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August 1, 2012

The Taste Bud: Smashing guacamole

Lots of places brag about their guacamole. Qdoba boasts about their “hand-smashed” guac on their store signage and, admittedly, it’s pretty good stuff.

My girlfriend Cynthia told me about the great guacamole to be had at Adobo Mexican Restaurant in J-Town (5612 Bardstown Road, to be precise), and I didn’t pay a lot of attention. Every Mexican restaurant thinks their guacamole is the best, right?

But I later read about Adobo’s guacamole bar — basically, for $8.69 they hand-make your guacamole fresh to order, and you get to decide the ingredients. What the hell? Why hadn’t I heard about this before? (Oh yeah, because I didn’t listen carefully.)

So we ventured out to Adobo only to realize along the way that she wanted mild guacamole and I wanted hot. What to do, what to do? So we decided: We’ll each get an order, and that will be dinner. No burritos or enchiladas, no refried beans — just guac and chips, garnished by our collective sense of culinary adventure.

The choices from Adobo’s guac bar are all pretty basic staples: avocado (duh), onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime, salt and jalapeno peppers. You want it mild? They leave out the jalapenos. You want it hot? Well, you’ll get lots of peppers. You like cilantro? You can ask for extra. And you can stand there and watch them cut the avocados, and then smash all the ingredients together with a lava-rock mortar and pestle. A big mortar and pestle.

I asked for extra hot and witnessed our server chop up what looked to be three or four fresh jalapeno peppers in my mortar before piling on the rest. And they also don’t skimp on the cilantro, either, which also pleased my taste buds.

While we waited, we grazed on the requisite chips and salsa; since the house stuff didn’t have much kick, I ordered a side of the house tomatillo salsa and, boy, was I pleased. I even think I may have tasted habanero peppers in there, which is one of my favorite things, like, ever.

“Great day in the morning, that’s too hot,” was Cynthia’s reaction after one small taste. Amateur.

But she was plenty pleased with her mild guacamole. Mine was extremely chunky, just as one would imagine. It wasn’t as hot as I expected, but there was an undeniable lingering heat that made me smile, if not sweat. The freshness of the stuff is what really stood out — everything, top to bottom, tasted incredibly fresh.

Cynthia’s mild guac was, of course, smooth and creamy, and the rich avocado flavor stood out more without the peppers to compete with for space.

Another interesting aspect of the guacamole at Adobo is that, unlike a more homogenized guac made in larger batches, each bite can differ greatly from the next. With my extra hot guac, I would get a creamy bite with a large chunk of avocado, followed by a bite filled with cilantro, and then onto one with a tomato chunk and two or three bits of jalapenos, making for almost a completely different flavor at every turn. Talk about adventures in eating.

Cynthia commented that eating guacamole elsewhere now is akin to “dating down.” She added, “I feel like licking (the extra guacamole off) this pestle. I might before it’s over.” (She did.)

Of course, there are dangers of eating a giant bowl of guacamole for dinner. For one, a single avocado contains upwards of 300 calories and 30 grams of fat. The good news is that a large percentage of that fat is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which is actually healthy fat. The bad news is, we likely still ate well more than 1,000 calories apiece, and that doesn’t even take the chips into account.

You may also know, however, that the avocado offers plenty of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium (more than bananas, even), magnesium, and folate (whatever that is). And the stuff is good for the epidermis, as well.

“I may be five pounds heavier after this,” Cynthia said, “but my skin is going to be so smooth.”

Now that’s what I call looking on the bright side.

Bottom line is that if you like guacamole, you’re going to love Adobo. It’s positively smashing. (Sorry for the awful pun, but referring to the lead paragraph and/or headline is how smart-aleck writers bring their stories full circle as a way of leaving the reader feeling satisfied. Did it work?)