The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Tag: Conmole

Holy Mole: Mole from Conmole Makes Dinner Easy and Charlottesville’s Bounty Even Better

When “Comal” became “Conmole” last year, a main reason for the change was the restaurant’s plan to begin offering its signature moles for sale. A mole is a slow-cooked Mexican chile sauce typically served with a protein or vegetables. Conmole’s outstanding moles are the backbone of its menu, and when the restaurant changed its name last February, its aim was to launch sales of its moles by the end of the year. Not even a pandemic could stop it from doing so, as online mole sauce sales are now underway.

This is excellent news for Charlottesville diners. While Conmole’s moles take hours to develop their flavor, making dinner with them at home can take just minutes. Just sauté a protein or some vegetables, smother it in your favorite mole, and you’ve got a world class meal.

The Culture of Takeout Meets Charlottesville’s Bounty

A great plus of the Culture of Takeout is convenience. Place your order, pick it up, and a delicious dinner is yours. Sometimes, though, it can be fun to spend a little more time to use foods from the Culture of Takeout as ingredients to create your own dinner. With Charlottesville’s bounty, the possibilities seem endless. And always delicious.

Tonight’s dinner began with a soup of turnips and butternut squash from Whisper Hill Farm. As much as we miss Whisper Hill Farm’s tomatoes in the warmth of the summer, the farm’s beautiful winter vegetables sustain us through the cold. By themselves, the turnips and squash would have made for a delicious soup. The addition of Conmole’s guajillo mole made a great thing even better.

Guajillo peppers are a classic ingredient of Oaxaca, where Conmole co-owner Benos Bustamante is from. The recipe for Conmole’s guajillo mole comes from his mother Yolie Bustamante, using toasted guajillos, onions, tomatoes, and Yolie’s secret blend of spices. For our soup, to accent the smokiness of the peppers and spices, we added a little Mezcal. Why not? Turnips, butternut squash, and guajillo mole. Thought it came together in just minutes, the result, wow:

Next was a simple sauté of shrimp and chorizo in the same guajillo mole. The shrimp came from Surfside Sustainable Seafood, a business re-launched last year by restaurant industry veteran Lenny Craig. Craig’s business model is simple: source sustainable seafood from Virginia’s coast and deliver it to Charlottesville restaurants and consumers. Craig posts offerings each week, takes orders, and then makes a run to the coast to retrieve them. Our shrimp were fresh — never frozen — shell-on Carolina shrimp, 16-20 per pound.

The shrimp were sautéed in Mexican chorizo from the charcuterie wizards at JM Stock Provisions.

Pour over Conmole’s guajillo mole, and ahí está!

Five Finds on Friday: Kelleigh Hughes

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from reader Kelleigh Hughes. In celebration of the Culture of Takeout, all autumn long Five Finds on Friday features readers selected at random in weekly drawings. Also part of the prize is a $100 restaurant gift certificate, like Hughes’ to Ivy Inn. Check back Monday to enter next week’s drawing, which includes a $100 gift certificate to MarieBette. Hughes’ favorites from the Culture of Takeout:

1) Bacon, Egg, and Cheese from MarieBette. “This is the best of both worlds. You can get it on a croissant or their famous prezzant which means you get to have your breakfast sandwich AND pastry. Can’t forget to grab a cup of coffee with it.”

2) Coliflor from Conmole. “I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect with this cauliflower dish but I am so glad I tried it. The green mole sauce with egg and cauliflower, mmm.”

3) 40 Mile Philly from Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery. “I love a good Philly cheesesteak. This one never disappoints especially with all the beer cheese on it. To be able to pick up dinner and great beer from the same spot, definitely a win.”

4) Shrimp Scampi with Risotto from Vivace. “It was hard to pick just one dish from here, especially not a pasta one, but the risotto is to die for. Paired with the seared shrimp and asparagus, I can normally get 2 meals out of this.”

5) Fat and Sassy from Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “Cheesy, garlicky, deliciousness. Don’t forget to add a jar of their homemade ranch to go.”

Charlottesville 2020 Best New Restaurant: Conmole


Sixteen years. That’s how long Benos Bustamante worked at MAS before opening his own restaurant last year, with partner Francois Adabie. Now that he has, many are wondering: “What took so long?”

For much of Bustamante’s time as a server and manager at MAS, he dreamed of introducing Charlottesville to the food of his native Oaxaca. But, he never could find the right place – a convenient location with a small and intimate setting, where food could be the focus. Then, last year, an opportunity arose just steps from MAS, when No Limits Smokehouse suddenly closed. Bustamante leapt. It was just what they had been looking for. “The location and size were too perfect to pass on,” Bustamante said.

To execute his vision, Bustamante brought along two MAS veterans. Mexico City native Efrain Hernandez spent a full decade cooking at MAS, including seven as head baker, responsible for the restaurant’s bread, empanadas, tartaletas and desserts. Jose Zaragoza, of Guanajuato, spent three years at MAS, most recently as head prep cook, where he became so trusted that some dishes could only be prepped by him. 

At Conmole, they return to the cuisine of their native Mexico. Together, Hernandez, Zaragoza, and Bustamante create dishes that draw on the food of their childhoods, particularly the cooking of Bustamante’s mother and grandmother. And so, you won’t find chips and salsa. Instead, Conmole offers an ever-changing menu centered around traditional Oaxacan cuisine, with influences from other Mexican regions as well. 

The food industry has swooned. When chefs were asked to name the best thing they ate in all of 2019, three of our area’s most accomplished chefs named a Conmole dish. Jose de Brito (Fleurie, Petit Pois, 2016 James Beard Award Semifinalist) chose Mole Negro con Pollo. Loren Mendosa (Prime 109, Lampo, 2015 C-VILLE Best Chef) chose Masa Gnocchi in Mole. And, Tim Burgess (Bizou, Bang!, The Space, Charlottesville Mt. Rushmore Chef) chose Grilled Cactus.

Bustamante himself is partial to the moles. “Mole! Mole! Mole!” he says when asked to name his Conmole favorites. Those mole sauces have become so popular that the restaurant eventually plans to package and retail them, prompting a recent name change from Comal, the restaurant’s initial name, to Conmole. Bustamante’s favorite is Camarones con Frijol Molido Mole, tender shrimp bathing in a silky, smoky mole of roasted back beans. Hernandez, meanwhile, cites the Enfrijoladas con Carne Asada and Chipotle Crema – hanger steak with quick-fried tortillas, refried black beans, queso fresco, chipotle cream and sliced avocado. And, Zaragoza likes the the Chuletas with Tres-Chiles Mole – lamb chops in a mole of three varieties of dried chiles. 

Charlottesville saw many great additions to its food scene in 2019. Among them, the Best New Restaurant is Conmole.

Check back tomorrow for The 2020 Charlottesville 29.



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