Category Archives: Mexican

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceAccording to food history, the earliest known burger recipe is mentioned in a Wikipedia citation alluding to a 1798 recipe from The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy written by Nigella Lawson’s forerunner, well-known English cookery writer Hannah Glasse. In it, she refers to a “Hamburgh sausage” which is roasted and served on top of bread as her serving suggestion.

However, California took the idea and ran with it. While some 20th century chains began in Minnesota and other far-flung places such as Connecticut or Ohio, the burger became part of the surf and sand culture. Perhaps it was because of the portable ease of the sandwich, but chains such as Bob’s Big Boy, In-n-Out, and the grand-daddy of them all, McDonald’s, were conceived in the Los Angeles metro area. This truncated past of ground chuck meets roll leads us to Adam Fleischman, who in 2007 essentially revitalized the patty culture for today’s standards.

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceIt’s a familiar script; an East Coaster comes to Los Angeles like so many starving artists before him. However, Fleischman is different. His medium isn’t film, and he isn’t an actor. He’s an entrepreneur, and his business is the stove. Like many food inventors before him, he had minor success with dabblings in wine and other dining experiences around the city.

In an October 2016 Inc. Magazine article, he states, “I was trying to start a business around umami, a savory flavor that’s found in every country’s cuisine. Basically, I Googled the foods highest in umami and took out my cast-iron pan and improvised a recipe with some ground beef. The concept of the restaurant was also quick. I just wanted to make Umami Burger gourmet, an adult place that had waiters and served alcohol.” And the Umami Burger was born. With progeny gaining ground in Dubai and Tokyo, the more than two dozen locations have made Fleischman a million many times over.

800 Degrees Pizza. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Now he is a “passive” owner stealthily building new concepts and food ideas, such as 800 Degrees Pizza (which he sold), and most recently, the Culver City-based Ramen Roll, which closed after four months.

Regarding the original Los Angeles location of Umami Burger, Fleischman commented, “We opened on La Brea because it had a lot of potential. It was languishing. It was risky, but this area seemed like a good bet.”

On the future of food, Fleischman said, “I think food is changing. I think the internet has made everything sort of cross-cultural. It used to be that people would only make the food in their town. Now, people have more information and access to recipes.”

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceFleischman talked to i8tonite while in his Los Angeles office, located behind his Hancock Park home, mentioning that he had a couple of new food ideas in the future…and a cookbook, too.

Food Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I like to cook Italian food at home. I make everything.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have club soda for cocktail making. And, lemons and limes.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I only share meals with people who don’t have dietary restrictions. They have to be drinkers. They can’t be sober.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I won’t invite anyone I don’t like. I’m picky about who I eat with.

Umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I’m a mixologist and a sommelier, so wine and cocktail.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Paul Bertolli. He has a great cookbook.

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
My cast-iron pan. You can cook anything in it. It retains heat well.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Italian, American, and Spanish.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Seafood.

Favorite vegetable?
Artichokes.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Heston Blumenthal. He is such a technical brilliant chef.

Food you like the most to eat?
Moroccan and Indian.

Food you dislike the most?
I like everything if it’s cooked well.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Driving.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Everyone, really.

pumpkin spice latte umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
Copenhagen.

What is your favorite restaurant?
I like Castagna in Portland.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero tattoos.

Recipe: Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Chipotle Sauce:
Take two large, ripe tomatoes (heirloom), half an onion and three small cloves of garlic and broil until dark. Blend with two dried chipotles, reconstituted in ¼ cup water and some sherry vinegar and s/p. Strain and blend with meat juices from shredded beef.

Shredded Beef: 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) beef brisket flat, chuck or any well marbled beef.
1 ancho or New Mexico dried chile, stemmed and seeded
I small diced onion onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add oil and brown the beef on all sides. Pour off as much oil as possible.
Just barely cover the meat with water. Bring to a boil.
Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
Add remaining ingredients.
Cover the pot and place it in the oven until the meat is tender about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Remove the meat, reserving broth.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it. Hold a fork in each hand, and shred the beef with the forks.

Serve in griddled tortillas and top with grated cotija cheese.

– The End. Go Eat. –  
Recipe photo courtesy and copyright Wikimedia Commons: helmadatter

My Favorite Dishes of 2016

As 2016 began, it was planned that Nick, me and the kids — Holly, the 11-year-old pitbull and our 7-year-old Frenchie, JJ — were moving to Denver from Phoenix. Our intention after twelve months in the Sonoran Desert was to relocate to the Mile High City for his work. Our last stop was the Rocky Mountains. However, after all that, we have found ourselves back in Southern California, where we had originally started. Not in Los Angeles – coming full circle — but in Newport Beach, behind the Orange Curtain. Still for Nick’s work, but with a fluffier job description.

It’s a good location for us. Far from the histrionics of the world’s entertainment capital. Yet, we discuss missing Camelback Mountain rising out of the valley, the vast blue skies and, of course, the food. Phoenix taught me that good eating can be found anywhere if you are looking for it. It doesn’t have to be in one of the anointed culinary islands such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

While living in Phoenix, I discovered deep blended roots of Mexican and Native American food. Indeed, it’s common for local hunters born of Mexican descent to shoot game such as moose or elk during the holiday season. The braised meat is then turned into Christmas tamales and frozen to eat throughout the year. It’s a practice that goes well beyond the area’s 114 years as a state. Originally, Mexican settlers joined with the natives crafting unique food and then in turn, became Americans when the 48th state entered the Union.

