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.

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!”

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”

Texas Breakfast Taco Battle

Although the state food of Texas is officially chili, most Texans would agree that the breakfast taco should really hold that title.

Growing up in South Texas, the breakfast taco was a daily way of life and an even bigger deal on weekends when barbacoa came out to play. For those who aren’t familiar, barbacoa tacos fall into a special category, “solo el fin de semana,” or just the weekend. Much like menudo and pozole, barbacoa breakfast tacos are usually reserved for Saturday and Sunday only.

I remember we would head to my Uncle Turi’s (short for Arturo) house where we experienced our version of the culinary holy trinity, the trifecta of Sunday breakfasts: menudo, pan dulce, and breakfast tacos (barbacoa included). My Aunt Adelma has always been the official family “madrina de menudo,” the godmother of this most prized Mexican delicacy. She’s like a magician in the kitchen, and to this day, I have yet to figure out what she does differently that makes it so incredibly amazing. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. But, I digress…

Even now, being in North Texas, it’s a Sunday tradition to bring breakfast tacos over to my brother’s house where everyone, including my 97-year old Grandma Ollie, gently tilts our heads to lovingly usher in the fluffy, yet toasted, flour tortilla, edges bursting with heavenly combinations of bean and bacon, potato and egg, chorizo and egg, and of course, barbacoa.

So, it should be no surprise that my history with and my passion for breakfast tacos recently lead me on a spectacular breakfast taco-filled journey when I was chosen to be a guest reporter for Verify, a television show that takes interested viewers on road trips to seek answers to life’s most pressing questions, like “What’s the Breakfast Taco Capital of Texas?”

For two days, we traveled through Austin and San Antonio, tasting the best breakfast tacos each city had to offer, and in the end, I had to choose which city would reign supreme in the Texas breakfast taco battle. Talk about controversial decisions. Anyone see what happened to the last guy who spoke up about the subject? Sensitive topic much?

And, during the week of September 12, 2016, the state of Texas will find out my decision, and hopefully, I won’t be banned from either city (or any city across Texas for that matter).

I love Texas! I love breakfast tacos! I love all tacos!

Now, one would think that after two days straight of nothing but breakfast tacos, it would have some sort of negative impact on my affection for the tasty Texas treats, and yet, no – it did not.

In fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what happened.

The day I returned, and every weekend since (just as it’s always been) I either made or purchased breakfast tacos. For me, it’s about a sense of home.

I can remember early mornings at my grandparents’ ranch as a small child, watching Grandma Ollie masterfully lead a sort of ballet where each long, thin strip of bacon danced with her wooden spoon until they furled gracefully into their perfectly crisp positions in the cast iron skillet.omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos bacon

Next would come the potatoes, every piece a blank canvas with nothing but that aromatic, smoky base as the paintbrush, adding the perfect amount of salt over each rich, caramelized cube. omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos fried potatoesThen, the beans would enjoy a bath in that bacony goodness until every one of them had weakened under pressure and transformed into the perfect creamy base for the breakfast taco, refried beans.omgsdfwfood - 300 breakfast tacos refried beans

To this day, I still follow her steps when preparing breakfast tacos at home. The breakfast taco really means so much more to me than a humble meal in the morning or a Texas tradition, even. It’s about my culture, my history, my family – my own Texas experience.

Having to choose between two cities, knowing there were so many other Texas cities not represented, was extremely difficult for me. I found myself getting teary-eyed whenever I thought too long about not being able to include the Rio Grande Valley or Corpus Christi, my South Texas, in my decision. I felt like I was denying the existence of hundreds of little taco stands, taco trucks, breakfast taco joints, and too many family kitchens that were all more than worthy of having a shot at the title. I felt silly that this responsibility was weighing so heavily on my soul, and yet, I felt compelled to try and weave in my concerns at every turn – all because that’s how much it meant to me!

Poor David Schechter can attest that I must have mentioned the variety of breakfast tacos that weren’t in the running at least 50 times while on the road. By the end of the trip, I am positive I interjected my concerns on camera enough times to possibly make it through editing – next week will tell.

And, it was all for the love of my beloved Texas breakfast taco and the desperate need to represent my culture, my history, and my food family well. I truly took this decision to heart.

I’m a proud Texan. I love both Austin and San Antonio. So, when you watch the show during your evening news the week of September 12thon any Texas Tegna station, know that I took the responsibility seriously and had my own personal breakfast taco battle going on internally, one that wasn’t easily calmed with anti-acids.

