The art of Rocio Camacho at Moles La Tia
I first read about Moles La Tia here by a poster who steered me to Javier's blog, a Pleasure Palate member known as the Teenage Glutster.Then Abby went down with her Pleasure Palate group and did an excellent right up, which I also kept in my head.When Javier mentioned mancha manteles(table-cloth stainer) was served at La Tia,one of the 7 sacred moles of Oaxaca and of the Mixteca region. I had to come ASAP and tonight I got my chance.Thanks Javier and Abby for the find and the reporting.
I brought a group out tonight for a taste of La Tia.Rocio Camacho is Mixteca, a native group that ruled areas of Puebla, Guerrero, and the highlands of Oaxaca.A fierce and independent people that resisted the Mexica ruled Aztec empire, and later held off the Spaniards until they got help to brutally put down the Mixtecas.These proud and artful people recently were behind the teacher uprising in Oaxaca and have given us Lila Downs.True to her Mixteca blood, Rocio is independent, artistic, soulful, and deeply rooted in her heritage.
Above all, Rocio is dedicated to cooking with real ingredients and evokes profound flavor from all she touches.Mixteca is about chiles and grains, says Rocio.She considers mole the first food of Mexico, when the native ingredients and traditions blended with those of the Spanish, realized in a convent in Puebla, the birthplace of mole poblano.
We started with a tasting of the moles available today, she is always changing.
Traditional moles:moles found in different parts of Mexico, but with Rocio's own take.
Mole Principal ingredients
Vela de Novia-white chile, white wine,and pine nuts
Pipian Rojo-pumpkin seed in red chile mole
Pipian Verde-pumpkin seeds in green chile mole
Espina de Rosa-beet, red wine, and jamaica
The aguas frescas of the day were pepino(cucumber) and horchata(rice), both all natural and among the best I've had either side or the border.Rocio's flavor shines in every aspect of her food from agua fresca to moles.A pure of chayote was the starter, a soup with chayote flavors so profound and perfectly seasoned.I love the chayote and have had it many ways, but this is an all time best.Each mole we tasted was inventive and unique in flavoring, I adored them all, but mancha manteles was on the mind.
I ordered a nopales salad with grilled panela to start, the India Paxcana, a cool cactus salad with a light vinagrete, and the elegant panela to make the perfect salad.Rocio left a little of the natural texture of the nopal to give it extra sheen and a pulque like sensation in texture.Then, the mancha manteles, imported chihuasqle chiles from Oaxaca, with smoky, dense flavors I've not encountered in these parts, served with rice , pineapple, and plantain, as tradition beseeches.This dish is off the charts.Additionally, a friend ordered the mole poblano, Rocio's nod to the original mole of Mexico.
The presentation was beautiful, everyone loved this place, and Rocio has the warmth and passion to match her incredible gift.On another note, oh, she just makes the best corn tortillas in town, from scratch.I haven't seen a bright yellow corn tortilla ever in LA, only when I go to Mexico.You can eat these things by themselves, the only reason you don't is because the food is too good.These tortillas are so good that if I brought them to my Mexican grandmother she'd slap me.
The dessert! Flan infused with ancho chile, just tingles the tongue with the subtle flavor of ancho chile beneath the delicious sweetness of a crafted flan.The flan de cafe was excellent, too.
Rocio told me that she is making a special mole for Dia de Los Muertos, and in two weeks, a mole made with huitlacoche!!!!! I will be back for this.I will be back for the mancha manteles, the tortillas, the sabor mixteca, and the skill and magic of Rocio Camacho.This is the best Oaxacan restaurant in LA, this is alta cocina, this is your mole dreams come true.The art of Oaxacan and Mixteca cuisine has a champion in Rocio, and if the other Oaxacan chefs in LA come by for a visit they will either retreat in shame, or be inspired to raise their standards.
