so i know it's been a minute since i've posted anything of interest, and that's because i've been eating out, saving a million photos on my phone, and then never emailing them to myself. yes. i suck. my apologies.
so in the spirit of forgiveness, please accept my mass post of various mexican spots i've patronized over the past few months.
chile pepper is a wonderful, family-owned restaurant nestled in a converted craftsman in wallingford. i've passed by this place many times, wondering if they offered chiles rellenos, my mexican food barometer. one evening when my friend, M, and i were thinking about eating after having a couple happy hour drinks at moe, we got to talking about chile rellenos. she said her absolute favorite was at chile pepper. that cemented it for me. i had to have one.
we started out with some chips and salsa...you know, the usual. the chips were nice, though senor moose destroys the game on the chips front. the salsa, however, was superb. smoky. fresh. bright.
next came the complementary sopa de lentejas. i wished i could try this, but it definitely was prepared with pork or beef stock. the full, meaty aroma was enough to put this veg off. my dining companion, however, savored every last bite. meanwhile, i took in the soft yellow walls, traditional folk art adorning the walls, and the friendly, plaid table cloths dressing the 10-12 small tables inside. i liked chile pepper. it felt cozy already.
then came the pièce de résistance: los chiles rellenos! CP uses ancho chiles, so they're sweeter, smokier, more cinnamony and dark than the usual poblanos. for $12.95, we received a plate of two chiles rellenos de queso fresco, rice, beans, guacamole, and some corn tortillas. i was in heaven. they were amazingly comforting and delicious. omg. i can't wait to go back for more.
on the other end of "mexican," M and i went to el chupacabra on phinney ridge for a quick meal in the middle of running errands. i had never eaten there, but M had just a few days earlier with friends. i pretty much knew what i was getting into, yet i was still surprised by what came wrapped up in my burrito.
chupacabra is a small, neighborhood bar for young phinney ridgers or young p.r. parents. it's sort of like if you mixed faux-dirtbag chic, rock and roll (the kind that embraces flame graphics), and anywhere you could imagine that offers "screamin'(!!!) burritos. unfortunately my pictures of our apps didn't make it, but we ordered chips and guac (not too shabby!) and jalapeno poopers, err, poppers. honest mistake. i'm addicted to jack in the crack jalapeno poppers. they are so perfect. i don't know how to describe how i feel when i eat them, but it's what i would imagine nirvana is like. the j.p.'s at chupacabra were pretty good. they were hot as fuck is what they were, but tasty. the cream cheese transformed into searing napalm, and the outer crust was quite crunchy.
anyhow, my word to picture ratio is waning. i'll cut to the chase. i never order burritos, but i did that night. for my first jump into 'rrito territory in some years, this wasn't a bad one; just confusing. i got one with vegetarian "meat," pinto beans, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, the works. oh yeah, and wet with enchilada sauce (how can one resist, right?). it was tasty, though severely lacking salt. after salting and salsa-ing it up, it wasn't bad. the only weird thing was that the "meat" was easily identifiable as the morningstar breakfast sausage, so it tasted like jimmy dean got a hold of my screamin' burrito and put his culinary twist on it. it was also the size of my forearm, so i took it home and ate the innards out of it the next morning for breakfast. thanks, chupa, for an inexpensive, satisfying meal. i won't be back, unless for drinks, because i love el asadero too too much.
upon kathryn robinson's suggestion, M, N, A, and i drove down to huarachito's mexican taqueria just a few minutes south of our house on mlk. this is the kind of intimate, family-owned place you can feel good about supporting. as soon as you walk in, you're greeted by the open kitchen (and the cooks!), the host, and at least one server. the energy is positive and entrepreneurial. there's a back room to the right with a family table and a flat screen on the wall, and the main dining room is to the left with about 10+ small tables. two walls of windows onto mlk are softened by brightly painted window frames hung against the glass. all the art, warm lighting, brick, and chalk drawings invite pedestrians to come join in the fun.
now to the food. M ordered four tacos: al pastor, carnitas, lamb, and steak. according to the board, the carnitas was a mixture of cheek, jowl, neck, and a couple of other anatomical parts i've long forgotten. M said everything was good, but they all tasted the same (except for the steak). weird, right? he also said that el asadero is way better with the crisping of the meat.
N, like a true winner, sampled the torta de carnitas. it looked super bomb, stuffed with carnitas, shredded lettuce, tomato, mayo, and salsa. uh, delicious. she said it was the shit.
A, having previously eaten at tacos huarachito's, tried one of the entrees, the mole chicken. wow. he said it was just as good as this picture. the mole was saucy, smoky, and less paste-like than other moles he's had. the chicken fell off the bone, and by the end of it all, the plate was decimated.
i was at huarachito's, so i figured i better try their specialty, the huarache, right? it's basically a long, thin masa pancake dressed with either red or green salsa, your choice of meat, and lettuce. it really does look like a ball of masa dough flattened by someone's wayward, woven sandal. i went with pescado and salsa verde. all in all, it was tasty. the fish was a little skunky, but now i know better. the huarache itself was ginormous, filling the ovular plate from end to end. i enjoyed each bite covered with some of their housemade salsa habanero, avail upon request.
oh, and lest i forget, another great aspect of huarachito's is their salsa selection. pickled jalapenos and carrots are jarred at every table (yum!) along with a few squeeze bottles of salsa verde, salsa chipotle, and just a regular salsa rojo. they were all good, but the chips could have used about 30 more seconds in the fryer; just a touch too flimsy.
i think we all learned a valuable lesson for our next huarachito's visit: order from the entree section and save the tacos for el asadero.
inspired by all this mexican food, M and i stopped by la carniceria azteca on the way home from work a couple weeks ago. for all the years we'd lived there, M had never been, so it was like a mini wonderland of tastiness. i stocked up on some of my favorite extra hot candy, and M bought a fourth of a wheel of cotija, a pack of sopes, a tub of ceviche de pescado, and a pound of carne enchilada.
i shredded some lettuce, cut tomatoes, olives, lemons, cilantro, red onion, and jalapenos, and we were off to the races. i also laid out some leftover white bean and green chiles from the day before. we assembled our own sopitas, and they were delicious as hell.
omg. valentina extra hot + sour cream = the business. although we technically didn't "cook" dinner, we assembled it like real pro eaters. unfortunately, we were too good at eating for me to take some pictures of the finished sopitas, so use your imagination.