I bring this up because I read a well-known restaurant writer’s suggestions of “best food trends”. In her lengthy piece, she proffered gastronomic extravagances in Copenhagen, Paris, and of course, the Big Apple which is where she is based. I can always choose what is great elsewhere, from Singapore to Argentina, France to Greece. However, I think it’s our duty to describe what is “great” in America. Our culinary prowess is the myriad of cultures creating our nation – borrowing from here and there, making our own indigenous taste profiles such as fried chicken, pot roast or apple pie. Derived from other places, but made here crafting American comfort. We need to recognize that we are great, looking only to our dinner tables.

Unlike the writer, who travels often, I didn’t get on a plane this year except a roundtrip to Vegas and Phoenix. After almost two dozen countries and nearly 250 cities, I’m not big about getting on planes anymore; plus, I love the dining scene in smaller cities such as Phoenix, Portland and even in Orange County, California. They aren’t massive but what’s cooking is robust and lively.

As go into the new year, as a nation, we have dreamed up all types of unique food – Mexican-Korean tacos, Japanese sushi with Brazilian flavors, Thai with Texas BBQ– turning it into one melting pot of goodness. The ingredients simmering on the American stove is where we have always been welcoming, tasting little bits of this and adding some of that. Authentic American flavor is made from our fusion of cultures right here at home and it’s always been great.

Hoja Sante stuffed with Mennonite Cheese, Gran Reserva Barrio Café : Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza (Phoenix, Arizona).

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza should be a nationally recognized chef and it’s a shame she’s not. She is a proud Mexican American born in the United States and is un-WASP-like most Food Network stars such as Giada, Rachel or even Paula Deen.  At her five restaurant mini-empire based in Phoenix, her cooking is Mexican but with European techniques. At Gran Reserva Barrio Café, her new restaurant which opened in spring 2016, Esparza’s creativity is evidenced in the simplicity of a melty hunk Mexican Mennonite cheese, wrapped burrito-like in a large hoya sante leaf and served with two smoky chili pastes. Simple. Traditional and yet still other worldly.

Image result for Hoja Santa Gran Reserva Arizona Latinos

The indigenous plant is not commonly found north of the border, and when it is, it’s usually used in stews and braises. Esparza uses it whole, instead of strips, allowing the anise flavor to compliment the queso’s milky texture. The venomous bite of the peppers is nulled by the dairy and leaving only smokiness. Texturally, the crunch of the leaf, emission of creaminess and a nullified heat is eye-opening. As I sat eating the dish, along with interviewing the Phoenix-based chef for Arizona Latinos, she imparted the history of the Mexican Mennonites and how they are still important to the agriculture of the country.

This gooey delicious dish is modest, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

Chicken Liver Pasta, Sotto:  Chef Steve Samson (Los Angeles, CA)

On a media tasting invite, I went through a selection of items chosen by Chef Steve Samson at his almost six-year-old restaurant Sotto. The cozy space is inviting with blue walls, wooden tables and chairs as is Mr. Samson, who is one of the kinder cooks in the culinary world.

Going through his menu, which is all yummy the standout, became the housemade Rigatoni tossed with Chicken Livers, Parmigiana Reggiano and Porcini. It’s a daring dish for Angelenos to embrace. First, there are the carbohydrates but second the livers aren’t normally found on regular menus much less Italian. Having traveled often to Italy, I didn’t recall pasta and innards used in this way and asked Samson where it was based. It was his unique twist on the typical Bolognese ragu. Instead of throwing away something tasty, he invented this earthy and rustic dish. I’m not fond of chicken livers – and I don’t know many people who are – but this I would eat every day for the rest of my life.

 

Jardineros (Garden) Tacos, Taco Maria: Chef Carlos Salgado (Costa Mesa, CA)

Taco Maria is a high-end eating experience much like the Rick Bayless’ chain Red O or even Phoenix’s independent Barrio Café (see above). White tablecloths, waiters with crumbers and sparkling water served in wine glasses, my type of my place, where a diner feels special. Located inside a mall within a mall, it is an indoor-outdoor space which is a good showcase for the unique tastes presented by Chef Carlos Salgado.

Much has been written about Salgado and for good reason, his fusion of California agricultural and Mexican cooking produce, arguably the country’s best tacos. Ordering a la carte during lunch, there are a five varieties of the national south of the border food: chicken, beef, pork,  fish and vegetarian. Exceptional eats every single one, wrapped with the housemade delectable blue corn tortillas found only at Taco Maria. (B.S. Taqueria gets their masa from here too.) The standout is clearly the vegetarian (jardineros) made with shitake mushroom chorizo, a crispy potato and queso fundido. Separately, each one would make a great filling but together, they create something truly different. The minced fungi spiced with traditional south of the border flavorings texturally give the chorizo a meat-like consistency. However, it’s the flavor which is a standout.

Pasta dishes, Tratto: Chef Chris Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)

Legendary chef Chris Bianco is  renowned for Pizza Bianco. Matter of fact, his pizzas have been called the best in the world by former “Vogue” food writer Jeffrey Steingarten. Therefore, when someone invites you to Tratto, his new restaurant which opened in early summer 2016 in the same mall as his world-renowned pizzeria, you go – but not for his pizzas. At his new space, he has opened his creativity to showcase other goodness derived from Arizona farmers; mostly notably, the wheat growers.

Bianco does everything else but pizzas. Old-fashioned, Italian food but a real display of southwestern growers. I don’t mean peppers, tomatoes and cheese but bold pairings such as beets and gorgonzola roasted in a fig leaf. All ingredients are sourced from the 48th state, crafting Italian food. Don’t question it but eat his handmade pastas which are carefully crafted by Bianco. Get off the carb diet and have a bit of heaven.

