Girls on Food

Tacos

A San Antonio #TacoTuesday

Las Carretas Restaurant
4054 Naco Perrin, San Antonio, TX 78217
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Las-Carretas-Mexican-Restaurant/116019481753408

For this installment of Taco Tuesday I sunk my teeth into some amazing puffy tacos. After devouring all that turkey and dressing I needed to cleanse my palate. The puffy taco was invented by Henry Lopez. The puffy taco has been a San Antonio staple since then. Puffy tacos are made with a dough called masa. Fresh masa dough is available at most mexican specialty stores. The dough is then pressed into discs and fried in oil. The water in the dough puffs up when fried. The shell the perfect combination of soft and crispy. Picture a little pillow for meat! The great thing about puffy tacos is that they can be filled with anything!

The first taco was filled with amazing and savory picadillo. Picadillo is a savory meat filling including beef, potatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic and cumin. Some recipes for picadillo include raisins. Don’t judge. It is amazing.  img_8849

Second up on the taco train was a chicken puffy taco. This taco was filled with shredded chicken. The chicken was moist and seasoned with garlic, cumin, tomatoes and peppers. 
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These tacos were just what the doctor ordered…my turkey coma is cured.

Say Yes to Busy Nights! Crock-Pot Chicken Enchiladas to the Rescue!

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The first time I made these amazing chicken enchiladas was back in February, while covering for a co-worker on maternity leave, and coming right off a week long ski trip to my entire sales team in town! I was extra busy and needed to learn to lean on my Crock-Pot. I have always thought of Crock-Pot meals as 1. Heavy 2. Unhealthy 3. Fat 4. Hokey Midwestern (no offense). In the last 12 months, my opinion on this incredible kitchen appliance has completely shifted, especially after reading this inspiring Instant Pot Chicken Breast recipe. So after eight years of being used solely to make my specialty football season queso, we are now using our crockpot on a regular basis. This recipe is the current favorite in our household.

Crock-Pot Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast per person
  • Can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • Can mexi-corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 1-2 chopped jalapeños
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 10oz can enchilada sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot chili spice
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • Option- 1 cup dry quinoa

Recipe:

  • Spray Crock-Pot with Pam
  • Put everything (except chicken in Crock-Pot) and stir
  • Add chicken (I would stab it a few times, so it incorporates all the flavors)
  • Cook on low for the 9-5 work day, or on high for 3-4 hours

My 3-year-old was able to pour all the ingredients (except the chicken) into the Crock-Pot this morning. I’m all about empowering kids to cook, and he is so proud when I let him run the show!

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I ran to the market after work to buy Funfetti cake mix for my daughter’s smash cake this weekend and saw a stack of tostadas out of the corner of my eye. So tonight, we have fully branched out. We made…Chicken Enchilada Huevos Rancheros. I mean. Oh. My. Gah. I had to try it. My husband was skeptical but went all in. We did two tostadas stacked (with just a little bit of the deliciousness in between, then more on top; then topped with a salt and peppered egg over easy, diced avocado, pickled jalapeno, and mexi-cheese.

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If you’re ever in a rush or need to bring dinner to a new momma, impress a girl, or feed a group, definitely give this a shot. In taco form or served up fancy, this meal has never let us down, and is always sure to impress! Can’t wait to find our next Crock-Pot favorite!

The Gallery Westlake: Keeping Us Very Happy in Westlake Village, CA

I’m a big fan of the happy hour concept. My budget is usually stretched pretty thin, so happy hours are the perfect time to get a deal on quality menu items for less money while mingling with a lively after-work crowd.

The Gallery is a hip spot in Westlake Village known for its gourmet New American cuisine and fresh seafood. It serves up a happy hour on weekdays from 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm that’s not only friendly on the wallet, but is also super-delicious.

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The Gallery Westlake
30768 Russell Ranch Road, #C, Westlake Village, CA 91362
http://www.thegallerywestlake.com

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My friend Liz and I arrived right at the start of happy hour and took a seat at the bar, noting the elegant, yet inviting decor. I also couldn’t help but scope out the fabulous looking raw bar nearby. We visited on a Wednesday, but take note—during Thursday night football, happy hour includes .99 cent oysters!

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Once we got settled in, Liz and I intended to make the most of our happy hour(s), so that meant drinks needed to be ordered straight away!

Liz ordered the gorgeous Violet Moon, which is a mix of Fords gin, Crème de Violette, and lemon juice, garnished with a caramelized orange wheel flambéed by the bartender with a torch.

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Her drink was as tasty as it was pretty, with smooth floral flavors leading to a tart finish.

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I decided to go with a good ol’ glass of wine. House wines are only $5 during happy hour, but I decided to upgrade to a Foley Estates Chardonnay which was still five bucks cheaper than the regular price. It was rich and buttery with hints of sweet caramel and toasty oak. It was so good, I could have guzzled several more glasses. (Don’t worry—I didn’t. Well… just a couple!)