In the end, I know I made the right decision based on a very clear set of criteria, and I’ll stand by that decision when it comes out.

For now, I’ll just sit back and have a snack… perhaps one of several breakfast tacos I brought back from this past weekend getaway to Austin and San Antonio.OMGs DFW Food - Texas Breakfast Tacos

 

Verify THIS!

UPDATE: Verify Road Trip will air the week of September 12, 2016 on all Texas stations listed in the video below!

If you’ve been anywhere even remotely close to my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages lately, you noticed I’ve been on a two-day breakfast taco adventure by way of WFAA’s David Schechter and his new show, Verify: Road Trip. I can’t shut up about it and for good reason! This experience was thuh-SHIZnit! It was the bomb diggity damn, and I absolutely loved every second of it!!

Wanted to offer up a little recap of our adventures and also give a HUGE shout out to David Schechter, Alex Krueger, Chance Horner, and Cameron Gott – the elite – the ultimate newscrew/superhero photojournaling/wicked Cirque du Solei balancing/mutli-task wizarding/kung-fu masters of bad-assery team who invited me into their inner circle for two days.

These guys were non-stop, and this was IN ADDITION to other things they were juggling from the home office in DFW while we were on the road. PLUS, they were super cool, funny, and they not only let me ask a million questions, but they offered up some killer advice within their responses. I was taking a friggin’ master class for two days with these guys – a la Oprah, yo. Just amazing.

We have NO IDEA how much work goes into news reporting, folks. No idea. It’s long hours, hard work, integrity-driven commitment to responsible research, and the ability to go with the flow. Be prepared for anything was the motto.

I got a taste of it for two days, and it was so flippin’ awesome but so flippin’ hard. These guys are quick on their feet, so intelligent and witty, constantly churning out ideas and working on the fly – their writing is just off the hook, and their camera work is crazy awesome. The two days were incredibly exhausting, and I just sat in the A/C most of the time while they were scouting locations and carrying equipment around in 90+ degree weather.

I have nuthin’ but love for these guys. Just killer. Nuthin’ but love.

So, here’s a sneak peek at what we did for two days, but if you want to know who reigns supreme as the breakfast taco capital of Texas, you’ll just have to watch any of the Texas stations listed in the video at 10pm during the last week of August!

Livin’ La Vida Taco

My head’s about to explode.

Four days ago, I was scrolling down Facebook and noticed a video in my feed with the title, “Are you a foodie?”

Naturally, I hit pause on the cat video and clicked on the foodie link. It was ABC affiliate WFAA’s David Schechter and a producer, Alex Krueger, asking for one foodie viewer to join them on a road trip to help determine the true breakfast taco capital of Texas.

If ever there were a task I was thoroughly qualified to exceed at, this was it.

To be chosen, you had to fill out a three-question survey and submit a video talking about why you should be the one taking up that last seat in the mini-van.

Here’s how it went down…

YOU HAVE ONLY ONE HOUR TO SAVE THE WORLD FROM A ZOMBIE ATTACK, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I would fry bacon, eat the bacon, and use the hot, rendered fat as a weapon against the zombies, in the hopes that I wouldn’t run into any vegan zombies where pork fat as a weapon would clearly be futile. I would leverage social media and the news outlets to spread the word and help others defend the world using the same method. This way, no matter what happened, people would either die happy or at least not waste pork fat before dying.

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MEAL? 
In Madrid, Spain, we were fortunate enough to eat at the oldest restaurant in the world, Restaurante Botín. It opened its doors in 1725, and there’s a reason it’s still open and even made its way into Hemingway’s novels. The crisp skin of the roasted suckling pig (cochinillo asado), the fascinating subtleties of the blood sausage (morcilla), the deeply rich and creamy chicken/ham croquettes (croquetas), and the noble cured ham (jamón ibérico) were like food of the gods. Sitting in those tiny chairs, pressed up next to our neighboring tables, listening to Madrileños whip their way through conversations, purposely closing my eyes with every succulent bite, imagining that very room where thousands of patrons had enjoyed a very similar experience… it was something I will never forget.

WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL AND WHY?
Wow. Where do I start? So many colorful spices have been simmering a long time in the magical sauce that’s my life! Caroline McNinch, my smoking, 400 pound, denture-wearing, narcoleptic babysitter, introduced me to the poetry of James Whitcomb Riley when I was just four years old and spent hours teaching me the magic of spoken poetry, all while making the most amazing potato bread that she would promptly toast with a pat of butter straight from the oven. Once seated at the red, retro four-top in the middle of her tiny kitchen, we would swap turns coating the still-warm pillowy delight with sweet, homemade blackberry jam. She taught me how to enjoy life and find joy and humor in all things. My Grandma Ollie still inspires me today at age 97. She’s a pistol and loves to party. Frying bacon in a cast iron skillet on a brisk and fog-laden early morning at the ranch, my Grandma would have five-year old me watch from a stool as she prepared my Grandpa’s breakfast. She taught me love comes in many forms and can be leveraged as a seasoning. And, quickly after breakfast was done, she and my Grandpa would head out to work the ranch, teaching me hard-work and discipline combined with laughter, song, and love. My Grandpa was a World War II veteran and instilled a respect for our country and a passion for education in each of us. He introduced me to PBS, long before cable came to our town, and there I met Julia, Jacques, Rick, Paul, Lidia, Jeff, Martin, Ming, Charlie, Joanne, Sarah, Daisy, and many, many more amazing chefs, all focused on teaching me magnificent skills! I was hooked.

I was incredibly fortunate to have such powerful role models lay the groundwork for me at such an early age. While I could say I’ve been inspired by many a talented and remarkable chef, leader, and mentor, by far, the most inspirational were the ones who nurtured the sparks they could see when creativity met food met love met me.

VIDEO SUBMISSION:

And, guess what???Taco RD Trip OMGSDFWFOOD

We’re going on a road trip, baby!

Don’t worry – I won’t embarrass the family… or maybe I will… nowadays that makes for good television.

Straight Outta Day Two – IFBC

IFBC - Straight Outta Day 2 - omgsdfwfoodOkay, I have two words for you: mind blown. Get this. Aside from the copious amounts of wine and food samples that surrounded us all day, these people at the International Food Blogger Conference, held by Foodista and Zephyr Adventures, laid out a kick ass day that any food-centric writer would not only expect to see at a food blogger conference but be pretty stoked to attend. So, I can’t go over every single moment because that would take forever, but here are a few highlights.

 

The morning kicked off with our keynote speaker, Kim Severson who is, among many other brilliantly fabulous things, a James Beard award-winning writer who just so happens to report and write for a little ol’ paper you may have heard of – The New York Times. She talked about the digital food revolution and how important authenticity is in our writing. While I completely wish we were best friends and could talk for hours about her day to day, plus chat about any interesting and slightly embarrassing stories she may know about Ruth Reichl, that wasn’t going to happen – at least here – so instead I took away some wonderful tasty nuggets she shared:

  • We are purveyors of great information.
  • Report with humility. Write with authority.
  • If you’re not composing, you’re composting.
  • I procrastinate just as much as you do (paraphrased, but this one hit close to home – oh, look! A squirrel!)

She also said a few things that made me say, “Crap! I knew I should have left that in there!” I oftentimes over-edit myself after writing something because I worry that I need to scrub for a general audience, and what I kept hearing over and over again at this conference was “BE YOU!” After hearing her speak, I rushed to add some things back into some of my work that I’d previously removed, feeling very Norma Rae, “Yeah! Stick it to the man! They DO want to hear about my difficulties describing umami and how my tongue gets ahead of my brain sometimes! I may even talk about my obsession with knives next week!”

After getting all goose-bumpy over my Kim Severson experience and rushing to change words, I panicked when I changed a URL (which Dr. Jean Layton said never to do in an earlier session); so I grabbed the nearest person, frantically asked her to check my site on her phone since I didn’t believe mine, and she assured me I had not blown up my website. Then, I realized it was just a slug I’d changed – technical jargon for “something that won’t blow up your site if you change it.” So, thank you to the wonderful person who helped me, and I am so sorry I didn’t catch your name. You are awesome.

