The Elote Cafe Notebook
Chef Smedstad’s The Elote Cafe Notebook is a 10-years-in-the-making follow-up to his first book, the Elote Cafe Cookbook. It will be out at the beginning of July. Both of his books feature dishes from the cafe (including many of his daily specials), but the new notebook also includes a major chapter on cocktails (revolving around tequila and margaritas).
After observing his Elote Cafe customers’ imbibing habits, Smedstad’s bartending advice is to create a goodsized drink: “The reality is that about 90% of the people who come in my restaurant are looking for a generously poured drink that will get them by for more than a couple of minutes. The variations are practically endless (you should see my notebook scratchings) but always remember, make them large with lots of ice and plenty of booze.”
That quirky sense of humor and observation is evident throughout the oft-times rambling notebook, but that randomness works. One minute you’re in Smedstad’s North Dakota grandmother’s kitchen making just-picked corn cakes, in the next you’re cooking Mexican-influenced smoked pork cheeks in cascabel chile sauce and in the third you’re putting them both together with buttermilk cumin drizzle and spicy cabbage kale garnish. Whew!
But don’t worry, most of the recipes are much simpler and easier for a home cook to tackle. Smedstad told me he’d really gotten into heirloom beans in the Notebook, and that’s evident with a whole chapter devoted to just rice, beans and corn. There are plenty of small dishes and snacks along with the substantial mains.
And, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the book’s design is as fun and quirky as its text. From the corn-tor tilla-textured cover to the brightly colored, bygone-era, sultry Mexican movie posters dotting the pages, you can tell that editor, designer, producer Carol Haralson was happy to be along for the show.