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Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Oaxacan Restaurant Opens near Ensenada

by Steve Dryden

Viento, the oceanside condominium project in El Sauzal is the location for one of the newest restaurants in the Ensenada area. This cozy, ocean view culinary operation is located about seven miles north of town and three miles south of the last toll station in San Miguel on scenic Highway One. The restaurant owners, Laura Soledad Lopez Mendieta and her husband Salvador Moises Fuentes Roldan are from Oaxaca with a goal of introducing their Oaxacan provincial lifestyle, traditions, old customs and family cooking styles at their new seaside food venue.

According to Laura, "We'll focus on an ever-changing menu of Oaxacan cuisine, with our main goal of offering fine food, using the best products shipped directly from Oaxaca. We feature local seafood dishes based on a fusion between Baja California Norte and Oaxaca without compromising either." Their menu offers artisan cuisine that includes: cuichiles stuffed with quesillo (cheese) in tomatillo sauce, chile rellenos stuffed with minilla and chapulines (toasted grasshoppers), empanadas de amarillo (turnover filled with yellow sauce), salsita de gusanos, totopos or oven toasted corn chips, quesillo (string cheese), and chorizo bien frito or fried spicy sausage.

Black mole or Mole Negro is the king of mole in Oaxaca, still prepared in artisan style, smoky and roasted, while Puebla mole is more bitter and commercial. Mole Negro, the most famous of many moles is usually made with turkey. Laura adds, "The flavors of Oaxaca are magical and unique because we use hierba santa with a subtle aroma and with a strong flavors in most of our local dishes." Moles are very time consuming, labor intensive and require many ingredients—with as many as 30 ingredients and 10 different varieties of chiles.

Although Oaxaca is famous their mole, there are many other culinary wonders to offer the world. Cocido is an amazing stew usually made with beef, pork, chicken, garbanzos, string beans, chayote, squash, cabbage, carrots, "guineo" bananas, often seasoned with cilantro and hierbabuena herb, accompanied by rice and chili sauce. Tortillas clayudas are large, thick, leathery tortillas and totopos are very large, perforated, toasted tortillas. Dessert items include alegr’a which is toasted, popped and sweetened amaranth seeds. Capirotada is a popular dish, especially during Lent, and is a white-bread pudding with various combinations of ingredients, such as cheese, tomato, peanuts, raisins, and biznaga cactus, all covered with syrup. Of course, you must experience nieves (homemade ice creams) like vanilla, rose petal and burnt milk with prickly pear.

For wine and food lovers, one amenity here is that the restaurant can access vino from the wine cellar at Viento. They have one of the biggest selections of Baja California wines at value pricing. In addition, they have a nice selection of national beers, mescal and organic Oaxacan coffee. A full liquor bar will come this summer, just in time to enjoy cocktails on their scenic oceanfront deck overlooking Todos Santos Islands and Ensenada Bay. They're open Wed–Sat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sundays open for breakfast and lunch.