A tiny taste of Mexico

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Being Mexican, I am always reluctant to eat Mexican food in any place which is not my beloved country. I’ve been always like this, specially after getting sick, by the look and flavor of the food and physically in some cases. However, about two weeks ago I was craving for something that tasted or at least looked like something made back home.  Hubby was googling places to eat because we had ran out of ideas when he came across a very interesting webpage.

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He turned the laptop to me and said “Look! What do you think?”. I was completely excited by the photos, and asked where the place was. He said it was downtown San José, and we could go there if I wanted to give it a chance.  I wasn’t even hungry, but I suddenly felt a huge whole in my stomach, so I said: Let’s go I’m starving!

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We got to the place really fast. Los Huaraches is decorated with photos and paintings with Mexican motif. The tables are funny to watch given they have recipients where you can see some of the most common ingredients used in our cuisine: chiles, nixtamalized blue and white corn, among other things.

Now, before I move any further I have to tell you the term Mexican food is too general. Given our country is so big and every region has it’s own climate, every state has it’s own dishes. Some are similar, but have different names, and the food is extremely different if you are at the North, South, West or East. However, there are some classic things everyone nows.

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The waitress came to say hello, and asked what we wanted to drink. My husband asked for the watermelon “agua fresca” (natural made drink), it was fresh and sweet. I ordered my favorite, tamarind. It was really good, with the sour touch of tamarind as base, but with the sweetness of sugar that is added to make it drinkable.

We then proceeded to study the menu. It had photos of some foods, which looked really homy. Hubby decided on Enchiladas Suizas, which are chicken breast tacos covered with tomatillo-cream sauce and cheese, a gringa, flour tortilla with cheese and Trompo meat (at the capital is called Pastor). Trompo meat is pork with different spices and colour that makes it look red-orange and when made correctly is super delicious. I wanted to ask for something we call Campechanas which is the term used for a taco that combines any two types of meat, but the waitress looked clueless so I decided for the big taco with Trompo and beef.

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The order didn’t take long before it was on our table. The enchiladas were really tasty, with the tomatillo sauce having a slight lemon flavor.  It didn’t however have any cream, which made the sauce very green. We are used to slight differences, so we didn’t mind… wait Hubby didn’t mind. I tried them and they were extremely good! His gringa was really tasty, though it was also really oily. I was too happy to care, he was kind of upset. For some reason, he is not calorie conscious latelty.

As for my big taco… it looked like a burrito, which opposite to what most of you think is not a Mexican dish. Inside it contained my choice of two meats, fresh cheese, black beans, lettuce and sour cream. It was kind of weird, but the meats tasted so good that I was happy with the result.

Overall, of what we ordered the gringa was the most similar to our food. We do have to go back again to try other stuff that looked really interesting. We were very happy with the look and taste of everything, and that we found the place. The most mexican-like food I’ve ever tried.

Hope you enjoyed reading this!

© mylunchanddinner 2012

Cauliflower Macaroni

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The third week of the Jamie Oliver Challenge was really expected by my husband. I think it was partly because of the deliciousness of the food of the first two recipes, but mainly because the recipe was a fancy Mac & Cheese.  He has eaten Mac & Cheese before, but always made with the kraft box. Hubby has come to realize that everything is better when you make it from scratch rather than use a box, ie. cakes, hotcakes and now this!

Sadly, this week we couldn’t go to the Farmer’s Market because of my emergency visit to the dentist. So, it all started with our regular trip to the grocery store. We bought everything needed for the recipes. This week included Cauliflower Macaroni, Belgian Endive Salad with insane dressing and Stewed fruit.  As in the previous two weeks, I didn’t find all the ingredients, so here is what I had to change…

endives –  romain lettuce

fresh basil (I did have some, but it died) – dried basil

pancetta – bacon (which I find really similar)

country bread (I don’t know if this is the correct translation) – whole wheat bread

red wine vinegar – balsamic vinegar

dijon mustard – regular mustard

vanilla ice cream – cookies and cream. This last one was because I was too lazy to make a special trip to the POPS store, and bought the only POPS flavor I found decent at Walmart. Don’t do it!! Go to the ice cream store, there are two reasons for this: 1. vanilla will make the perfect match for the fruit, 2. Ice cream is always far fresher at the place where they make it!!

