Never go to the grocery store hungry – dieticians, scientific studies, your mother – everybody says this. It’s advice I should have heeded before I stopped by the relocated Terlingua BBQ-Tex-Mex & Market last week.

Some of the merchandise at the new Terlingua market on Washington Avenue, both comestibles and not. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

The restaurant opened in its new location on Washington Avenue, just steps from its previous place on the same street, in November. My destination was next door, the companion grab-and-go market. The small market is a mash-up of house-smoked Cryovaced meats, prepared foods, artisan hot sauces, craft beer and such brightly colored Western and Mexican items as blankets, re-usable totes, change purses and traditional Molinillo hot chocolate whisks — hard-to-resist impulse purchases all. Even with the many other independent, locally stocked neighborhood grocery stores that are already in Portland, we needed this.

I walked by looking for lunch to go. But even if I hadn’t been looking, the market would have drawn me in. On a gray, slushy winter’s day, the hot, spicy smell of smoking meat and roasting chili peppers that perfumes the outside air is not something you can just ignore.

I emerged some 10 minutes later with two hefty containers: one of poblano cauliflower mac and cheese ($14). The other, six enchiladas stuffed with black beans, potatoes and mushrooms and painted with pumpkin seed green sauce ($18). Also a slice of tres leches cake ($6) and an “original Pulparindo with real fruit,” a Mexican candy bar (25 cents).

It’s just as well that these items did not come marked with the number they are meant to serve, as I suspect my partner and I (sitting home, inactive, pandemic-housebound, not teenage boys) shouldn’t have been able to polish them off in two lunches. The mac and cheese and enchiladas, packaged in foil takeout containers that can go right in the oven, also lacked reheating instructions, but 300 degrees in the toaster oven for about 15 minutes seemed to do the trick.

While I was there, I picked up a dozen local eggs ($4.50, an excellent price) and a box of grainy, cinnamon-scented Ibarra chocolate, which I loved when I lived in Texas but have trouble finding in Maine. (Tonight’s home baking project: Cookies with chopped Ibarra, cayenne, cinnamon and toasted pepitas.)

Grab-and-go enchiladas with green pumpkin sauce and poblano-cauliflower mac and cheese from the new Terlingua market. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

What I didn’t get for lunch but also craved: green chili pork ($20 per quart), red chili with brisket ($18 per quart), and a generous slice of jalapeno cornbread with butter ($3.50). A return visit is clearly in order.

Lunch reinforced that plan. The enchiladas had a deep corn flavor and soft but not mushy beans; they tasted earthy and comforting and a little exotic at the same time. Just right for a pandemic really, when many of us seek comfort yet miss excitement. The chopped poblanos and bite-size cauliflower florets in the mac and cheese undercut, in a good way, the usual mac and cheese richness. Both dishes had a pleasant trickle of heat but weren’t remotely fiery. (Reason to purchase one of the hot sauces next time?)

The cake, like all good tres leches, was soft, sweet and milky, tasting – for those of you suffering from synesthesia –  something like the way a new baby smells.

About that grocery-shopping-while-hungry problem of mine? I don’t think feeling hungry is going to be an issue for a while.


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