Austin City Taco Co.

Every now and again, I make a sacrifice to demonstrate why I reign as OMG of the DFW, Second of My Name (was named after my Grandma Ollie), Slayer of Breakfast Tacos — and Mother of Panthera Onca Parvus (Mouse and Crazy).

Couple of weeks ago, I was scheduled to interview Juan Rodriguez, Austin City Taco Co. culinary director. Due to scheduling conflicts on my part, I ended up just popping into the Fort Worth taco joint on my own to see what all the hubbub was about (sorry we missed ya, Juan).

Let me be clear. I wasn’t there to try anything outside of the breakfast taco genre. Everyone’s already written a ton about their Austin-influenced combinations. What I was interested in was their non-traditional takes on the breakfast taco.

Would they eff up the basics, like chorizo and egg? Would my beloved potato and egg arrive as mashed potatoes and a squiggly line of black beans? Had I risen at the crack of dawn and driven 45 minutes from home only to return disappointed and in need of crafting my own breakfast tacos??? I would soon find out.

They tell you exactly who they are — an homage to Austin and their taco scene — which is sort of why I was a little worried when it came time to the tasting bit — because we all know how I feel about Austin’s breakfast taco game.

Gotta say, I loved the vibe. Plus, their assistant manager Drew and the morning crew at Austin City Taco Co. delivered the best-improvised tour of the joint. Even from my short interactions, I could tell they were huge fans of the product and the brand — which is always a good sign.

Their breakfast taco menu is short and sweet — thank God. Migas (which I’ve never understood but enjoy), Bacon and Egg, Chorizo and Egg, Potato and Egg, and the Midnight Craving, a kitchen-sink approach to the breakfast taco.

The Midnight Craving sort of reminded me of the “everything,” “hurricane,” or “suicide tacos” that I grew up with in South Texas — but fancier. Ain’t no one serving up “bacon jam” back home. However, I admit this was a glorious and winning combo of eggs, brisket, potatoes, queso fresco, bacon jam, buttermilk ranch, all nestled inside of a fresh, scratch-made flour tortilla.

The Migas taco arrived in a half blue corn and half flour tortilla set up, and it was pretty darn delicious.

The pop of lime from the fresh salsa paired with the creamy avocado perched perfectly above the mountain of migas was downright delightful. Not to mention, that half blue corn tortilla was the shiznit.

And, that Chorizo and Egg??? Well, they let the chorizo speak for itself, and it said, “Te quiero mucho, amorcito mío.” (issa good thing)

I think, though, my favorite part of the visit was getting a couple of slices of bacon just because. We didn’t order the Bacon and Egg, but Drew insisted we needed to check out the bacon.

Heavenly.

People, they candy their bacon lightly with brown sugar. Heavenly.

Look, I’m a stickler for traditional breakfast tacos, but the thing is, these guys aren’t pretending to be your local taqueria. If you didn’t like their tacos, then pay more attention.

Drew kept talking up the fact that all they want to do is serve good food. They’re upfront about the fact they’re not in it to set trends or serve up traditional anything — they simply wish to deliver hot, fresh quality flavors like “the cravings you want right now,” and that’s exactly what they served up.

So, while I still prefer the more traditional breakfast taco of San Antonio and South Texas, there’s no reason to hate on Austin City Taco Co. They’re not claiming to be anything but delicious — and I can attest that they are exactly that. Go get you some. It was definitely worth the drive.

LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored in the social media post announcement. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.

Spatchcocked Rosemary Lemon Chicken

One of The Hub’s favorite meals is roasted chicken with crispy skin. So, for his birthday recently, I whipped this super simple recipe up just for him, and he loved it! I know you will, too!

Spatchcocked rosemary lemon chicken with garlic herbed roasted potatoes.

– 6lb whole chicken
– 1 small bag red potatoes
– 1 bunch parsley
– 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
– 3 large cloves of garlic
– 2 TBS olive oil
– 5 TBS softened butter
– 1 large lemon zested/juiced
– salt/pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Par-boil the potatoes in salted water, drain and set aside. Chop parsley and divide into two medium-sized bowls. Chop rosemary and add into only one of the bowls. Chop garlic cloves and add 3/4 to the parsley bowl and 1/4 of the garlic to the mixed herb bowl.

Add one (1) TBS of olive oil and two (2) TBS of butter to parsley and garlic bowl. Toss par-boiled potatoes into the parsley and garlic bowl. Season with salt/pepper. Set aside.

Add lemon zest and juice to the mixed herb bowl. Add remaining butter to mixed herb bowl and combine well. Season with salt/pepper. Set aside.

