The latest additions to Frontera’s latest menu are all about Oaxacan flavors. And yes, that means the complex, mouthwatering moles that characterize the Mexico’s South Central region. More on those in a bit.
But Oaxaca flavor also means greens—tomatillo, serrano chile, nopales, knob onions—and the tantalizing smoky goodness derived from open-air grilling.
Consider our green guacamole, made with grill-charred serrano, salt-cured nopales, roasted tomatillos and smoked queso fresco. Or the pork fundido, a super-satisfying dish of melted Otter Creek cheddar, grilled pork cecina, slab bacon, smoky Oaxacan pasilla salsa and grilled green onions.
“To me, that encompasses all of the flavors of Oaxaca,” said Frontera’s Chef de Cuisine Richard James.
And because we’re all about seasonality, the menu features an outstanding gazpacho made from local, late summer tomatoes, as well as two street-snack favorites: grill-roasted corn and sweet corn esquites.
Back to those moles. You’d be forgiven for thinking mole is some sort of savory chocolate sauce, but in fact chocolate only factors into three of the seven moles of Oaxaca, and even in those the chocolate shouldn’t really overwhelm the flavor profile.
Why? Because when made properly, no single ingredient should outshine the others. Moles are, by definition, a wonderful blend of ingredients — herbs, spices, fruit, chiles, bread, almonds, seeds, raisins and garlic among them.
On this menu, you’ll find most of the traditional Oaxacan moles, including the mole manchamantales—which balances the earthiness of dark chile the sweetness of caramelized pineapples and nuttiness of toasted almonds—and mole chichilo, which James says is mole negro’s “completely savory sister.
“The ingredient list for black mole overlaps with chichilo, but where black mole turns and goes into a sweet style, mole chichilo stays completely savory. It’s the only mole that’s always garnished with a pickled green chile called chile de agua, which is very light green, with a kind of lemony acidity to it and it’s pretty hot,” he said.
And the grilled Gunthorp Farms duck in mole coloradito (that’s one with Mexican chocolate, ancho, tomato, sesame and cinnamon) is a revelation of flavors. It’s served with seared fennel with sesame, red chile rice and chocolate-chile tostadas. Amazing.
If you can’t tell, we’re pretty proud of our kitchen’s efforts to create seductive flavors.
Look, we totally think you should visit Oaxaca for yourself, but a reservation at Frontera is the next best thing.