Monday, May 31, 2021
Mexican Cuisine—A Love Affair
A quick survey of our store shelves, as well as a look through our recipe archive, will reveal that we are enchanted with Mexican food and drink. We indulge several nights a week and discover it in our dreams. We are in deep.

In the hope that everyone could get as much enjoyment from cooking Mexican food as we do, we put together this newsletter to help you get started cooking or refine your skills.

Mexican cooking is all about the right ingredients. It is worth spending a little extra time to make certain what you have as tasty and authentic—and to keep your pantry well stocked.
Chili Peppers
Let's start with our produce department and chili peppers. We have both fresh and dried, and they have their place in different dishes. In our product department, you can find Fresno Chilis, Pasillas, Poblanos, and Green Anaheim, among others. We also always carry fresh tomatillos.

Badia is a great brand for authentic dried peppers. Try their California Chili and Ancho Chili Peppers. Also, make certain to keep on hand a can of Embasa Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce. Once opened, you can transfer any leftovers to a jar and store them in the fridge for future recipes.

Another way to add great Mexican flavor to your dishes is with chorizo. Our House-Made Mexican-Style Chorizo is a highly-seasoned ground pork sausage you can use to infuse recipes with the robust, spicy flavors known throughout Mexico. There is nothing like a spicy chorizo taco and chorizo and eggs is a classic breakfast dish. It is delicious in refried beans but also on pizza, in pasta, and in veggies.
Tortillas and Masa
El Molino's extra-thick, restaurant-style tortilla chips are a perennial Piedmont Grocery favorite. They are soooo flavorful and fresh. Imagine biting into a delicious restaurant tortilla chip, but miraculously, you just pulled them out of a grocery bag!

Primavera makes deliciously thick, fresh handmade Corn Tortillas to help you up your taco game. You can find them in the refrigerator.

Maseca Masa corn flour is ideal for making your favorite Mexican foods including tortillas, enchiladas, pupusas, and sopes. It is a light yellow color with a mild corn flavor.
Have you tried Tuscon Tamales? You might just get hooked! Tuscon Tamale Company crafts high-quality and consistently delicious hand made tamales. You can find their Black Bean & Corn, Green Chile & Cheese, Green Chile & Pork, and Chorizo & Cheese in our freezer section.

We love the fresh tamales that Primavera Tamales has been hand-crafting for many years. You can find a variety of flavors in our refrigerator case including Roasted Green Chile & Jack Cheese, Mushroom and Spinach & Salsa.
The sauce
While we love a good homemade sauce, sometimes expedience and variety calls for picking up something pre-made. We have several top picks to keep on hand for easy meal prep.

Amalia's Cochina makes four amazing sauces.Their Chili Colorado Sauce is ideal for traditional Chili Colorado but can also be used for burritos, tacos, or even as a spicy enchilada sauce. Chili Verde Sauce is full of chunky tomatillos, peppers, onions, and garlic. Turn on a slow cooker and toss in your meat for a wonderful dinner. Enchilada Sauce has a rich Mexican flavor that is accented with smoky cumin and chunks of fresh garlic. And their Green Enchilada Sauce has the tang of tomatillos. You can throw together easy enchiladas on a weeknight!

Stonewall Kitchen Guacamole Starter combined with avocados creates an irresistibly zesty guac that’s perfect with veggies, tacos, and tortilla chips. And, Roberto’s of Santa Cruz makes some extremely tasty salsa—its about as good as it gets. The flavors are fresh and complex, and it always tastes like it was just made at your favorite restaurant. If you are looking for a sauce to braise meat, try Adobo Rico Mexican Braising Sauce is savory and smoky and makes a delicious marinade or braising sauce for pork, chicken, beef, fish, or vegetables. It can also be used for grilling or in a slow cooker.
Crema and Cheeses
Caique Crema is and everyday Mexican table cream with a neutral fresh-tasting flavor. It's pourable, rich, silky texture creates a shiny, white lace over your dishes. Use as a topping or base in sweet and savory dishes. Drizzles or dollop it on top.

