Archive for the ‘Mexican food’ Tag

Mexican Food In,well, Mexico   Leave a comment

A recent trip to Mexico, as with previous visits, was a sensory treat. Besides the beautiful sites, thanks to the generosity of my cousins in San Luis Potosi in the central part of the country, we were indulged with exceptional meals.

enchilladas potosinas

I’d heard about enchiladas Potosinas, and was happy they were served the night of arrival. This set the bar for subsequent foods. Shaped more like empanadas, red sauce-infused corn tortillas are stuffed with cheese and salsa. They’re lightly fried for a crispy exterior texture that contrasts with the creamy cheese filling.

My cousins provided numerous opportunities to sample other dishes popular in the region, including gorditas, sincronizadas, chiliaquilles, enmolladas and fundido with chorizo.


Sincronizadas can best be described as stacked quesadillas. Ham, cheese, salsa between layers of flour tortillas made this an especially flavorful brunch that also included beans and freshly-made green salsa. Although, normally served as a snack or simple meal, molletes were added to the menu simply because my cousin knows I like them and it was our last day in Mexico. It was far too much food, yet far too difficult to stop eating.


Part of our trip we began one day in Guanajuato with chilaquilles covered with pasilla sauce and ended it with enmolladas (mole enchiladas) and tamarindo margaritas in San Miguel de Allende. Not a bad way to dine/visit.

Tacos are part of the national cuisine, so our stay would have been incomplete without them. Fortunately, the tacos al pastor, among others, at Taqueria Arandas ensured our palates, and stomachs, were well-sated.

tacos al pastor


Food Bowling   Leave a comment

May in LA usually means gray days (the prelude to June Gloom) and the Los Angeles Times Food Bowl. So far, the skies have been clear and blue and my first Bowl experience more than expected.

This annual event highlights food in the City of Angels (and environs) through special events including panel discussions, restaurant deals, film and more.  Casita del Campo’s participation entitled “Dinner Dessert and a Movie” promised chocolate margaritas, Mexican chocolate ice cream and a screening of “Like Water for Chocolate.” We didn’t expect such an attentive the staff, nor such flavorful, well-prepared food.

The margarita is something I never imagined. Tequila and chocolate, really? It works. The secret was the addition of Abuelita Mexican chocolate  and Godiva chocolate  liqueur. The rim of the glass was coated with chocolate sugar. In addition  to chips and salsa, our meal included a plate of sliced avocado and three more salsas, a choice of albondigas soup or a salad, and chicken mole or chile en Nogada. All of the food was featured in the film.

It’s been years since I last saw the film; it was as equally captivating as my first viewing.  The restaurant was packed but only a few of us in the dining area for the dinner/movie event.

As if we didn’t have enough to appeal to our palates, we had a choice of flan or ice cream for dessert. The chocolate ice cream was overshadowed by the fried, cinnamon-coated tortilla accompanying it.

More bowling to come …

Casita Del Campo

1920 Hyperion Ave.

Los Angeles

Fun With Tamales   Leave a comment


Restaurant dining offers various experiences beyond not wanting, or not knowing what, to cook at a given time. We want more than sustenance, and I typically desire something better than what I can prepare myself. Then, I want to know how it’s done so I can fix the dish myself sometime. Cooking classes offer a variation of these themes. Each time I participate in such an activity I learn a lot and make some new friends. This is just what happened with Barbara Santos-McAllister’s recent Tamales Class offered through her local business, Cocina Corazon.


Tamales are nothing new to me, but it’s been years since I last made them. I have a treasured hand-written recipe from my grandmother with her instructions, but they’re vague and come from having prepared them a lot. Some specifics are missing.


With seven other women, in a kitchen belonging to Barbara’s friend, we met to make tamales with four different fillings: pork with green chile, chicken mole, poblano with cheese, and dulce (sweet). Barbara did a massive amount of work before the class. Not only did she have all of the necessary ingredients at hand and prepare all of the fillings in advance, she also had food for us to nosh throughout the class. Her salsa almost overshadowed everything. Almost.

We learned to make masa, spread it and the filling on the corn husks. Then waited while they steamed, which was the only downside. Even though it was fun, it was a very long evening!

Cocina Corazon
Four-and-a-half Plates

Sad and Happy   1 comment


El Cholo tamale

Although the reason for gathering was sad, the lunch hosted by my cousins at El Cholo was, in fact, a celebration of my aunt’s life. I can’t help but think she was smiling, humming under her breath and enjoying her signature  drink: a cold bottle of Coors while many of us enjoyed margaritas.

