Mexican Food

Cookbook Review: Taqueria 

Taqueria is an homage to the best of Mexican cuisine. Across four chapters (Flavour Fiestas; Salsas, Salads & Vegetables, Taqueria and Margaritas & More), it is a crash course in cooking the food of Latin America right. Its emphasis is on taking the building blocks and showing people that, with quality ingredients, attitude and a little application, they can create an authentic, standout feast.

In total, it includes more than 80 recipes, ranging from corn, prawn and bacon tortillas to homemade chorizo and sweet potato quesadillas. As well, the salsas, salads & vegetables chapter recognizes the ever-growing appreciation for plant-based dishes with a 20-plus recipe line-up of envelope-pushing vegetarian dishes (as well as a nod to the near universal love of guacamole in its myriad iterations).

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The best thing I ate this month – February 2015

I was cross-border day-tripping to Watertown, NY when I spotted the heavenly sign. Chipotle, Mexican Grill. That-a-way left to the promised land. This is where the magic happens. Each ingredient is laid out in front of you so you can customize your perfect meal. For me, it’s the Burrito Bowl. It’s a burrito, in a bowl and filled with dreams, so the slogan goes. Served in a bowl, built on a foundation of brown rice and black beans, topped with zesty adobo-marinated steak, bathed in fresh tomato salsa, adorned with creamy guacamole, and garnished with crisp romaine lettuce and aged white cheddar and jack cheese. This perfect meal is hearty, filling, zesty, refreshing, savoury, fresh and comforting. It will make you obsess for more. And it was the best thing I ate this month.

Chipotle Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

A weekend escape to T.O., part 2

CN Tower, Toronto

Sometimes I just need to escape to the big city. True, it comes with some headaches like snarling traffic and unruly crowds. But the benefits of being in a metropolis far outweigh the liabilities. If only to get me out of my food slump.

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Chipotle, Chipotle, how do I love thee? I may seem strange to profess ones love to a fast food restaurant but considering the jam-packed Yonge street location, I am not alone in my adoration of the burrito bowl. And like long-distance lovers reunited after a lengthy time apart, it was oh so sweet. I long for the day when we can once again be together. Chipotle, it wouldn’t hurt you to save me some gas money and move to my neck of the woods. I love thee but how much do you love me?

Chiptole, Yonge Street Toronto Yonge Street, TorontoYonge Street, Toronto Yonge Street, Toronto

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Restaurant Review: Taqueria La Bonita

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Ottawa is 3,366 km from Mexico but quite suddenly I am a mere 10 metres from truly authentic Mexican cuisine. The drab, generic strip-mall location is quite a distance away from Cabo San Lucas but this should not deter you from experiencing the genuine Mexican classic dishes found at Taqueria la bonita.

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El Camino. Go for the tacos but stay for the salad.

El Camino is the most trendy, of-the-moment, “it” hot-spot in Ottawa right now. Imagine a taco stand that’s achingly cool and a haven for O-Town’s social butterflies. Taking no reservations and making eager diners line up forever-and-a-day to gain entry only serves to perpetuate its mystique. But make no mistake about it, the food is worth the wait.

This gourmand outpost built its fast-developing reputation on the strength of the tacos. The tacos are what has lured most. And the tacos are good. Delicious, in fact. We sampled four of the five on the menu: Beef, Cripsy Fish, Pork and Ox Tongue. Surprisingly, the latter was the favourite of the bunch. Tender charred meat was well married with the sloppy collection of sauces, spices and toppings. The fact that the “winning” taco was delectable helped with the reality that I was tasting something that could once taste me back.

But if you’ve come for the tacos, please stay for the salad. What was a throw-away suggestion (…wanna try a salad?”) turned into a gastronomical event of epic proportions. I’m talking about the
Green Papaya Salad. This noteworthy gem combines strips of green papaya, bean sprouts and tomatoes tossed with fish sauce, peanuts, garlic and lime juice. This salad cleverly achieves the artful balance between sweet, spicy, tangy and amazing.

Now, am I suggesting that you run to El Camino to set your place in line with the mob of foodies, stumble-upons and downtown hipsters? Uh, yes. But once you get in, just don’t forget to order the salad.

El Camino is located at 380 Elgin St. in Ottawa.

Starting from the left, pork, fish, tongue and beef tacos.

El Camino on Urbanspoon

Take it to the streets. "The Manx Pub" has the best tacos you’ll ever have!

Have you ever tasted something so rapturous, so luscious, so drool inducing that it almost made you weep? Where successive rounds of “OMIGOD’s” were uttered because it felt as if you were being transported from the here and now? Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to The Manx Pub‘s pulled-pork tacos (PPT)! Filled with copious amounts of sumptuous meat, dressed with a rich flavourful sauce and topped with buttery avocado, the chef at The Manx was able to elevate these tacos from mere plebeian to out-of-body experience.

The tacos sparked discussion. We debated on the merits of soft shell vs. hard shell and my friend astutely noted that by crisping the soft shell it allowed the whole to remain intact and impervious to pesky leakages. Not to say that the PPT’s weren’t messy. They were definitely a chin-dripping 5-napkin affair. The genius, however was in the full package. The tender meat, the blend of spices, and the outer taco shell were harmoniously unified to near flawlessness.

If there is an award for best taco, best meal, best restaurant of 2013 (and I know there is) and if there is a God (and I for sure know there is) this award must, IT MUST go to The Manx for its pulled-pork tacos. This is not an exaggeration or excessive hyperbole. It’s straight-out reverence for a job well done. Excellence must be rewarded.

These tacos are from the “specials” menu. Here’s hoping they make it up to the big leagues of the “mains.” But in case not, you must run right now to get your fix. Me? I’ll be telling the world about my taco moment!

P.S. You have but a few mere months to enjoy these blurry pictures. iPhone 5s is coming! iPHONE 5S IS COMING!!!

The Manx on Urbanspoon

Not gonna talk a lot ’bout TacoLot

Listen, I don’t like to say not-so-nice things about food establishments that are clearly putting forth an effort. But TacoLot is not so fantastic. I agreed with my friend’s statement, “I really wanted to like this place.” I really did. But I ended up disappointed. TacoLot’s got much going for it. It’s in the getting trendier by the minute Hintonburgh area. It’s a hut on a lot. It’s an easy to walk to neighbourhood joint. And it serves the ever popular tacos. But the aforementioned tacos are pretty unspectacular. So bland that even a hot sauce couldn’t spice up. The tortillas were dry and almost crusty. The rice was unexpectedly sticky. Even the pico de gallo was flavourless. I’m willing to chalk this up to a bad night and give it another try maybe later on this summer. But for now at least, I’m left dreaming of a better taco. Any suggestions?

TacoLot – 995 Wellington Street West
Pork tacos platter
TacoLot on Urbanspoon

Dining at Felipe’s

For all the years I’ve been going to Boston, I’ve heard about this place in Harvard Square called Felipe’s Taquaria. Frankly, Chipotle suited my needs for mexican fare just fine. But it’s not exactly authentic. So one night before a Red Sox game, I sought out Felipe’s. It’s on Mount Auburn street near JFK. I had the soft steak tacos. They were fine I guess. I liked that you get to pile on extra condiments like tomatoes and radishes. Service was fast enough. But I don’t get the hype. Maybe I’m missing something? I might be back to try the burrito’s. I hear those are good. The again, Chipotle’s burrito’s are pretty sick.

Steak tacos with fixings