Click here for Part 1.
Food can be nourishment, and food can be pleasing, and food can be fun. On my visit to New Mexico last month, an evening at Sazon in Santa Fe was a course of curious adventures and a chance to peek around each corner in wonder and delight at what new flavors might come up next. Chef Fernando Olea takes traditional Mexican cuisine and molds it and gives it flourish so as to create a unique effect.
Our adventure began with tiny tortillas and coin-sized circles of four different moles. A good tortilla is already enough to get me excited, though of course in this case it's the mole that's the center of attention. The tasting makes for a conversation piece for the table as everyone shares their favorite of the four. My favorites were the green (as my preference is generally for green) and the orange one, which was made with fruit and white chocolate and reminded me of a sweet empanada. If you order an entree with mole, this is also your chance to be sure that you choose the mole you personally like best.
My beverage was the Sazonrita, which came with a red chile salt rim. For appetizers, we had the Xochimilco, the Oaxaquenos, and the squash blossoms. The latter were a pleasant surprise as they weren't on the regular menu. These were not the first squash blossoms I've had, but they were definitely my favorite. Even with the batter, you could still taste the light squash flavor of the blossoms.
I decided that Sazon would be the best place for the Oaxaquenos, which are baby grasshoppers with olive oil, garlic citrus, and chile de arbol on a corn tortilla with avocado. I've only had crickets in chocolate before (here's the link to that review), so this was going to be a bit different. But again, if you're going to try something that feels a little strange, it's nice to taste them in a place where you know things are prepared well. So yes, it's visibly a grasshopper taco, but the taste is nothing strange. In fact, though, I also didn't find an abundance of layered flavor here. So I preferred the squash blossoms.
The Xochimilco is corn truffle also on tortillas. This was the most beautiful of the three on the plate with a colorful flower to accompany each serving. Because we ordered three appetizers, they were also a chance, like with the mole, to compare everyone's favorite.
My entree was the Berenjena, which is a stuffed eggplant with zucchini, corn, tomato, and gruyere. Though it looks petite in the picture, in person it was sizable. Though an entree is generally the heavier element of a dinner, it worked out nicely for me that the vegetables made for a lighter dish given that it was just one in a series of things that I ate.
Because by this point I had found faith in the cuisine, I decided to have the signature dessert, the Dolce Sinfonia. Avocado ice cream with jalapeño beet puree and piñon nuts, like the chapulines (grasshoppers), sounded adventurous compared with what I normally eat. But goodness was this dessert intriguing. The chef likes to play with hot and cold and with texture and development of flavor, and this dessert showcases that style. The texture of the ice cream is slightly different from typical ice cream; it's fluffier and more substantial somehow while also seeming not as cold. There is initially avocado flavor, and the touch of spice develops in so that each bite is a layer of flavor. Though this isn't a traditionally sweet dessert, the beet adds in a hint of sweetness, as does the decorative sugar piece. As I ate it, I pictured it to be just an intriguing dessert to try, and yet I have found myself craving it since then. It was the perfect finish to the evening.
Sazon's reputation is well-deserved. You will receive not only excellent food but an entire adventure of flavor. The food is the destination and the journey.
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