OAXACA CITY, Mexico — OK, the challenge is on. The Mole Challenge.
I’m here for a week, in a place justly famed for its foodie delights, and the one thing Julia Child would have trilled about more than butter if she ever came here is the mole (MOH-lay). So while I’m here — and I have to eat — why not try to pick the best in town?
In the U.S. the chocolate-based mole, mole negro, is most commonly associated with this name. But in fact mole can be a sauce of varied colors and character, from sweet to savory, from black to green or yellow.
However, the negro — a bold, spicy and sweet mix of chocolate, chilies, garlic peanuts and other spices and flavorings — is so distinctive it has become the standard-bearer. It, ahem, puts the olé in mole.
In the public markets here, chilies are sold by the heaping mound. And a local chain of cafes devotes itself to things chocolate. The ingredients just lie in wait for the right chef.
ATTENTION READERS: If you know Oaxaca and want to send me to a favorite restaurant for mole, click on “comments” and let me know soon. The dinner bell is clonging, just like the off-key bell atop the Templo de Santo Domingo that rings every quarter hour over old-town Oaxaca.