We also carry three Caique Cheeses:
Queso Fresco is a soft, moist crumbling cheese. It's light and fresh with a salty and slightly tangy flavor. Queso Fresco is used to balance rich, spicy dishes, either as a topping or as a stuffing cheese. Oaxaca Cheese belongs to the mozzarella family. It is a semi-soft, white, artisan cheese with a mellow—similar to Mozzarella with a better melt. Shredded, it can top refried beans, tostadas, and soups. Sliced, it melts wonderfully for quesadillas or served with chile de agua. Cotija Cheese has a strong, salty flavor and mostly used as a topping or mixed into sauces. Cotija is an enhancer. Crumble or grate over pinto beans, tacos, or soups where you'd like to add a bit of saltiness and tang in flavor. Cotija does not melt.
To drink
Delicious Margaritas cannot get easier than with Tommy's Margarita Mix. Simply add tequila and ice for the perfect balance of sweet and tart. And, you can go traditional or frozen in a snap.

Madre Mezcal is made by hand in the rolling hills of the Oazacan Sierra. It is a great everyday sipper for the aficionado with every drop infused with the taste of agave and the terrior of the region. Less smokey than most mezcals, Madre brings forth sweet and mineral flavors with subtle tones of sage.

If you are looking for an exceptional tequila, try one of these from Don Fulano. Blanco Tequila is the purest expression of blue agave from the highlands of Jalisco. A classic tequila, it has agave pepperiness and a backbone of herbal notes and sweet fruit. And, we also carry Reposado Tequila. French Oak casks have turned this Tequila into something quite special, with the spirit character complementing the flavors created during aging.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table

The Pecking Order
I knew when I planted my garden this year I was probably just starting the next campaign in the war for supremacy over my chicken. But, I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. Alas, my hopes were dashed. Let me explain…

Anytime we plant in the garden—be it fruits, vegetables, or flowers—we have to figure out how best to keep our remaining chicken from eating everything. Turtle, the chicken named for the ruff of feathers around her neck, is the last remaining member of our flock. She has survived numerous racoon and neighborhood dog attacks. She methodically took out a few of her own personal rivals during her meteoric rise to the top of the pecking order…to the point that she is now the lone survivor. With people though, she is skittish but sweet and will squat down in front of you to get some petting attention. Turtle is actually fun to have around, until she tries to eat my tomatoes. Things get real when she goes after my tomatoes.

The last time we had a big garden, Turtle took out everything. Not just the veggies on the vine, but the vines themselves. So this year, we planted everything in an area she can’t get to. And, so far so good.

However, over the weekend I planted my melon patch. The melon patch is the only area that is in the chicken hazard zone and I had not yet figured out how I was going to chicken-proof it. Sure enough, not quite an hour after planting my cantaloupes and watermelons, there she is taking a dirt bath in the turned-over soil after having pecked at the leaves of the plants themselves. I was livid. Mostly at myself for believing I could actually grow a garden without her interference this year. Thankfully, we had some extra chicken wire hanging around and managed to make a temporary solution to keep her away.

The good news is that I think the plants will survive. I am looking forward to sweet melons this summer—especially for the recipe below. It’s the perfect way to use the seeds that would normally be thrown away. And, since it is Cinco de Mayo and the melons in the market are actually getting better, it is a great option for tonight’s fiesta. The recipe is from the book The Essential Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. It’s a must have for your Mexican cooking library…

A Staff Favorite

Ancho Reyes Original is a liqueur made from dried poblano chiles and has received praise for its balance of spice and smoky sweetness.

In 1920s Puebla, the cantinas of the Barrio del Artista bustled with artists and intellectuals who gathered to exchange ideas over original homemade liqueurs known as menjurjes. One especially popular menjurje was handcrafted from the ancho chile. Ancho Reyes pays homage to those original recipes with an authentic Mexican liqueur steeped in the tradition of Puebla.

Ancho Reyes has a rich and complex warmth, followed by sweet spices and subtle acidity, and finishes with the pleasant, smoky heat of the ancho chile.

