Sunday, October 10, 2010

Early last spring, I took some friends to a nearby Cuban restaurant, in response to a glowing review in The Times. The food there was good, but they were so swamped with business (it was the day after the review had been published) that the service was abominable. One member of our party never even got served! Since the food had been good, we decided to give them another chance, a few months later. The building had been boarded up, a chain link fence erected around it, and a "For Lease" sign placed in the window. Sigh.

Not wanting to repeat that mistake, I waited a while before visiting the Puerto Rican restaurant The Times featured a little later. Today, I announced to Tom that he was taking me out for Puerto Rican food. The place was Mofongo, in North Hollywood.

My mom came here from Puerto Rico when she was in her 20s, but she hadn't learned to cook, yet, when she arrived. She never did learn to cook her native cuisine, but raised us kids on soul food; she had been stationed in Virginia during the war, and apparently learned to cook there. She told us about the foods she had been raised on, but, other than arroz con pollo, she wasn't able to give us any samples.

There aren't many Puerto Ricans in California, so there aren't many Puerto Rican restaurants here, either. I was excited to hear about this place, not so far from my home, which boasts delicacies I had heard about, either from my mom, or from the likes of Tony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. The waitress didn't look like me, but Puerto Ricans come in many faces and many colors, which I love. She and I easily slipped back and forth between Spanish and English as we discussed the menu, something I also loved. I ordered two pasteles to share with Tom, one chicken, one pork, and shrimp mofongo for myself. Tom ordered the grilled chicken breast.

The first pastel, the chicken, was delicious. The second, the pork, made me squeal with pleasure. The mofongo was... Have you seen the scene in "Ratatouille," in which the food critic tastes the ratatoulle, and is transported back to childhood? It was like that, although it was the first time I had ever tasted this dish. Call it race memory, call it whatever you will, but it was a near-religious experience. I told the waitress that I felt like I had gone to Puerto Rico to visit my cousins. That pleased her.

If you happen to be in LA, Mofongos is at 5757 Lankershim Blvd., in North Hollywood. It is open from 10a to 10p every day, and the prices are very reasonable. The shrimp mofongo is the most expensive thing on the menu, and it's only $12.50.

This morning, I tried the aqua top on, seamed the shoulders, wove in the ends, tried it on again, and was completely pleased. I'm glad I redid it, as I hadn't been satisfied at all with its earlier incarnation. It is now three inches longer, with a garter stitch yoke in a dark teal that coordinates nicely with the aqua. Victory is mine.


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