Wine with Mexican Food? Es mejor que lo creas! (you better believe it!)

September 28, 2017 Uncategorized  No comments

There used to be a Mexican Restaurant in East Los Angeles that was legendary – La Seranata de Garibaldi – which was to me, and many others, a revolutionary discovery of what we deemed Mexican food. They featured fresh grilled fish and seafood, and a number of unbelievably flavorful sauces that equaled the depth of flavors that one could experience at any restaurant in the city. For those who defined Mexican food as a Number 2 Combination at El Coyote, this would forever change their perception, as it did mine.

The restaurant later opened 2 locations on the Westside – one on Pico Blvd., near the Westside Pavillion, and one on 4th Street in Santa Monica near Santa Monica Place, that were so welcomed that they were booked up for weeks in advance.  Sure – it was initially somewhat of a hassle to drive to the Boyle Heights location – especially before the days of smartphones and apps like Google Maps or Waze to verbally guide us safely from our driveway to their parking lot – which was always full of cars more expensive than mine.  And you can imagine how good the food must have been to get Westsiders or Valley dwellers to make the trek to the East. Before Uber.

I missed seeing the Mariachi band members in their stage outfits walking on the sidewalks after a gig, but staying off the 10 freeway at night was worth it to stay to the local versions.

Sadly, the Boyle Heights and Santa Monica locations have recently closed, leaving only the West Los Angeles spot. And since this was the restaurant that spoiled me regarding Mexican food, the search began for a new discovery. Enter Mercado on 4th Street (I believe in the exact location of the old La Seranata), which opened a number of years ago (they have a newer restaurant in Brentwood called Maradentro) and carries the torch on the La Seranata tradition of superbly flavorful and fresh Mexican food in Los Angeles.

From the appetizers to main courses, the food here was cabeza-blowing. Not only the best chips and guacamole (hass avocado, serranos, cilantro, red onions, Yxta salsa brava, and spicy pepitas) that I’ve ever had, but the main courses and sauces were astounding and bursting with freshness and flavor. And the Choriqueso (melted cotija, parmesan, oaxaca cheese, white wine, house chorizo, poblanos, mushrooms) was great with the fresh chips too.

Chicken Mole' Enchiladas

Chicken Mole’ Enchiladas

Our table had the Chicken Mole’ Enchiladas which were excellent – the Mole’ had a nice kick but wasn’t painfully hot to cover up the chocolate, nut, and raisin flavors. And the grilled corn (which the wine paired with perfectly) was a nice change from the usual and boring beans.

scallops!

scallops!

We also had the seared Scallops with a Chipotle sauce (jumbo wild scallops encrusted with pepitas, chipotle-peppercorn sauce, chayote with calabacitas) which is a dish I’ve been thinking about for weeks. La Seranata used to have a Shrimp Burrito with a Chipotle Cream sauce that I’ve been missing – and this has got to be my new stand in. And, the Carne Asada (marinated skirt steak) was tender and juicy, with a subtle rub that I’ll bet you can’t get at any other steakhouse in town.

emperatriz_garnacha

A challenge I wanted to meet was having a great wine with Mexican food, instead of the default beer or Margarita. And thankfully, with advice from Henry here at Los Angeles Wine Co., I brought a great wine (the 2014 Finca la Emperatriz Garnacha Cepas Viejas) that went great with everything. A medium body, slightly dry Rioja (yes, of course they must know how to pair wines with spicy foods in Spain) is absolutely a wine I’ll bring here again. It didn’t overpower the Scallops as would a big Cab or Bordeaux, yet played very well with the steak and the big charred scallion. I glanced around the other tables, and only saw a few with wine. Why is Mexican food with wine not more common? Hopefully someone will imitate our table, and I’ll consider myself an influencer.

Mercado 3

You must try what might be the best Flan I’ve ever enjoyed, and the sensationally rich, moist and subtle Tres Leches Cake, topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and berries.

Stop by Mercado, and bring a great Rioja from LA Wine. Co. – you’ll be glad you did.

And don’t forget, mention “Nickel & Dime” in the notes upon checkout for a discount flat shipping rate of $25.00 to the lower 48.

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