From our blog, The Kitchen Table

On average, I roast chicken at least once a week—and I never roast fewer than two. The main reasons for that are about to turn 17 in in a couple of weeks. But, the real motivation is having leftover cooked chicken opens the door to many different dinner ideas. My favorite? Enchiladas!

I was shocked to note that I have never written about making enchiladas before, because I make them a lot. Enchiladas are a no-brainer weeknight meal usually made with whatever I have on hand. This means they are not the same every time. I almost always go without a recipe. Sometimes I roll 'em. Sometimes I stack ‘em. It all depends on how many tortillas I have. Sometimes the enchiladas are rojo and sometimes they are verde, but they are always exactly what the doctor ordered. I also like any leftovers the next morning with scrambled eggs. Kind of like a crazy version of Chilaquiles.

If I was forced to choose, I would say that I prefer the verde version. There’s just something about the green chili, cheese, chicken, and sour cream combo that is just right. There is no shortage of recipes available online for whatever version you decide to try. The can be complicated or super-easy depending on your schedule and enthusiasm level. Making your own sauce produces fantastic results. But, that doesn’t mean the jarred or canned stuff can’t be just as good. For me, I like it somewhere in the middle. A little bit of homemade combined with the easy-open.

Today, I’m going with my favorite recipe from Rick Bayless. I like to mix some shredded cheese together with the chicken for the filling. But, you can do it however you want to. Making the sauce yourself means eating a few minutes later and it’s worth it…
Tomatillo Enchiladas

A Staff Favorite

We can't get enough!
This classic seasoning might become a new favorite in your pantry—it adds a unique blast of flavor to your dishes. We especially enjoy fresh fruit (such as watermelon, mango, or pineapple) seasoned with chili lime salt. It enhances the flavor of grains, vegetables, and meats. Rim a margarita glass with it, and get a hit of spice with a lime twist.

Whole Spice was started in 2000, by selling freshly-ground spices, herbs, and blends at local farmers markets in the San Francisco Bay area. They have grown to a permanent store inside the Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Their spices are always freshly-ground and their blends are deliciously balanced.

Some ideas for using Chili Lime Salt
  • Garnish cocktails
  • Sprinkle on tacos
  • Use as a finishing salt
  • Sprinkle on buttered, grilled or steamed corn.
  • Rub any meat with Chili Salt at least a few hours before grilling, sautéing, or baking.
  • Toss vegetables with Chili Salt and roast until tender
  • Season your favorite pasta dish just before serving
  • Use as a finish for any stir fry dish
  • Use Chili Lime Salt in place of salt & pepper to add a kick to any vinaigrette.
  • Cook rice, quinoa, and other grains according to instructions and season with Chili Lime Salt before serving.
  • Sprinkle over hot, buttered popcorn

News & Events

The first of the stone fruits have arrived!
This means summer is around the corner. And, the apricots at our store are delicious.

Apricots are the first fruit trees to flower in the spring and the first stone fruits to hit our shelves. Apricots soften rapidly, leading to bruising when picking or shipping. So, growers harvest apricots when they’re still firm to avoid injury to the fruit. Therefore, the fruit in the stores may not yet be at its best flavor.
Apricots thrive in Mediterranean climates with warm, dry conditions—nearly 90 percent of the commercial apricot production for the U.S. happens in California.

A Cookbook Recommendation
by Alejandro Ruiz and Carla Altesor

Ruiz melds past and present in a cookbook journey that promises to pull you into Oaxaca.

Ruiz's gorgeous cookbook breaks Oaxacan food down into three parts: the classics, the coastal fare, and the modern day cuisine you know and love.

A groundbreaking cookbook celebrating the distinctive cuisine and culture of Oaxaca, from one of Mexico's most revered chefs. With a foreword by Enrique Olvera.

In The Food of Oaxaca, acclaimed chef Alejandro Ruiz shares the cuisine of Mexico’s culinary capital through fifty recipes both traditional and original. Divided into three parts, the book covers the classic dishes of the region, the cuisine of the coast, and the food Ruiz serves today at his beloved restaurant, Casa Oaxaca.

