Breathing in, with my eyes closed, I am happy. It smells like home to me, a smirking middle-finger to all those who said I was screwed--like I was moving to the arctic circle or Boise or worse. And tasting, I am almost as pleased. I have lived in places where posole was not just a meal, but a religious experience--Sundays in Albuquerque when all the girls in their white dresses and men in their dress boots would come in and sit down over bowls of the best soup in the world--and in others where posole and menudo were simply indispensable as hangover cures and cheap breakfasts for the roughly used. La Venadita's version is close to that--a thin broth, studded with pork, with hominy, bright with spices but not hot. It only misses some critical edge of richness and comes off rather like an echo of a great posole, not as the thing itself.
Everyone told me that there was no way I'd find Mexican food in Seattle. Everyone told me I was doomed.And while granted, Denver and Albuquerque were like dreamlands of carnitas and desebrado--places where I couldn't spit without hitting some dolt on a mountain bike with a bag of Chipotle take-out balanced on his handlebars and couldn't walk 50 yards blindfolded without accidentally ending up in line for tamales or posole--it took me all of 48-hours to find a place where I could get my fix.
That place was Taqueria La Venadita--a lovely little strip mall operation out in Issaquah, a small, square-ish box full of tacos, tortas and menudo. The posole here isn't precisely the sort that I recall from my best moments in the Southwest. It is a rough and peasant version, full of huge, gnarled knuckles of pork and purple-tinted hominy. But for a man in need, it sufficed quite nicely.
So this, then, stands as my clarion call to all you misplaced and dispossessed expatriates, exiled from more sun-drenched climes. Get thee to La Venadita, my brothers and sisters, and rejoice. Eat menudo, tacos la cabeza, giant tortas and posole. Drink Mexican Cokes out of the bottle. Hang out and watch your favorite telenovellas while waiting on your Saturday fix of tamales.
And for those of you not yet convinced (or already in your cars and on your way to the Eastern 'burbs), be sure to check out the full review of Taqueria La Venadita tomorrow, online and on the newsstands.