mexican flavors and that hot Mexican sun, Evan and I took a vacation to Señor Moose, right here in Ballard.

I knew about Señor Moose from my friend Megan, who claims that their brunch—specifically the chilaquiles—is what she would choose as a ‘last meal.’ With a name like Señor Moose, you would expect nothing close to authentic Mexican ambiance and food, but this little hole-in-the-wall really delivers the goods. Right when we walked in, I felt like we had stepped off the plane. Warm and bustling inside, crowded but open, with bright painted walls and a randomly placed piñata, Señor Moose looked just like many of the restaurants I loved in Mexico.

And how was the food? I think the owners’ description sums it up: “Our love for Mexican food began nearly 30 years ago. As we traveled deeper into Mexico, we quickly discovered it’s heart. The food.” Señor Moose serves up “comida tipica,” the cooking found in central plateau Mexico’s fondas and backroom kitchens. We started out with cold bottles of Pacifico and Sol, and hot, delicious homemade tortilla chips with five unique salsas and marinated smoky chipotle peppers. I ordered the Manchamanteles—a Oaxacan dish with big, tender chunks of pork cooked in a bold, sweet, and spicy mole of plantains, pineapple, aromatic spices, and chile guajillo, served with mashed sweet potatoes, black beans, and corn tortillas.

The pork was flavorful and amazingly tender—instantly transporting me to nights filled with tequila-laden fiestas, breezy palm trees, and walks on the sandy shores of Mexico. The mashed sweet potatoes were nothing to write home about, but added a creamy, mellow, sweet contrast to the spicy dish. Evan got the Oaxacan dish Alambres—shredded beef, chorizo, bacon, green bell pepper, and poblano chile grilled together, topped with cheese, and served with refried beans. He shoveled it in so fast he didn’t even have time to reach for the warm tortillas. Scrambled with an egg, I think Evan’s dish would have made an awesome breakfast burrito!

Our plates were huge (leftovers!), the meal was delicious, the staff was outgoing and friendly, and we only had to travel a few blocks for a sunny Mexican vacation.

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