Beef Tenderloin with Mole Negro, Talavera at Four Seasons Scottsdale: Chef Mel Mecinas (Phoenix, Arizona)

To reiterate, I’ve listed the dishes I’ve eaten over the course of the year which I remember fondly. Eating them, at the restaurant, the conversations around them and how good they are. Nothing comes as close to Chef Mel Mecinas and his mole negro and beef tenderloin.

Mole is probably one of the world’s most difficult sauces to make. Consisting of more than two dozen ingredients ground and simmered into a liquid, resulting in something edible which is complex, luscious and fortifying. Fish is too delicate for the earthiness but lean cuts of meat provide a great experience to taste the Mexico pottage which is what diners get at Talavera under the capable hands of Chef Mecinas.

Unfortunately, he no longer works at the restaurant where he was the Executive Chef for more than a decade. Greener pastures beckoned. However, one day I hope the world gets to eat his extraordinary mole.

 

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw RecipeIn our global world, food is often the first thing that changes. Chinese noodles appropriated by the Italians after Marco Polo’s visit. How about al pastor brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, or the deliciousness of a French-Vietnamese banh mi, which features tons of crunchy vegetables and savory pork stuffed into a baguette? This is the case for the much-lauded Revolutionario, near the University of Southern California, helmed by Chef Farid Zadi and his wife Susan Park. The couple came up with an ingenious concept of marrying North African diaspora (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya) tastes with Mexico. The successful result is a delicious fusion of international flavors as noted by the alternative paper, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and the queue of college students and food-oriented people standing at the counter ordering their $3.00 tacos.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Revolutionario

Zadi’s career started in his birthplace of Lyon, France, ultimately leading him to working in Michelin starred restaurants throughout the world, including stints in Seoul, Korea, and Scotland. Upon coming to the United States, Zadi focused his epicurean talents on being a chef consultant and culinary educator, teaching cooking classes – for the beginner to the accomplished – at such places as Sur La Table, Whole Foods Market, and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Makroud (Algerian Date Newtons)

Last year, he and Susan wanted to create something different. Park says, “We saw the market going in a different direction towards a fast casual experience. Millennials didn’t really want to participate in the sit down service.” Along Jefferson, Revolutionario is not hard to find, as there are hordes of people waiting for service. Together, the couple have created a refreshing and unique melding of cultures…and the world was ready. Algerian butter and Mexican crema top a cob of corn. An Algerian roasted chicken with rasa al hanout – a Northern African spice mixture — called mechoui — is served up with feta and tortillas to wrap the bird. Wood-roasted cauliflower is also a standout when bound in a corn tortilla.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Mexican Street Corn with Algerian Creole Butter, Crema, and Cotija

Park comments, “North African tacos are an interesting cuisine. Food writers, those who are well-traveled, and people exposed to unique flavors love our food. Where else can you get merguez sausage served like a burrito?

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
34 years professionally

What is your favorite food to cook?
Dover sole with lemon butter sauce

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cheese, and cured meat.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Merguez and Crispy Potato Tacos

What do you cook at home?
Nothing

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Openness

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Don’t know what they want

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer in the summer, wine for fall and winter

Your favorite cookbook author?
Clifford Wright

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Water

Your least favorite ingredient?
Lard

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Home stove that doesn’t burn high enough

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Roasted Sweet Potato and Crispy Kale, Yukon Gold with Lentil Chili or Charred Vegetables.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean and Californian

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Potatoes

Chef you most admire?
Pierre Gagnaire

Food you like the most to eat?
Buttered pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Calf’s brain

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. Never.

Recipe: Fennel and carrot slaw

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

• 2 medium fennel bulbs
• 5 carrots, coarsely grated
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup Spanish green olives, pitted and finely chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon dried Aleppo chile or Espelette pepper flakes (optional), or to taste
• 6 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and very thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 3 tablespoons and reserve.

Discard remaining fronds and stalks. Cut bulbs into thin matchsticks and toss with carrots in a bowl.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, olives, Aleppo chile (if using), and salt to taste and toss with vegetables.

Chill, covered, at least 30 minutes (for flavors to develop).

Photo WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with OC’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas“The cuisine at Who Song’s & Larry is meant to be fun. It’s Mexican-inspired food,” say 32-year old Chef Johannes Bernau. “The food at Las Brisas finds its inspiration in Mexico, but is really Southern California.”

Born in Utah to a Japanese mother and Dutch Indonesian father, the talented man behind the Real Mex Restaurants stove holds the unwieldy title of Corporate Chef for Specialty Brands. Behind that long designation lies a thoughtful human who creates delectable South of the Border-encouraged dishes at Las Brisas, an iconic cliff side eatery overlooking California’s famed Laguna Beach, and Who Song’s & Larry’s, a newcomer to the restaurant scene. Real Mex also owns additional Southern California chains such as Acapulco, Chevy’s, and El Torito Grill. Bernau oversees the kitchens of the single standing operations, which include the aforementioned, but also El Paso Cantina in Torrance, CA and New York City’s Sinigual.

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

“Like every chef, I started out helping as a kid in the kitchen, then I started inviting my friends over for barbeques that I would make,” Bernau recalls. “I worked at a pizza place between the ages of 18 – 19. Today, I still crank out a pizza for family (staff) meals.”