Here are recipes for making your own tortillas, and for preparing tamales, salsas, and moles, as well as Ruiz’s own creations, such as Duck Tacos with Coloradito; Shrimp, Nopal, Fava Bean, and Pea Soup; and Oaxacan Chocolate Mousse. Also included are thoughtful essays on dishes, ingredients, kitchen tools, and traditions; recommendations on where to eat; and a comprehensive glossary to help fully immerse readers in the food of Oaxaca, making this an indispensable volume for home cooks and travelers alike.
From our blog, The Kitchen Table

Pudding it out there
You don’t see a lot of pudding anymore. True, there are the pudding cups calling your name from the dairy aisle. But, actual pudding is not to be found. Growing up it was everywhere. If you were one of the cool kids who got the Jello Pudding cup in your lunch, it was a very good day. Then there was the pudding pop in the frozen section. Jello was trying to take over the world in the 80s…

My grandmother was a big fan of tapioca pudding. It’s one of my absolute favorites as well. If we were lucky, she would make some when we visited her house. She had these cool, stemmed glass cups that she used specifically for the pudding. I still have them—only now I’ve upped the game a bit.

I think it’s because of my love for tapioca that I fell head-over-heels for the Mexican version, Arroz con Leche. Truth be told, they are not exactly the same. Tapioca tends to be a bit thicker and has more of a custard consistency.

It’s the cinnamon in the Arroz that does it for me. And sometimes I add a little lime zest for some zing if I’m feeling sassy. Many traditional recipes add raisins to the pudding. Personally I am not a fan. The soft rice with the raisins is a textural problem for me. Plus, my kids hate raisins.

You can top the pudding with lots of fun stuff from pineapple to mango and some grated coconut. As the days get hotter, this simple chilled dessert option can be a nice change from the usual ice cream. And, it a fantastic ending to you taco Tuesday!

From our blog, The Cocktail Post

By Wylie, Piedmont Grocery's resident mixologist.
here’s nothing wrong with a classic margarita. It’s an easy crowd pleaser on taco Tuesday. But if you’re looking to switch things up, we’ve got a great option for you.

A recent addition to our set is Paladin Agricanto, an Italian cherry-almond liqueur made from Raboso wine. It’s a delight on its own over ice or as a substitute for red vermouth in cocktails. It’s fruity cherry flavor also pairs perfectly with fresh squeezed lime and reposado tequila.

Think of this cherry margarita as cherry juice for adults. It’s rich and satisfying to sip. We recommend skipping the salt rim on this cocktail—it’s got enough going on as it is. But hey, you do you.

A Staff Favorite

Freshly-squeezed lemons in every batch.
With the warm weather coming, it's time to up your lemonade game—how about trying Barsotti Lemonade? We love it—it is so refreshing and delicious.

This old-fashioned lemonade is made in the Sierra Foothills where they mix pure filtered mountain water, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and organic cane sugar to create a lemonade blend that is not too tart with a refreshing taste, this year-round Barsotti juice is unlike any lemonade you’ve ever had.

News & Events

The Legion of Honor has opened its doors again! And their special exhibit, Last Supper in Pompeii: From the Table to the Grave, looks amazing.

In AD 79, the Bay of Naples was rocked by the fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii and nearby villages and farms were completely buried under pumice and hot ash, which killed thousands in the midst of their daily activities. The exhibition brings us back into this world by focusing on everyday life and especially on food and drink. Along with the pots, pans, and other paraphernalia in the distribution, preparing, and serving food, this exhibition includes glorious works of art, which reveal the splendor and luxury loved by the wealthy Romans who called Pompeii their home. The exhibition is open through August 29th.

