Saturday, February 8th, 2014
None of us can say exactly why, but for whatever reason we have been in business nearly two years and have until now not offered that most classic of Mexican “bebidas”, the michelada. Most Mexican restaurants would have gotten on the clue bus by now, but we are just now joining the party.
There are many regional takes on the michelada, but they are generally all built with the same basic ingredients: beer (preferably a good pilsner or lager), lime juice, spices, chiles and in most cases tomato juice – sometimes clamato juice – served in a chilled glass with a salted rim. After a bit of internal discussion about the best way to approach things, we opted for a fairly traditional take, albeit with a couple Comal twists.
To quote our esteemed barman Matthew Campbell:
Ours is a pretty traditional michelada a la San Jalisco – theirs is my favorite ever. Built on the salt-spice-tart platform – same as our sangritas but without the sweet element. Savory comes from Worcestershire. Two kinds of heat: a toasted arbol salsa we did in house and Valentina hot sauce for that bright vinegar spice. Lime juice (of course). Traditionally it should be clamato juice but allergy fears point toward straight tomato juice. Rim will be a salt of guajillo, morrita and kosher. And in a local nod, we’re using Berkeley brewed Trumer Pils as the cervesa of choice.
The “San Jalisco” Matthew references above is San Jalisco restaurant – long a source of fine micheladas and down home Mexican food in SF’s Mission district.
We are also offering several special large format (22 oz. or 750 ml.) beers during Beer Week, including a new special release from Stone Brewing in Escondido (an Imperial Cherrywood-Smoked Saison), Mischief, a hoppy, golden Belgian-Style Strong Ale from the Bruery in Orange County and St. Boltoph’s Town Brown Ale from Pretty Things. There’s more to come, as next week we will feature a brand new Beer Week release from local favorites Calicraft Brewing: The City IPA, made with 9 different hop varieties, blackberry root and Seville orange peel and coming in at a relatively low (for an IPA) 6.4% ABV.
We also recently got our hands on the last keg of SF’s own Almanac Chipotle Smoked Stout just in time for SF Beer Week, and will be pouring that on tap until it runs out.
Hope to see you at Comal during Beer Week!
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
For those of us that are fortunate when growing up, we have one family member that is a fantastic cook. For me, that person was my grandmother on my father’s side. That is not to say that she didn’t frequently pull freezer burned food out of her oversized freezer. If she had one fault, my Nana had a tendency to over prep, the extra food inevitably landing in this vast, frozen wasteland. Nonetheless, I credit her with passing on the genes for a good palate.
For Comal’s Sous Chef Martin Blas, that person is his aunt, who lives in the Mexican state of Guerrero. Often when I am conceptualizing dishes, I will consult Martin for advice. He has a great palate in his own right. I wanted to put a “plato fuerte” of wood spit-roasted pork loin on the menu, and decided to pair it with a pipian verde. This is a sauce made of pumpkin seeds, tomatillos, and green chiles that is a classic pairing with pork. After pouring over several recipes and a bit of testing, I turned to Martin, who got a twinkle in his eye, fondly remembering the time he was visiting his family and was served a wonderful version by his aunt. “Let me call my Aunt”, he replied. The next day, following her recipe, he produced a fantastic version of the sauce, which we are now serving at Comal, to accompany the juicy roast pork and grilled vegetables. Like the other platos fuertes, it is served with rice, black beans and tortillas. This is one of the many family recipes that have made it onto the menu via our great kitchen staff.
Pork Loin is on the menu tonight, served with grilled vegetables.
Saturday, January 25th, 2014
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Saturday, January 18th, 2014
In the coming weeks, we’re taking a moment to spotlight Comal’s “Platos Fuertes”, which literally translates as “Strong Plates”. When we opened Comal, Matt developed several dishes cooked on our wood grill that could be shared by two or more people. He was inspired by the gracious meals he’d enjoyed in Mexico over the years, where a main dish is at the center and is accompanied by “all the fixin’s”. For Comal, the “fixin’s” include rice, beans, tortillas and three salsas, as well as a seasonal vegetable.
Of all the Platos Fuertes, I would say that our ribs have the most cult status. They are not on the menu every night, so the ribs devotees have figured out that they should check the menu when it’s posted each afternoon before making their pilgrimage. And sad is the night when we “86” the ribs!
Matt offers some insights into his take on ribs, a Mexican classic:
In Mexico, pork ribs would be stewed in a chile adobo. We take more of a American approach, while preserving their Mexican inspiration through the spices used in the dry rub, and the ancho adobo (or chile-vinegar sauce) that is brushed onto the ribs. Smoky, spicy, and sweet, with rice, beans and tortillas they make a great meal to share with friends or family.
They are on the menu tonight, served with Matt’s delicious braised collard greens (w/smoked bacon, habanero and lime)…
JP (with input from MG)
Friday, January 10th, 2014
On one besotted night during my last visit to Oaxaca, the mezcal distiller Alex, who was among my company, made the ludicrous claim (with complete earnestness) that Mexicans invented pizza. His logic was this: the pizza is just a bastardization of the tlayuda, the thin, crispy masa “flatbread” that is a staple of the Oaxacan diet.
According to Alex, many Italians came across the water to fight alongside Mexican rebels during their war for independence from the Napoleonic French government that had decided that Mexico was part of its empire during the 1860’s. The ragtag Mexican Republican army aided by these Italian compatriots waged a guerilla war against the well-equipped French army, carrying tlayudas as a source of food. By nature, since they are dry, tlayudas have a long shelf life, the Oaxacan equivalent of the hard tack that sailors of that era used for sustenance during long voyages at sea. The Italian soldiers were so enamored with the tlayuda, that after the war, they brought them home with them to Italy, ultimately morphing into the pizza that the whole world knows and loves.
Of course I called bullsh*t on this story. Nonetheless, I often have difficulty describing a tlayuda to the uninitiated. I suppose the most accurate description is that it is like a Mexican pizza, but with the monstrosities that Taco Bell has trotted out in the past with that name, I am hesitant to describe it in such words.
While in Oaxaca most often tlayudas will be simply topped with beans, shredded cabbage, queso Oaxaca and tomatoes, the version that we currently have on the menu is firmly rooted in Northern California. It is smeared with a black bean puree, and puya chile salsa, melted queso Oaxaca, and lacinato kale that is stewed down with olive oil, garlic, a few capers, and spiced with toasted arbol chiles. A dusting of queso fresco finishes the dish. In my opinion, it’s a much more delicious way to get your daily dose of kale than via smoothie.
Now, did anyone ever tell you about how matzo balls were invented in Zacatecas?