Alright, back to the “BE YOU.” Next up was a pretty remarkable writer’s workshop with talented author, Jess Thomson who really emphasized knowing who you are and being that authentic self through a video of the “Freaky Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar” in Alice in Wonderland when he asks Alice, “Whoooo Aaaarrrre Youuuuu?” It was another lesson in “people want to hear what you say because YOU’RE saying it!” She had us go through two short writing exercises that honestly gave me a little boost of confidence. I completely embraced everything she was saying and even spoke with her afterwards about more writing workshops to further improve my writing style. Her workshop was like coming home and noticing the room had been rearranged, but it was still your home – finding new ways to highlight your talents that are ready to be moved around. Pretty cool.IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Irvin Lin

Another session featured Irvin Lin and Sarah Flotard who spoke about holiday preparation and how to put your best dish forward to help the masses as they prepare for the holiday season. This session was somewhat controversial at our table because the last few hours were all about authenticity and being the honest “you,” and then here we were focused on how to paint a half-baked turkey so it looked finished for you to take pictures of it four days later. It was interesting and was definitely of value in many areas – I will say, aside from some of the “soapy bird” professional food styling bit, I totally dug all the ideas about lighting, props, background, seizing the unplanned moments, and having fun with it. Needless to say, you will not be seeing a painted turkey on my site during the holidays. If I bomb, you’ll know it.

IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Andie Mitchell PanelWe also were introduced to a superhero trio to be reckoned with: Andie Mitchell, food blogger and author, along with prop stylist Jenn Elliott-Blake and award-winning food blogger and photographer Aran Goyoaga. They create the “Justice League” team who collaborated to work on Andie’s cookbook which is being released next spring! They discussed the ins and outs of creating a blog style which can be aesthetically appealing to your audience while highlighting your own personality and vision. And, whatever you do, WASH YOUR LINENS before shooting!

IFBC - Curriculamb - Tracy - omgsdfwfood

Then, the American Lamb Board held a Curriculamb 101 class (parum-pum – I thought it was funny). We learned so much about the different cuts, how to best prepare the lamb, and we got to taste some stellar lamb pate, as well as some incredible smoked lamb… aaaaaaall right after we watched a video about the baby lambs and how cute they are and how the farmers “get attached” to them. O_o Yeah.

BUT, I love meat, and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. The point was to show us that these lambs are well-taken care of and do live a good, healthy life in a wonderful environment prior to their incorporation to the food chain. We, as consumers, need to know where are food is coming from so we can make better choices with where we purchase our food, and the smaller farms are where it’s at when it comes to sustainability and freshness. My opinion.

 

Did I mention the copious amounts of wine? Right after this last session, we engaged in a grand wine tasting with various wineries and regions, including wines from Trione WineryFranciacorta, and Concannon, right before the pièce de résistance, the Culinary Expo and Fair.

IFBC - Culinary Fair and Expo 2 - omgsdfwfood

 

 

 

 

 

 

IFBC - Culinary Fair - Skillet - omgsdfwfoodWow. There were nearly 30 different vendors and restaurants who filled the room with aromas of fried chicken and waffles from Skillet Street Food, smoked sobrasada chorizo with port soaked figs and Valencia almond from my new favorite Seattle restaurant Lark and everything in betwIFBC - Culinary Fair - Lark - omgsdfwfoodeen. Just zoom in on the grid pics above to see every single vendor who showed their love to all the food bloggers in attendance. Bottom line: killer food, killer drinks, killer peeps, killer vibe.

One more day to report, and I cannot wait to book next year’s conference already! Sorry I was so late today – we can all thank Canlis for that one, but I’ll talk about that later.

 

 

 

Note: While all IFBC posts are completely written based on my own experience and opinion, I was offered a discounted rate in exchange for three general posts about the conference.

Straight Outta Day One – IFBC

IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Straight Outta Day 1As a great, prolific writer once said, “Today was a good day.”

I may not be “Straight Outta Compton,” but I am straight outta the first day of the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Seattle, Washington, and it was pretty darn awesome.

For the last six years, Foodista has held this conference for food bloggers everywhere, focusing on writing, food, and technology. And, this is the first year I’m participating in this phenomenally food-centric gathering.

In addition to the conference, I’m also finding some time to hit a few hot spots in Seattle to check out what the locals enjoy on a day to day. Yesterday, I made it to Stateside and Altura, two amazing visits which will get their own features soon, and today, I swung by Purple Cafe and Wine Bar before heading out to my first event with IFBC.

