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Food & Drink

Best Guacamole 


Guacamole is as controversial as politics, religion and barbecue. Purists favor the strapping California avocado over its puny Florida cousin. Dogmatists spurn creamy versions of the dish and endorse chunky ones. Rival factions quarrel about ingredients: Tomatoes or tomatillos? Serranos or jalapenos? Scallions or white onions? Curry or cumin? And cookbooks perpetuate loathsome perversions of the recipe, such as stirring in a packet of commercial taco-seasoning mix, adding grated cheddar cheese and -- most odious of all -- cutting the guacamole with sour cream. Babalu's, a Caribbean place in the Central West End, has the most glorious guac in town. Chef Dana Holland mashes supple, buttery California avocados with tomatoes (beefsteak, Roma or cherry, depending on what's ripe), roasted garlic, scallions and lime juice. Then he adds a splash of coconut milk and a pinch of calypso pepper, a house spice mix that includes chipotle and ancho chiles, cayenne, cinnamon and ginger. Instead of tortilla chips, the guacamole is scooped up with mariquitas, vertically sliced plantains that warp into brittle corkscrews when fried into chips. Holland anchors the wavy tendrils here and there in a mound of guacamole so that the striking finished platter resembles undulating fronds of sea kelp or a blond head of Medusa.

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