November 28, 2009

Mexican at Martha's Vineyard

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? I love the land of my roots, but New England has NOT made a name for itself in Mexican food so much. Chowdah? Done. Clamcakes? Oh, you betcha. Blueberry pie? Sure. Enchiladas.... um..what? I used to joke that the only Mexican food you could find was Chili's (and I'm not hatin..those southwestern egg rolls are RIDICULOUSLY good. But still.)

ABF told me eons ago about a place he'd tried for dinner a long, long time ago on Martha's Vineyard, long before our paths ever crossed. He spoke of Zapotec so highly that I almost got my hopes up a bit. I told him we definitely had to stop here on our latest visit, even though in the back of my mind, I was telling my taste buds to take it easy.

We hopped in the car and drove over to the Oak Bluffs section of Martha's Vineyard. We were the only people in the restaurant Saturday night when we ambled in around 530. A lovely gentleman named Jeff told us to pick any table we wanted, so we chose one in a far corner. We put in our drink orders (Diet Coke for ABF, regular 'rita on the rocks for me, of course) and chatted a bit. It wasn't 5 minutes later when it seemed like a steady stream of people flooded into the restaurant. That's when we found out that Jeff was goin' it alone that night, working as manager, host, server, bartender, busser, you name it! Bless his heart--he was hustling. A couple came in with their 2 children, and I saw them eyeing our table. Jeff came over and asked us if we'd mind moving to another table so he could fit in the family. He offered to give us something on the house, anything (he sounded a bit desperate). We're nice folks, not high-strung, so we said sure, of course, and moved over. I think you know what *I* was thinking: free margarita!! ;)

We were the first to put in our food orders that night, and our food came out quickly! We started with the special appetizer: stuffed poblano pepper filled with cream cheese, shredded chicken, and pepper jack cheese. YES, PLEASE. It came out sizzling hot, along with ABF's pick, the chicken wings. I tried the wings, and they were tasty, but I wasn't as into them as ABF, who was happy to finish them on his own. I was, however, intrigued by the fact that they put cumin in their sour cream. GENIUS!! It made the sour cream really stand out, and added a wonderful layer to everything. I ended up putting it on my stuffed pepper, too, which I shared with ABF (but could have easily gobbled up all on my own). This pepper was outstanding. It actually tasted like a fleshier, heartier spinach, and the chicken/cream cheese mixture was smooth and flavorful and perfectly seasoned. Not too salty, just right. Of course I added some cumin sour cream to it. I was sad to see this end.

PS: At this point, the family we'd moved tables for up and left. They were disappointed to hear the restaurant was out of the littleneck clam dish (because they are OUT OF SEASON, yo!) AND iced tea, so they swiftly packed up and left while Jeff was in the other room. Nice. See ya, guys. Whatever, I still earned my second margarita! At this point, though, I was still working on my first.

We'd barely finished our apps when out came our entrees. I ordered the fish tacos, and the dish was just gorgeous. Beautifully arranged, fresh, and wonderful. ABF & I both said 'That looks BEAUTIFUL!' at the same time. It just was a lovely looking dish, and even more delicious. The cool white cabbage was a delightful balance to the fried cod and the heat-tastic chipotle mayo. I was soooo happy I ordered this dish. It was as fresh as can be, and so delicious. The fish was perfectly fried, not heavy, and so yummy. A single slice of ripe avocado was in each taco. It was just enough--not a gross over-serving, not a skimpy serving. Just right. Okay, maybe still a little too much. ABF graciously helped me finish the second taco. He's a doll. ;)

ABF got the enchiladas in red and green sauces. The red sauce was delightful--packed with flavor, again, perfectly seasoned and not greasy or salty. It was chock full o' tomato-y goodness. The tomatillo sauce, of course, was my favorite. It had this wonderful tartness to it without being sour. The chicken was tender and juicy. I mean dadGUM this was good food.

Jeff got some help about 30 minutes into our meal--the boyfriend of another server (the one who called out sick that night? I wasn't sure) was gamely taking orders and helping out--even though he admitted he'd never done it before. It was nice to see friends helping out friends--those guys were MOVING! They both kept their cool and were even making light of it at times, but I'm sure they were super-stressed. They didn't let it affect their attitudes, though, and they were perfectly gracious with all the guests.

The time came for our check--we were stuffed and happy and warm and ready to head back to our hotel. Jeff brought us the check and spun away, then instantly spun back and said "Oh, I forgot--can I get you guys something on the house? Another drink?" ABF said he'd take a coffee, and I said "Why SURE I'll take another margarita!" He smiled and dashed off again. We noticed more people coming into this tiny establishment, so when Jeff passed by again, I stopped him and asked if he'd rather we finish our drinks in the bar area, so he could seat new folks at our table. He seemed to like that idea, so we moved to the bar, which was full at the moment, but soon cleared out. He made me another awesome margarita, brewed a fresh pot of coffee for ABF, and let us hang out there at our leisure. ABF and I spent another 45 minutes or so just talking and laughing at the bar, throughly enjoying our time, and making me love Zapotec even more.

Have you ever eaten something so delicious you wanted to go back into the kitchen and hug the cook? This was that meal. She looked really freaking busy, though, so I'll just give her props here. She turned out some AMAZING food in record time. It was seriously some of the most delicious Mexican/Tex-Mex/Southwest/whatever you want to call it I've ever eaten. And trust me, I've done lots of research in this food field ;) And thanks to Jeff for being such a gracious host/manager/man about town. We will DEFINITELY be back just won't be soon enough for me!

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