Anepalco's Cafe in Orange has been hopping for the past couple of months, ever since chef-owner Danny Godinez veered from his legendary modernist chilaquiles and epic Spanish-style tortillas and began tweaking his menu. Try to grab a seat during slammed weekend brunches, where his eggs Benedict may or may not be on the menu, depending on whether it's sold out. If it's not there? No problem: behold his XXI chiles en nogada, as spectacular rendition of the Mexican classic as you'll ever find 'round these parts.
Chiles en nogada is usually one of those Mexican dishes that, like pan de muertos and rosca de reyes, are traditionally holiday treats but which most Mexis never really give a damn about. The mix of a stuffed poblano chile slathered in a walnut sauce spiked with pomegranate seeds is supposed to evoke the Mexican national flag and is usually only served around September. But Godinez has made it a part of his permanent roster, mostly because demand for it grows seemingly every week.
Like most of his plates, Godinez tweaks the traditional toward his exacting standards. Instead of picadillo, he stuffs the poblano pepper with roasted corn; he substitutes pecans for the walnuts in the sauce, creating an even-sweeter rendition that'll have you spooning every last drop. And Godinez adds a pomegranate gelee in addition to the seeds. Tart, smoky, spicy, sweet, earth: all flavors in this gem, all alternating in dominance and occasionally uniting in palatal jolts.
There is also cheese, although I unfortunately had to eat mine on the go and thus had to deal with its congealed version upon eating. But even cold, I know what's great, and this is something you must try--and, with the ending of October, Anepalco's 21st-century chiles en nogada just might be the only place in la naranja where you'll be able to taste it. Eat this now.
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