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.

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.

 

Cacique

This year I visited Frederick, MD a couple times and on one occasion had dinner at Cacique, which serves fine Spanish and Mexican cuisine. Fortunately on a Friday night it wasn’t too packed when we arrived, but I could tell we just beat the rush!

We ordered the required of guac and margaritas, both of which were very good.

For dinner, my friend ordered the Paella de Marisco — a rice dish consisting of shrimp, scallops, fish, mussels, calamari, and garnished with a clam. Cooked in a seafood broth and Spanish herbs (made to order). Made to order in the sense that they warn you it takes 20-30 minutes to prepare. Now jumping forward it did take quite awhile (30-45)…but come the end it was quite good.

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I went for my favorite of ceviche and found one with calamari, which isn’t all that common. The whole dish was Ceviche Mixto — fresh tilapia, shrimp, scallops and squid marinated in fresh lime juice with red onions, cilantro, celery, garlic, ginger, and jalapenos. Very good! The ginger was also a unique ingredient in the dish.

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The food and atmosphere overall were very good. Service got a bit slow mid-meal, though it was a Friday night. But, I would definitely check this place out again. Salud!

 

Flor de Luna

I don’t love trying out new restaurants right after they open all that often. But when it’s a family-owned restaurant that serves Latin-American cuisine, I’m there. It’s also great when it’s very close to where I live.

So, my friend and I checked out Flor de Luna in North Bethesda/Rockville, MD recently. If you know that area, it’s 1/2 block from Whole Foods. So, we called to make a reservation and we could only get in at 6:30pm (I think vs 6:00). Basically I say that because they made it sound like they were packed and it was empty in there (and it wasn’t getting busier). I think there were 2 other tables filled.

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The menu said that Happy Hour went until 7 so we ordered some margaritas and mentioned that it was great that HH was on Sundays. He said, well, oh no, it’s not on weekends. We mentioned that nowhere did it mention that, either on the menu, signs, or website. He just sort of shook his head. Not good advertising and way to mention things. The waiter also said with all this they don’t serve margaritas on Sundays because as of right now the bartender isn’t there (just opened) so they can’t make the drink. He said he could try, we mentioned we would really appreciate that, happy hour price didn’t matter.

Note, when it did eventually come, service was slow, it was an awesome margarita! Nice work non-bartender!

We started looking over the menu, this was while enjoying a very unique opaque dip (no picture). It looked like a cheese dip but I was guaranteed there was no cheese/dairy in it. It was just so emulsified, but it was all good.

While skimming the menu we noticed several mistakes for the new venue…lots of typos, such as a staple for this type of restaurant, you could get ‘guacamole deep.’

Moving on, it was a cold night and I decided to get the Seafood Soup — Fish, mussels, squid, shrimp, and scallops in fish broth. I was about $16 or so, and was sure hoping it was going to have a good amount of seafood in it. That was an understatement when I got the bowl. This picture does it no justice at all. So much good stuff in here. Absolutely amazing.

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My friend opted for the Carne Asada — New York stake (*another typo, I copied and pasted) served with rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo. My friend quite enjoyed it, all tasted very good.

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During the meal, the owner of the restaurant came out to meet us, very nice. I unfortunately can’t remember where she is originally from but it was great to see who cooked our delicious food. We eventually finished everything and asked for our check. Our waiter delivered it and did make the margaritas the happy hour price as he mentioned they should be based on what was advertised/mentioned. Thanks and nice work for ‘saving’ yourself.

Very nice dinner and will definitely go back and try several other choices from the menu. I also hope their business starts to pick up. I think I went in the first week or two from when they opened so it’s very likely this will be the case.

La Fiesta Grill & Cantina

Awhile back I checked out a great Mexican place in Steamboat Springs, CO — La Fiesta Grill & Cantina. What drove me there? The coupon that was on the back of the receipt from the grocery store. I guess those things actually work!

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Some of the required drinks were ordered, margaritas. But, after some discussion with the waitress I changed from my normal, or I guess just what is normally served, and got one with white tequila. Ok, that’s my new favorite.

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Had some simple stuff for lunch between the two of us there.  I had one of my staples — ceviche, and the other had chicken tortilla soup.

