Sorry for the lack of blogging as of recent, gentle readers: the chica and I just completed our annual two-week trek to the South for the World's Longest Yard Sale, which you can read more about at her blog. Needless to say, I brought back a lot of bourbon, Tennessee whiskeys (one of which I gave to Dave), corn whiskey and other treats for future posts.
But the biggest revelation I took away was horchata and Salsa El Yucateco.
Every year, we make a stop in Danville, Kentucky, in the central part of the state, because it's a good stop point for the first day of shopping. It's tiny, tiny, tiny: about 17,000, which means the most popular place in town is the local Cracker Barrel–and the Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant chain (there's two right down the street from each other). The food isn't bad–half-Tex-Mex, half-Cal-Mex, and all about monstrous neon margaritas and more ground beef than you can ever ingest in a lifetime.
We like to have dinner there, if only so that I can speak Spanish to someone and to see the waiters' faces light up for when I ask for house salsa que pica. But when I first went three years ago, I was crushed to find out they had no horchata–why would they, after all? It's central Kentucky, for chrissakes.
But as I've returned over the past two years, I've seen the restaurant become bolder in their offerings. Last year, they began offering Jarritos, probably because Kentuckians are already used to super-sweet sodas via their beloved Mello Yellow–but still, no horchata. But this year was a milestone for Guadalajara: not only did they finally stock horchata, but all their tables had Salsa El Yucateco, that brand of hellishly hot hot sauce derived from habaneros and tinted unnatural reds and greens (and that weird-ass brown flavor).
Big deal, some of you may ask: so horchata and habanero hot sauce are now available in Kentucky. So what? A BIG what. As I've said so many times before in you-know-what, Americans not only love Mexican food, but they eventually warm up to all of those “authentic” things that we in the Southwest take for granted. Horchata wasn't on the menu at a Mexican restaurant in Crossville, Tennessee (in the north-central part of the state), which means it'll probably travel down Highway 127 sometime this year. Barbacoa de borrego is already a hit in the rural areas of the South (more on that in a future post), even before it's become a bona fide hit here. Americans are learning to fall in love all over with Mexican food again–even in Bluegrass Country.
Now, excuse me while I pop on the Bill Monroe and get drunk on tequila…