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El Molino Central | Sonoma

Author: | posted 07/7/10 | Print This Post Print This Post |

Longtime fans of Primavera — Karen Waikiki’s mystically-delicious tamales — have been among the first to beat a path to her new Boyes Hot Springs restaurant, El Molino Central. Housed in the old Barking Dog roastery, it’s a chic-yet-totally-approachable taqueria/tortillaria serving up incredible regional Mexican classics including potato tacos (astounding!) enchiladas suizas, chilaquiles and daily tamales with authentic 18-ingredient Oaxacan red mole that’s the best I’ve had in Sonoma. In the morning, the cafe serves coveted Blue Bottle coffee and chilaquiles.

The key to everything, however, are her stone-ground tortillas.

El Molino Central

A friend of Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy (who will be staying with her in October when she comes to promote her new book) and Alice Waters, Karen is renowned for revitalizing traditional methods of stone-grinding corn into masa, an art all but lost in Mexico. Each morning, around 11am, staff feed soaked corn — grown by a single farmer in Nebraska — into the specially made machine for the day’s tortillas and tamales. “No one is grinding corn anymore. People just stopped grinding corn and use instant ‘Maseca’ instead. But (grinding) is just the way it shouuld be,” Karen said, hustling through her kitchen.

Wind around back to sit on the patio and watch Karen and her staff hand-press tortillas and throw them on the grill. Fanatics can buy fresh masa for torillas for $1.25 or prepared tortillas for $3.50 a dozen.

Realizing that her demographic is both the tony spa-set of the nearby Sonoma Mission Inn as well as the heavily Latino working-class population, she aims to entice both. “We want the local community to buy and like these,” Karen says, pointing to the irregular edges on her tortillas — a sign that they’re handmade rather than machine-made. “Otherwise, all this is just pointless,” she added.

El Molino Central, 11 Central Ave (along Hwy 12), Boyes Hot Springs. Open Mon-Sun 7 am – 7 pm

La Michoacano Ice Cream in Sonoma

While you’re there, don’t miss la Michoacano, an amazing new(ish) ice cream/bionicos/paletas spot. Exotic flavors are made onsite, and are amazingly creamy and rich, often with fruit or other tidbits (nuts, candy) mixed in. Flavors are usually on the board, but its worth asking for a few samples just to, you know, make sure you’re making the right choice. Top bet: Pinenut and Mexican caramel. Don’t miss the paletas, frozen bars made with fresh fruit. 18495 Highway 12, Sonoma

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4 Responses

  1. joe paterno November 8, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    Picked up a package of four good-sized chile-cheese tamales ($9) last Friday. Steamed them for about 18 minutes. Excellente! Could really tell the quality of the corn in the masa. Masa to filling ratio was good with bits of fresh corn in the filling adding some texture interest. Chiles could have had a bit more heat. Highly recommended for a casual dinner with salsa and a salad.

  2. shhmeggie July 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm #

    We went there two days ago, and boy oh boy were the tamales and the mole delicious, plus an ole favorite of mine Blue Bottle Coffee. Geez if these sonomaites only realized that there is usually a long line for both of these items in the city and boW, you got in your backyard with no lines. I think the place is cute funky and fresh. Karen even showed us the stone mill on how to make the tamales, so nice! Will be back soon!

  3. Logan July 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    I am definitely going to check this out! It looks and sounds sooooo good. Really good tamales are kind of hard to find and they are kind of like an art. Me and my family made some one day with some friends and it took ALL DAY. Ever since then, I really savor every bite of a tamale. Can’t wait to go to El Molino Central!

  4. Pendolino July 8, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    Picked up a package of four good-sized chile-cheese tamales ($9) last Friday. Steamed them for about 18 minutes. Excellente! Could really tell the quality of the corn in the masa. Masa to filling ratio was good with bits of fresh corn in the filling adding some texture interest. Chiles could have had a bit more heat. Highly recommended for a casual dinner with salsa and a salad.

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