Spatchcock chicken. Spread mixed herb butter mixture under chicken skin and over all sides of the bird. Season with salt/pepper.

Lightly oil large heated skillet. Sear chicken skin side down in large skillet for 5-7 minutes. Carefully turn over chicken and sear on the underside for 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add herbed potatoes and all mixture into the heated skillet and toss potatoes. Using a masher, lightly press potatoes to break open but not mash.

Add chicken skin side up over the potatoes and roast at 375F for 90 minutes or until thickest part of the breast is 165F. Remove chicken from skillet, set aside and lightly cover with foil to rest. Return potatoes to oven and broil until golden brown and lightly crisp.

Tamales Tradition

I’m so thankful for my recent opportunity to help Verify TV during their search to find the best tamales in North Texas. While it’s always a fun adventure to participate with them, this particular assignment meant a great deal to me personally.

It’s not Christmas until the tamales are made. For my family, and so many others, it’s a tradition that involves participation from everyone — in many ways a rite of passage.

I remember very clearly the day I was first allowed to help. It was at my Grandma Ollie’s ranch, and I must have been around six or seven. Sitting around the long counter right next to my Ma, I was handed an oja (corn husk) and a spoon.

My job was to spread masa on as many ojas as I could. I recall my Grandma helping me figure out how to hold the oja in my little hand.

There’s a distinct way to gently use the spoon to smooth out the masa in swift strokes. I was so frustrated at first.

I recall feeling like each oja took FOREVER to do!

But, I was at the table. And, that’s what mattered.

An assembly line of family members laughing, working, and celebrating an extraordinary culinary experience rooted in my heritage — a memory that would imprint on my heart forever.

To be able to continue the tradition — right next to my Ma and with Grandma Ollie at 99 years and still in charge of the crew — means everything to me and more.

Merry Christmas. May your own family traditions during the holiday season be as special to you as mine are to me.

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*song used for entertainment only – no copyright infringement intended*

Independence Day Salad

Super easy summer salad for a sunny day!

Freedom from complicated recipes and hours in the kitchen is what this super simple summer salad serves up! (alliteration, anyone?)

This is one of the best salads to make using my absolute favorite Greek salad dressing, John the Greek Original Salad Dressing. I first saw it at a Texas specialty grocer, Central Market — a brand close to my heart since I used to work for them years ago. And, I fell in love!

I don’t know what John put in that dressing, but it’s zippy and makes my tastebuds happy. Plus, it’s sugar free — another plus in my book. Here’s the quick and easy recipe to enjoy on any summer day.

12 Petit Cucumbers, 1/4 inch sliced
2 Roma Tomatoes, cubed
1/4 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 TBS Fresh Dill, chopped
3/4 Btl John the Greek Original Salad Dressing

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate in a covered bowl for at least one hour. Serve as a side salad or over grilled meats and veggies.

Beto and Son at Trinity Groves

Pre-Happy New Year! It’s the end of 2017, and before we hop on a plane to begin our foodie adventures in Europe (follow me on Instagram for frequent moments of food envy), I wanted to share my last DFW restaurant meal of 2017 — Beto and Son at Trinity Groves — you’ll want to check this out. Continue reading “Beto and Son at Trinity Groves”

Meso Maya

So, I’m late to the game — Meso Maya has been around for a while now. I’ve driven past and even called to ask a few questions about the menu. And, honestly, based on its early reviews and the lackluster love received over the years, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try it. That was until it inched its way across the loop and into my neck of the woods. Meso Maya had planted its huarache where I could no longer ignore the smells of handmade corn tortillas and mesquite grilled meats. Continue reading “Meso Maya”

Happy National Taco Day!

In honor of National Taco Day… may the tortillas be perfect, the fillings be flavorful, and the salsita be perfectly picosa! ¡Viva! Continue reading “Happy National Taco Day!”

Classic Roasted Tomato Salsa

Last week, Chef Rick Bayless posted a challenge to create a personalized version of Classic Roasted Tomato Salsa and a dish you’d use it in. I’ve always been a sucker for a good salsa. And, when he announced this salsa contest, I armed myself with fire and tongs. Continue reading “Classic Roasted Tomato Salsa”

Coconut Flour Pancakes

Let’s just cut to the chase here. If you’ve ever tried to blindly create anything with coconut flour, it’s highly likely you ended up angry, frustrated, confused, and most definitely hungry. Continue reading “Coconut Flour Pancakes”

REPOST: Texas Breakfast Taco Battle

Verify Road Trip’s Breakfast Capital of Texas show was back on the air this week, and we’ve started up the conversation again. So, here’s a repost of the original Breakfast Taco Battle post right before the original air date – with an edit to remove the original air date from September 2016. Catch my submission video and behind the scenes info, too! Most importantly, pick up a breakfast taco this morning. You need one. I’m frying up some bacon right now. Continue reading “REPOST: Texas Breakfast Taco Battle”

Garam Masala Grilled Chicken Skewers

Let me start by saying that what I’m about to share with you is the easiest, most delicious bite of fabulous I have thrown together in a long time. And, I throw together bits of fabulous frequently. This one was practically perfect in every way. Eat your heart out, Mary Poppins. The. Bomb. Diggity. Continue reading “Garam Masala Grilled Chicken Skewers”

Stress and Better Choices

Stress is real, people. And, the truth is last week was a stress-filled week.

