Tag: Mexican Food (page 1 of 2)

California Wine Country: You Have To Put Your Phone Away At Ernie’s Tin Bar

“I want to be a wine baron,” Jake stated as we sat at Buena Vista’s bar illuminated by the glowing picture of Count Agoston Haraszthy.

“Who doesn’t” I replied.

The evening before, our flight landed in San Francisco, thus beginning our road trip weaving east to Tahoe and then up to Portland.

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Tacos On A Saturday: El Morelia

Tacos are love.

At least to me they are. You can keep your Valentine’s candy and roses that will just die anyway, and stuffed bears holding hearts. You can also keep your poetry, unless it’s about tacos, of course. Mexican street-style tacos are like everything nice in food cradled between two soft corn tortillas.

This weekend, we continued our St. Louis taco quest. Previous outings brought us to La TejanaTaqueria El Bronco and Taqueria El Bronco again (and again).

A while ago, Whiskey & Soba mentioned how El Morelia, a Mexican grocery store in nearby Bridgeton roasts al pastor on a spit for Saturday and Sunday taco lunches.  I never forgot this.

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OK Now I Think Taqueria El Bronco’s My Favorite

We can’t stop eating tacos.

The other night Jake and I were watching an episode of the Jim Gaffigan Show. One of the jokes was that while he and his wife were looking for a new home, she fell in love with every one they viewed stating that it was “the one.” I feel this way about good tacos. On our first STL date night, we rejoiced upon finding street tacos and spicy salsa at La Tejana in Bridgeton and on our second, we did the same over tacos at Taqueria El Bronco.

Moving to a smaller city is one thing, and moving to a large city is another. The Twin Cities is larger than St. Louis, but it’s where I grew-up and had always lived within a few hours’ radius. I just kind of understood the food scene and restaurant dynamics because I collected experiences and knowledge in bits and pieces from multitudes of sources for 30 years! We took for granted knowing the places people generally regarded as the best in their category from the tourist traps.

In St. Louis, we are just beginning to figure out where we are at any given time. Therefore, we look to blogs, message boards, and St. Louis residents for advice. One restaurant that frequently appeared in my search for favorite Mexican restaurants is Taqueria El Bronco located on Cherokee Street. There are many Mexican restaurants and bakeries located along this stretch of Cherokee Street and I keep reading about it’s hard to go wrong here.

On Saturday night, we had to drive around a bit before finding a parking spot on a side street (still adjusting to parallel parking and remembering to carry quarters for meters). Once inside we were warmly greeted and quickly seated. We dug into the complimentary chips and salsas. The red was very mild while the green was wonderfully spicy.

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We’ve never tasted a green salsa quite like this and we put it on everything. Next time, we’d ask for two dishes of green salsa. My thirst still wasn’t quenched after climbing around The City Museum so I ordered a margarita ($6.25). Jake tried a Michelada ($5.74) which reminded us of a Bloody Mary-flavored beer.

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Jake ordered five different tacos while I chose two. They’re smaller and less stuffed than the tacos at La Tejana, but also cost less at about $2 each. Seafood tacos cost a little bit more. Our order arrived surprisingly quickly.

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Sliced radishes in my tacos make me happy!

Jake’s favorite taco was filled with finely crumbled chorizo. The meat wasn’t greasy at all and had a flavor we kept wanting more of. Jake said he liked it so much he’d just order chorizo tacos on a future visit.

I ordered one shrimp and one al pastor taco. The shrimp taco tasted light. The shrimp tasted fresh and weren’t strongly seasoned. I especially liked the al pastor meat. It had a wonderful griddle char. Some people hate the sight of fat on meat, but I loved that some of the pork pieces had a thin layer of caramelized fat.

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We left El Bronco glowing with green salsa-induced endorphins. The person who managed the griddle Saturday night was totally on point. There’s clearly many good tacos to be had in St. Louis and we’ve hardly scratched the surface. El Bronco’s were as delicious as any we’ve tried from our favorite Twin Cities restaurants like Pineda and Taqueria Los Ocampo.

Taco Tuesday: La Tejana, Bridgeton, Missouri

So, we didn’t actually eat these tacos on a Tuesday, but it is Tuesday and I’m writing about tacos, hence, Taco Tuesday! Have you ever wanted to blog a Meatless Wednesday, Wordless Monday, Thursday Favorites, Throwback Friday and watch the world burn, because I totally haven’t. . . 😉

After fifteen whole days in St. Louis, our belongings are mostly unpacked, but yet to be organized. While our condo isn’t much smaller than our Mason City town home, it contains less storage space. This isn’t entirely bad since it’s forcing me to go through our old moving boxes. I’m unpacking items I haven’t though about for years such as cards and letters from college friends and long-lost shoes. I found all of the pairs of glasses I lost after each move and two, life-sized stuffed dogs.

trayse dogs

Trayse is not amused. Rowdy(s), No!

This weekend was Jake’s pick for date night and he chose taqueria-style tacos; the type made with double corn tortillas, a plethora of flavorful meat choices, and garnished simply with hot salsa, onion, cilantro, and lime wedges. I searched local blogs like Whiskey & Soba and local publications’ lists rounding up the community’s best Mexican restaurants. It’s clear there’s a lot of incredible Mexican food to be found here, but we had to start somewhere and I chose La Tejana. The first line of this St. Louis Magazine article states it’s, “not for folks who want American-style tacos. . . ” which meant it served what we were looking for. The menu also offers tortas, gorditas, sopas, and goat and seafood soup among other items.

With the weather hitting 95-100 ºF, we explored our local mall before driving fifteen minutes to Bridgeton. La Tejana is located in a quiet strip mall between a Mexican grocery store and a small liquor store. We were warmly greeted and served chips and salsa.

