Traditions both unique and familiar, the season begins… with food at local Edmonds restaurants.
Mary Hernandez, one of the partners at Casa Oaxaca, invited me to come in and participate in Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). Twenty-five years spent in Arizona, I’m familiar with these traditions in our Hispanic community. I was intrigued to see what influence the Oaxacan culture added to celebrations I’d attended in Phoenix.
Hernandez’s family is from San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Mitla is small town located physically — and psychically — in the midst the cosmic energy. Here, according to Mesoamerican lore, the dead go to rest. An arid climate has preserved relics up to 10,000 years old and attracted archaeologists from all over the world. Mary stated that National Geographic crew is in Mitla this year, to film events.
Photos on her phone, texted by Mary’s family members, showed beautiful floral displays amongst acres of altars and grave sites. “The celebration in Mitla is huge because of their location,” she said.
Welcomed into the restaurant, I paused to take in the altar, laden with food and drink for the anticipated hungry visitors — spirits of the departed and the living.
Mary placed before me a plate of moist pan de yema, accompanied by true Mexican hot chocolate. “Dip the bread into the chocolate,” she said.
Next came fresh-prepared tamales slathered in rich molé and steamed in banana leaves — again traditional preparation from Oaxaca, accompanied by creamy, coarsely pureed black beans and extra molé, to intensify the tastes.
A quick note about Casa Oaxaca cuisine — it is true to the region, so tamales, for example, are always wrapped in banana leaves, not the corn husks typical of other Mexican regional cuisine. Super moist interiors result. Sweet masa, filled with chicken, turkey or pork combined with mole coloradito or mole Negro — delicioso.
Day of the Dead is traditionally celebrated in Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2 –- All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively. Celebrants make ofrendas, or offerings, to the spirits of loved ones who have died and leave them at their gravesites or place them on makeshift altars at home.
Día de los Muertos has its roots in Pre-Columbian cultures and beliefs. Before the Spanish arrived in what is today Mexico, the Aztec gave offerings to their deceased ancestors as part of their death rituals. After the Spanish came, the celebration morphed to incorporate Catholic beliefs and practices, creating this deeply religious, syncretic tradition.
Over the last several years, a growing number of people of Mexican and other Latin American descent have celebrated Day of the Dead throughout the U.S. Where and how the tradition is celebrated has changed over time, but the theme and spirit of Día de los Muertos has remained throughout the years.
Thai cuisine lovers alert!
Our friends at Noodle Hut have news to share. There is a new item called Pumpkin Coconut Custard. This delicious dessert sells out so quickly, so Restaurant News visited early in the week to get a taste. Slender sections of pumpkin grace the top of a light textured coconut and taro custard. An order comes in two portions, so share with a friend who loves authentic Thai creations.
While enjoying the creamy rich custard my eyes rested on a large sign…
The owners are going home for the holidays, to Thailand! Owner Sinisone Sinhbandith says, “We planned this trip a while ago, but needed to postpone due to the move to our Five Corners location.” They will visit family and friends in Thailand for a few weeks and be back for the holiday season here in Edmonds.
My hubby, who is addicted to their unique Thai street food recipes, did not take this news well. He began to calculate just how many orders of Tom Kha soup he’d need to “get him through” the weeks during Noodle Hut’s hiatus. Restaurant News has noticed that another Noodle Hut favorite — pineapple fried rice — will “hold” in the fridge for several days and reheat to almost the level of perfection as a freshly prepared serving. The trick is to let it alone and not keep visiting the fridge, chopsticks in hand, for a just a tiny taste.
Besides celebrating the day Noodle Hut reopens — many opportunities to get into the holiday mood:
Here’s what’s cooking at A Chef’s Kitchen. Register at a-chefs-kitchen.com
Monday, Nov. 13, Erin Coopey- Holiday Sides
Monday, Dec. 4, Pranee Halvorsen-Thai Favorites
Tuesday, Dec. 5, Erin Coopey-Fabulous Holiday Appetizers.
PCC offers Holiday Inspiration classes at www.pccmarkets.com/classes/holiday-inspirations/
The series includes classes to de-stress your holiday, if cooking at home this year. The stressful part of holiday meals isn’t the bird… it’s the side dishes! Chef Jennifer will demo brilliant sides for your holiday meals.
Other classes at Puget Community Cooperative include candy making, easy appetizers, and more.
Speaking of the holidays, one is coming up soon that for many involves roasting a rather large bird, turkey to be exact. Many options are available instead of cooking in your kitchen — local restaurants that will serve turkey and all of the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day:
Arnies Restaurant, 300 Admiral Way, open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. with a four-course dinner. They ask folks to call to book tables, online is not an option. 425-771-5688.
Claire’s Restaurant, 301 Main St., open 8 a.m.-8 pm. 776-2333. They advise not to delay making a reservation as their roast turkey dinner with all the sides and pie is extremely popular with Edmonds locals.
Scott’s Bar and Grill, 8115 Lake Ballinger Way, 425-775-2561 is open Thanksgiving noon-8 p.m. Menu – Diestel turkey tender and juicy with real old-fashioned flavor, slow-grown with no hormones. Meal includes fresh cranberry relish, traditional stuffing, seasonal vegetables and house-made gravy and a slice of freshly-baked pumpkin pie.
Readers: if you know of other restaurants to add please email me at [email protected] and we’ll include them in comments below.
Another alternative to cooking is to order components or even a fully prepared turkey dinner from a local grocer. Several offer this service; be sure to check on times to pick up your prepared meals as closing time vary on Thanksgiving EVE (as in the day before since most are closed on T-day itself.)
Puget Community Markets www.pccmarkets.com/reserve-meats/
Whole Foods Market. www.wholefoodsmarket.com/shop/choose?category-name=Holiday-Meals
As we plan, gather, share food and give thanks, let’s consider others less fortunate. Many kitchens that feed folks say they have volunteers to help on Thanksgiving Day, but the other days of the year, not so much.
Here is a link with many opportunities to volunteer in our area, on any day, all year long.
With gratitude: for abundant local cuisine, fancy or not, trendy…maybe, or just darn good food, delivered to the table with the absolute best friendly service, to be enjoyed with our friends and community,
A specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the local food and restaurant scene.