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As we sipped, we chatted with The Gallery’s owner, Karim Megji, who showed us some photos on his phone from a local farm. He had just been picking tomatoes a short while ago and told us that many of the things grown at the farm are used in menu items at the restaurant. Always a good mark in my book—nothing beats fresh, locally grown produce!

My appetite was fully whetted, so we tried our first happy hour appetizer, an impressive mound of Champagne Shoe String Pomme Frites.

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They looked intimidating at first, but it’s ridiculous how quickly we devoured these. Made with Bouvet Sparkling wine and topped with lemon and cayenne, they reminded me a lot of my favorite potato chip flavor- salt n’ vinegar. Only, you know, more fancy—but equally as addictive!

Next, we tried the Ahi Tartare Tacos, with fresh and meaty chunks of raw tuna tossed with sesame, chili oil, and sriracha, nestled inside crispy wonton shells and topped with avocado. These were so good, Liz and I were side-eyeing the last taco until we finally agreed to split it.

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duck-egg-rollsNext up, based on Karim’s recommendation, we deviated from the happy hour menu to try a regular appetizer, Duck Eggrolls. (Even better, these were easily shared with two for each of us!)

I often find duck to be a little gamey for my taste, but these were fantastic. Maybe it was the delicious sweet chili sauce the meat was drizzled with, or the crunchy mix of veggies and herbs within, but it tasted tender and delicious and actually reminded me of pulled pork.

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Next, Karim suggested Roasted Bone Marrow, and how could I refuse his advice after he led us to the delicious duck egg rolls? I’d never tried bone marrow before but I was certain that if there was a place to try it, this was it.

When the plate arrived, I couldn’t help but think about how jealous my dogs would be if they could see me. But the question was… would I like it?

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The answer is a big YES. In fact, it might have been my favorite item of the night. Liz described the flavor as the “essence of beef”, and she was right. It was melt-in-your-mouth juicy and meaty and was even better spread on crostini. It was also seasoned really nicely with herbs and hints of jalapeño. If you like the fatty part of meat (i.e pork belly), you will love this. The only downside is that there wasn’t actually as much marrow as it seemed. It was gone far too quickly!

Liz and I were getting pretty full at this point, but we were still feeling meaty after the bone marrow experience, so we tried the short rib tacos to finish out our meal.

short-rib-tacosMade with tender braised short rib mixed with dijon aioli, cabbage, and queso fresco, these were another winner. Like everything else we had tried so far, the meat was tender and nicely seasoned, and the slaw added a nice crunch and a pleasant finish to our meal.

Did I say we were finished?

tania-at-the-galleryWell, not quite. We had to try dessert, obviously.

Apparently Peanut Butter Turnovers are a very popular item at The Gallery, and we could see why. The presentation alone made me forget that I was feeling full and I was eager to dig in!

The pastries were crispy and caramelized on the outside, and fluffy on the inside with just the right amount of warm, oozy, gooey peanut butter-chocolately goodness sandwiched within. The vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries drizzled with caramel were also a welcome addition. This was one of the more unique desserts I’ve had in some time, and I can see why people return to The Gallery for this treat alone!

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I’d say Liz and I had a very happy happy hour at The Gallery. I’d recommend going with friends and splitting several things—it’s definitely worth trying everything on the menu, and the prices are totally reasonable. Next time I’m coming back on a Thursday… those oysters are calling my name!

Dawn Does Tacolandia in Dallas

Tacolandia
City Hall Plaza
1500 Marilla Street, Dallas, TX 75201
http://microapp.dallasobserver.com/tacolandia/2016/

tacolandiaMan, I love some tacos! I was so excited to attend the 2nd Annual Tacolandia hosted by The Dallas Observer and Tabasco, held at City Hall Plaza. It was a great spot with plenty of room to move around and flow through 40 taquerias serving up some amazing tacos. Here are my top picks from the festival.

Numero Cinco: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop – A corn tortilla topped with spicy  pork then topped with lettuce, tomato, cilantro and feta cheese. A good, solid taco and the feta was a nice twist.
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Numero Cuatro: Taqueria La Ventana – This calabacitas taco was the only veggie option I came across. It was seasoned well and substantial. A nice change of pace from all the meat offerings!ventana

Numero Tres: Gas Monkey – I don’t think of  Gas Monkey when I think of tacos, but they delivered. The wagyu beef taco was tender and juicy. It was topped with queso fresco, pickled onions and cilantro. One note of caution: the salsa was HOT. Have a libation on hand to chase it down.wagyu-beef

Numero Dos: El Padrino –  Man, this taco was good. This was your classic barbacoa—juicy and tender with all the flavor that comes from cooking in its juices. All that served up on a corn tortilla with cilantro, onion, green salsa, and a little lime. barbacoa