From our blog, The Kitchen Table

Summer Soup Supper
When the weather starts to get warm, the last thing people think about for dinner is a bowl of soup. I mean who wants soup when it’s 90 degrees outside, right? And I agree for the most part. But, there is at least once exception to that rule. At least in my mind…

There are few dishes that are as quintessentially Mexican than a bowl of pozole. It’s a hearty, filling bowl of pork or chicken with hominy and the flavors of chili and lime. Pozole is everything you could want when you just have to have the flavors of Mexico. And, it is just as appropriate in winter when you need to something flavorful and filling to warm you up as it is in the warmer months outside on the patio for a relaxing dinner with a margarita. Just grab some from the fridge, give it a gentle warm up and enjoy a great meal al fresco with some fresh radishes from your garden—if you are lucky enough to have them.

Obviously, this is a make-ahead weeknight dinner as it takes more time to put together than we usually have on a Wednesday night. But, if you make this your Sunday project, all you need to do is prep the garnishes to add to your bowl for a fast and satisfying dinner. Any leftovers can be put in the freezer for another night.

News & Events

The BAMPFA galleries are once again open, and the Rosie Lee Tompkins show is a great reason to visit.

Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date, featuring approximately seventy quilts, pieced tops, embroideries, assemblages, and decorated objects. It reveals Tompkins to be an artist of extraordinary variety, depth, and impact. The show is up through July 18th.

From our blog, The Butcher's Block

You may have noticed the new freezer in our meat department. Its purpose is to house the products that are a little bit off the beaten path. In you will find things for the more adventurous palates. There is duck, rabbit, crawfish, squab, and perhaps the most versatile option of all, ground bison.

For the meat lovers out there who are looking for a healthier alternative to beef but still want all of the flavor, bison is the perfect choice. Bison meat has a similar texture and flavor to beef but has about one third the amount of total fat as well as saturated fat. It is also higher in protein, omega-3 acids, and iron.

Bison can be prepared in basically the same ways as with beef however, because it is leaner, you have to watch out that it is not over cooked. Ground bison can be substituted for all of your favorite ground beef recipes like burgers, tacos, meatballs, or chili and would be a great alternative for your summer BBQ.

From our blog, The Cocktail Post

Sometimes what we really want is a martini. So, we asked our Wine & Spirits department for recommendations for the tastiest vodka and vermouth for the job.

Making a vodka martini is all about the quality of the ingredients—it is such a simple cocktail that the flavors really come through. So, we are recommending D. George Benham's Vodka and Dolin Vermouth—two of our favorites that we carry at the store.

Mexican Recipes from Our Archives
From our blog, The Kitchen Table

A quick search through our archve reveals a weath of Mexican recipes. We have love of Mexican cuisine and a happy to share our enthusiasm. Have fun perusing our collection of recipes that range from savory to sweet and authentic to fusion.
If you'e never had Chilaquiles you have been missing out on the ultimate comfort food. Next time you find yourself with a half-eaten bag of stale tortilla chips, give this a shot!

This recipe for fried eggs on corn tortillas with two salsas might just be the perfect breakfast.

Salsas and spreads
It’s hard to believe that this sweet, crunchy, and smoky salsa has only six calories per serving. Serve it with grilled fish or chicken!

We love this salsa with chips or on grilled tuna.

This salsa is for our Grilled Mahi-Mahi recipe, and it also stands on its own with a bowl of chips!

This is from our Macadamia Crusted Yellowtail recipe, but we love the salsa on grilled chicken and tacos, too.

There ain’t nothin’ better than fresh guacamole with fresh chips. This recipe is SO easy to make. Just make sure the avocados are super ripe.
Mains and sides
A favorite way to enjoy freshly grilled corn.

A wonderful dish worthy of a special celebration.

Tamales are traditionally made and eaten at celebrations—time consuming to prepare, yes, but oh so worth it.

What is great about this recipe is the ease of preparation. It is perfect to do in the morning, and find a simmering pot of mole when you get home from a day’s work.

The key to this dish is meat that isn’t too lean which is why pork shoulder is great. You gotta have the fat or it will be dry.

We recommend doubling the mushroom poblano and onion mixture. It makes great quesadillas or tacos for lunch or would be super in an omelet or egg scramble for breakfast.

This comforting side makes a great brunch dish.

