Los Tarascos

Got together with some friends to celebrate a birthday (not mine) recently and got to check out another new (to me) place in Ft. Collins. This time it was Los Tarascos.

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Love Mexican food so I was quite excited about this. We were meeting at 6pm, but I was told to get there a little early to make sure to get some Happy Hour specials. Well, I got there at 5:45pm and I happened to be the only one to arrive early. I easily chose a Classic Margarita and dang, that thing was good. Since I knew there would be several more people coming, I ordered a few pitchers of the amazing drink. When the other attendees arrived, they were quite pleased.

At this place, they bring you chip baskets…of course. I surveyed the table and was wondering about salsa. Then I found out they have a salsa bar. You get to pick what you get to dip those addictive pieces of corn in. Dang, talk about trouble. Now, the only problem is, the containers they give you for the salsa are small. But, you can make do. They have many choices and I liked how I saw one person use a menu as a tray to carry several cups of salsa back to their table.

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Somebody at the table ordered some guac and I grabbed a bite — very good. Excellent consistency and nice spice.

As I looked through the menu I found what I love at this type of establishment — ceviche. This one was Ceviche a la Tequila — Shrimp cured in lime juice and tequila mixed with tomato, onion, and jalapeno. And for a few more dollars, you could add Octopus, which I totally went for.

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This stuff was good, with the different texture of the octopus. The only downside was that the jalapenos made it very spicy for me. I don’t have a huge heat tolerance. I picked as many pieces of it out as I could. But, I will totally go back and get more of this.

So, between the delicious margaritas, tons of salsa, good guac and octopus ceviche, this place is definitely one I’m checking out again.

Salud!

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.

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.

Posole

It’s winter, which means it’s soup time.  Was debating what to make the other night and came across a recipe I love that I hadn’t put together for awhile — Posole (from Cooking Light).  The true meaning of the word/name is hominy, so that is obviously a must in the ingredients.  There are many ways to make it/variations on the recipe.  The key is that it has to be made during the the cold weather season.

Ingredients

1 pound tomatillos (I normally use green salsa but the store was out this time so actually had to use what the recipe called for)
6 cups Brown Chicken Stock (not sure what brown vs. ‘normal’ is, and I just use broth)
2 cups chopped onion
3 pounds chicken breast halves, skinned
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and quartered (I usually just use Tabasco and/or chili powder)
1 (30-ounce) can white hominy, drained
1 teaspoon salt

—>below are all garnishes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
8 lime wedges

Preparation

Remove/discard husks and stems from the tomatillos. Cook whole tomatillos in boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender; drain.

IMG_1911[1]Place tomatillos in a blender; process until smooth; set aside.

IMG_1913[1]Place stock and the next five (5) ingredients (stock through hominy) in a large stockpot; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from bones (I have always used boneless — and skinless); shred. Stir in pureed tomatillos and salt; cook for five(5) minutes or until heated.

Stir in chicken, and serve with cilantro, sour cream, and lime wedges, if desired.

IMG_1917[1]Delicious!  I served it with some guacamole, salsa and chips.  I also have plenty to eat for several days or freeze to keep on hand.

Christmas Eve Posole

This year I am celebrating Christmas with my family in a new location and we did something new for Christmas Eve dinner.  We went to their neighbor’s house for a laid-back, several-family gathering.  The main dish was a seafood bisque and I offered to bring a non-dairy dish because of my lactose intolerance.  I hadn’t had posole for awhile, it just sounded good, it’s quick and easy and with the wind howling around here in CO my mind was set.

I have relied on Cooking Light’s recipe for quite awhile and just had to quickly pull it up.

Ingredients:

1 pound tomatillos — I always just use a big jar of green salsa
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups chopped onion
3 pounds chicken breast halves, skinned
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and quartered (I’m a wimp for heat, use 1)
1 (30-ounce) can white hominy, drained
1 teaspoon salt

(These are toppings)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream $
8 lime wedges

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The hardest part of this at the start is chopping the onions (just makes me cry…).

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After they’re chopped, you just throw them, the chicken stock, chicken breasts, garlic, jalapeno, hominy and salt into a pot and bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 30+ minutes until the chicken is cooked.

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Then, you take the chicken out and shred it.  And while you’re shredding it, you’ve added the tomatillos (or salsa) to the pot.

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After the chicken is shredded, throw it back in there, heat everything through.

