Torchy’s Tacos

Just moved to Fort Collins, CO and a friend came to visit. She said we had to go to Torchy’s Tacos for lunch. And, I happen to live just over a mile away from this place.

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Well, we were able to snag great seats in the bar section (vs. just the stand-in-line-and-place-an-order one). At this type of place a margarita is a first order of business. I got their ‘lite’ (or not regular) one and it was awesome. Not super syrupy – which my friend said hers was. We also had to start the meal off with some guac (no picture). This is a place that adds cheese to everything. Had to ask them to bring one sans-queso after it arrived with it on top (lactard speaking).

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There were so many choices on the menu, I was a bit overwhelmed. For a tex-mex place, there was a lot of fried stuff, which I was surprised about. I ended up getting the:

Brushfire
Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled jalapenos, mango, sour cream and cilantro with diablo sauce (got it without sour cream and diablo sauce on the side).

Mr. Pink
Gaujillo seared ahi tuna, cabbage fresca, cotija cheese, cilantro & a lime wedge with chipotle sauce (nixed the cheese and chipotle sauce).

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Fried Avocado
Hand-battered fresh avocados fried with vegetarian refried beans topped with pico de gallo, lettuce & Freshly grated cheddar jack cheese with poblano sauce.

Trailer Park
Hand-battered fried chicken, green chiles, lettuce, pico de gallo & Freshly grated cheddar jack cheese with poblano sauce. “Get it trashy” – take off the lettuce & add queso.

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There was some spice/heat involved in these guys. And dang these tacos are filling! The two of them maxed me out (not to mentione there was guac before hand). Great place to check out for awesome tex mex food in Ft. Collins.

Avocado Tool

There are way too many kitchen tools out there, some of which you never use. But, sometimes you do find some that are great.  Got this avocado one in my stocking a couple years back that I love. There are 3 sets of ‘teeth’ to help with cutting — long, a bit wide on the bottom, then small at the top.

You can use the small one to puncture the skin and start cutting the avocado in half. Then you can use the long side to continue the cutting process.

I will then usually slice the avocado crossways (both ways to make cubes) while it’s in the skin. I’ll make this happen with both the small end with the 3 teeth, then go onto the long side (I seriously just have fun with this thing — sometimes I’ll use the wide bottom). I’ll chop with the wide bottom if I don’t want a clean cut.

Then you can use the wide bottom to scoop the avocado/good stuff from the skin to start making guac. Or, to remove it for whatever other purpose you have for the avocado.

The tool then works well to mix the avocado if you’re making guac — as a spoon or masher-like thing.

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(yes, the teeth are facing away from what I was cutting, but it was all for photographic effects)

Pueblo Viejo

I love Mexican food! When I find a new place I can check out, I will. And what’s ironic is that I’m posting all these blogs about restaurants and I don’t eat out all that much. I cook the majority of my meals at home. I was away for awhile and I’m also catching up on a bunch of long-overdue blogs.

So, another place in Ft. Collins that I checked out was Pueblo Viejo.

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When they bring you the chips and salsa they also provide a unique bean dip. It’s made with pinto beans (not black beans). Nice to have something a bit different and just had some nice spices in it. Some guac was definitely ordered, too. Very good stuff!

Went for lunch and ordered some chicken tortilla soup. This stuff was amazing! They add tons of veggies to it — cauliflower, carrots and more. Not something very common and I loved it. It gives you a nice hearty meal. If you check this place out, definitely worth ordering.

Blue Agave Grill

I recently dined at a delicious ‘Contemporary Southwestern Grill’ while visiting Colorado — Blue Agave Grill. Was in Denver and stopped in before going to the Avalanche game. There is a location in Fort Collins, but this one has recently opened.

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Arrive in the 5 o’clock hour and this is a great restaurant off the top because you don’t have to be at the bar/in the bar section to get happy hour specials. So few restaurants do that (at least in DC where I’m used to going out)! So, right away, margaritas, on the rocks, no salt, please — for $5.

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Then, we get the chips and salsa which are the normal addition to the table.

