Fernando Olea, Chef and owner of Epazote in Santa Fe retired from business in Mexico City, and moved to Santa Fe several years ago. Olea is fascinated by cuisine of the pre-Columbian indigenous people of Mexico, especially the moles (Aztecan for “sauce”). Combining this passion for historically authentic food and his love of being in the creative flow result in some spectacular food. He does not call his food “Mexican” because that term has come to represent food that has no imagination or true ethnic content. Everything that Olea serves is made in his kitchen. His moles are a result of historical research, molded with love into his inspired creations.
On the night we were there, we began our dinner with a sampler of three of his moles: classic Mole Poblano (chocolate, chile, canela and many more ingredients from Puebla), Mole Rosa (a pink mole that has chiles mellowed by white chocolate), Mole Verde (a tomatillo, white chocolate and chipotle) acompanied by housemade silver dollar corn tortillas. For those who are attentive to the tasting, the rewards are rich and memorable.
We shared Taquitos de Chapulines, tiny soft corn tortillas topped with crispy sauteed grasshoppers, guacamole, Mole Negro de Oaxaca and micro greens. The sensations of crunch and creamy avocado gave way to a lingering finish of the mild heat of the mole.
Next came an “espresso”. Served in a demi-tasse cup with a foam, reminiscent of the best efforts of a first-class barrista, it was actually a soup of crab in a rich poblano crema bisque topped with Amaretto foam and flecks of chocolate. It is so rich I was happy that the serving was small because I would have kept right on eating.
We shared entrees of Duck with Mole Poblano and slow cooked Lamb over Oaxacan rice wrapped in a banana leaf a la tamales de Yucutan. The duck was a breast, perfectly sauteed to a medium rare with crispy fat. The Mole Poblano offered the perfect counterpoint to the duck. The plate was finished with a timbal of spinach mousse with habanero foam and a timbal of rice (also done in the style of Oaxaca).
Dessert was a magical presentation of avocado mousse enhanced with chiles and pumpkin seeds, served over an intense ginger sauce and a beet reduction. This is clearly a case of the sum is greater than the parts. The flavors and textures draw on all of the tastebuds beginning with a rich creaminess forward ending in a lingering rich, spicy finish. Each bite opens new taste sensations.
If you live in Santa Fe, be sure to visit Epazote (on Agua Fria across from Sanctuario Guadalupe). If you are planning to visit Santa Fe make sure that Epazote is included in your dining plans while you are here. Kudos to Chef Olea!