This week we’ve been featuring a Oaxacan specialty called a De Ese, which literally translates to “of this”. Not sure about the origin of the name, but the end product is delicious. A few months before Comal opened, Matt made a visit to Oaxaca. I urged him to visit Itanoni, a small, humble tortilleria that had made a big impression on me when I’d visited several months earlier. Itanoni means “flower of corn” and its owners are deeply committed to resurrecting and preserving the many varieties of heirloom corn (“maiz criollo”) that are quickly disappearing. It’s an inspiring place.
It was during my visit to Itanoni that I better grasped the pivotal role that corn has played in Mexican culture since it was first cultivated there 9,000 years ago (on that note, I just noticed that culture and cultivate have the same latin root). Corn gets a bad rap these days in many ways, but it is a remarkable plant and a visit to Itanoni (or Oaxaca in general) quickly underscores that fact. It’s a foundational food and an amazingly versatile one at that.
It was at Itanoni that Matt discovered the De Ese, and it’s the only place either of us found that serve this simple, rolled taco. I snapped this picture last night of Juana constructing one of Itanoni’s De Ese creations. The tortilla is pressed, then a full hoja santa leaf is laid on top. From there Anasazi bean purée and cascabel salsa are spread on the leaf, along with some queso Oaxaca or “quesillo”, which is essentially Oaxacan string cheese. The hoja santa leaf has a flavor that brings to mind anise and sarsaparilla – my friend Troy called it the Mexican version of shiso. Not that it tastes like shiso, but I get his point.
While researching Itanoni, I came across this thoughtful blog entry that muses on two things that were on my mind this weekend – the De Ese and Mexico’s Day of Independence, which is September 16th.
And a couple other links of interest:
We’ve recently adjusted our seating and reservation policy. The new policy still allows for a limited number of reservations for groups up to six people (by phone or in person) for 5:30pm each night and case by case large group (seven or more people) reservations, but generally speaking we now seat people on a first-come, first-served basis. The primary reason for the policy shift is the high unpredictability of turn times – some parties are in and out in 45 minutes, other are here more than two hours. (more…)
Al Fresco Margaritas in Berkeley, Just in Time for SummerWednesday, May 30th, 2012
We’re excited to announce that we will open the doors tomorrow night to our large, secluded rear patio. It’s been a busy, somewhat surreal three weeks since we opened Comal for business on May 4 – seems like a long time ago! We’re grateful for the warm, enthusiastic response thus far.
The patio features two distinct spaces that create a dynamic environment with a variety of seating options. A large awning structure extends thirty feet off the rear wall of the building, comprised of a translucent fabric roof supported by newly fashioned trusses by Ferrous Studios. Under the awning is a full bar that serves the same selection of craft cocktails, agave spirits and tap beer and wine as the interior bar. Not a bad place to saddle up on a warm sunny evening! Fully protected from the elements and warmed by several large Calcana patio heaters, this covered dining area will serve the full regional Mexican food and drink menus year round and features seating for fifty in addition to ten bar stools.
Beyond the covered bar and dining areas, the open-air section of the patio is still in final development. When complete, it will feature a large central fire pit (to be completed in the coming weeks) surrounded by wooden benches. Circling the fire pit will be several large trestle tables and a lush array of trees, shrubs and towering bamboo, all planted by our good friends at Berkeley’s Garden Architecture. For now this area will serve as a waiting area for the interior and covered dining sections as well as a destination in its own right for those interested in sharing a drink under the stars.
Hope to see you soon at Comal. ¡Salud!
After nearly a year of construction, we finally open our doors tonight for business! To start, we will be open seven nights a week from 5:30-11pm in our interior space only. We are putting the finishing touches on our large rear patio, which will feature a full bar of its own, a dining area under a newly constructed awning roof and a lush al fresco beer garden with firepit. We will open sections of the patio in the coming weeks – stay tuned for further info on that front. We also plan to open our bars before dinner service begins and stay open until later as well in the coming weeks. A little further down the road, we plan on serving weekend brunch.
Recent Blog Posts
- Return of the elote! Back in season and back on the menu: Grilled Brentwood corn with chipotle aioli and queso fresco
- Comal’s Roof Garden Underway!
- New plato fuerte – Wood-roasted pork loin with pipian verde and grilled spring vegetables
- New menu item to mark the beginning of local salmon season: Local king salmon tartare with English peas, avocado & endive
- Comal chosen as one of the Bay Area’s Top 100 Restaurants by SF Chronicle’s Michael Bauer
- Jose Ruiz spins his eclectic mix of music from Latin America and beyond tonight and every Thursday from 6:30pm until late.
- Return of the elote! Back in season & back on the menu: Grilled Brentwood corn with chipotle aioli and queso fresco http://t.co/hMuMoOA2vV
- "If you ain't a gardener, you ain't gangsta…" http://t.co/bjowHPyWl8
- Comal's Roof Garden Underway! http://t.co/GTnqBp2G1t
- New plato fuerte - Wood-roasted pork loin with pipian verde and grilled spring vegetables. http://t.co/t89amEyYLM