After my class at Central Market, Dave and I set out on a margarita drinking contest and wound up at a rough and tumble Tex-Mex cantina called Polvos. The recommendation came from Austin Chronicle food writer Mick Vann and it was right on the money. No tablecloths. (Hell, they barely had standing tables.) Huge mounds of nachos, espaditas (crispy corn tortillas topped with black beans, sour cream, pork al pastor (marinated with chili powder, cumin, and garlic) and crisp lime laced cabbage slaw. But what caught my attention was the salsa alhumada (smoked salsa), a dark, fiery dip made from flame charred vegetables. The next morning, Dave and I came back to find out they prepare it.
You start w/ plum tomatoes, jalapeno chilies, quartered white onions, and cloves of garlic. Cook all on a hot grill until dark, almost black, and blistered. (Skewer the garlic cloves on toothpicks to keep them from falling through the bars of the grates.) Puree the charred vegetables in a food processor, adding chopped cilantro, and plenty of salt, pepper, and fresh lime juice to taste. Serve w/ tortilla chips and get ready for salsa that blows commonplace pico de gallo or bottled salsa off the table.
Another dish at Polvos bears future exploration: a plate of fresh jalapeno or poblano chilies, sweet white onions, and fresh cilantro sprigs, all thinly sliced and super-generously doused with coarse salt and fresh lime juice. Spoon this stuff on grilled swordfish or chicken breast and you’d have a feast.
So who won the margarita contest. We decided to call it a draw while we were still standing.