Seafood Tower Las Brisas. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Seafood Tower Las Brisas

The food at Las Brisas, with its breaktaking views of Laguna’s golden sand beaches and Pacific Ocean waves, is a must for every traveler and visitor to the legendary ocean community. The white tablecloth eatery serves dishes such as the fruta del mar, a mixture of lobster, scallops, shrimp, and the catch of the day with a saffron sauce. Also, surf and turf plates exist with Latin flavors, such as the New York Strip with Mexican Shrimp. Adding to the overall theme of Southern California dishes are starters such as ceviche and Ahi Tuna Poke.

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

Who Song’s & Larry is themed more like a cantina with lustful eats, including Hangover Fries. Created by Chef Bernau, the dish is crispy fries covered in carnitas, bacon, green chili sauce, melted pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, a fried egg, and fresno chiles. Served in a small crock, the mighty curative sounds overwhelming but in truth, it’s delicious with bold flavors to settle anyone who might be leaning too far after a night of drinking. “The inspiration was from the Canadian poutine and from my love of smothered fries…plus a fried egg can go on anything,” chuckles Bernau. “It was so popular we named our brunch after our fries.”

Hangover fries. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Hangover fries

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was able to crack eggs… (Mom and dad probably ate plenty of egg shell omelets…)

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything off the grill, especially Steak.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Surge (classic soda from the 90’s) – they took it away once… not going to let that happen again.

What do you cook at home?
Mac and cheese.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Their love for food.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Customers that want their steaks well done.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ferran Adria

Street Corn - Who Song and Larry's. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Street Corn – Who Song and Larry’s

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s Knife.

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme – everything could use a little more thyme.

Your least favorite ingredient?
MSG

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
When I was a young cook, one of my jobs was to peel grapes.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Tacos

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccolini

Chef you most admire?
Jose Andreas – worked for him back in the day & learned how to cook with liquid nitrogen.

Food you like the most to eat?
Ramen (not instant)

Food you dislike the most?
Natto, a Japanese dish of fermented soy beans.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
none

Recipe: Coke Cola Carnitas

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Photo Wikimedia Commons: Mike McCune

5 lbs of large chunks of pork butt
1 onion chopped
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of oregano
1 can of coke
1 can of beer
2 TBSP salt
1 tsp pepper
Water

Put everything in crock pot on medium before you go to work.

Eat after work. With tortillas and cheese.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico City

Guest Writer and Mexico City travel expert Katja Gaskell is the co-founder of globetotting.com, a website for adventurous family travel. She is a firm believer that you can – and should! – take your children everywhere and anywhere no matter what age they are. Prior to life on the road with kids, Katja wrote across a range of titles for Lonely Planet and tried and tested luxury hotels for the British boutique hotel guide Mr & Mrs Smith. She is currently based in Mexico City with her husband and three children. Find her online: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Mexico has long had a reputation for good food, but these days its culinary clout goes far beyond tortillas and tacos. Nowhere is this more evident than in Mexico City, where new dining experiences have helped catapult the capital onto the worldwide gourmet scene.

This is an exciting place to eat, with dining options to suit all palates and all budgets. From a simple torta stand to some of the world’s best restaurants, Mexico’s capital is foodie heaven.

This is, however, also one of the world’s largest cities and finding your way around can take some time. To make things easier, we have focused on two neighbouring colonias, Condesa and Roma Norte, both home to some of the city’s most exciting eateries.

Breakfast: Lalo!

Lalo! From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityOwned by chef Eduardo García of Maximo Bistro fame (one of the capital’s best restaurants), Lalo! is a lively, colourful café and pizzeria. But this is not your average breakfast joint (nor your average pizza parlour). Lalo! boasts an innovative menu that will have you dithering over what to order. Diners sit side by side on one long communal table overseen by a mural of bright caricatures. It’s fun, tasty, and a great way to start the day.

My suggestion: The Croque Madame is, without doubt, one of the best breakfast dishes in the capital. A large slab of brioche bread, a generous helping of ham, mountains of cheese and an egg on top. Have one of these and you won’t have to eat again all day.

Hours: 7am – 11pm (closed Mondays)
Address: Zacatecas 173, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 5564 3388
Website: www.eat-lalo.com

Second Breakfast: Panaderia Rosetta

Panaderia Rosetta. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityOwned by Chef Elena Reygada, named Latin America’s best female chef in 2015, this hole-in-the-wall may not look like much but it serves the best breads and pastries in Mexico City. Reygada is particularly well known for her baking skills, and Panaderia Rosetta provides bread for restaurants across the city. Among the many pastries on offer are croissants filled with fig, rosemary flavoured buns, and cinnamon. Grab a coffee at the counter or order to take away and sit in the nearby Rio de Janeiro park instead.

My suggestion: You can’t go wrong with any of the pan dulces (pastries) here but there’s no denying that Reygada’s light and fluffy doughnuts are unparalleled.

Hours: 7am – 8pm Monday – Saturday; 7.30am – 6pm Sunday
Address: Colima 179, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 5207 2976
Website: www.rosetta.com.mx

Lunch: Tres Galeones Taquería de Puerto

Tres Galeones. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityThis small, retro-styled taquería is great for a quick lunch and is almost always packed. The chalkboard menu offers seafood dishes such as pescado estilo baja (white fish, battered, fried, and served in a light tortilla with toppings) and taco de pulpo al pastor (octopus dressed in a tasty red sauce). Also on offer are tostadas, sopes, and burritos. Grab a table outside if you can.