The ceviche was good, but not quite the normal. It was almost like a gazpacho. There was tomato juice in there. Not saying I didn’t like it, but totally not what I was expecting. The tortilla soup was just perfect!

With the coupon, we got one of the margaritas free, too. Heck yeah! Worth checking out if you’re in that town.

Los Tios Grill, Del Ray

Hot weather equals cool food.  Checked out Los Tios Grill in Del Ray/Alexandria, VA (just outside of DC) recently.

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The first thought of cool when walking into a Mexican restaurant is a margarita.  There were a few of us at dinner so we figured why not get a pitcher.  This is probably the first place I’ve been to that doesn’t have pitchers of margaritas.  Ok.  Decided to get the large one, and large it was.  The picture doesn’t quite do the size justice.

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Of course had to order some guac.  It was very nicely presented as it is served in the avocado. Good taste, too.

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Now, when looking over the menu I was pretty disappointed.  It was hot out, so I wanted something cool.  And a staple of mine at Mexican restaurants is ceviche. It’s not on their menu.  I was trying to figure out what else to get.  Very fortunately the waiter came over and told us the specials.  One of them was ceviche.  The night was saved!  It was a combo of shrimp and whitefish.  It tasted a bit like the shrimp had been cooked a bit, which some restaurants tend to do for safety reasons.  Still nice to get the ceviche.

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All the others at the table ordered Tacos los Tios, which are beef or chicken tacos, served with rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guac and sour cream.

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Overall, good meal. The restaurant is pretty big, so easy enough to get a table.  Will check it out again, too, when it’s less sweltering hot and can sit outside.

 

Jose meet Stirrings

Was totally in the mood for a margarita and didn’t have any of the great pre-mixed/alcohol-holding stuff at home.  And, didn’t feel like driving to the liquor store to get some.  But of course I have the essential components to make one of the essential drinks in life (tied with wine, 2nd in line to water) — tequila and triple sec — but not the rest.

So when I went to the closest grocery store to get some food (with initials WF, meaning they can’t have super unnatural, chemical-saturated, 10-syllable ingredient products), I bumped into some margarita mix.  Darn!  Inspected, thought for about 5 seconds, purchased.

It was Stirrings.  They tell you to add 1.5 oz of tequila to 3 oz of mix.  I did 1 oz Jose Cuervo and 0.5 oz of triple sec (rough estimates).  Perfect on the rocks, no salt.  I was pretty impressed.  Good to know for future binding situations.

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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.

Cheers to the Weekend

Have been sipping a range of drinks recently so thought I would pass them along as we enter the weekend.  They hit all the choices out there — beer, wines, liquor.  The rundown as the 5 o’clock whistle approaches.

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Beer:  It’s Flying Dog’s 25th Anniversary and I heard about their anniversary brew, Tropical Bitch.  It’s a Belgian-Style IPA, 8.0% ABV.  Per the description, “pineapple and mango dominate with subtle passion fruit and sticky sweet, yet crisply bitter, hop notes.”  Was finally able to snag a 6-pack.  Yeah, it’s ok.  Fairly bronze in color and just off in taste, for me.  Not that impressed (personally, keep that in mind).  I keep opening more to see if I like it and not so much, but the color is very cool.  It’s about $8-$10/6 pack.

White Wine:  Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc from Chile.  Nice and light, with subtle citrus notes.  Has just a perfect body to it.  Also has the convenient screw top.  Perfect to enjoy with some cheese or seafood, or totally on its own.  This is around $10-$15/bottle.

Red Wine:  Napa Cellars Pinot Noir. I’ll let you guess where it’s from. It has just a nice balance of subtle chocolate and berries.  Perfect.  What I loved is that I was able to pick some up for $10/bottle vs. the normal $20!

Margaritas:  Jose Cuervo Light Margaritas (pre-mixed).  Addiction in a bottle.  Only 95 calories a serving.  Just don’t read how small the serving is, ok?  It’s just perfect to throw some ice in a glass and pour this on top.  Then grab the chips, salsa and guac.  Can usually find this for $12-$15/bottle.

 
Drink on, my friends.

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.