Purple Cafe and Wine Bar - IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Fig and Gorgonzola Pizzetta
Taking the suggestion of my server, Jessica, I opted for the trio lunch plate that featured a beautifully created fig and Gorgonzola pizzetta, along with a butternut squash soup and a strawberry and goat cheese salad. I love figs and am a huge fan of pear and Gorgonzola flatbread; so, I knew this was going to be a winner. This pizzetta was out of this world. The buttery crust was perfectly crisp on the outside and nice and chewy where it counted. It was the perfect way to start my day’s adventures.

Miele USA - Cooking - IFBC - omgsdfwfood

 

Now, while tomorrow marks the first official day of conference sessions, today featured a few excursions for the attendees. My particular group went to the Miele USA Showroom for a hands-on cooking class featuring their top of the line appliances, including an induction cooktop which we were able to utilize during the class. Their sleek, German-engineered, stylish ranges, coffee centers, wine refrigerators, and dishwashers were front and center during our class and proved to not only be appealing but functional.

Miele USA Showroom - Seattle - IFBC - omgsdfwfoodOur group was split into five separate stations where we each made a different dish following Miele recipes while being led by our Miele cooking instructor, Mary. Group number two was where I landed, and I was paired up with Suki, a “super duper fantastic” blogger out of San Francisco who joined me in our take on Pasta e Fagioli. I say, “our take” because we put our own twist on the recipe that may or may not have included adding an entire can of tomato paste to the mix versus a few tablespoons. Whatever the case, the soup rocked, and everyone thought it was a hit!IFBC - omgsdfwfood - Miele USA Cooking Event Food - Paella Souffle Pasta Fagiole Burger Steamed Bun

 

Together with the rest of our larger group, we created Paella, Steamed Pork Buns, Sliders, Greek Salad, and Gruyere Souffle, a feast fit for kings and queens! Everyone did an incredible job and seemed to truly enjoy our outting at Miele. Now, plenty of food later, it was time for another amazing event, registration and the gift suite expo featuring local restaurants and food businesses.

IFBC - Salumi Seattle - Batali - omgsdfwfood

 

Now, for me, the highlight of the gift suite expo was meeting the incomparable Armand Batali, father of famed restaurateur and Food Network icon, Mario Batali. Armand, who is actually an icon in his own right with Salumi Artisan Cured Meats in Seattle, was sampling four different salumis, fennel being the featured one in the pic. Not only was the salumi phenomenal, but Armand was, once again, an absolute delight. I’ve actually stood in line for hours to indulge in one of his handcrafted sandwiches made at Salumi, nearly missing my flight many times because I NEEDED that sandwich!

International Food Blogger Conference - omgsdfwfood - The Echo Devils

 

In addition to the ridiculous amount of goodies received, we had the absolute BEST “background” music by this funkalicious Rockabilly group named The Echo Devils. These guys were on FIE-uh! I’m talking blues, funky fab, James Bond groovy jams that took the event to a whole new level.

 

Lark Seattle - Fig Puff Pastry Tart - IFBC - omgsdfwfood

 

Now, if all that wasn’t enough, I decided that I would top off the night with a visit to Lark, one of Seattle’s best restaurants that features local ingredients from the very best artisans, produce growers and foragers in the Seattle area. Chef Sundstrom has truly hit his stride at this new location off East Seneca. While my particular service experience was initially questionable, they were quick to resolve any issues, and the food was never in question. From start to finish, the dishes were sheer perfection. Ending the night with a delectable black mission fig puff pastry tart was the absolute highlight of the evening… Told you I was a fan of the fig.

I can’t wait what Day Two has in store…

Note: While all IFBC posts are completely written based on my own experience and opinion, I was offered a discounted rate in exchange for three general posts about the conference.

La Visita at La Nueva Casita Cafe

IMG_8321
It was that time of year where we found ourselves in the Land of Enchantment nestled in a sea of green chilies, and I just couldn’t get enough. One morning, we decided to make a quick stop for breakfast before heading out towards Ruidoso. And, instead of grabbing a sure thing and getting on the road, we were in a gambling mood and decided to try somewhere we’d never been, La Nueva Casita Cafe. Winner! We hit the jackpot!

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The second we walked into the doors, we suspected it would be an amazing experience, and they did not disappoint. The deceptively small but charming adobe building is located in the historical part of Las Cruces and is on the legendary El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road of the Interior Lands. The restaurant has been “a timeless tradition with a modern-day flare” since 1957, according to their menu.