The menu features traditional Mexican fare ranging from tacos to carnitas and several creative variations. I was intrigued by the Green Corn Tamales. This is considered the restaurant’s signature dish. Until recently, it was only available from May to October. The tamales are now available year round. Fresh green corn is cut off the cob, which is mixed with the corn masa. The result is a slightly sweet corn meal that coats the corn husks and contrasts with the sharp cheddar cheese and green chile that’s wrapped inside, tied together and steamed. The standard rice and beans round out the plate.


An interesting thing about the El Cholo menu is that many dishes are identified by the year they were added to the restaurant’s repertoire. Those tamales appeared when the first El Cholo opened in 1923. The Sonora Style Enchilada is also a 1923 vintage recipe. This features layered chicken enchiladas topped with a puffy fried egg drizzled with sour cream. It’s not the most attractive plating, but given its longevity on the menu, it must have more personality than looks.

And though it was late in the meal, we all raised our glasses to my aunt.

El Cholo

Four Plates

8200 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd.

Anaheim Hills, Calif.

Breezing Through Lunch   Leave a comment


The views from Las Brisas restaurant in Laguna Beach are enough to make you drool. So is the food, which is more appropriate.

Our day at Laguna was postcard perfect with the ocean and sky fading into the same rich blue color on the horizon. It was almost a shame to be indoors, except we had a window table.


Las Brisas serves upscale Mexican food; these are not your typical street foods but creative interpretations with an emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables and fish.


My Grilled Chicken Taco Grande was more a taco salad. Unlike any I’ve had, it included golden beets, pineapple salsa, cotija cheese, grilled free-range chicken breast on a bed of mixed greens topped with tortilla strips. A honey-Dijon vinaigrette is suggested on the menu. Instead, I opted for the mango vinaigrette, which just made more sense to me. Every bite was refreshing and the meal could easily have served two, although I enjoyed it by myself.


Equally impressive is the Tostada Grande, which, again, is unlike any tostada I’ve seen. A fried flour tortilla stands upright on the plate like a fan. Beets, organic greens, beans, red onions and guacamole are arranged around it.

I was certain the tortilla, which was orange, was made with sweet potato. Our server said it had simply been dyed to achieve the color, but I am sticking to the flavor I detected as the explanation for its hue. If it had been sunset, I might have had considered another possible reason.

Las Brisas
Four Plates
361 Cliff Dr.
Laguna Beach, Calif.

Ignore the Sign   Leave a comment

QuickSamsquickSamsiiiThe name Quick Sam’s conjures images of Quick Draw McGraw and Yosemite Sam, neither of which has anything to do with south of the border cuisine. But then the sign for this unassuming, three-table eatery is misleading, too; it boasts pizza, fried chicken and sandwiches, which aren’t even on the menu. Nothing suggests authentic Mexican food. Add to this the fact that Galesburg, Ill., is not a locale that immediately comes to mind for enchiladas, rice and beans.


In a building that stands out only because it’s next to a cemetery on one side and a row of two-story clapboard houses on the other, Quick Sam’s is an anomaly on several levels. The place is small: part tiny diner, part miniature-convenience store complete with glass coolers where much of the inventory for the diminutive kitchen. Yet, it’s muy grande when it comes to flavors.


The menu features standard Mexican fare: tacos, burritos, enchiladas and chile rellenos. Chips and fresh made salsa are the precursors of tastes to come. Quick Sam’s salsa is the kind to ruin an appetite only because it’s easy to eat too much. Self-restraint comes in handy here.

The chile rellenos combined the smokiness of roasted poblanos with creamy Jack cheese that had all been coated in an egg, flour and cornmeal mix and fried. It wasn’t greasy, but not quite as crispy as I like.

Prices are reasonable: less than $8 for a meal that includes rice and beans. All items are also available a la carte.


Quick Sam’s
Four Plates
275 S. Academy St.
Galesburg, Ill

Holy Mole’   Leave a comment


Friendly servers can make a meal fun and relaxing; yet, super-outgoing ones run the risk of casting a shadow. This happened at La Casita Mexicana, a vibrant exciting restaurant known for its mole. Our server’s problem was his affability with everyone. He took photos of birthday celebrations, he bantered with a couple waiting for their bill, he visited with busboys, and all the while orders weren’t taken and food wasn’t served.

Eventually we got bowls of soup, which we would have gladly foregone. The menu did indicate that meals came with the house soup, but no further details were provided. We learned it was rice soup, but the faux salmon color was reminiscent of canned tomato soup and the flavor wasn’t much better.


Three types of mole are available: poblano, verde and pepian. It’s best to sample all. According to the menu, the poblano is a family recipe with 46 ingredients. Its dark red color and range of flavors includes its namesake chile and pumpkin seeds. The verde combines green chile, tomatillos, cilantro – along with an array of herbs and spices. Ground pistachios and chile are the base for the pepian.