My suggestion: The pescado estilo baja are excellent as is the caldo de camarón, a shrimp amuse bouche offered to all diners. It’s worth going to Tres Galeones for this alone.

Hours: 11am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday
Address: Calle Jalapa 117, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 5419 3964
Website: www.tresgaleones.com

Coffeeshop: Espressarte

Espressarte. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityCoffee is serious business at Espressarte, a small artisanal café in Roma Norte where a plethora of coffee-making gadgets and gizmos line the walls. The café even has their its own micro-roastery. Everything from a simple Americano to a Japanese-style slow drip coffee is served. No bells, no whistles, just very, very good coffee.

My suggestion: You can’t go wrong, choose your favourite coffee and enjoy.

Hours: 7.30am – 9pm Monday – Friday, 8am – 8pm Saturday, 9am – 5pm Sunday
Address: Monterrey 151, Roma Norte
Phone Number: +52 55 4171 1969
Website: https://www.facebook.com/espressartel/

Happy Hour: Condesa DF

rooftop bar, Condesa DF. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico City

The rooftop terrace at boutique hotel Condesa DF is a great place to watch the sun go down with a drink in hand. This hotel is part of the Habita Group, an edgy brand that has been responsible for some of the city’s most innovative hotels in recent years. Condesa DF is no exception and this hip hideaway is a magnet for the city’s beautiful people. Don’t let that put you off, however, the view – and drinks – are well worth it.

My suggestion: When in Mexico drink Mescal, either straight or in a cocktail. The Cucumber Mescal Mojito, with mescal, mint, lemon, and cucumber is particularly good.

Hours: Sun-Wed 2 pm – 11 pm; Thurs-Sat 2 pm – 1 am.
Address: Veracruz 102, Condesa
Phone Number: +52 55 5241 2600
Website: www.condesadf.com

Dinner: La Capital

La Capital. From i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico CityA modern take on the traditional Mexican cantina, La Capital is a fun dining space with a tasty menu. Watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen and order plates to share; crispy tuna tostadas, shrimp tacos, and flautas (a type of friend taco) are just some of the house specialities. Not forgetting the guacamole, which is sublime.

My suggestion: The tacos cochinita pibil (pulled pork) are simply delicious. This slow-roasted pork dish originates Yucatán and is served with corn tortillas and onions marinated in sour orange.

Hours: 1.30pm – 12pm Monday to Wednesday, 1.30pm – 1am Thursday – Saturday, 1.30pm – 6pm Sunday
Address: Nuevo Leon 137, Condesa
Phone: +52 55 5256 5159
Website: www.lacapitalrestaurante.com

 

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i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Condesa and Roma Norte, Mexico City

 

 

Pinnable photo: Flickr user Alexxx C; Feature photo:  ProtoplasmaKid / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0; Condesa DF photo flickr cc: scaredykat; Espressarte and Tres Galeones photos: Katja Gaskell; All other photos: respective restaurants

i8tonite with Humito Tequila’s Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava Smolder

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava Smolder
Jaime Camil, Juan Domingo Beckmann, and Nick Fouquet. Photo courtesy Getty Images for Proximo Spirits

Juan Domingo Beckmann is not just any man of wealth. Senor Beckmann has the distinction of being the sixth generation company leader of Jose Cuervo, and a direct descendant of Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo, founder of the world’s leading tequila. In other words, his family is responsible for most of world’s population growth (drunken sex = producing babies). Currently, he’s promoting his new product, Maestro Dobel Humitos – meaning “little smoke” – the world’s first smoked tequila. The innovative libation is all Beckmann’s making, and harkens back to his forefathers’ original crafting of the Mexican liquor. Artisanal in nature, the spirit is hewed using 17th-century methods of blue agave and mesquite wood. Even in the bottle, a swirling hint of smokiness is displayed through the clear glass.

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava Smolder

Raised in Monterrey and Mexico City, Senor Beckmann is quiet and soft spoken but loves talking about his homeland. Indeed, he even says, “I grew up with Mexican food and love it. I’m addicted to it. Near my home in New York City and I’m visiting, I go to Toloache almost every day. ”

He also admits to not cooking himself, nor do his wife and children – that’s left to the cooks. However, he mentions that he loves skiing and goes to Vail, Colorado regularly. His additional places to relax include going to Ixtapa, located on the Pacific Ocean, or Rio Bravo, centered in the north, with his family in tow. In his answers, there is a certain humbleness of spirit. Generally speaking, most people of extreme wealth talk about Monte Carlo or Costa Smeralda, yet he is never far from his birthplace.

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava SmolderInterestingly, he is trying to turn Tequila, a small town located in the state of Jalisco, about an hour outside of Guadalajara, into a Latin American version of Napa Valley, complete with a museum, a train, and pairings of the namesake drink in restaurants. “It’s my father’s dream,” he says, “to turn the area into a destination with hotels. We want to grow it into something bigger.”

When speaking to the Bill Gates of tequila, one had to ask the important question how he felt about presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump. He chuckled a little and said, “I don’t like him. What else can I say?”

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Any type of Mexican food. Spicy food goes well with Humito, well actually any food, if you make a nice cocktail out of Humito.

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava Smolder

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tequila, ice, shaker, and fresh fruit.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
People that enjoy a good drink drink and have a good sense of humor.

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava Smolder

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A person who is always criticizing.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail. Smoky Negroni: Negroni with Humito and a grapefruit twist. I do like Mexican (tequila), Italian (wine), and tequila añejo at the end. Japanese beer and tequila añejo on the rocks at the end are always good too.

