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 […]
Today was the first day in a week where the sun was shining and there were no clouds in sight. What better way to take advantage of the break from all the rain than with some simple grilling?!
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.
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.
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.
Our 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Since 2009, food lovers, bloggers and the like have convened at the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) to explore food, writing, and technology, all while indulging in some of the best wine and food anyone can find at a conference. This year, I am partaking in the […]
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once 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.
First 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!
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!
Just 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.
So, 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!”
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.
And, 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