Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
It's what's inside that counts. Meaning cheese.
A reader emailed a hot tip that sent us to Pachanga (1802 Fifth St., Eureka) for jalapeño poppers ($9.50). Aren't they all kind of the same? Push away all those unhappy memories of TGI Friday's and its frozen and fried heartburn bullets.
Pachanga's arrive four-to-a-plate and looking like stunted corn dogs. The thick cornmeal batter is savory and crunchy outside and soft and moist inside, like a quality hush puppy. Cozied within are fresh chilies, fat and deep green, roasted daily for a whiff of smoky charring while maintaining their crispness. There's a bite, of course, but it's mellowed by the roasting, and the ribs and seeds are completely removed and replaced by stretchy, white queso blanco. Be not afraid. Feel not ripped off, either, as one order of these little wonders is substantial enough to share, and the accompanying cheese sauce with peppers and tomatoes will not go to waste.