The last two weeks, my fiancé and I have been traveling county roads, visiting taquerias, carnicerías, traditional Mexican diners and Mexican grocery markets. It has been an adventure that we are honored to share with you as readers and hope that you will all take the time to taste the true flavors of Sonoma County.

Lupe’s Diner
We stopped at the Windsor Town Green, as we had been referred to Lupe’s Diner, specifically for the chile verde: pork braised in green sauce made with fresh tomatillos. We had been advised to order one meal as the portions are generous (and this was true). Our plate also included black beans, warm tortillas and rice pilaf. While we were there, a winemaker we know stopped in and picked up a dozen orders of chile verde to go, and that confirmed we were in the right spot.

We sat outside on the patio while enjoying a tequila flight. We accepted the bartender’s suggestion and ordered the Anejo flight; all tequilas were aged in oak for a minimum of one year. The bartender educated us about the tequilas, and we look forward to returning for their cocktail called The Volcano (Torada tequila with house-made mix and slices of fruit served in a flaming ceramic bowl) as soon as we can talk a group of friends into joining us. So stop in and enjoy the flavors of Windsor and Lupe’s Diner, a staple at the Windsor Town Green.

Lola’s Market
If you love food and would like to try adding new culinary items to your pantry, stop in to Lola’s. We were amazed at the selection of fresh cut meats, everything from Sonoma County poultry to fresh butcher-made chorizo. The butcher could have not been any more helpful as he greeted us and did not blink at all of our questions. In fact, he gave us his name and card if we ever had questions!

From the butcher department, we selected chorizo to take home and make tacos and fresh mole, which was delicious and inspired us to make our own (the butcher shared a few of his tips). We also went home with fresh salsa, fresh cotija cheeses, a Mexican crème fraiche, a basket of pastries and some amazing chili peppers to add spice to our home-cooking list of ingredients.

Lola’s offers on-site dining, take-out and catering, which, according to the butcher, has really grown. The catering menus looked amazing, and we saw food for three events heading out the door as we were shopping. Lola’s Market has locations in Healdsburg, Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

Panderia La Reyna
When you enter Panderia La Reyna, you cannot be anything but hungry. It is the essence of fresh-baked pastries, fried churros—and there are so many pastries! I had heard about the chocoflan, and it is indeed delicious, deep dark-chocolate-milky flan.

We also tried the tres leches cake, which was rich and a work of art. This cake could be a great addition to any celebration you may be hosting, as this bakery is off-the-beaten path in a strip mall that can oftentimes be overlooked. Take the time to stop in and enjoy a taste of traditional Mexican pastries and desserts. SD

Recipes

Created by Sheana Davis

Winter Mole Chicken
Yields 8 servings

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 12 pieces)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Sonoma County olive oil
4 cups canned, diced tomatoes or fresh diced tomatoes
1 cup yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeds removed
4 large chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
from can
1 cup almond slivers, toasted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
4 tablespoons Sonoma County olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a heavy bottom pan, heat olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place them in the sauté pan and sauté until golden brown. Remove from pan and place in crockpot.
Place the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend on high until you have a smooth consistency. Taste, and adjust seasoning. Pour the sauce into the slow cooker and mix with the chicken. Cook for 4 hours on high.
Garnish with toasted almond slivers fresh lime slices, leaves of cilantro, slices of fresh jalapeños and sour cream.
This recipe can be doubled and you may make the sauce ahead of time and freeze. Pork may be substituted for chicken. Simply cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Enjoy with a glass of Dry Creek Zinfandel.

Mexican Hot Chocolate
Yields 1/2 gallon

4 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch cayenne pepper
16 ounces milk-chocolate chips
2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Cocoa powder, for garnish
12 cinnamon sticks

In a large pot over medium heat, whisk together milk, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Add chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is melted. Cover and turn heat to low for 5 minutes.

Place whipping cream, sugar and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and whip with hand mixer until firm peaks form. Dollop on hot chocolate, sprinkle with cocoa powder and garnish with a cinnamon stick.