Numero Uno: Digg’s – Winner, winner taco dinner. This taco was spot on! It was aptly named the Smokey Porkinson. The taco was filled with savory pork and laid on a pillow of a flour tortilla. Then it was topped with slaw, cilantro and salsa. The squeeze of lime added just the right amount of acidity.  This taco got my vote for the day. diggs-smokey-porkinson

Already marking my calendar for next year!gates

The Taste of Mexico Returns To LA

The largest all-inclusive Mexican tasting event The Taste of Mexico (TOM) returns on its 6th annual edition to Los Angeles and Girls of Food (GOF) was invited to the exclusive sneak peek event that showcased some of the food vendors that you would be able to try at the food festival.

Be sure to check out their site here.

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The first thing we tried was a sample of Los Javis Mezcal. It is a family owned Mezcaleria from Oaxaca, México that dates 3 generations back. This mezcal is incredibly smooth. It had a lot of flavor and body but it didn’t leave that burning sensation in your throat that you normally get from drinking mezcal.

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They also brought Chapulines (grasshoppers) and Sal de Gusano (salt with maguey worms).

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Then we tried Anepalco’s Baby Corn which is their version of the Mexican street vendor corn. The Baby Corn was smothered in a Chile de Arbol Aioli, topped with Cotija cheese and grind up Chapulines sprinkled on top of it. We’re excited to try their new spot Maestro, in Pasadena, which is coming soon.

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From Caló Provisions we got to see Ted Montoya in action and to try his Pozole. Ted’s take on Pozole has a twist he cooks it with Chicharron Dashi and adds an egg. I really like the egg, it gives an extra layer of complexity to the Pozole.

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Our pal The Choriman was also at the Taste of Mexico sneak peek and he was making Chori Panes. A Chori Pan is a chorizo sandwich. He made his with his Zacateca’s style Red Chorizo, roasted Corn Salad and Salsa Macha.

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We also got to enjoy the delicious pastries from La Monarca Bakery. We had the strawberry cake, the fruit cake, the orejitas cookies and my personal favorite de Guava cake.

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There will be plenty of drinks at the festival some of the ones we loved at the sneak peek were: The I Love Micheladas, Tepaches from Ancho Reyes a Chile Liqueor and Los Javis.

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There will also have aguas frescas vendors like the Agua Lucha guys. They have flavors like: Mandarin, Lemon, Hibiscus and Tamarind. Not only that they donate some of their proceedings to retired Luchadores (wrestlers) in Mexico.

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The 2016 Taste of Mexico will be the best one so far and it will take place under the stars in the beautiful courtyard of the Plaza de Cultura y Artes Museum in downtown LA. TOM has invited over 35 restaurants to cater the event and you’ll also be able to sample Tequila, Mezcal, Baja Wines & Spirits. And although the tickets might seem a little bit pricey keep in mind that it is an all you can eat and drink ticket so you only have to worry about what food vendor do you want to try next .The event starts at 7pm and ends at 11pm.

Salt & Lime Cabo Grill in Raleigh, NC

Happy #nationaltacoday!

The first time I stumbled onto Salt & Lime Cabo Grill, it was with my sister in law and her then 3-year-old. It was a beautiful, unusually cool North Carolina summer day, and we comfortably sat outside in the patio area with our two toddlers, eating salads and drinking margaritas. It was awesome (and surprisingly relaxing)!

Salt & Lime Cabo Grill
6006 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27609
http://saltandlimecabo.com/index.html

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Fast forward a year later, and this restaurant has become a staple for our Friday Family Date Nights! It’s so much fun to get the four of us together for a no-pressure meal. Over chips and salsa, we laze our way into the weekend. Over the course of the meal, our almost-toddler daughter nabs her way through the fruit at the top of my white wine sangria, and our 3-year-old son eats chips and salsa non-stop for about 45 minutes. Insane. The GM always stops by to play with the baby, and every single wait staff we’ve had has been both incredibly accommodating and extremely welcoming to our chaotic family. On several occasions, they have even squeezed us into a table that is reserved in 45 minutes, allowing us to get in and out and home before bedtime. As far as I am concerned, Salt & Lime has the best customer service in town!

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Salt & Lime is a Baja-inspired restaurant serving everything from taco plates to fresh salads to delicious looking burritos and plated entrees. Everything is prepared fresh daily, which would be my only caveat with this restaurant. On one occasion the salsa was way too spicy for us, which ruined our son’s “dinner” – but one in twenty times is a blip; hardly an issue! They have a pretty extensive menu with several types of salsa and guacamole – one day I’m going to try that fire roasted tomato with goat cheese guacamole; it sounds amazing! I regularly order their Avocado-Tomato Salad with House-Spiced Salmon added. It’s one of my favorite things on the menu, so fresh, and the salmon is just perfect!