IMG_8264-2 As we entered the building, we were kindly greeted and ushered to the open dining area where the masa-colored adobe walls, Mexican ranch-style wooden chairs and tiled wooden tables created a statement of comfort. The distinct aromatic flavors of Mexico danced in the air and made me a little giddy, knowing we were in for a treat.

Our server, Diana, introduced herself cheerfully and offered us menus to review. I immediately noticed their choices were few and unique, like a specialty menu. In my experience, for the most part, the smaller the list of items, the better quality of food. Although they do have a breakfast menu, you can order from the lunch or dinner menu anytime. We decided to stick with breakfast choices and then ask for a few side dishes to try the lunch and dinner items that stood out the most.Green Chile Omelette

Bear enjoyably devoured their Chile Relleno omelette, and I snuck in a bite (for research purposes only, of course). When someone describes a cheesy dish as warm and gooey goodness, they’re describing this dish. From first to last bite, the fluffy, light omelette filled with warm, green chile and smothered in melted cheese delivered an ooey, gooey experience with every lift of the fork. Needless to say, there was absolutely no remnants of ooey or gooey cheddar or green chile after a few minutes with Bear.

 

Huevos Compuestas

As he focused intently on the relleno omelette, I turned my attention to the abundantly filled corn cups with green chile beef, topped with perfectly cooked over easy eggs and melted cheese, Huevos Compuestas. Oh. My.

Egg YolkOnce the yolks were released, they slowly nestled into every crevice of the green chile beef to blanket it all, adding a creamy finish to the already cheese laden dish. To say the first bite was delightful, unctuous and warm with spice would be a terrible understatement. I vaguely recall hearing by name being spoken moments after that first bite and slowly drifting back to reality from this pillowy green chile dream sequence. It was damn good.

And, because I knew this would be a short visit and I’d likely not have another chance to try many other items on the menu, we managed to build a nice, solid rapport with our already phenomenally accommodating and sincerely service-oriented server, Diana. Believe me, it wasn’t that difficult to create a bond, and I give full credit to Diana for what I’m about to tell you.

When we explained it was our first visit, that we’d likely not return for a year, then ordered a small side of fideo to taste, plus obsessively kept taking photos of our food, she immediately began to offer tastings of their best dishes… just because!!! Needless to say, I leveraged this opportunity to our advantage.

FideoFirst up to taste, we tried the fideo. For those unfamiliar, this is a very simple, traditional Mexican staple that involves toasting vermicelli noodles in oil and then creating a seasoned light broth in which the noodles fully cook. Some people may add beef or chicken to fideo, but the most common version is a tomato-based broth with noodles. At La Nueva Casita Cafe, they took this comfort food to a whole new level by creating the broth mainly with steeped, then blended, red chiles and only enough water to cook the noodles. I was convinced they’d added some sort of thickener, but Diana confirmed the only thickening agent came from the red chiles which provided this incredible slow, warming, spectacular burn as it made its journey to become nourishment. And, the finishing touch was fresh, diced tomatoes suspended in this magical, flavorful tomatoey potion that had me so transfixed!
Menudo
Another magical potion was their menudo! We were able to get about five spoonfuls total from our tasting, and it was amazing. Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup or stew created with beef stomach lining, hominy and spices. The soup is usually very light and fluid, but this menudo had a similar texture as the fideo and was teaming with warm, spicy red chile flavor that thickened the broth to this ridiculously addictive consistency. You couldn’t get enough! It wasn’t soupy; it wasn’t creamy or too thick; it was the absolute perfect consistency, and we ate it up!

CalabacitaJust as we thought the tasting was over, Diana walked over with a tiny bowl of calabacita. This is another traditional vegetarian Mexican dish but is very different from the calabacita I grew up eating in Texas. Where I’m from, the base of all calabacita is the calabaza or green squash that can be found in any market. Next is the corn, onions and tomato. They’re stewed in a tomato based salty broth, rich in flavor, and is oftentimes combined with chicken and ends up more like a very hearty stew where the squash sort of melts into the dish and becomes… well… squashed.

This calabacita was the New Mexican  version and very different from what I’d experienced. While the base was mostly familiar with calabaza, freshly cut corn, and tomatoes, this calabacita replaced onions with green chiles and thickened the broth with cheese, creating this unbelievably velvety finish with every bite! And, what truly impressed my palette was the amazing balance of freshness from the brightly colored vegetables against that creamy, intoxicating broth. I’m salivating just thinking about it. You better believe I’ll be doing this dish at home on a regular basis.