Your favorite cookbook author?
I like the owner of el Bajio, Cardenal and Jorge Vallejo of Quintonil. (All of them in Mexico City)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Cocktail shaker

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava Smolder

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I like all food, but I prefer Mexican.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
All of the above, except tofu.

Favorite vegetable?
I love asparagus!

Chef you most admire?
Jorge Vallejo from Quintonil

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava SmolderFood you like the most to eat?
Every type of food that pairs with tequila. With Humito, I like grilled food or bbq.

Food you dislike the most?
Boiled chicken

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
I love to ski in the winter and go to the movies.

Who do you most admire in food?
The creativity of the chefs – it’s inspiring. I enjoy sharing any good food experience with great people, and tequila always adds to that experience.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
Mexico and NYC. There is a new trend of great Mexican chefs now in Mexico. I’m sure Mexico in 10 years will have at least 3 of the best chefs in the world.

What is your favorite restaurant?
I have three. I love el Bajio, el Cardenal, and Contramar in Mexico City.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos

Cocktail Recipe: Guava Smolder

i8tonite with Humito Tequila's Juan Domingo Beckmann & Cocktail Recipe for Guava Smolder
Mixologist Gustavo Ortega-Oyarzun

2 oz Maestro Dobel Humito
1 oz Guava Puree
½ oz Canton Ginger Liquor
½ oz Lemon Juice
¼ oz Giffard Pamplemousse Rose
3 dash Peychaud Bitters
Tajin Salt Rim
Mix all the ingredients in a shaker glass and shake vigorously. Serve in a rocks glass with Tajin and garnish with a Lemon wedge.

 

i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de Allende

In a guidebook on Mexico, the writer said San Miguel de Allende is a “bit like a Mexican Disneyland” for foreign retirees and Mexico City residents (chilangos). It’s nothing of the sort. There aren’t any grand amusements or incredibly expensive stuffed toys. Granted, there are many English-speaking expatriates from around the world living or owning property. Yet, San Miguel de Allende’s charm is the cobblestone streets, delicious food, and the preservation of its 17th – 18th century architecture. Within the city of almost 150,000, there are families who have lived in the colonial town for as long as they could remember. While Mexico City and much of the world build sleek hotels with faster gigabyte downloads times, the internet connection at one of the luxury hotels is like driving on a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour: inch by inch, than stopping. That’s its allure.
El Pegaso. i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de AllendeMuch of the town, including El Jardin, the picturesque hub, is relatively unchanged. The facades of the building have been beaten on for more than three hundred years by the elements and drinkers of all persuasions, yet the bright yellow, orange, red and sometimes, Mexican blue are still vibrantly fresh. The majority of the city’s homes open into an outdoor courtyard, fanning out to salas (rooms). It’s all very formal and European, which is how San Miguel de Allende feels – old-fashioned without the stuffiness. Kids still play with sticks. Adults play chess or smoke cigarettes while taking their coffee in the parks.

Food shopping is a delicious adventure and the markets are the area’s heart. Mexico’s bounty in food, craftsmanship, and kindness is found at Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, located by the statue of founder General Ignacio Allende. One can find fresh handmade tortillas, carnitas to purchase by the pound, and cut fruit with a sprinkle of cayenne, as well as staples like toilet paper and cleaners. There are wagons full of dried and fresh peppers, freshly slaughtered pork and chickens, and stalls where women are making tamales and hand-loomed clothing. Wander. Get lost. Eating lunch will set a couple back a whopping three bucks.

Chef and owner Azucena Tovar, of Scottsdale’s Los Sombreros, grew up in San Miguel de Allende with eleven brothers and sisters, says, “It was such a privilege to be part of the town. Riding a horse on Mexican Independence Day, twirling herbs on Good Friday. There were so many things to participate in San Miguel, it was a full-time job.”

Breakfast: El Pegaso

El Pegaso. i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de Allende

Sitting on the corner of a busy cobblestoned intersection, one wants to bypass the place. It seems a little too American, too whitewashed underneath the south of the border orange and yellow. However, as norteamericano as it is, the food is good, with excellent moles and salsas, cacti salads that are palatable for food tourists, yet easy for the non-adventurous as well. It was the first place I had eaten Mexican “escamole,” or ant larvae, an Aztec delicacy.

Escamoles - ant larvae. From i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de Allende
i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de AllendeSuggestions: Chilaquiles con Huevos are spicy and warm. The totopos are served with a guajillo sauce and topped with eggs anyway you want them. I preferred poached. Also, this was the first place I had eaten Aztec caviar – ant larvae. A Mexican delicacy as reflected in the high price, my friend Penny and I shared a plate. It was slightly nutty and crunchy, with the taste of cottage cheese. Eaten with some guacamole and tortillas, it was delicious.