I didn’t post this weekend because I was out of town, and when I started to pull together my thoughts about posting, the only thing I could think of saying was that my better choices journey sucked this week, and I wanted to leave it in the rear view mirror. Continue reading “Stress and Better Choices”

Red, Red Wine Chicken

Well, there’s been a theme to this week…

Now that I’ve completely lost your attention and I, myself, am swaying back and forth dancing in my seat, let’s talk about the week, shall we? Continue reading “Red, Red Wine Chicken”

Valentine’s Day Beef Kabobs and Chocolate Decadence Cake

It’s showtime, e’rybody. It’s that time of year where the romantic gesture of cooking a scratch-made meal can only end one of two ways, canoodling or calling the fire department. Well, not only am I here to help get your canoodle on, but we’re going to make better choices to get to that canoodle. Plus, we’ll let the fire department handle a real emergency. And, if you’re flying solo, then you’ll have a killer dinner, lunch for tomorrow, and dessert all week long because #lovethyself. Boom. Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Beef Kabobs and Chocolate Decadence Cake”

A Gringo Bandito Stole My Heart

Generally speaking, I’ve never been a huge fan of hot sauce. While I’ve partaken in a shake or two of some of the more established hot sauce players in the game, I’m not exactly a chilihead.

Don’t get me wrong – I love spicy. Eating a fat, charred jalapeño or taking down some serious Szechuan pepper ladened Asian cuisine can be downright euphoric. That song “I Can’t Feel My Face” comes to mind. Lips numb, tongue seemingly engulfed in flames fueled by capsaicin. It’s a beautiful thing. But, on the regular? I’m more of a spicy salsa girl.

I mean, how else am I supposed to eat my glorious breakfast tacos? I need salsa verde, salsa picante, salsa roja – things I not only associate with spiciness but also bursts of charred tomato, roasted peppers, and the smokiness that comes from toasted cumin or roasted garlic – flavor! For me, hot sauce has always been all vinegar and very little depth of flavor.

That was until I met el Gringo Bandito. Querido mío. And, I have to admit. The encounter has changed my life.

Armed with three options, Original Red, Green, and Super Hot, I started out on my week-long adventure the only way I know how – the breakfast taco. Now, you might be thinking, “Hey! What about better choices, chica!?” Does this stuff fit into your mantra?

Read the label, vato loco. That was brownie point numero uno.

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-30Salsa verde is normally my go-to salsa for breakfast tacos; so, I decided to stick with the program and go for the Gringo Bandito Green Sauce first.

Immediately, I knew there was something different. I wasn’t picking up that tart smack you get with most hot sauce. What I was getting was spicy but garlicky – like in that “have mercy, I need another bite” garlicky way.

The Green Sauce is a combination of Habanero and Serrano peppers, spices, and wait for it… mojo! Dude! Wow.

This was the shiznit. Blew my mind – mostly because I was fully expecting a fight with the vinegar to find some flavor. Pero no. This was good. As Nacho Libre might say, “Reaaaally goood.”

Now, as you recall, I have an aversion to sad, little salads. However, in my efforts to make better choices, I am adding more greenery to my daily intake – reluctantly so (as demonstrated in this recent text from Bear) – but nevertheless leafy greens have made an appearance on my plate.

The other day, I took some leafy greens to work. And, as part of my efforts to avoid said sad, little salad, I dressed it up with chicken and avocado. While it was a valiant effort, I feared it still wasn’t going to help take me to my happy place. So, I decided to throw some Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce into the mix.

Of the three Gringo Bandito options I tried, this was the only one that listed white vinegar as the first ingredient. I was betting on a “salad + vinegar + oil = sad, little salad + chilies = happier salad” theory.

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-27I added a generous shake or two (or ten) to my salad dressing, and once again, I was pleasantly surprised! This time, the Original Red was giving me a chile colorado vibe.