I ordered the pork with tres moles. The meat was tender and moist; a perfect vehicle for the sauces.


Our server gave all appearances of being busy — probably because he moved with such enthusiasm to see who he could socialize with next. Fortunately, once the entrees finally arrived, we forgot the gregarious guy and could focus on the mole.

La Casita Mexicana
Three-and-a-half Plates Three Plates
4030 E. Gage Ave.
Bell, Calif.

Jorge’s Family Traditions   Leave a comment

jorge's sign

Jorge’s Old Colorado City restaurant is like a younger sibling tentatively venturing out on his own while relying on the family name. The results are mixed. For years, Jorge’s Sombrero and Jorge’s Mercado have been mainstays in Pueblo for Mexican food. My dining companion, a longtime fan of the Pueblo restaurants, was pleased with upstart in Colorado Springs. I was less impressed.

When Jorge’s opened a few years ago in the old Henri’s location, it was hard to find anyone who had anything positive to say. After undergoing several months of renovation, it seemed as if the new restaurant was on track; I was ready to check it out. Perhaps if I’d had a margarita or two, I’d have enjoyed my meal more.


The menu is pretty standard: enchiladas, tacos, burritos. One especially nice feature is the ability to specify quantity. I ordered two cheese enchiladas with green sauce. The sauce was thick with chunks of pork and green chile. Unfortunately, the cheese was a solidified glob inside corn tortillas. Melted cheese should pull away like threads not bubble gum. The Avocado and Pork Burritos in green sauce were very good, just missing my benchmark: those made at El Taco Rey.


Service was slow, even on a quiet weekday. The dining rooms are dark, but the most dismal aspect was the fact that chips and salsa are not complimentary. If this is part of Jorge’s family lore, it may be time to establish some new traditions in Old Colorado City.

(Barely) Three Plates
2427 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, Colo

Keep on Truckin’   Leave a comment


Food trucks are an interesting phenomenon. They have a very different persona from other dining venues. After all, the cooking takes place in hot, cramped quarters – on wheels, which means they could be gone tomorrow. However, downtown Colorado Springs has a food truck court thanks to Curbside Cuisine in the paved area of a one-time gas station. On any given day, between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., made-to-order food is being served.


While perusing the menus of the various trucks (whose offerings on our recent visit included pizzas, wraps, crepes and the two we selected: Creole Kitchen and Maco’s Tacos), a woman walking away from the former, said, “The Shrimp Po’boy is to die for.” It had already caught my eye. There was further affirmation when I ordered: “That’s my best seller,” said the owner. And with good reason. Tender, lightly-breaded shrimp fried so quickly there’s no hint of oil, sit on a roll slathered with tangy remoulade loaded with lettuce and tomatoes. It could be habit forming.

The tacos were less impressive, although they’re a bargain at four for $5. The chicken was subtly seasoned, as was the pork, but both were overpowered by an abundance of diced onion and fresh cilantro – fortunately, I like those flavors. Burritos and tamales are other options at Maco’s.


The beauty of Curbside Cuisine is that the trucks are likely to consistently be in the same spot. Although, I’d follow Creole Kitchen almost anywhere.


Curbside Cuisine
Four Plates
225 N. Nevada Ave.
(Southeast corner of Nevada and Platte avenues)
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Keeping An Open Mind   Leave a comment


Located in an old strip mall, Tacqueria Los Gordos is the type of place you might be forgiven for ignoring. But don’t let the setting deter you.

A craving for quick, authentic Mexican food led us Los Gordos. One section is for take-out, and the other is a sit-down restaurant. Initially we thought we’d get the food to go, but then decided on a table in the colorful room with festive music rumbling through the speakers.

As the name implies, this is a taco place. It’s also an enchilada, tostada, relleno and torta place.


Tacos al Pastor (pork) were filled with small bites of barbequed pork and lots of cilantro. Fresh lime on the plate for squeezing over the taco contents added a layer of zestiness. The guacamole tostada featured fresh, chunky pieces of avocado topped with shredded lettuce and cheese. The only problem was the tostada shell which shattered with each bit. Still, while the shell remained in large pieces it was like a hand-held taco salad. Several tortas are featured. My husband ordered a torta which he found surprisingly spicy – and filling.


The real treat was the chile relleno. The deep fried chile was cooked perfectly without being greasy. A mild red sauce smothered the plate and the result was a meal in itself full of the depth of each element. The crunchiness of the fried batter-coated chile complemented the soft chile-cheese combo.

Taqueria Los Gordos is a good example of not judging a restaurant by its neighborhood.

Taqueria Los Gordos
Four Plates
1034 S Sable Blvd.
Aurora, CO