Food writers seem to be heading up to the Bronx en masse to Carnitas El Atoradero. First it was Robert Sietsema, then, Chris Crowley. This week, it's Ligaya Mishan who visits the restaurant and adjoining bodega where Denisse Lina Chavez prepares her large repertoire of Mexican specials:
Mole poblano, red-black and voluptuous in its bitterness, made not with chocolate but with cacao beans, and pipian verde, a profound sauce of roasted pumpkin seeds, peanuts and almonds, shot through with epazote and yerba santa, herbs that gesture toward mint and tarragon, camphor and root beer.
The meal sometimes starts with plastic cups of small samples so guests can try the food before ordering: "I always give, because people might not know the food," Chavez tells Mishan. "I want to show blanquitos [white people] the real food." To do that, Chavez used to make regular pilgrimages to Mexico to shop for herbs and spices, but, as Crowley documented for Narratively, Chavez and her husband were abducted a few months ago. Now, her sister sends her the ingredients.
Mishan signs off with Chavez's words: "Forget the other Mexican food you have known. Come follow me."