The art of Rocio
India Paxcana(nopales with panela cheese)
corn tortillas made from scratch
Pistachio mole with salmon
Espina rosa mole with portabello mushroom on a bed of eggplant
Flan with Ancho Chile
Moles La Tia
4619 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90022
Tel. 323 263-7tia(842)
Fax. 323 263-5308
Open from 8:00am to 8:30pm
I tried Moles La Tia out yesterday, taking some out of town family members who are not familiar with Oaxacan food. I had to fend off one relative who just wanted a bean and cheese burrito and repeatedly tried to answer the question, "What is mole?" A simple request to the waiter and he brought samples of six moles (white-pine nut; green-pistachio; passion fruit; sesame... I should have been taking notes) along with a basket of warm, thick, corn tortillas. The flavors were complex and included spicy, smokey, sweet and more. All were outstanding. The main course selections were artfully paired with the restaurant's preferred mole (but my burrito loving relative ordered a custom dish-chicken breasts, one with white mole, the other with green). The menu demands that I make some return trips to sample more flavor pairings.
We went to La Tia for lunch Dec. 26 and a black ancestral mole was listed on the menu with quail, but quail wasn't in the kitchen that day. We had the mole with pork loin medallions, and it was relevatory. For a substitution, the pork did pretty well because its denseness required thorough mastication, which brought out the opaque, complex, chewy mole. It had a hint of bitterness that gave it depth, and which lesser black moles usually lack.
Finally visited this place for lunch today after reading how fantastic it is all over the net. I was skeptical because I'd heard very similar things about Babita, which to my Mexican-American family was completely underwhelming, pretentious (as is its owner - you have to be a gabacho to be treated well by him) and overpriced.
Fortunately, all the hype about Moles La Tia is completely justified. My mother came with me and while she was put off by the "strange" elements in the food (she's much fonder of the straightforward workingman's food of its next door neighbor Liliana's), I loved everything - from the almost Asian flavored sopa de hongos (made with pasillas and an herb I've yet to identify) to my mom's enchiladas adobadas to my own enfrijoladas served with a perfectly grilled boneless citrus-marinated chicken breast and probably the best restaurant guacamole I've ever eaten in Los Angeles. The flavors were intriguing, well-balanced and unusual enough that I'm dying to go back and eat my way through the menu (without mom, of course).
The most unusual thing we ate there, though, was dessert - a totally unexpected chilled rice pudding laced with fresh coconut, topped with spiced tamarind paste and surrounded by a sweet tomatillo sauce (not as unusual as you might think, as the tomatillo is related to the gooseberry). The pudding had a rich, cheesecake-like texture and flavor which was offset perfectly by both sauces (needless to say, my mom didn't like it that much although she did eat her share - I thought it was brilliant, but then again I'm a pastry chef).
Chef Rocio's talent is amazing, and I'm just sorry I spent so much time just looking in the window and wondering what the heck the place was all about. Now I know - and what a find it is.
Herm... I wonder how long ago... we went at the begining of the year and the moles were 'meh...' But please let us know where she lands and hopefully she can stretch her wings further than just moles... her Chayote Soup was amazing and I've been trying to replicate it to no avail... dang...
Dommy, he said she's been gone for several months. Did you mean you were there at the beginning of 2009 or a couple of days ago? I'd be interested to know exactly when Rocio Camacho left Moles La Tia. I went twice in the first half of 2009 and, as I've reported previously, didn't care for it -- the cooking techniques, the non-delicious flavors ... everything except that soup, the attractive dining room, and the charming albeit amateurish service. After the second visit I wondered if mole had lost its mojo over me, so the next night I stopped by one of my favorite places, La Casita Mexicana (Camacho's previous billet, from what I understood), and had their tres moles plate. It was fabulous.
No, she would have been there then, at the beginning of 2009.
I never had anything but quality meals with Rocio in the kitchen, and don't recall anything dry.We'l see what happens if she pops up somewhere else and gets to do her thing, and less mole madness. Although, it was cool to have a place like that. I'd love to see her go deep into the Mixteca cuisine.