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Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a taco kick! This is our new go-to when our parents are in town, so it’s fun to order 3 or 4 taco plates and swap out tacos. My husband always goes for the BBQ Mahi taco plate – he loves it! My current favorite is the Bangkok Shrimp – they are sticky and sweet and a little bit spicy! My only albeit is that it is fried shrimp, but a little cheat every once in a while is good for the soul! (I’m sure they would grill it if you asked, as a whole, the restaurant seems very keen to please). The Jamaican Jerk tacos are also on point, but a tad too spicy for me! The last time I took the whole fam, my brother, a vegetarian, ordered the spicy gazpacho and the Baja nachos and was very impressed. I was pleased, to say the least, as he is quite the world traveler; Paris being the newest town he can call home. My sister and mom split the Quesadilla Grande, and we all shared around the table. Everyone was full and happy when we called it a night!

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They are constantly adding to the menu, and so there is always something new to try whenever you go! I’m excited – we are heading there Friday night to celebrate my babe Margaret’s first birthday! We rarely get dessert when we head out on the town, but you can bet I’m getting my girl something sweet to celebrate the big UNO!

#tacotuesday!: Acapulco Restaurant in Downey, CA

When I had the opportunity to head down to Downey to check out Acapulco Restaurant’s new and improved menu, I jumped at the chance—and not just because they’re located across the street from my beloved Dunkin’ Donuts!

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Acapulco Restaurant
9021 Firestone Blvd., Downey, CA 90241

I grew up eating authentic Mexican food cooked by my mom, and as a result, I’m a little spoiled when it comes to South-of-the-Border cuisine. I’m generally not a fan of Americanized or Tex-Mex style platters which are usually lacking in flavor and spice and overflowing with filler (mushy beans, rice, and iceberg lettuce—UGH!). I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect at Acapulco. At the very least, I was hoping for a good margarita. Well, not only did I get one of the tastiest margaritas I’ve had in a long time, but I was simply blown away by their new menu. So much so, that I wish I lived closer to Downey so I could eat there more often. Right now, the new menu is only available at the Downey location, but I’m hoping that it will eventually be added to the other locations as well.

Walking in, I knew I was in for a treat when I saw their display of their new Poke Tacos, with fresh cubes of raw ahi tuna nestled in crunchy chipotle flour shells, and drizzled with wasabi-guacamole, topped with arugula and cheese. Yum!

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The next thing I knew, I had a drink in my hand—the Acapulco Sunset. This is my dream drink. It’s fruity, it’s spicy, and for me, it’s so nostalgic. It’s their version of the Mangonada or Chamango, which is a classic Mexican fruit drink made from mangos, lime, and chamoy (a chili-spiced condiment made from pickled fruit) often sold out of carts or fruit stands in Mexico.

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The Acapulco Sunset is even garnished with a traditional tamarind candy straw and this adult version kicks it up a notch with the addition of Cuervo Silver tequila and triple-sec.

¡Salud!

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Next up was a sample of the Ceviche Rojo, which was tasty mix of mahi mahi and shrimp, mixed with chunks of pineapple, guacamole tartar sauce, and a zesty mango relish. The shrimp was so meaty, for a second I thought it was lobster. Three bites in and I was already fantasizing about digging into a massive bowl of this with a bag of chips on the side.

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My daydreams were interrupted as the next dish arrived- a wonderful seafood pozole. Comfort food at its finest, and perfect for autumn! It was brimming with seafood: mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, and mahi mahi, all mingling with crunchy cabbage and radishes in a creamy, limey broth that packed a nice amount of heat.

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Next up was the seriously awesome carne asada. The platter is nothing short of a feast with an 8oz grilled skirt steak, cheese enchilada, a cheese-stuffed chile, Yucatan-style charro beans (with a stick of bacon!), and corn on the cob.

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This was no average corn on the cob—it was Mexican-style elote slathered in smoky, peppery goodness with a tantalizing mix of Peruvian chiles, black pepper, lime, mayonnaise, and chili piquin, topped off with crumbled bacon bits. Sooo good!

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The steak was also fantastic. Very tender and juicy and seasoned nicely with garlic, Anaheim chiles, and salsa de molcajete. I’d definitely return just for this dish alone.

The good times kept on rolling with a new drink to try: the Moonlight Melt, so named because the mix is added to a generous puff of blue cotton candy which instantly melts into a sweet and colorful concoction made with Cazadores Blanco and orange juice. If you’re like me and enjoy sugary drinks with the flair of tableside preparation, this one is for you!

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The next dish was another winner: Tropical Tacos al Pastor. Like the other dishes before it, this was the vision of executive chef Enrique Tayun and a real delight to eat.

