“Yes, we would like to start with the guacamole, BUT, we want it with no cheese and I won’t eat it if there’s onion in it”
A couple of nights ago while at dinner at one of my favorite little inexpensive joints down the street. A place I go when I am seeking comfort or longing to soothe my soul. I pull the heavy door open and my chest expands as the smell of freshly made chips fill my nose, the dimly lit entryway awash in colorful tiles and splashy woven fabrics in vibrant shades of red and green line the walls. Mariachi music just this side of too loud but as I make my way to the hostess there is but one sound I can make out, the “slap-slap-slap” of masa dough as it is flattened and stretched between the tiny palms of the Mexican woman that makes her living cranking out disk after disk of thick and chewy corn tortillas, the ones that will be brought to my table still warm and puffy from the griddle. Yeah, my happy place.
I rarely pay much attention to anything when I’m at La Choza, those pillow-like tortillas my only focus as I smear their tender flesh with butter, a shake of salt, sometimes a thin puddle of green salsa, the almost sinful feeling as my teeth sink in and mouth fills with steam that is scented with sweet corn, animal fat and succulent salsa verde. One of my most savored moments, one that I crave and one that fills me with nostalgia unlike any other. So for me to be pulled away from that, yeah it had to be something truly noteworthy. Ordering guacamole, without cheese, (who the fuck puts cheese on guacamole?) and then tossing out a comment like, “I won’t eat it if it has”? With my folded over and dressed tortilla just inches from my aching soul and open mouth I found myself cocking my head and listening as the poor server explained that there was no cheese in their guacamole and that they made it to order so they could leave the onion out. Then began a series, a barrage actually, of questions that had me wishing I could hug that poor server as he patiently answered, “Do you guys use lean beef?” and, “What kind of salad comes free with my meal? I mean is it just lettuce or is there anything else on it like cheese or chilies or something, because I don’t like chilies” thickly accented server doing his best to work for the massive tip that comes from the $12 plates they serve. “Okay, so I guess we will start with the guacamole and I’ll have the chicken enchiladas with no cheese and no beans” the painfully annoying gentleman announced, in a tone that made very clear he felt he was doing the place a favor by being there and all I could think was, “Why the fuck are you here?!”
You don’t like cheese, won’t eat onion and shun chilies, want lean meat and hate beans, what about that combination of things made you think, “I want to go to that cheap Mexican spot”??! I swear, had he asked for something without cilantro I might have been forced to rip his big dumb head off. Dipshit. I was retelling the story to Jeremy later that evening, my eyes bugging out of my head as I ranted about the cheese-less, clueless, enchilada eater and my spinning head flashed on a moment in Europe seven years ago, one where I was face to face, across the table even, from an asshole just like that one.
“Sam, I think we need to send you on this trip” Randy standing in front of me, handing me an invitation for an all-expense paid 10 day trip to France and Spain, one being hosted by one of those big trade commission dealies that I tend to crinkle my nose at, but as my eyes skimmed the list of Rhone and Alsatian producers we would be visiting, most of which cranking out pretty boring and lackluster wines, my eyes hit one spot that made me look up at Randy and say, “Yeah, I think I can do that” with a grin spread from one side of my pudgy face to the other and my tummy doing cartwheels with excitement….we were being taken to Cadiz to taste, learn about and drink wines that had just started to blip on my radar, Sherry.
Now another downside to those big sponsored trips, aside from the boring wines, (as the wineries in fact pay for all of this so the ones that can afford to sponsor are often ones that produce large amounts on meh stuff) are some of the morons that will be joining you. That particular trip, packed with them! Thankfully there was face I knew when I stepped off the plane in Madrid, and old sales rep of mine that was now running the wine department for a French store at the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market. A wonderfully sweet and handsome Frenchman that I always got along well with so when we saw each other, well that was it, we were fused at the hip from that moment on…well after downing like eight Pastis in the Madrid airport while waiting for the flight to Cadiz that is.
The fact that we were inseparable was the first issue I had with one particular idiot on the trip, one that brought five large suitcases for a ten day trip, changed her clothes four times a day and wanted nothing more than to hop in the sack with my little French buddy, therefore a raving bitch to me of course, all that crap was easy to blow off but it was while sitting at a beautifully set luncheon table, at the bodega of Lustau which is one of my all-time most adored producers, being served a six course lunch that started with paper thin slices of sweet ham that melted in your mouth when you took sips of cool Manzanilla, segued into fried bits of chorizo scented potatoes served with Palo Cortado, softball sized mounds of foie gras set before me and that is when I heard, “Um, do you have any Pepsi? I can’t drink this shit anymore!” as the twat from Florida pulls out a small pillow from one of her giant bags, pushes her plates and glasses aside and lays her hollow fucking head on the table! I was just sitting there, mouth still vibrating from the glorious complexity, diversity and regality of the food and wine, my limbs feeling slightly weak from seduction, mind reeling with the possibilities, the promises of more and I was yanked away by some vacuous and ungrateful fuckwit….lost it and found myself snarling through fiercely clinched teeth, “What the fuck are you doing here?!!” while pounding my hand on the table, a move that not only scared the bitch right out of her but ended up getting me a round of applause later that night when the real wine people gathered in the lobby of our hotel o sip on way too much, but heavenly sumptuous Spanish Brandy. While it was nice to know that I was not alone in my yearning to pound her stupid head in, that visit to Lustau was ruined for me and this is something that pains me still, but….
Tonight, despite the fact that I worked two evening classes last week, had only one day off and have another Friday night class next week, I begged to be scheduled to work our evening class today. Sounds kinda crazy I know but tonight, tonight I will be feeling the pull of Serrano ham, the burst of saline and brine from anchovy stuffed olives, the shatter of Marcona almonds as they break against my teeth, the slight sting of salty sheep’s milk blue cheese, the fatty spice of charred sausages and will be washing it all down with glass after glass of one of the least understood but most powerfully seductive wines, ever…
Got me a date with some Sherry this evening and I am counting the seconds.