Address: Corregidora 6, Centro 37700 San Miguel de Allende, GTO. Mexico
Phone: + 52 415 156 7611
Website: https://www.facebook.com/elpegasosma/
Hours: Thursday – Tuesday, 8:30am – – 10:00pm. Closed Wednesdays
Lunch: Mercado Ignacio Ramirez

Mercado Ignacio Ramirez: The central market of San Miguel de Allende. From i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de Allende

The central market of San Miguel de Allende, for both gringos and natives . Pick-up some freshly made tortillas and some roasted carnitas, sit at one of the parks and go at it.
Suggestions: See above. You can also grab some tamales which have been freshly made.
Address: Colegio, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto, Mexico
Phone: +52 415 154 4011
Hours: Seven days a week, 8:00am – 6:30pm

Cocktails: Casa de Sierra Nevada

Cocktails at Casa de Sierra Nevada. From i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de AllendeA few blocks up from the El Jardin is Casa de Sierra Nevada, the legendary hotel, located in four separate buildings that were all former mansions. It’s an unusual hotel because there isn’t a main lobby. There are two restaurants located a quarter of a mile away from each other, while the spa is a small house. Many of the Mexican presidents have vacationed here, including Vincente Fox and Miguel de la Madrid. Built in the late 17th century, there is nothing like the property. There are newer places in town to lay your weary head, but none quite as romantic and as scenic. Have a glass of tequila on the rocks at The Blue Bar with its soaring ceilings, azul-colored walls, and wooden tables. Although Hemingway never stayed here, it has that presence, like Venice’s Harry Bar.
Suggestions: Tequila on the rocks. It’s the drink of choice for many Mexicans or a margarita but don’t ask for it frozen.
Address: Hospicio 35, San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico
Website: http://www.belmond.com/casa-de-sierra-nevada-san-miguel-de-allende/
Hours: Open daily.

Dinner: The Restaurant

The Restaurant. i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de Allende

There have been many accolades heaped on the American expat and chef Danny Masterson, who moved to San Miguel in 2005 for a simpler form of life. He’s brought an international flavor to the dining scene in the colonial town by taking it out of the resorts. It’s not Mexican food, although it is made in Mexico. Masterson’s food has elements of French technique using local farm ingredients, such as cheeses and produce. It’s a must if you are going to eat in San Miguel de Allende, but expect a leisurely dinner. Your meal could last from opening to closing – which is a very good thing.
Suggestions: Personally, I like the food where he has touches of Mexican, with American and maybe a little French, Japanese, or Argentinian. The menu changes often – not like El Pegaso – so it would be foolish to recommend something.
Address: Solano 16, Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende, Gto., Mexico
Website: www.therestaurantsanmiguel.com
Hours: Sunday, Tuesday – Wednesday, 12:00pm – 10:00pm. Thursday – Saturday, 12:00pm – 11:00am.

Where to stay: Casa de Sierra Nevada

Casa de Sierra Nevada. From i8tonite: a Cheat Sheet to Eating in San Miguel de Allende

It’s not a typical hotel, since the property is spread out over four buildings. It’s kind of like getting four separate experiences. It’s what gives it a uniqueness. As far as luxury hotels go, it has the spa, the pool, the restaurants, and the turndown service, but you half expect Zorro to come riding up to save the day. Located in the city center, the property is steeped in romance and magic.

Learn more: http://www.belmond.com/casa-de-sierra-nevada-san-miguel-de-allende/

 

The end. Go eat.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked GuacIn 1912, Arizona became the forty-eighth state to enter the contiguous United States. Prior to that, the desert landscape territory was an extension of Mexico’s Sonora, the agricultural hub of our bordering ally. Arguably, you could even say that the Grand Canyon state and our friendly neighbor are conjoined twins. Instead of sharing body parts, the state and the country share a border and a unique history, especially as it relates to eats. On this northern side, we have adopted tacos and tequila as our own with fast food franchises, academic courses detailing corn tortilla virtues, and country songs such as “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo.” (Fortunately, Mexicans don’t have songs about throwing back a bottle of Napa cabernet.)

It’s not surprising then that the state is home to the world’s largest taco festival, honoring its Mexican heritage. Entering its seventh year, the massively attended Arizona Taco Festival was co-created by David Tyda, 39, and glorifies one of the globe’s greatest food icons – right up there with hamburgers, barbeque, French fries, and pizza. There is no other state or city where an annual celebration takes place showcasing the depth of creativity folded into a flour or corn tortilla. “When my business partner, Rick Phillips, and I started the festival,” says Tyda, “we wanted to reveal how diverse the taco can be.”

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

Taking place annually in October, over thirty-five thousand people join in eating unusual hybrids folded or fried into flour or corn layers. The gorge get-together has become a tourism force to be reckoned with for Arizonans bringing heads in beds for the hospitality soaked town which has almost 60,000 rooms in nearly 450 hotels and resorts. (Jokingly, Tyda says, “We sold tickets in every state except Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Maine. Dunno what they’ve got against tacos in Rhode Island.”). Over fifty restaurants gather at Scottsdale Salt River Fields, serving up two dollar tacos with a chance to win a ten thousand dollar cash prize.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

“Whenever someone visited me, they would always ask where they could get a good taco,” states Tyda. “Creatively, we see unusual ideas of what makes a taco. Although, I think it would be fun, to see what restaurants do who don’t make tacos – see what they come up with.” To his credit, he and his partner have also branched out to other epicurean bashes, such as Scottsdale Beer Palooza highlighting craft brews, and Arizona BBQ Festival featuring The Redneck Games.
Long before he was an advocate of Mexico’s leading export, Tyda was one of the state’s finest journalists, working as the editor of Ritz-Carlton Magazine, the now defunct Desert Living, Stratos, and many other glossy titles. Over the years, he’s witnessed a decline in the writing world. In an interview with 26Blocks, he says about journalism, “That art is dying and I’m sad about that.” Yet, gratefully, the Midwest-born, Arizona State University graduate has smartly created a whole new work category for himself and Arizona, turning the Valley of the Sun into a Mexican taco fest.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
My famous mojito pancakes – they have all the ingredients of a mojito in the batter.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
An open box of baking soda, though I’m not convinced it’s doing a damn thing to keep stuff fresh.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Willingness to share their food.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Bad tippers.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked GuacBeer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above. I believe in democracy.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Dr. Andrew Weil. His recipes are simple and healthy.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
A good knife.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
No favorites – stir fry, Italian sauces, grilled wings, you name it.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Tofu – only because I rarely encounter it.