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The carnitas are made from juicy pork that has been marinated for 24 hours in a mixture of chiles, spices, and pineapple juice. True to its name, the meat was bursting with tropical flavor, and I really enjoyed the small, street-style tacos they were served in.

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The best part was a very thin slice of grilled pineapple at the base of each tortilla that added even more juicy flavor to the mix.

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By now the sun was setting and being on the patio afforded the best view. The restaurant has not only revamped its menu but its interior as well, and I really dug the sophisticated island vibe of the place, especially once the fire-wall around the perimeter was lit. Talk about mood lighting!

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After all this food and drink, I began to feel like I really was on vacation, but it wasn’t over yet! The next dish to be served was a fantastic Tropical Salmon. I have to admit that salmon isn’t my favorite fish in the world, but the way they prepared this dish may have converted me. This had more of a fusion feel as it was served with sautéed bok choy in addition to other veggies. The fish itself was meltingly tender and flaky, seared in a garlic butter sauce and glazed with a sweet roasted pineapple and ginger salsa. The tangy sauce really complimented the rich flavor of the fish well, and I began to rethink my position on salmon altogether.

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Surprise! It was time for another drink. This was the margarita I mentioned earlier—a coconut margarita, to be precise. I’m actually shocked at how much I enjoyed this because coconut, like salmon, just isn’t my thing. But this was clearly a day of challenging my preconceived notions about things I normally don’t like and, holy moly, this drink was so good! Made from Sauza Blue Reposado, Cruzan Coconut Rum, coconut cream, lime juice, and topped with fresh coconut shavings, I felt like I was instantly transported to the beach. It was another sweet drink, and very smooth. This would make a great dessert cocktail.

coconut-margaritaSpeaking of dessert, I was pretty full at this point, but I could not resist digging into the final dish: Fruta Bionica. A delicate, honeyed basket made from pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts and sesame seeds held a scoop of vanilla ice cream, mangoes, bananas, apples, blueberries, raspberries, and creamy roasted walnuts, sailing on a plate of strawberry drizzle.

fruta-bionicaIt was just the way I like my desserts to be: fruity, light, and leaving me wanting more.

Chef Tayun and his colleagues did an amazing job with this new menu, and I really think they managed to elevate what would be a predictable dish in any other restaurant with unique and surprising flavors all inspired by real Mexican cooking.

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Even if you don’t live near Downey, it’s worth the drive to try some of these new items and share a drink with some friends on the beautiful patio as you watch the sun go down. Who would have thought you’d find a real slice of Acapulco in Downey?

T&L Pollos: Family-Owned Fast Casual in Whittier, CA

T&L Pollos
6518 Greenleaf Ave.  Whittier, CA  90601
http://www.tlpollos.com

For about ten years, I lived in Whittier.  When I first moved there, the food options were pretty limited, but I’m happy to report that over the years, the choices for great food has increased, not only with the more upscale spots but also with great smaller places. Fast food efficiency, but with big flavors and lots of heart.  T&L Pollos is one of those great new places in Whittier that has just that.

Hidden away in the back of a newer outdoor mall center, the sign will point the way to a great place to grab a beer and some damn good Mexican style food.

T&L is no frills.  But the variety, price, and speed make it a great option for lunch, or to try something from the very impressive beer selection and hang out while watching the game.

chicken-plateThe menu is simple but has lots of different combinations for anyone who wants good food – a lot of it.  The first dish we tried was the #3 Rotisserie Chicken with a side of rice and a salad.  The salad and rice were pretty standard, but the chicken was the real star, the skin was so tasty, and the meat was moist and delicious. The addition of grilled onions and jalepeno made it special.  I decided to grab a corn tortilla and make an impromptu taco and was very happy.

Next on deck was the Carne Asada plate with pinto beans and rice.  Again, the meat was the best part!  Lots of times, places use cheap, thin pieces of asada and over cook it – not T&L.  The meat was thick and juicy and was marinated in a citrus-based sauce. I could taste the notes of lime and spices.  This plate will be ordered again when my inner carnivore is looking to be satisfied!

carne-asada-plateHowever, the last dish I tried, guaranteed that I’d be sending a few friends over to T&L Pollos soon. The taco plate combo with two sides.  I ordered the seasoned fries and potato salad – which was a lot of starch for me.  But the flavors were good, and I appreciated how much I got for the price.  And the tacos – Lordy!  Three hard-shelled chicken tacos stuffed with sour cream, cheese, and guacamole? I’m in heaven.  I gobbled those things down even though I was already full because finding hard shell tacos this good shouldn’t be wasted.

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I was delighted to find out from the cashier – who was friendly and helpful – that the tacos were on special every Tuesday.  Hard or soft chicken tacos only one dollar all day.  So basically, I could sit down to half a dozen chicken tacos and a beer for under $15 and pretty much die a happy, stuffed, woman.

