Monday, July 11, 2011

Mole at El Bajio

Las Salsas y Limon.

Ever since my very first visit to El Bajio nearly four years ago, I've been kind of obsessed. I was so moved by her cuisine that when Carmen Titita Ramirez came to Washington, D.C., I had to go and listen to her speak.

The woman is a tour de force of Mexican cuisine. According the interviews I've read, she looks upon nouvelle cuisine as rubbish, preferring to honor and perpetuate tradition rather than fanciful efforts to make simple items like tacos "elevated" - as though something so delicious and sublime needs elevation. The next year, I would trap my friends into going. And then it would seem that no trip to Mexico City would be complete without a visit.

Enchiladas de Pollo con Mole hecho en casa.

Usually, I have something like the chilaquiles or the carnitas. This time I was in the mood for something different: mole. But I didn't want a large piece of chicken so the enchilada would have to do.

El Bajio has several locations around Mexico City and one might think that with scale comes some level of blandness, not so with El Bajio and its obsessive chef/owner. The mole, quite simply, was a revelation. Near perfection. With some moles, I'm inclined to add salt to boost the flavor. Not so here. The flavors pronounced yet smooth. A complete harmony and symphony. Nothing too high, nothing diminished. It was one of the very few times in life that a dish actually spoke to me.

That totopo and frijoles are lurking about.

When it comes to cuisine like this, you want to hoard it hungrily, greedily, selfishly. You want to covet it like The Lord of the Rings. It is sublime. It is the incarnation of why Carmen Ramirez scoffs at the new cuisine. When tradition is carried forward in this manner, you don't need anything else.

Considering my dining companions, I fight the urge to scarf this mole down at high speed. I want to chew and slurp and dabble and mop up the sauce. I want to cry at its beauty. Instead, I savor in silence. I remain calm and stoic lest Senora think that I'm just a crazy fool.

Can't get enough.

As our meal ends and I'm traveling along the darkened streets of the big city, I feel content in the world. But just for a moment.

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