IMG_8290-0So, after the tasting parade was over, Diana (who was just a total bad ass at her job), did what any great server would do when facing two people who had already eaten way too much, she offered us dessert! And, we did what any two people would do after tasting all those amazing dishes – we said, “Yes!”Bear and ChocoFlan

After Diana listed every house-made sweet treat, Bear landed on ChocoFlan, a combination of a rich, chocolate cake topped with a creamy caramel flan and garnished with whipped cream. I’m sure you can’t tell by the look on his face just what he was thinking. He was thoroughly impressed and did not leave a single bite of that unique dessert combination on his plate. Thankfully, I got first bite dibs, and I can tell you, the cake was very dense but moist and flavorful, while the flan created this fantastic balance of texture. I don’t blame him for the face. It was well-deserved.

Cherry EmpanadaAnd, I decided to go with a cherry empanada. Diana explained that their back of house baker used to own his own bakery and when that didn’t pan out, he started work at La Nueva Casita and brought his delicious Mexican pastries to the menu. The moment she placed the empanada in front of me, I could smell the anise and cinnamon in the dough, teasing my senses and calling me to duty. I did not hesitate. I have to say, I could not get enough of the light, delicate dough that was gently wrapped around the filling and preferred it much more than the filling itself. Come to find out, the filling was pre-made. While I did absolutely find the empanada flavorful, I was surprised it didn’t fall in line with all the other house-made items on the menu.

So, when you’re in Las Cruces and are looking for a comforting meal with genuine personality in a relaxing environment, check out La Nueva Casita. I can’t wait for next year!!

La Nueva Casita
195 North Mesquite St. Las Cruces, NM 88001
575-523-5434
http://www.lanuevacasitacafe.com/

REPOST: Adventurous Appetites in Madrid

If I knew how to upload flamenco music, you’d hear the sounds of passion-filled rhythmic boots lashing out against a hardwood stage, perfectly in sync with the intoxicating Phrygian melodies dancing between two acoustic guitars. But… I don’t know how to do that; so, just imagine hearing that for now. (Hopefully, this picture from the Torres Bermejas flamenco show will help fuel some imagination… it was incredible, by the way.)

So, we’ve just returned from an amazing adventure in Madrid, Spain, and before I start sharing stories about our adventures in different posts, I have to reveal a little insight regarding our experience with Adventurous Appetites, a tapas/food tour guide company in Madrid.

Continue reading “REPOST: Adventurous Appetites in Madrid”

Out of This World New Mexican Wontons – No, Seriously

Farley’s Menu – Roswell, NM

This is a “From the Kitchen” and “On the Road” combined posting since the home cooking was inspired by a restaurant we visited during our recent trip to New Mexico.  As you know, my husband is from New Mexico, and when we travel to visit his family, I’m treated to various introductions of New Mexican regional cuisine.   One of the favorite hang outs in Las Cruces and Roswell is a pub called Farley’s.  It’s like a burger joint / New Mexican bar cuisine / beer hang out – think local diner food with beer and pool.

Green Chile Won Tons – Farley’s

When we passed through Roswell during our travels, we took a dinner break and indulged in a local favorite at Farley’s called Green Chile Won Tons.   Continue reading “Out of This World New Mexican Wontons – No, Seriously”

The Land of Enchanted Green Chilies – Si Señor!

Visiting my husband’s family in New Mexico has become a two fold experience.  Not only do I adore his family and sincerely love the fun we have while there, but I also get to experience the local food of Las Cruces, New Mexico and surrounding areas… translation… I get my green chile on.

Si Señor, Las Cruces, New Mexico

One of the local favorites is Si Señor, located in central Las Cruces and definitely a “must eat” while visiting.  The first time my husband took me there, I didn’t want to leave.  I insisted we stay

Delicious Traveling Sopapilla from Si Señor

and snack our way from lunchtime through dinnertime and take sopapillas (fried bread dessert) with us on the road back to Texas when we left. (Note photo of me eating said sopapilla while husband drives).  So, during this last visit, we went TWICE!  The first time I forgot to take photos.  I know, bad blogger.  However, I did manage to tear myself away from the food to take photos and introduce this place to you during the second visit. Continue reading “The Land of Enchanted Green Chilies – Si Señor!”

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