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Dec 30, 2012 08:02 PM

Casa del Mole and Rufina’s Kitchen in Healdsburg

This little Mexican grocery store in the middle of town changed hands again earlier this year, and is now owned by the Diaz family who operate Agave Restaurant.

The sign in front says Mercado and Carniceria, but like its predecessors, Los Mares, Azteca and La Luna, it has a taqueria and seating next to the meat counter. I’ve had very good and inexpensive homestyle food here over the years, as well as buying Mexican food stuffs.

This weekend I finally had a little time to check it out the newest incarnation. Everything’s been freshened up with more natural lighting and open displays, as well as a second entrance. Two overhead menu boards identify the food service as Rufina’s Kitchen.

Christmas ponche was still available, $1.25 per cup. I inquired about tamales, and the counter lady said “tamales en hoja de platano”. She did not speak much English but I was able to ascertain that the tamales steamed in banana leaves were Oaxacan style and filled with chicken in mole negro. I ordered one to eat-in, paid $3.22 at the counter, and soon she brought some complimentary chips and salsa and this plate to my table.

The tamal was about the size of a cell phone, smaller than double-wide banana leaf tamales other restaurants serve. A dab of salsa fresca, crema agria, and guacamole decorated the white porcelain plate. The masa was very slick and deeply corn-tasting, a little dry around one end. Just a thin layer of masa over the filling made this somewhat meat-heavy but that’s not a complaint. I would have liked just a bit more black mole over the top to moisten but used the condiments instead. The mole is Octavio Diaz’s mother’s recipe, but it tasted less sweet to me than when I tried it at Agave. At $1.75, the price/quality ratio can’t be beat.

The mole is available for purchase to cook at home.

The ponche was lovely, just barely sweetened with natural juices and piloncillo, and fragrant with sweet mulling spices. Loaded with pineapple, apples, and tejocote, the warm beverage provided a lot of cheer on a cold day.

More about tejocote

While I didn’t have enough time to check out the store more carefully, the produce section has more than doubled and includes some organic items. This has been my spot to buy high quality pepitas and the bulk packs are still available. A jar of dried avocado leaves sits on the butcher counter.

I’ll be on the lookout for more Oaxacan goods next time I drop in, such as these tlayudas available in two sizes.

Casa del Mole
434 Center St
(707) 433-4138

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  1. Saturday I was back to get some tamales for a posada dinner. The tamales with black mole in banana leaves are $3.50 now and the standard double-wide leaf size. Still excellent. And I also bought uchepos, the Michoacan style sweet corn tamales, and these were enjoyed by my guests too accompanied with crema and salsa verde. I had a nice cup of ponche while I was waiting for my order. Champurado is available as well.

      1. re: Candice

        Thanks for the update on the tejocote scene. The ones I saw this season were mostly in pretty poor shape . . . wrinkled and withered, overripe deep orange color. Instead of making ponche, I made rompope for the first time, spiked it heavily, and served it warm.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thank you, Melanie and Candice, for these updates.

          Sure makes me want to try ponche navideño -- as well as the other Diaz family edible delights described above.

          I've liked Agave but clearly need to check out Casa del Mole and Rufina’s Kitchen when next in H'burg.

          1. re: karendor

            Ponche navideño is Christmas punch and served during the Advent period. So you might have missed it for the year.

      2. This week I picked up a torta milanesa to go. Rung up on ordering, the $10 tab surprised me. But it was worth it. The pounded beef cutlet was fried to order, pan telera carefully toasted and spread with dead ripe avocado, and the addition of carrots en escabeche was a nice touch.

        I also got a guayaba agua fresca, $3. The counter man pointed out that it was made with fresh guavas. Delicious, and I also appreciated that the hard seeds were strained out.

        1. Any updates? Driving by yesterday I noticed a blackboard outside with menu specials posted, but I didn't have time to stop and check it out.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            We stopped in a few weeks ago. K most always goes for the mole dishes, this time swapped out the pollo for camarones. I noticed one of the meats listed that I didn't recognize and asked about it but couldn't understand all of the explanation, except that I could try it in a taco if I wished, which I did.

            It was taken out of the meat case and looked similar to dismiel (sp?) without the seasoning on it, think I also had an al pastor and cabeza taco. Everything was excellent including the spicy salsa and chips.

            Really nice folks behind the food counter and the market portion as well. It's a must stop for us when in town.

            1. re: PolarBear

              Ha! You thought you could sneak into town without leaving a report. Thank you. :)

              Hmm, something that looked like carne diesmillo. Maybe arrachera? It's cooked to order? Guess that's one advantage of being located in a carniceria.

          2. Here's what the specials board posted outside looked like today. It wasn't meal time, so I did not go in.