Next, a staple at this type of restaurant, guacamole! We got the basic one — Blue Agave Choice/ Garlic / Green Chilies / Red Onion / Tomato / Lime. It was on happy hour for $4 of $5 — I can’t remember the exact price. Really, that’s awesome! Came out super fast, huge portion and was amazing. The presentation was also nice and super effective. There is the brown ‘stuff’ below the tortilla shell bowl. It’s pureed black beans. That is done so the shell doesn’t move. Smart!

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After that, we just wanted one other simple bite to eat. Opted for the Tuna Tartare / Gingered Soy Sauce / Blistered Shishito Peppers. It was around $7 or $8, I think. Good size portion. Now, I just snapped a small shot of it, but there were probably about 4 times as many pepper around it as tuna. And they were hot! I didn’t touch them, the other eater did. From far away they could look like okra. Dang, fiesty! Nice presentation, but the restaurant could save a lot of peppers. The tuna was amazing, though.

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I wish there was one of these near me in DC. Absolutely amazing. Great service, too. Now, it was also quiet at that hour, but nonetheless, could not have asked for more. Will definitely have to go back next time I’m there.

 

Coyote Grill, Queenstown, NZ

Next place to check in a NZ town if of course a Mexican restaurant, right?  After getting back fairly late from a tour it was close to the hotel and looked pretty good, so why not?  So we checked out Coyote Grill.

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One of two mandatory orders was right (and done right away) – chips & guac.  The other that wasn’t (margarita) was simply replaced with sangria.

The guac had a perfect texture and spice to it.

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Two appetizers were ordered after that for dinner.

Prawns (that’s what they call shrimp) Veracruz– sautéed with mild guajillo chili and slow cooked garlic IMG_5406

Duck Tostada – shredded roast duck served on a crispy corn tortilla with salsa

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The shrimp had a nice kick to them and whatever seasoning they used on the duck was amazing.  And for appetizers, these were big dishes.  Perfect end to a long day.

Agua 301

Yards Park, DC.  Visited what is labeled as a ‘modern Mexican’ restaurant.  Don’t know if that’s the middle ground between tex-mex and authentic Mexican, but of course had to give it a try.  So, the place is Agua 301.

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The time of the visit was oh-so-fortunately in the evening which meant happy hour was at hand…margarita, on the rocks, no salt.  I took a sip and sort of jumped back.  Waited, took another.  Took a sip of my friend’s as a comparison.  Then truly confirmed…they don’t skimp on alcohol.  I guess that’s good?  While I appreciate tequila in my drink I very much appreciate the lime in a margarita.  I had to send it back.  I could not drink this. It was straight alcohol.  Some people might love this…anyway.

Of course came to this place for dinner to also check out the food.

Guac was also on happy hour.  Ordered that ASAP.  For $6 you got probably a softball size serving of great guacamole.  Some nice chunks of avocados were in there, too.  Tasty!  Paired nicely with their unique salsa.

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For dinner, I had to get their Ceviche Pescado Blanco.  It was extremely unique.  It was mixed with some salsa and other unknown, good flavors.

 

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My friend went for the Camarones en Crema de Chipotle, which are pan seared shrimp in a chipotle cream sauce over Spanish rice.  Good flavor and nicely cooked.

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Overall, dinner was good.  But, service was marginal.  We were there around 6pm on a Friday and the place wasn’t too busy.  It was tough to attract or find the waiter and it took a long time to get drinks and food.  Considering they don’t take much time to cook, it was odd.

Taqueria el Poblano

Was finally able to visit a Mexican restaurant that I have only heard great things about.  Checked out Taqueria el Poblano in Alexandria/Del Ray, VA.  They also have 2 locations in Arlington.

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At such a restaurant one much always start the meal off with a margarita.  Very nicely done!  Found out later they also make them with some Grand Marnier and decided to give that a try…can’t complain at all.

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Opted for the other mandatory piece at such a restaurant, guacamole.  Just the perfect balance of smooth vs. chunks and nice spices in there.  The chips were ok.