If you’re looking for some casual cooking, done right, check out T&L Tacos next time you’re in Whittier.  I know I’ll be back some Tuesday in the future for sure!

#WTFtacos at Who Song & Larry’s in Orange, CA

Who Song & Larry’s
1535 W Katella Ave, Orange, CA 92867
http://www.whosongandlarrys.com

Nichelle at Who Song and Larry's in Orange CaliforniaWTF! Weekly Taco Feature that is. Who Song & Larry’s in Orange, California, has created a weekly taco menu with the most interesting flavors ever seen in taco form. It’s not your typical taco Tuesday – mostly because it’s only available on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. W.T.F… get it?

We headed to their media tasting event to check out what they have in store for restaurant-goers, and were seriously impressed by what we were served!

 

IMG_5921editedYou’ll enjoy creations like The Silent Lamb, a braised lamb taco with fava beans; short rib tacos; shrimp po’boy tacos; a Caprese concoction with rice paper “tortilla”; and The Shroom taco, pictured below, an amazing vegan taco with portobello mushrooms, asparagus, and “bacon” bits.

Vegan Tacos with portabello mushrooms and asparagus
“The Big Shroom” – perfect for our veggie friends.

Perhaps the star of the show was The Big Dripper, inspired by Chef Vegas’ days when he would end a shift at two a.m. and join his fellow chefs at the local food truck meet up. He would get a burger from one of the trucks with a fried egg on it, with a yolk so runny he had to lean over a trash can to eat it, or it would run all down his arms. Here was born The Big Dripper, a corn tortilla topped with a sunny side up egg, Serrano ham, and shaved Parmesan. Definitely, eat this one while leaning over your plate! We loved every single one taco we were served, so we suggest you try them all!

"The Big Dripper" - get extra napkins for this one!
“The Big Dripper” – get extra napkins for this one!

And of course, they made equally delicious signature cocktail pairings for their tacos. Our favorites were the Strawberry Moon, a moonshine mixer that goes down sweet and smooth like lemonade, and the Agua Fresca, a delightful cucumber refresher.

Get these weekly featured tacos every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at Who Song and Larry’s In Orange, CA.

Who Son and Larry's

Del Mercado Menu at Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge in Nashville

Bajo Sexto Taco
5303 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37209
http://www.bajosextotacolounge.com/

When Bajo Sexto and Chef Kaelin Ulrich Trilling announced the Del Mercado menu, I was anxiously awaiting my visit. Del Mercado (meaning “from the market”) is an ingredient-driven series of special menus and dishes available during the late summer produce. This menu happened to highlight corn, chilies, and pork – all staples of Mexican cuisine. From what I had heard about Chef Kaelin, I knew this menu would not disappoint.

Chef Kaelin started developing his culinary talent at quite a young age. As soon as he finished high school, he started attending some of his mother’s cooking classes. Foodies, I am sure you have heard of her – Susana Trilling, creator and owner of Seasons of my Heart , located in Oaxaca, Mexico. Tradition is something incredibly important to Chef Kaelin and it shines through in this food. It was as if I was in a restaurant in Oaxaca, learning the heritage of the Trilling family.

IMG_7208First, we started with a few quintessential snacks: esquites ahumando (corn dip), pan de maiz  (bajo skillet corn bread) and tamales. Usually I can pick a favorite, but all three of these left me craving more. The esquites ahumando consisted of corn that had been brought in from Mexico and smoked for hours, and then cut off the cob and topped with guajillo chili and totopos. What dip would be complete without freshly made tortilla chips?  The epitome of juxtaposition. The tanginess and smokiness of the corn combined with the sweetness of the cream and cheese made for quite a perfect bite.

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I pride myself on being a true Tennessee girl through and through and I have to say, this was the BEST cornbread I have EVER eaten (please, don’t tell my mom). Most of the time, cornbread has a very dry and mealy consistency – this version could not be more opposite. The pan de maiz consisted of roasted poblano peppers, crispy Tennessee ham, chipotle, and honey butter. Chef Kaelin came over to check on our progress and it was all I could do not to beg him to put this on the regular menu. PERFECTION. The bread was presented in the most darling cast iron skillet dripping with honey butter and topped with the crispiest piece of Tennessee ham. As the honey butter continued to melt, it permeated throughout the entire dish, making each bite swoon-worthy.

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IMG_7227The tamales were just as mouthwatering. As I mentioned earlier, the corn is brought in from Mexico and pressed on a daily basis to ensure the freshest tamales. Filled with braised pork and wrapped in traditional corn husks, these did not disappoint. Chef added a side of serrano salsa which provided the perfect “kick” to the overall dish.