Favorite vegetable?
Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, hold the asparagus.

Chef you most admire?
Any talented sous chef because they’re doing a ton of the work and getting almost none of the credit.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked Guac

Food you like the most to eat?
Tacos, of course!

Food you dislike the most?
Anything poorly designed, where the chef didn’t think about the user experience (i.e., tacos that fall apart, a burger with a soggy bun, pizza with too much cheese, etc.)

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Netflix and chill with my fiancé (and I really mean Netflix and chill, lol)

Whom do you most admire in food?
Any chef who can achieve consistency. It’s truly a moving target.

i8tonite with Arizona Taco Festival Founder David Tyda and Recipe for Rocked GuacWhere is your favorite place to eat?
At the bar.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Dick’s Hideaway.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Nope.

Recipe: Rock Out with your Guac Out

2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1 cup chopped roma tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Chips

Scoop avocados into a medium bowl, and cut/smash with a fork to desired consistency. Stir in all other ingredients. Serve with chips.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Barrio Café Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza & Chiles en Nogada Recipe

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Barrio Cafe Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza & Chiles en Nogada RecipeThere is no doubting Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s immense impact in the Phoenix restaurant world. Ask any chef currently with a restaurant in the Valley of the Sun about Esparza, and they will respond, “Oh, she’s the best. She’s tough, but she is one of the best.”

A second generation Mexican American, Esparza was born as a hija de las panaderias (baker’s daughter) in Merced County, California, America’s Salad Bowl. In her early teens, she already started using her entrepreneurial skill set and cooking acumen to fashion her first carnecaria, serving up grilled meats next to her parent’s bakery. She worked a variety of well-paying jobs as a broker, Aramark and executive chef at a variety of Arizona hotels before opening Barrio Café.

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Barrio Cafe Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza & Chiles en Nogada Recipe

Currently, she has four restaurants and another one on the way, Barrio Café Gran Reserve, opening in downtown Phoenix, on Grand Avenue, a hipster spot. Esparza came to Valley of the Sun prominence in 2002 with Barrio Café, serving central Mexican food with European influences, tableside guacamole, and real south of the border sauces. Her dishes include 12 Hour Roasted Pork and Posole Verde. In The Yard, a large complex housing four restaurants, Esparza created Barrio Urbano, a hipper, millennial friendly experience, which also serves breakfast, and two in the Sky Harbor International Airport. Esparza is undeterred in her quest for making the best Mexican that she can make, as she says, “I will not resort to using yellow cheese.”

Ezparza is an outspoken, leading advocate on immigration and LGBTQ causes. To showcase the creativity the Mexican American population has brought to Arizona, she, along with other community leaders generated a non-profit organization called Calle 16, dedicated to showcasing various arts, food, and other Mexican exports to the Valley of The Sun.

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Barrio Cafe Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza & Chiles en Nogada Recipe

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? Since I was six years old.

What is your favorite food to cook? Italian

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Condiments, demi-glaze, anchovies

What do you cook at home? Barbeque.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? I love when they are enthusiastic.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? When they lack enthusiasm. I don’t want them to be dead fish.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Tupperware.

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Barrio Cafe Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza & Chiles en Nogada RecipeBeer, wine, or cocktail? Cocktail.

Your favorite cookbook author? Patricia Quintana

Your favorite kitchen tool? Molacajete

Your favorite ingredient? Chile

Your least favorite ingredient? Lavender

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? If I have to…wash dishes.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Italian

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork

Favorite vegetable? Chayote

Chef you most admire? Patricia Quintana

Food you like the most to eat? Italian, barbeque.

Food you dislike the most? Fried chimichanga. Fake Mexican. Yellow cheese.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Too many.

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Barrio Cafe Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza & Chiles en Nogada Recipe

Recipe: Chiles en Nogada

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Barrio Cafe Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza & Chiles en Nogada Recipe
Chiles en Nogada Recipe

Ingredients
Chiles:
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced small
2 teaspoons diced onion
1 teaspoon diced apple
1 teaspoon diced dried apricot
1 teaspoon diced pear
1 teaspoon raisins
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine, preferably Cabernet
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 poblano peppers, roasted and peeled

Nogada Sauce:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white wine, preferably Chardonnay
2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup almonds, roughly chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
Pomegranate seeds, for serving

Directions
For the chiles: Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the canola oil when hot. Add the chicken and saute until the chicken starts to turn white, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the onions and continue to saute until the onions are translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apple, apricot, pear, raisins and garlic and saute until they begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and stir so the paste coats all of the ingredients. Add the red wine and cook until the chicken is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let cool slightly. Remove the seeds from the peppers by making one long slice down the sides, stuff them with the chicken-fruit mixture and keep warm until ready to serve.

For the nogada sauce: Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat, add the shallots and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute until the garlic has turned a light caramel color, about 1 minute. Add the white wine and reduce until almost gone, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and finish with the almonds.

For serving: Place each stuffed pepper on a plate and spoon some of the nogada sauce over top. Garnish with the cilantro and pomegranate seeds.

Note: This recipe was originally published by Chef Silvana Salcida Esparza at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chiles-en-nogada.html

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Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's recipe for Chiles en Nogada

– The End. Go Eat. –