Tag Archive : travel

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.

So, this is awkward.

Okay, I know! It’s been forever! And, I won’t make any excuses because I cooked plenty of times; I ate plenty of times, took plenty of pics, and I neglected to tell you any of it since September 2015. So, here’s a quick catch up… since last we spoke:

Chicken Pesto Bake

I made a killer Pesto Chicken Bake in my handy-dandy toaster oven, using the last four sticks of mozzarella left in the fridge, a few remaining Roma Tomatoes, three skinless chicken breasts I reluctantly purchased in an effort to “be better,” and tons of garlic and basil that were in their last days of glory. I felt like I was on “Chopped” but instead of a basket, it was a molcajete full of garlic cloves next to items on my counter.

Emporium Pies in McKinney

I discovered Emporium Pies in McKinney, TX, and if I remember correctly, this one was a banana cream/caramel concoction – I really can’t remember for sure. It’s all a blur. I just remember taking this picture and waking from a sugar/happiness pie-eating induced coma on the couch – smiling and with a little bit of pie crust stuck to some whipped cream on my cheek.

Pan Braised Chicken Thigh with Herbed Potatoes

I hung out with my Grandma Ollie and made her some rustic braised chicken thighs with pan-roasted herbed potatoes. Easiest, no-frills deliciousness ever! She loved it. Basic but bomb-tastic and totally what I would also serve to Jon Snow if he ever came over to visit – and if wanted to bring over Melisandre as a thank you for the whole “bring me back from the dead” thing, that would be cool, too. Bear would love to chat her up, and maybe she could even whip up some magical dessert???

Charred Potato

At some point I went on a rustic/fire-roasted kick. We went camping in the mountains, and I pulled a Chef Mallmann move. I threw

Fire Roasted Meal in the Woodspotatoes into the burning embers of our campfire, and it was amazing. We ate “fire food” for days in the woods… right outside of our air-conditioned cabin that included cable TV. It was awesome.

Menudo and Horchata at Tipicos

Upon returning from the wilderness, I needed a taste of home, and so I indulged (using the term loosely here – I eat it all the time) in one of my favorite weekend comfort foods, menudo. Tipico’s in Dallas or off Beltline in Carrollton, TX has the BEST! And, what makes menudo taste even better??? Horchataaaaaaa! Just say it with me… “Horchataaaaaa!” Doesn’t it make you happy just saying it??? Horchataaaaaaa!

Pomegranite

I pretended I was mining for rubies and that I hit the motherload. So, I took a picture and then decided to eat the pomegranate because who was I kidding? I was hungry. There were no rubies. This pomegranate was the object of my desire, and I delighted it in, okay??? It was delicious.

Almond Milk Pancakes

I decided I should really start paying attention to my food allergies and that I should try not to drink milk straight-up anymore. So, I began a love/hate relationship with almond milk. I searched for “how not to hate using almond milk for pancakes,” and this recipe popped up. It was UH-mazing! I love these pancakes and have added all sorts of twists and turns to these bad boys. I make banana nut, blueberry, lemony, and bacon-filled pancakes using that recipe as a base, and it’s fantastic! Go almond milk! And, yes, I use Silk, but they didn’t pay me for that. Silk! Are you listening??!!!??

Attempted Pan de QuejoI made all sorts of stuff and played various versions of refrigerator “Chopped” like “I’m hangry and want something sweet – what goes with frozen almond slivers and a slightly browning apple?” I have to say, I’m pretty good at this game.

I had some huge wins in the kitchen, and I had some serious failures, like when I decided to try almond milk when making Brazilian Pan de Queijo instead of real milk – yeah, no bueno. Or, “no boa” as it were.

Christmas Cats

 

I got in touch with my inner cat-lady.

Met a Pretty Cool Husky

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made new friends with random animals waiting for their people on cool evenings, a.k.a. prepared to dial the cops if the dude with the dog in the car didn’t return very quickly, even though it was 60 degrees outside. He did, and the dog was definitely very happy and healthy.

Mariachi Pants

 

I wondered about the various types of fabrics that could have possibly been used to hold this mariachi in place while he beautifully belted out such high notes.

And, I visited several new spots in DFW, as well as Phoenix, Chicago, Kansas, Atlanta, Oklahoma, and a few other places during my business travels. And, many of those visits will find their way here!

So, there you have it! We’re all caught up!

Thanks for being patient – thanks for following my adventures via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram , and thanks for checking in.

Consider this my official re-entry into the stratosphere. We’ll chat soon… I promise! Horchataaaaaa!!!!

 

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/

OMGs DFW Food - Madrid - Royal Palace

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.

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