I love being invited to someone's mother's house for dinner. You know you will be lovingly and well-fed, cared for like you are family.
Angela's Cafe in East Boston, feels almost like that (but for the bill...)
First of all, you can see the kitchen and Angela herself. There she is, made-up and dressed as if she were on her way out to dinner somewhere herself, saw you coming and threw an apron on to whip up your dinner.
Throughout our meal I was mesmerized watching her pat tortillas out rhythmically slapping them gently from hand to hand. It's a motion I'm certain she could do in her sleep. Other times, I saw her carefully pinching the edges of a another tortilla for what I later learned are gorditas. And speaking of gordita, it means fat or chubby in Spanish, but in a much more endearing way than it comes across in English. I was slightly more gordita after dinner at Angela's than I was when I entered. And also happier.
I went with Doc and our friend Linda and we relied somewhat on our GPS guide to find it. It helps to know that Angela's is really a corner spot in a residential neighborhood. We learned it started as a breakfast joint. One or two Mexican dishes were served to friends or family and little by little the locals asked about trying this or that. I'm glad they asked.
On this, our first visit, we were eager to try as many things as we could. For many of us, reading Frank Bruni's recent column about the failure of communism as writ in the behaviors of dining companions, (see Critic's Notebook: What they brought to the table), was reminiscent of bad dates. Surely someone who refused to share tastes or choose their meal in a coordinated strategy was going to be no fun away from the table either. It was as good a litmus test as any other for weeding out incompatible dates...but, I digress.
Our strategy was unified and unspoken. The only job was to figure out the top nine or so things we had in agreement and any singular needs of the party. Because I'm such a fan of avocados, that was was a given. The staff pounds your guac to order in an authentic molcajete. It's delicious and a complete mystery to me where they are getting ripe avocadoes in Boston. As it was my first visit, I decided not to ask for family secrets.
- Michelada - definitely a "when in Rome" choice beer, lemonade, hot sauce and salt. Oddly refreshing on a hot night.
- Chips - we found the guacamole so good we probably had three baskets of chips to scrape every morsel out of the molcajete
- Tamale - best one outside of Cali (said the two Californians I was dining with) or Mexico
- Nopales salad - cactus paddles, mildly herbaceous and slightly citrusy, the salad also had small cubes of cheese
- Enchiladas adobo - this sauce makes the "adobo" sauce your chipotles come packed in, seem bland. spicy, with just the right amount of heat
- Angelas Molé Poblano - this is really Angela's signature dish. I asked about the nuts and was told quite a few are used in the making of it, as I know is the case with many molés. After a few bites (I had to try it!) my throat was tingling and later my lips looked slightly plump, like a budget conscious surgery victim...But, let me say this to anyone without the anaphylaxis excuse: try this molé. I actually took Angela's son aside and said "Please tell Angela, I tried the molé. It was so amazing, if I die from it, it will have been worth it.
- Chile rellenos - these were fried flattened out in an unusual way, or at least one that we hadn't seen. They were also delicious with that delicate heat these chiles (Poblanos, I think) have.
- Chocolate bread pudding - might be a better choice for a winter meal, there's also a flan.
As we were settling the check, Doc was on his way to start the car and get the AC going, but he was asked to stay. We had been inquiring about other dishes coming out of the kitchen and I asked what the delicate pinching was I saw Angela doing around something that looked like a tortilla but smaller. It was a gordita. Angela was tickled by our enthusiasm and questions and insisted on offering us a Gordita to try, apologizing for serving it after dessert.
In truth, we were all too full. But if Mamá is offering, how can you say no? Guess who took one for the team and ate the whole thing? It was delicious.
Gorda y Feliz! Muchas Gracias, Angela!
My friends Denise and Laudolino just posted their own veggie enchilada recipe. If you're in the mood for some Mexican food but don't live near East Boston, why not give this a try at home?
- To try some great Mexican Veggie Enchiladas at Home see Chez Us here: Zucchini and Red Pepper Enchiladas with two Salsas.