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One of their specials that night was lobster tacos.  Uh, yeah, I think I’ll order those!  AMAZING.  I don’t think I’d ever had lobster tacos.  Huge chunks of meat in those things, some non-mayo coleslaw and other great flavors.  So much good food.

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My friend opted for pork tacos that came with green peppers, cheese and other great stuff.

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We were stuffed to the brim.  Definitely have to go back here.

 

 

 

Boudro’s

Continuing travel took me to San Antonio, TX.  I had only heard good things about Boudro’s so had to check it out.  It is known as a Texas bistro per their website.  Was able to snag a table outside — though it only in the upper 40s in late November in TX (why???).  They do have nice blankets to cover you if you get cold.

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Of course, a margarita is the #1 priority here.  It came in a nice martini glass in this case.  Very smooth and a perfect start to the evening.

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The menu had way too many great options on it, but guacamole was a must.  They make it at your table, too.  It was delicious!  They use orange juice in it, versus a more traditional lime or lemon.  They also use roasted tomatoes which made it even better.  You can snag the recipe from their site.

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When going to restaurants I usually try to order something I won’t make at home so I finally opted for the Mesquite Grilled Quail.  I was able to get grilled veggies vs the traditional pepper jack grits with fried parsley and jalapeno chips and chipolte demiglace due to my lactose issue.  This stuff was amazing!  I hadn’t eating quail for ages.  The flavors all around were amazing.

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I can see why this restaurant has such a great reputation.  Check it out when you’re in San Antonio.

Paladar

Went to check out a place down the street from me with all this heat because of little desire to cook.  It’s Paladar, in the DC-area, and I’d been there once right when they opened so it was packed.  Was looking forward to checking it out again.

IMG_3528 It’s a Latin restaurant which means some of their drinks are perfect for a hot evening.  My friend and I both opted for Sangria — one of us red, one of us white.  These things went down way too easily!!

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For some food, we grabbed the neccesary guac then went with ceviche. The guac is served with yucca, plaintain, malanga and ‘regular’ chips.
IMG_3534They have unique ceviche options!  I opted for Salmon & Mango, which was thinly sliced salmon, fresh mango and red onion tossed in sweet and tangy coconut ginger marinade.  Very nice balance between all the flavors.

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The other ceviche at the table was the Mixed Seafood one, with a great blend of fresh snapper, calamari, and shrimp tossed in sweet and tangy broth made with lemon, lime & orange juices, aji peppers, and celery, topped with fresno peppers, carrots and onion.  Nice flavors all around.

IMG_3532A place worth checking out for drinks and/or dinner, definitely on a hot summer night.

Gringos & Mariachis

Caught up with a friend the other night and we were in the mood for some good margaritas.  There are always the cookie cutter places.  Why we must we always go there?  Then I remember checking out a place in Woodmont Triangle (in downtown Bethesda) last year that I wanted to go to again.

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It is so ‘hidden’ that it’s easy to miss.  We eventually tracked down Gringos and Mariachis on Cordell Ave.  I say hidden because there is no sign for it.  The exterior of the building is gray and their name is painted in black above the windows.  If you don’t know exactly where it is, amongst other popular restaurants, you walk right by it, as we did.  I only worked and lived near it for years and missed it.

Anyway, we walked in and it was packed on a Friday evening.  We snagged a (1) stool at the bar and (fast forwarding) were eventually able to get another.  They had a good variety of margaritas and I opted for the smoked one to begin.

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The bartender said it’s the combo of the type of tequila and mezcal, and of course the special salt blend they use that makes it good.  Very unique and darn tasty!

We also got some staple food, from chips and guac to salsa.  Some of their salsa is super spicy!  They have tacos al pastor, which are very hard to find in the US.  I remember having them in Mexico.  It’s a pork taco and very good.  We also had their delicious seafood taco with Mahi Mahi.

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Another great restaurant to check out, especially if you’re into margaritas.  And, it’s close to the Bethesda Metro and near many of the parking garages.