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Archive for the ‘Mexican food’ Tag

Fun With Tamales   Leave a comment

tamales

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.

tamalesrecipe

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.

tamalesclass

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

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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.

elcholosonoa

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

lasbrisassign

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.

lasbrisasview

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.

lasbrisaschicken

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.

lasbrisastostada

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.

QuickSamsEnchilladas

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.

QuickSamsRellenos

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

lascasitaswasll

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.

lascasitasmole

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.

lascasitastortillas

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.

Jorgesenchillada

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.

Jorgesburrito

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

macotacotruck

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.

truckshrimppo

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.

macostacos

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.

truck

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