This week was kind of troubling. I really don’t like to point fingers, but it was all HUBBY’s fault! I feel kind of free now.  One must follow the instructions to the dot, other wise you don’t finish in half an hour.  It clearly states that you have to turn the oven first, otherwise it taked forever to heat up, and this messes with all the preparations. Hubby was not very careful following instructions (he rarely is actually) and boiled the water for the pasta first. Then I said, the oven was supposed to be ready by know and it’s not even on yet!! So, we turned it on, but he had already started cooking the pasta. Thus, the pasta was ready way before we could even put in the bacon! This alone turned the 30-minute meal into the hour meal…

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After this mishap… everything else turned out really smooth. When the food was done, our mouths were watering with the smell and look! Of course it all not only smelled and looked good, but tasted really nice as well.  The cauliflower macaroni had a lovely taste. The cheesy sauce was smooth and with a delicate taste. The crunchy covering gave it a great taste between the saltiness of the bacon and the always nice rosemary. The salad was incredible. I had never tasted crunchy capers. I loved them so that I’m thinking of including them on my regular salads. The fact of frying them until crisp enhances the flavor in such a way, that even Hubby who hated them wanted to eat them all! The dressing was really insane, partly because I made for two people and added the amount of garlic for 6, so it was a bit strong, so be careful!! It was still delicious though, in small quantities.

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Finally the dessert.  As you know this is the first week we actually made the dessert. Unfortunately, we were so exited that we didn’t photograph it! But I can tell you that the plums cooked with orange, cinnamon and vanilla are the best stewed fruit I’ve ever had. The taste was sweet, delicious, soft… a sublime adventure. Plus I love the hot-cold feeling on desserts, and this was just too good to be true. I do believe that it would have been at least 10 times better with the vanilla ice cream though… For this and more, I have to push you all to make at least one Jamie Oliver meal! Till next week…

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Mazel tov!

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I have no idea if my title is spelled correctly! What I do know is that I have found the best Middle East food restaurant in a small placed called Little Israel. The place is located in Plaza los Laureles, the same places that hosts Sushi House, Subway and a bunch of other restaurants and businesses.

The restaurant is really basic, and the walls are decorated with big photographs of emblematic sites in Israel. Right next door they have a small grocery store where you can get all kinds of kosher ingredients. Everything is fresh, and I have found interesting stuff, of course I’m not jewish so it’s all new for me!

We found this little place early in our stay here. We have really grown fond of the owners, but mores specially with the food. We have tasted a bunch of their plates. One of our favorites is the falafel sandwich which is served on pita bread with hummus and salad. However, the last time we went, we decided on trying something new. So, we asked for an appetizer plate each that was made out of: baba ganoush, hummus, falafel, kibbe balls, stuffed grape leaves and stuffed cabbage leaves with red sauce. We complimented our order with a side order of tabule and pita bread.

While waiting for our food, we were happily sitting at our table when suddenly we heard the sounds of the kibbe and falafel getting cooked in hot oil. The smell was really good, so we got all excited.  It was not long before we both got our food. Everything was fresh and tasty. What I liked the best were the kibbe balls. The taste of the meat inside was really good and the crust was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

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The tabule enhanced everything. We did have to add some lemon juice to make it better for our taste, but keep in mind in Mexico we add lemon juice to everything. Everything was excellent… except for a small plate of rice we asked for as side order too… it was microwaved, and not just made. I do understand that because we were the only customer making a small cup of rice made no sense, but I do believe it would be better to advice the customer that rice is only served at lunch, which is when its just made. We did tell the owner about the rice issue, and he said he would look into it. Then he gave us a package of pita bread we were going to get for free as an apology. I was kind of embarrassed, but he he said the embarrassment should be all his.

All in all, the balance always tends toward the excellence of the place, so it is highly recommended!

©mylunchanddinner 2012