Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Even the name of the restaurant sounds like something a babbling baby would say to express hunger. Mo-Mooooooo- Choooos, Mommm-mommm-nomm! So, when my sister-in-law, Cris, was describing some of the food at Momocho [smoked trout guacamole, please!], I was finding new space in my stomach despite the previous day's Thanksgiving gluttony.

 The Ohio City restaurant, featuring "Mod Mex" cuisine, is nestled in a cozy neightborhood with quaint homes and narrow alleys. Once inside, The restaurant was very dark, very crowded, and somewhat intimidating because of its lucha libre and Dia de los Muertes themed decor, and its hip, slightly snobby wait staff. But that only made me feel more giddy... Date night! No kids! Restaurant featured on Food Network!
While our husbands ordered the first off beat beverages they found (cervezas especial michelada style with ice, lime, salt, worcestershire and hot sauce), Cris and I pored over the paper menu, squinting in the dark at the extensive guacamole list and scribbling tick marks in the margins of the main dish and appetizer sections.

We finally settled on:

Guacamole with smoked trout, bacon and chile poblano. I was thinking about it later, and the reason this works so well is because it's a little bit like a revved up California roll, minus seaweed, crabstick, rice and tobiko. OK, it's nothing like sushi, but the avocado and uncooked fish textures and flavors work so well in Japanese cuisine, that I'm not surprised that they dance together in this rich dip.

Just in case you're interested in the other varieties that we didn't try, I brought home the menu from the night. As avocados are on sale this week at Kroger, I think I will have to try to make some of these at home:
  • goat cheese, tomato, chile pblano
  • jicama, pineapple, chile habanero and mint
  • garlic confit, blue cheese, chile verde
  • honey crisp apple, mango, chile serrano and thai basil
  • pickled corn, crab, chile chipotle

Seared Sea Scallops with cauliflower and hominy frita, jalapeno creamed corn. This was my favorite dish, aside from the trout guacamole. The flavors were light, creamy and sweet, so they didn't overpower the delicate flavor of the scallops, which were just slightly undercooked in the center, but still pretty good :-) The ball in the middle is kind of like a cauliflower hush puppy. It would have been better if there was more cauliflower than hominy.

Butternut squash and goat cheese empanadas with oaxacan red chile and chocolate mole.
This was Jack's favorite dish of the night. I also liked it, but it was almost a dessert with all the sweetness and richness. As far as I'm concerned, anything with goat cheese is good.

Smoked gouda tamale dumplings. Cris found these to be a little bit dry, but I thought they were pretty well balanced when forked with a bittersweet heap of the crisp onion and corn saute with which it was served.

 Our server recommended the sofrito green beans, adding that they were very popular. But these were actually my least favorite dish of the night. If you've been reading me for any length of time, you probably know I generally prefer vegetables to the other food groups. In my not so humble opinion, a good green bean should be flash fried just enough to be bright green, but still crisp enough to bite through the strings, OR they should be slow cooked down to a buttery-melt-in-my-mouth slurp of a legume, preferrably laced with pork fat. I would have expected the crunchy end of the cooking spectrum for this dish, which was heavily seasoned with the sofrito. (I'm guessing the mix included chili, cilantro, onion, garlic and maybe tamarind or something to give it bite.) Instead, the beans were in that no-go doneness zone in the middle. They were too cooked to maintain their crispness, and not done enough to eliminate the stringy toughness. In addition, I felt that the flavor was too sour and too bitter, when I was craving savory, zesty and sweet. OK. That's enough philosphizing about green beans! On to the wild boar....

No joke, we orderd chancho, adobo braised wild boar taquitos with pickled jalapeno and mustard crema. After all, the guys needed something to go with their worcestershire beers, and this was one of the more awe-inspiring meats on the menu.

(As a side note, please excuse the horrible quality of my photos from the night. The room was exceedingly dim and I didn't want to draw attention to myself by flashing the food every 60 seconds.)

I'm not a fan of tough meat, or even red meat in general. And this was overtly both very red and tough meat. However, a little dollop of boar shreds on a mini corn tortilla with copious amounts of the pickled jalapeno and mustard crema was pretty good. And if I wasn't so stuffed that I felt every bite was bound to come out my ears, I might have liked it more.

Ironically, neither Jack nor Joe really liked this dish, despite Cris and my chidings that they didn't add enough of the salsa and crema. If I were to get a do-over on ordering, I would have thought less about what others might like and ordered what I knew I'd like: the picadillo, ground lamb shoulder with mint, walnuts, red chile and chocolate mole, which sounds like a pretty amazing little taco. Or, the camarones, achiote shrimp al postor style with pineapple and jicama salsa... or pato, slow cooked duck confit with chile anco and pomegranate barbacoa. Or...
There's always next time.
Momocho Mod Mex on Urbanspoon

Potluck Thanksgiving

I've mentioned before that Thanksgiving meals when I was growing up were usually this weird combination of traditional and Chinese and sometimes fried chicken or lasagna. Since I've been married, we usually head to Joe's parents for the big meal. This year, my mother-in-law decided that everyone could just bring what they wanted. So there were Chinese dumplings (made by my Italian Auntie), Nicaraguan floutas-- akin to taquitos but way better-- made by my Canadian sister-in-law and garlicky salad made by me. There was also plenty of traditional food like baked sweet potatoes, green beans, ham, a free-range turkey and stuffing.

I really like the ratio of greenery to other things on my plate.

And afterwards, I felt good enough to go on a nippy walk around the West Side neighborhood where the Parrinos live with Cris and Amy.

That made us hungry for dessert. Amy concocted one with Trader Joe's puff pastry, fig butter, pistachios, almonds, dark chocolate and Brie. I was a little concerned that there might be too many things going on in these pain au chocolats, but the flavors melded wonderfully!