 

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Next up: tacos. Who am I kidding – secretly, I wanted more cornbread, but these did not disappoint. Del Mercado offered two tacos: lechon (suckling pig- left) and barbacoa de Puerco (bbq pork shoulder-right). Honestly gang, it would be like choosing between children. They were both delicious. They cooked a 35-pound suckling pig, cut it into pieces and slowly simmered it in lard, Mexican beer, orange and citrus. Come on… could you ask for a better concoction? Chef Kaelin served this goodness on top of a corn tortilla with avocado corn salsa topped with traditional chicarron cracklings. The chicarron added the perfect crunchy texture to this melt in your mouth taco. And my personal favorite, the barbaco de puerco. Again, this meat was melt in your mouth juicy and tender, and was topped with a smoked corn crema and escabeche – the perfect accoutrements for the dish.

Even though my waist line was like, “hold up” I couldn’t stop eating this Mexican deliciousness. Thank goodness I had a Cyclebar class planned bright and early the next morning.

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For our final courses, Chef Kaelin presented us with crepas de huitlacoche, lomo de Puerco and Mexican street corn. For anyone who knows me, they know that I am a die-hard truffle fan.  When I found out that each of these dishes had huitlacoche, I was thrilled.  Huitlacoche is known as the Mexican truffle as it exhibits similar flavor profiles of black truffles. While it was a large portion, the crepas de huitlacoche did not leave you overly full. This was a great vegetarian option filled with beans, corn and topped with the freshest tomato salsa. Truly a delight.

IMG_7244Next up, the lomo de Puerco.  I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world and this dish was right up there with some of the courses I have had at Tickets or Next. Beautifully placed atop huitlacoche and corn, the pork was covered with braised cherry tomatoes, mint and a smoky tomato salsa. Grabbing a bit of each of these ingredients made for the perfect bite.

 

IMG_7253To top it off, elotes rubbed with chile, lime and mayo. Chef did an excellent job recreating the corn that you would have when hosting a BBQ at your house, although his tastes MUCH better than mine ever would. He cooks it with the husk on to ensure that the corn stays bright and moist and then peels the husks back adding on the various chile and lime flavors. Again, yet another dish I begged for him to keep on the regular menu – and apparently, I wasn’t the only one.  🙂

Chef Kaelin was an absolute delight. In between courses, I had the chance to pick his brain and see where his personal hot spots were:

Dining: City House and Treehouse, especially late night

BBQ: Peg Leg Porker

Burger: Jack Brown’s

Tequila:  Don Julio’s 1942 (As if I could leave without asking this question!)

Chef Kaelin prepares amazing Mexican food giving us a little taste of his Oaxacan traditions while leaving us wanting more. Nashville, take advantage of this little treasure right off Charlotte Avenue. Del Mercado runs from August 17- September 11 and once it’s gone, it’s gone…. trust me, you don’t want to miss this. I am STILL dreaming about that cornbread!!

Made With Love: City Kitchen Comes to Sacramento

City Kitchen Sacramento
citykitchensacramento@gmail.com
http://www.facebook.com/CityKitchenSacramento
IG: @citykitchensacramento

When Rebecca Lujan Loveless was just a young girl, her father used to let her stir the pot of chili simmering on the stove. Little did he know he’d spark a passion for food that would become her bread and butter!

As the owner of City Kitchen Sacramento, which launched last week, Rebecca translates that love of food into delicious, healthy meals for her community. City Kitchen emphasizes tasty food that is good for you and uses locally sourced, organic products whenever possible. Rebecca visits the farms from which she buys her chickens, cows, and pigs, so she knows firsthand they are treated humanely – it doesn’t get much more farm to fork than that! She first started City Kitchen in Orlando, FL, where she had already built a following for her delicious eats. After moving to Sac, Rebecca has been working on building her business back up from scratch. Based on the meals we tried last week, I have no doubt in my mind she’ll be successful!

During City Kitchen’s launch week, we were lucky enough to try each of their four meals. Overall, they were delicious! Hot meals showed up on our doorstep between 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM and the variety was incredible.

The first night was a roasted lemon chicken breast, with Hasselback fingerling potatoes and a grilled peach and heirloom tomato salad. My boyfriend, who typically wouldn’t go for a salad, let alone one with fruit, devoured it! Huge win for City Kitchen – they got him to eat his veggies.

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Next up – Taco Tuesday! One of the best nights of the week, we had house-made crispy taco shells filled with ground beef and potatoes, along with chili-lime corn on the cob. This meal was my favorite of all the meals we tried. Between the perfectly cooked corn, the burst of lime, and the salsa verde that topped the tacos, it was sublime.

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Wednesday brought BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches with pickled veggie slaw and sweet potato tots. A lighter take on a traditional pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, this one hit the spot – but the star of the night were the tots, which were delicious dipped in City Kitchen’s garlic-chive aioli!

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The last night was City Kitchen’s take on a Korean rice bowl, and it did not disappoint. The perfect 6-minute egg created a luscious sauce for all of the rice and veggies, and the beef was addictively crispy.