These Cheese-Filled Poblano Chiles are a delicious appetizer.

To dress up a typical watercress salad, add orange segments, avocados, and a sweet-tangy pomegranate dressing.
A favorite recipe we keep coming back to.

Cream adds a luxurious silkiness to special dishes. Here we use regular heavy cream and shredded cheese for flavor and as a thickener.

The marinade for the chicken is delicious: citrusy, herby, and fresh tasting.

We use this sauce as a marinade with everything: chicken, brisket, lamb, and especially pork. It’s also a great BBQ sauce.

A favorite recipe adapted from Rick Bayless.

An oldie but a goodie.You can add a little tequila to the marinade if you're feeling sassy.

American-style tacos with loose ground turkey served in a crunchy taco shell. They are kinda wrong, but oh so good!
Southwestern and Fusion
This recipe makes for a delicious lunch or weeknight dinner. And, it is great to prep the elements ahead for easy assembly.

This recipe is super-easy and tasty. And, as a bonus, the leftovers (if there are any) make a great breakfast with scrambled eggs.

Beans are a favorite in all forms and this Southwestern treat is
particularly tasty.

A wonderful riff on Mexican Grilled Corn that can also be served as a dip with tortilla chips.

The great thing about this Jumbo Pico Salad is the big chunks of veggies. It has all the flavor of pico de gallo with something you can sink your teeth into.

A combination of two of my favorites…Matzo and Mexican. How can you go wrong with that?
This recipe is tasty. It’s really tasty. It’s creamy, sweet and so good on a hot day. Don't be intimidated by the avocado in a dessert!

Few desserts scream Mexico as much as this one. If you have never had a truly good Tres Leches Cake you are in for a treat.

When making flan, ingredients matter because the recipe is so simple. Make sure you use good quality vanilla. You can also use the seeds from a vanilla bean for big vanilla flavor. The addition of a little cinnamon can be wonderful.
Here is a list of cocktails to go nicely with your Mexican meal.

This recipe is adapted from a cocktail served at Doña Tomas Restaurant in Oakland. It is perfect served with Mexican food!

This is a cocktail of choice for the rest of the Summer.

El Jefe (The Boss) is a sophisticated upgrade of the classic Tequila Sunrise. It uses mezcal and passion fruit nectar along with a splash of ginger.

The Mexican Michelada kicks up the flavor of a cold beer—it’s like a Bloody Mary, savory, spicy, and tart.

The Chabela Cortez is a fantastic drink for warm days. Fresh, summer tomatoes make it perfect for late summer.

This combination of fresh mint and cucumbers with citrus, tequila, and a pinch of salt is a fine way to kick off summertime.

La Playa Cocktail adds a spicy twist to the classic margarita with chile peppers. They insert some zing into the cocktail while the pineapple and lime juices mellow it out. And, the addition of the aromatics of basil is genius!

Feel free to play with this recipe, and make it your own. But, be certain to use fresh limes. Needless to say, it goes great with Mexican food.
Vendor of the Month

Glorious, Old-Fashioned Heirloom Beans
Rancho Gordo might just ruin you for other beans—these beans cook up faster, taste creamier, and have such rich flavor. Rancho Gordo grows beautiful, quality, dried heirloom beans that are fresh and have fantastic varieties. Because they are fresh, they take less time to soak.

These beans will make all the difference in your cooking, and you will thank us for turning you on to Rancho Gordo. If you have been eating supermarket beans all your life, you are in for a pleasant surprise.

Rancho gored is a family-owned business that grows its beans in Napa County, and their main mission is preserving these heirloom varieties to make them available for our kitchens. They grow their beans like a vegetable crop and save seed stock for next year. You can even plant their beans and grow your own crop!
Here is what we are carrying right now:

Store Hours

Monday through Saturday from
9 AM to 8 PM & Sunday from
9 AM to 7 PM.

Free Parking 

4038 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611

(510) 653-8181

Visit our recipe blog to learn what Amy, our VP and resident foodie, is cooking up in her home kitchen.