Venezuelan East, Oaxacan West
I’ve spent the whole week on the east coast, with one of the more interesting meals at Valencia Luncheria in Norwalk, CT. An outdoor sign advertises the joint as serving “Venezuelan Beach Food.” It’s a cash-only, order-at-the-counter affair, and the place brims with activity all hours of the day.
At lunch, arepas and empanadas dominate the menu. Arepas are Venezuelan handmade corn cakes that are either fried or skilled-roasted, and then stuffed with a choice of fillings. There are hot and cold (and savory and sweet) options, from “Zach” (crispy chicken and honey) to “Vivian” (dulce de leche and banana). Same with empanadas (pastry dough stuffed with filling then fried), which range from curried cauliflower & ricotta to an apparently popular nutella & cream cheese.
I ordered a special called “The Works,” which included one arepa (I got the pernil, or Venezuelan pork roast), one empanada (I chose chicken liver), some ceviche, plaintains, avocado, and way too much rice and beans.
This tasty platter made me crave something similar in Queen Anne, where food tends to be too safe.
There is, though, a little sign of hope. Earlier this month, La Carta de Oaxaca’s new sister restaurant, Mezcaleria Oaxaca, opened at the top of the hill. The menu offers many of the usual suspects, like tacos, tamales, molé, and enchiladas. But there are also more adventurous dishes, including soups like pozole (made with hominy) and caldo de mariscos (a nicely spicy seafood and vegetable soup).
But the most intriguing item is the last one on the menu: barbacoa de cabrito. This is chile-marinated goat that is slow-roasted in a special cooker in that back dining room. The goat is served with beans and corn masa, and comes with fresh-made tortillas.
Might I mention that there’s also a lot of mezcal?
We’re making progress in Queen Anne. It isn’t Venezuelan, but at least there’s some diversification in the Mexican fare.
A look inside Mezcaleeria Oaxaca: