Question: Where in heaven’s name can you find sopapillas in this town? When I ask my friends, they all assume I’m talking about sopes, but I don’t want those flattened taco things, I want dessert.
—Annie, La Crescenta
Answer: Properly made sopapillas, the soft, hot, airy pillows of fried bread that sometimes appear instead of tortillas in New Mexico and northern Arizona, are among the glories of Mexican-American cooking, chewy yet light, served with bowls of green chile, fiery pork stews or even pozole. As a simple dessert, the softness heightened with a crackly, oil-sizzled edge, honey-drizzled sopapillas are just grand. And with New Mexican restaurants sparse as condors in California — Santa Fe Station in Lakewood is defunct, and both Anita’s in Fullerton and Zia’s in Santa Barbara are too far to drive for a casual meal — the local sopapilla is nearly extinct. But as in so many other things, La Cabanita, the excellent Mexico City–cosmopolitan restaurant in the extreme north of Glendale, comes through. The tacos, made with freshly made corn tortillas, are stuffed with sweetly spiced beef picadillo studded with almonds and raisins; with dryish fried pork; with chopped beef and melted cheese. The musky, complex green mole is alive with a dozen unfamiliar pounded barks and seeds; the delicious, long-cooked pork chops are smothered soul-food style in a smoky pasilla gravy; and the roasted poblano chiles are stuffed with cheese, meat or a sweet, intricately spiced chicken forcemeat, among other things. And for dessert: sopapillas, fried a little too hard, perhaps, but sopapillas all the same. Yum. 3447 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale; (818) 957-2711. Got a burning culinary question? Ask Mr. Gold by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.