Going out for Valentine’s Day isn’t top priority for me, but El Rancho Grande‘s Valentine’s Dinner was impossible to resist. I’m happy I reserved early because the 22 spaces (2 seatings of 11 each) sold out quite quickly.
The restaurant was dressed up for the night – curtains, tablecloths, candles, fresh flowers, low lighting. The mood was enhanced by the attendees – everyone was smiling and a few couples were even holding hands over the table. Aww!
Photo of the Tres Leches cake by Elaine Collins
Now, onto what we ate:
The first course was Ensalada de Picante de Espinacas con Adereso de Chocolate. I was going to say that I’d never experienced chocolate in a salad, but then I remembered La Laiterie’s chocolate dinner. However, this salad was totally different – the chocolate was incorporated into a thin but dark vinaigrette-like dressing for baby spinach. Fresh strawberries and sliced almonds paired well with the almost coffee-like deepness of the dressing.
As an appetizer, we had a treat for the eyes as well as the palate – Chiles en Nogadas. This recipe is so creative and unusual, it’s hard to believe it’s almost 200 years old (it was conceptualized for Agustín Iturbide, the first ruler of independent Mexico, proudly using the colors of the Mexican flag). The dish consists of a poblano chile stuffed with meat, nuts and fruits, covered in a creamy walnut-based sauce. For decoration and to tickle the tongue, pomegranate seeds are sprinkled over the top. An interesting twist is that the chile is served at room temperature, which I feel was a complement to its flavor. If you’ve seen or read Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), you will recognize Chiles en Nogadas from the wedding near the end.
We each received a different entree – Mole de Pistache con Lomo de Cerdo (a pistachio-based mole with pork) and Mole Poblano con Pollo (a chocolate-based mole with chicken). Mole poblano is a regular offering at El Rancho Grande, but I had never tried the pistachio mole. It was creamy but had a spicy kick, and the pork was tender and delicious. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but I still get weak knees for Maria’s mole poblano…you can tell how much I love my boyfriend because I only stole two or three bites of it from him.
Two different desserts were also served. I had Crepas de Chocolate, a regular and a chocolate crepe filled with chocolate ganache. It was amazing and I hardly wanted to share. Luckily, my boyfriend got his own dessert, and it was so large we had to laugh when it came out – a whole chocolate Tres Leches cake, just about the size of his head. It was delicious, but we were sensible enough to take most of it home.
The Alamos Malbec served with dinner had dark fruit notes which were well paired with all the chocolate flavors. The dinner was also accompanied by live guitar boleros from the “Senor Marco duo“. And, at $65 per couple, we still had a budget for Valentine’s gifts. If they do it again next year, I definitely recommend reserving.