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Then serve with cilantro, chips and sour cream, if you’d like.  Great addition to dinner!!  There was not much left at all.

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Hot Temps Mean Refreshing Dinners

Washington, DC (All Summer) — It’s mid-July, I’m in the DC-area.  What does that mean?  HOT temps.  And, it’s only going to get worse.  This Thursday is going to be high 90s without factoring in the humidity.  So, easy-to-make, refreshing dinners are the best way to go.

My brother told me about an Alton Brown Grilled Mahi Ceviche recipe that was top-notch, and it sounded great.  Since it’s grilled you don’t have to remember to throw the fish in the lemon and/or lime juice many, many hours ahead of time.  Just two and then you throw it on the grill.  Decided to pair that with some easy oil-based coleslaw, chips, salsa and guacamole.

For the Mahi, you just put some basic ingredients together and let them sit for a couple hours.  I bought the Mahi chunks from Trader Joe’s because they were half the price of the steaks!

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After a couple hours, pat the fish dry and throw it on the grill.

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You keep the ‘marinade’ from the fish, heat in on the stove, and eventually use it again on the fish.

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For the ‘slaw, I grabbed a great bag of broccoli slaw mix from Trader Joe’s — super easy!  No cutting or chopping required for the base.  I did chop some cilantro  and garlic and for the dressing, just did a quick vinaigrette of:

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-lime juice

-cumin

-coriander

-olive oil

-hint of chili powder

-S&P

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Next step was prepping the pre-made guacamole (because the avocado would have required electrical equipment to mash).  I always add some spice to the packaged stuff:

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Now, it’s dinner time!!!!  Mahi, coleslaw, tortilla chips, salsa, guac, red wine.  All to wrap up a great weekend.

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As I enjoyed this dinner, I kept thinking the guac was off.  Well, I was house sitting and used what appeared to be salt for the guac.  Yes, I was right when it tasted sweet the first time and added some more of the fine crystals.  It finally occurred to me to taste the stuff. Oh, I was adding sugar not salt.  Note:   Sweet guacamole IS NOT good.

April Supper Club

A long time  ago I was looking to join a supper club/cooking club and was very fortunate to have someone reply to my post on Cooking Light and she said ‘we have dinner on Sunday, this is the theme, feel free to come.’  Almost a decade has passed since then.  It’s been amazing!

In the club I am part of, we try to meet about once a month.  The host picks the theme, obviously provides the venue, the drinks (wine, beer, soda, etc), and everyone brings a dish.  We try to use Cooking Light recipes but it can vary a bit.  I tend to use others because Cooking Light isn’t always the lightest.  And since I’m lactose intolerant, I can’t find the best ones there.  What I laugh at a lot is our ‘cooking light’ idea — yeah, everybody eats what everybody brings — we eat so light by the time we consider portions.  It’s awesome!  It’s homemade, it has no calories.  Just like birthday cake, right?

I was the host for this month and the theme I chose was April Observances — it is crazy how many things are observed.  From the ‘normal’ ones like major holidays, to significant ones like Breast Cancer Awareness Month (yes I know it’s not in April).  But, did you know that April is Tomatillo and Asian Pear Month, and it also has International Macaroni Day in the calendar on the 23rd.  Where do these come from?

Well, I opted for that tomatillo and pear observance that I mentioned.  I found a Charred Tomatillo Guacamole recipe to try, as well as a Crunchy Pear Salsa.

To the kitchen I go…

Salsas

 

 

 

 

 

In the guacamole, I had some decent size tomatillos so roasted them for about 20 minutes, vs. about 12-15.  Then when mixing everything together, carefully picked out the tomatillo skin because it just sort of sat in the bowl.

In the pear salsa, I was going to substitute Asian pears for the Bosc, because of the observance, but had no luck finding them.  Had to stick to the darn recipe!!  I didn’t use too much of the (hot) pepper because it can get supper spicy.

I served both of them with lime tortilla chips and baked tortilla chips.

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Come of the end of the night, there was none of either of these left.

As for the rest of dinner, some of the other dishes that made an appearance included:

-a Chicken & Brussel Sprout dish with some type of grain mustard accent (Brussel Sprouts and Cabbage Month)

-Grilled Cheese (National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month)

-Pecan Pie with Whiskey Whipped Cream! (National Pecan Month)

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Didn’t have a chance to take a picture of the Pecan Pie because we ate it so fast!!

Overall, great dinner once again.  Can’t wait for the next time we get together to see what the meal brings.