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The portion sizes were perfect – we were left satisfied each night but didn’t have to worry about leftovers. Most importantly, you can feel the love put into each meal from City Kitchen. What I loved most of all, however, was supporting a local business owned and operated by a woman. As a Hispanic woman, Rebecca is passionate about positively impacting her community through its economy. For her, it’s not just a business, but a way to connect with those around her and build relationships that will make Sacramento a better place for all of us to live.

Tacotopia at the Del Mar Track

I think at this point we have well established my love affair with tacos, but just in case it was unclear, I hit up The San Diego Reader’s Tacotopia at the Del Mar Racetrack this weekend and helped cast my vote for the best taco in San Diego.

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Tacotopia at the Track
http://www.sandiegoreader.com/tacotopia-at-the-track/

This event was executed extremely well, with 40 of San Diego and South Orange County’s best restaurants and food trucks pedaling out their best work to try to win the hearts and the votes of some hungry San Diegans.

I was impressed by the organization this event was handled, it didn’t appear that any of the vendors ever ran out of their goods, the lines stayed relatively short, and there were fun little extras like a taco themed photo booth, chips and salsas provided by Salud!, and lemonade stands for a bit of refreshment on this hot day.

IMG_9565Our first taco came from Bluewater Seafood, it was the day’s overall winner and it was definitely deserving of the title. I had one taco at Bluewater before, and I was impressed then, but this taco was even better and was seriously the perfect start to the day. Bluewater was serving up a spicy shrimp taco with a white sauce, homemade tomatillo, and a homemade mango slaw. This taco was a little too spicy for my guest, but had tons of the delicious white sauce and queso fresco to help balance it out.

 

 

IMG_9574Keeping with our fishy theme, we hit up Encinitas Fish Shop who was serving up some innovative smoked salmon tacos. Now, smoked salmon is not really my thing, but this taco was seriously delicious and really impressed me. It was a touch topping/tortilla heavy for the current taco marathon I was running, but the salmon was so flavorful and I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

IMG_9582One of my absolute favorite tacos of the day was this Abeulita’s Chicken Mole Taco from Common Theory Public House. I am mole obsessed and also have a weird love for pickled onions so in my eyes this taco was actual perfection, and it was devoured in about two and a half seconds.

 

 

 

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My other favorite, which also snagged my vote for best traditional taco, was the baja fish taco from The Classic Taco. Unfortunately, this truck is based up in Orange County, but luckily I’m a frequent visitor up there! This fish taco was seriously about as good as they get, with a huge serving of perfectly crunchy fish and you could choose from so many salsas. They even hopped out of the truck to help me pick my perfect salsa, the pequin!

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Next up for me was Lolita’s, where I got the pollo asado and while this was a pretty standard take on a taco, it was really tasty with a big scoop of guacamole on top, which you will never hear complain.
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At this point I’m five tacos deep and only an hour in, and realizing that maybe I should have paced myself just a little bit, but I am not a quitter.  Next up I hit up Ah-Jijo for their fish taco. I opted for the spicy chipotle sauce on top as opposed to the tomatillo. This taco was perfectly spicy, and had probably the crunchiest little piece of fish I’ve ever tasted, which was the perfect vessel for lots of toppings.

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While my partner attempted to attack his ambitious plate of 3 tacos he’d collected, I decided to take a “break” and go find some chips and salsa, but on my way I was too tempted by Puesto to resist. Puesto is actually located right across from my work, I smell it all day long, and its torture. I’ve been once before and this taco was every bit as good as I remember. Puesto has figured out this genius idea of wrapping their delicious meats inside of a piece of fried cheese. Yes, you heard that right, and yes, it is basically the only way a taco should happen. Even though I knew this taco might come back to bite me later (all that cheese!) it was still more than worth it.
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Finally on my way back from my Puesto pit stop, I was able to swing by the Salud! table for their chips and salsa. I was a little bummed they didn’t have a taco at the event, as I’ve heard some amazing things, but these chips were awesome and the salsa was nice and mild.

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A while later, I caught my second wind and managed to scoop up one of these fish tacos from Henry’s Pub. Another giant serving of flaky, crispy fish, and more guac!

Lindsey, Courtney, and I trying to pull ourselves together after an all out taco binge.

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A while later, after taking a break to place our bets and check out the races, we returned to cast our votes, grabs some sweets, and hit up the Tacotopia photo booth! You can tell how excited I am about this giant rainbow sprinkle cookie (from Sammy’s Mexican Bakery), which was the perfect ending to a perfect day!

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This event was so fun for so many reasons, starting with the plethora of delicious taco options and ending with the 311/Matisyahu concert that took place after the races. I will definitely be at the next Tacotopia, shoving more delicious tacos into my mouth, on my never ending hunt for the best in San Diego.

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