The Red Japanese Chili Peppers in the Original Red reminded me of that awesome lingering burn you feel when eating a bowl full of chile colorado just before having a sip of beer to wash it down. The addition of the Original Red took me to that happy place as I sat in the office, much like the chile colorado moment but sadly, with no beer to wash down the leafy greens.

I do have to mention, the Original Red definitely was the most vinegar-forward of the three options, but it also was nowhere near the toxic tartness levels most of the hot sauces out there embrace wholeheartedly. Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce definitely showcases an original, focused effort on getting all the heat and all the flavor out of their carefully selected pepper combinations without drowning it in acid.

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-6One of the nights this week, I made pan-seared skate wing with sauteed spinach and yellow squash. While beautifully balanced, healthy, and delicately seasoned, I couldn’t help but stare at the third bottle of Gringo Bandito sitting on the table with us, Super Hot, and wondering, “What if?”

This bad boy has Scorpion Chili Peppers!

AND Jolokia Chili Peppers! (aka Ghost Peppers! Cucuy!)

Would the skate wing melt away like that dude’s face in Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark?

Would my fork survive?

Would the yellow squash shrivel up and turn into ash upon contact with Gringo Bandito Super Hot?

I had to find out!

omgs-dfw-food-gringo-bandito-7It. Was. Amazing.

While, yes, my lips and tongue were not particularly pleased I had gone from delicate, flaky, lightly seasoned fish to FIRE IN THE PIE HOLE, it wasn’t so much about the heat. Not even Super Hot heat. I was getting the background – the onions, garlic, and additional spices that most hot sauces lack. It was hot enough to make me uncomfortable but not so hot that I couldn’t taste the fact that it hadn’t taken anything away from the skate wing; it had actually elevated it.

The whole purpose of Gringo Bandito, I discovered, isn’t to just add a dash of spicy vinegar to your plate but for Gringo Bandito to simply and artfully craft a layer of complexity that harnesses the beauty of heat without torching the natural essence of the actual chili flavor.

The more I tasted Gringo Bandito hot sauces, the more it started to change my view on hot sauce, overall and especially as an ingredient. 

In making better choices, having flavor bomb options like Gringo Bandito that don’t bomb your better choices lifestyle is key! I need flavor punches without punching holes in my progress (17 pounds gone so far). Ultimately, this was the point that sealed the romance between me and my Gringo Bandito. It rocked my world so much that I even created a clean-eating, under-250-calories-per-healthy-serving recipe featuring Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce: Mexican Turkey Meatloaf.

Ingredients:
16oz 93% Lean Ground Turkey
1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, diced
1 Yellow Squash, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
1 TBS Cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
12 Herb Seasoned Croutons, crushed
1 TBS Knorr Tomato Bouillon With Chicken Flavor
5 TBS Tomato Paste
1 Large Brown Egg
2 TBS Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce
1 Medium Avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large sealable plastic storage bag, add the ground turkey. Set aside. Dice the onion, squash, bell pepper, and celery into small, similar sizes to ensure even cooking.

Add the diced vegetables, cilantro, cumin, garlic and onion powder to a skillet on medium-high. Cook until the onions and celery begin to become translucent. Season very lightly with salt, as you will be using bouillon later that will contain salt. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly.

Once the cooked vegetables are completely cooled, add the vegetables into the plastic storage bag with the ground turkey. Do not add warm vegetables to the raw turkey for food safety reasons. To the bag, add the tomato paste, egg, crushed croutons, bouillon, and Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce.

Seal the bag and massage the bag until all ingredients are incorporated thoroughly. Place the contents of the bag into a loaf pan and smooth out evenly with a spoon.

To the top of the meatloaf, add several more dashes of Gringo Bandito Original Red Hot Sauce. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until the temperature reads 165° when inserted into the center part of the meatloaf.

Once the meatloaf is cooked through, top it with the sliced avocado and additional dashes of Gringo Bandito Original Hot Sauce for an extra kick! Serve with roasted sweet potato.

Yields 4 servings at 249 calories per serving.

It’s no joke. You need a Gringo Bandito in your life.

#sponsored
http://gringobandito.com/
Facebook: @gringobanditohotsauce
Twitter: @gringobhotsauce
Contact: ese@gringobandito.com

LET’S KEEP IT REAL: First and foremost, I do everything for the love of food. Most of what I write about is because I love it! If I don’t love it, I tell you about that, too. From time to time, I may receive monetary or product compensation for mentioning products, offering recommendations, providing endorsements, or including links to products or services when I blog. While that may be the case for some posts, it is not the case for all. When it’s sponsored, you’ll see #sponsored when I post. When I’m just sharing the love, I won’t use that particular tag or hashtag. What you need to know is that I only give shout outs when I actually use the product or love it so much it deserves a shout out, sponsored or not.

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