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I loved the salsa’s flavor. It tasted a little garlicky and perfectly spicy. The complimentary table salsas Mexican restaurants served us in North Dakota and North Iowa tended to run mild and I felt pleasantly taken aback by its kick.

As much as Jake and I enjoyed visiting Las Palmas in Mason City, they did not offer horchata (and Jake misses their giant burrito). I ordered a horchata and received this giant cup which helped make up for lost time.

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We stayed true to our date night mission and ordered lots of tacos for dinner. Jake tried a handful of different fillings while I ordered one lengua and two al pastor along with a side of jalapenos. I haven’t encountered al pastor tacos as magical as those we ate in Puebla where pork and pineapple cooked on spits like gyro meat and cooks shaved the meat to order. Still, there are some of the better al pastor tacos I’ve tried in the Midwest.

I liked that the pineapple was cut into small pieces and mixed into the meat so each bite tasted sweet and savory. The lengua was tender like the softest pot roast and slightly fatty (my favorite tongue tacos might be the one I tried from El Taco Loco when I joined part of Heavy Table’s Central Avenue Checklist).

Jake’s favorite taco fillings were the steak and barbacoa de res.

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Our server brought over a red and green squirt bottle of hot sauces, explaining the red sauce was hotter. We liked them both. The jalapenos were nicely blistered and seasoned with a sprinkle of salt. I nibbled them between bites of taco.

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Overall, La Tejana definitely scratched our itch for street tacos. Our server was very friendly and the prices are affordable. Spicy food endorphins are my favorite endorphins.

One thing I’d like to find is a Mexican restaurant that serves sauces similar to East St. Paul’s Taqueria Los Ocampos. Who serves your favorite St. Louis tacos?

Coming up next: I got splashed by a puffin at the zoo!

Recipe: Tostadas With Roasted Squash, Queso Fresco & Bean Spread

I’m not sure why it took me so long to try tostadas, squash in Mexican food, and ALDI’s

Swapping  roasted squash for taco meat filling is delicious! Although she uses sweet potatoes, Laurie’s recipe for  Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos on Relishing It has been swirling around my mind.

I used to hate ALDI, but now I’ve changed my tune. In the Twin Cities and even Fargo, we had many grocery store options that included natural food stores, co-ops, and multicultural grocers. Our North Iowa community is much smaller and it can be difficult to find affordable, specialty ingredients. While ALDI certainly doesn’t have everything, they do sell jars of organic coconut oil for $5, baking supplies, and a decent version of peanut butter. I still can’t get into the cart deposit thing, so I only purchase what I can carry and appreciate how efficient the associates are (they don’t accept checks!).

I’ve prepared my best version of Mexican-style street tacos more times that I can count, but hadn’t thought to add toppings to tostadas until I spotted them at ALDI. Since I recently prepared tacos filled with carne asada, I made a vegetarian version with roasted squash and mushrooms, white bean spread and sprinkles of queso fresco.

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Running to the Kitchen’s recipe for Homemade White Refried Beans helped me transform a can of white cannelini beans into a lighter, creamier version. It was so simple to prepare. However, if you already have refried beans on hand, you can certainly use these instead of making your own bean spread. We were delighted with this sweet, salty and spicy flavor combination.

Sweet And Spicy Roasted Squash Tostadas
Cook’s Notes: Roast your favorite winter squash. I happened to find a small butternut squash. For easier peeling and cutting, I prick the squash a few times with a fork and microwave for one minute. I remember watching a Top Chef contestant roast mushrooms in the oven. I tried it at home and found it’s an easy way to develop caramelization and concentrate the flavors. You could also saute them on the stove top. 

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Ingredients:

Tostadas & Garnishes:
Tostadas (or your favorite taco shell)
Queso fresco, enough to sprinkle on the tostadas
Red onion, finely diced
Cilantro, chopped
Salsa
Fresh lime wedges

Refried White Bean Spread
Olive oil
1/4 cup onion, finely diced and cooked until edges caramelize
1 clove garlic, minced
Chili powder-a few good dashes
1-2 teaspoons cumin
Salt
Black pepper
1 can white beans
Stock (or water)
Honey, a drizzle

Roasted Squash:
1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into cubes
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Olive oil
Salt
Black pepper

Roasted Mushrooms:
Olive oil
Salt
Black pepper 

Instructions:

To roast the squash

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  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 ℉.
  2. Peel skin. Remove ends. Cut in half the long way (hot dog-style) and remove the seeds with a spoon. If the squash is especially hard, I prick with a fork and microwave for one minute.
  3. Cut squash into bite-sized cubes. Place on a sheet pan.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with chili powder and garlic powder. Roast for about 25-minutes or until the squash is tender and caramelized, tossing partway through.
  5. While the squash and mushrooms cook, prepare garnishes and refried beans.

To roast the mushrooms

  1. Rinse and drain mushrooms or brush off any dirt.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are caramelized. This should also take about 20-minutes. Toss occasionally while baking.

To prepare the refried beans

  1. If using canned beans, rinse and drain.
  2. Pre-heat medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion in olive oil until the edges caramelize, lightly seasoning with salt and pepper. Don’t use too much salt since canned beans are often salty.
  3. Stir in minced garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Cook briefly until fragrant.
  4. De-glaze with stock. Mash mixture until smooth. If the beans are too liquidy, gently simmer until they reduce to the thickness you prefer. If they are too thick, add more stock.
  5. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Add a small drizzle of honey to round out the flavors.

Assemble tostadas: Spread with beans. Top with roasted squash and mushrooms. Sprinkle with onion, cilantro, queso fresco. Drizzle with your favorite salsa and spritz with lime.

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