Tag Archives: mexican

Barrio Tequila Bar

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I’d been wanting to go to Barrio for a while.

I learned on a trip to Puerto Vallarta that I earned through The Traveling Vineyard, that I like tequila tasting as much as I like wine tasting. I also learned a thing or two about tequila.

  1. Jose Cuervo gets away with calling themselves tequila because they are 51% agave and 49% caramelized sugar. For that reason, it’s not a friend of MINE! {For the real deal, look for 100% agave instead.}
  2. I have expensive tastes in tequila.
  3. I was margarita’d out when I got home and thought I’d never have another one again.
  4. But give me some anejo on the rocks with a squeeze of lime and a splash of cointreau and I’m good.

Wow. I think that trip was back 2007. Time flies. I think I’ve recovered from no-margarita-ever-syndrome. But I still rarely drink them. Still, Barrio didn’t seem like a place where I could drag Rob. We’d always pass it by in Minneapolis while walking along Nicollet Mall. So when it was my turn to choose where to dine for girls’, night, I suggested Barrio.

There are three locations – one in Minneapolis, one in Edina and one in St. Paul. Based on where the three of us live, no location stood out as more convenient. So I chose St. Paul because, there, Barrio is situated in Lowertown. I figured that after dinner, if we weren’t really feeling Barrio, we could head over to the Bulldog for some brews, Bin Wine Bar if we wanted something more mellow or I could even return to FACES for a drink. They are all right within walking distance of each other, facing Mears Park.

We arrived early on a Saturday night and very few people were there. That’s because, well, it’s a bar and early on a Saturday night. However, there were still some really drunk people there at the table next to us! It had me wondering how long they were there.

Inside, it felt spacious and although it was still light out, I imagined it could feel a little dark and ominous in the evening. I loved the candelabra-styled chandeliers.

As much as I would have liked to try one of their tequila flights {they have a whole menu of tequilas!}, none of us really have that kind of dough to throw around at the moment, especially with my expensive tastes! So we each opted for one of their fun tequila cocktails instead.

Kim’s:

Mama Cita Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito blanco and a splash of cava ...9.5

Mama Cita
Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito
blanco and a splash of cava – $9.50

Mine (almost gone!)

Macho Comacho Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila and a splash of cava ... 1 0

Macho Comacho
Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila
and a splash of cava – $10

Jen’s:

Cesar Chavez Our champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine napoleon and orange ... 1 0

Cesar Chavez
Champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine
napoleon and orange – $10

Of the three, I liked mine the best! I can’t believe how perfectly balanced the chile was in the drink. You could definitely tell it was there, but it was neither overpowering nor too subtle.

The menu isn’t very large and most of it consist of appetizers, small plates and tacos. All of the flavor descriptions sounded like they knew what they were talking about when it comes to elevating Mexican cuisine. We each decided on one small item and then chose to share a couple of small plates, too. The food came out randomly, just as if you are to order tapas.

Kim chose:

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp • tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with lemon mojo ...7.5

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp
tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with
lemon mojo – $7.50

Jen and I each ordered a taco:

Barrio4

Pork Carnitas Taco
duroc pork shoulder slow cooked in cinnamon and orange with salsa verde, onion and cilantro – $4.50

That is my kind of taco, with the dual corn tortillas with which to wrap the filling. They make me think of what a street taco should be like. We’ve had similar ones at Chino Latino. And there’s something about shredded pork with salsa verde and cilantro that I always love!

Then we got a few plates to share:

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri • skewered chicken is marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black bean salad ...8.5

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri
skewered chicken marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black
bean salad – $8.50

The chicken on these skewers was way over-charred. That is all I could taste. That’s really sad because chimichurri has such a lovely, fresh flavor that would have made this chicken sing. The black bean side salad was good and would have rounded this dish out perfectly if it weren’t for the lasting char flavor.

And I thought I’d love these since I once learned how much I love the spice of guajillo chiles:

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers ...8.5

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla
guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso
oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers – $8.50

I was right! The have the perfect balance of flavor and heat! I think the poblano peppers added something extra, too. I would highly recommend the quesadillas here. Okay, so if I’m in Lowertown, St. Paul and craving quesadillas, how am I to choose between Barrio and The Bulldog?!

And as I suspected, we were feeling a little mellow, so we opted to head over to Bin for a glass of wine afterward. But alas, they were closed for a private event. We enjoyed our after dinner drinks at FACES instead.

I think Barrio is a great place for groups. If you are eating {or just need to soak up some of that tequila!}, there’s lots of stuff to share. And if you like to tequila and fun cocktails, you won’t be disappointed.

They do have happy hour pricing on food and beverages and offer private party menus, too.

My husband is not a fan of sharing plates with others when dining out.

What is your stance?

Do you like to split appetizers and dishes to try many things?

OR

Would you prefer to keep your plate to yourself?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Two (Similar) Slow Cooker Chicken Recipes

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When I was inquiring about what foods to have on hand after my surgery, a friend recommended throwing together this Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken to have a bunch of leftovers on hand. I didn’t have time or energy to get things together that quickly, but decided that it still looked easy enough to put together after surgery. {Well, as long as I had everything in reach and had Rob pull out the crock pot!}

The recipe reminded me of this Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken that I’ve made in the past. However, I think the only real difference is that the Santa Fe Chicken recipe requires more ingredients than the Salsa Chicken recipe does.

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup salsa, homemade or purchased
  • 1 cup petite diced canned tomatoes ( low-sodium)
  • 2 tablespoons Taco Seasoning
  • 1 cup onions, diced fine
  • 1/2 cup celery diced fine
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream, reduced fat

*This recipe is easy because these are ingredients that I have on hand most of the time. And when making leftovers, I can add anything else I’d like, including black beans, corn and any toppings such as cheese, sour cream or guacamole. Every time I eat it, it can be different.

Slow Cooker Santa Fe Chicken Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breast
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • 15 oz can black beans
  • 8 oz frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 14.5 oz can fat free chicken broth
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • salt to taste

*This recipe has more substance. The additional ingredients are easy enough that you can just empty everything into the slow cooker, turn it on and in 6 to 10 hours, dinner is served.

In my Santa Fe Chicken, I  used these cans to change things up a bit and add extra flavor:

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Here is a what my Santa Fe Chicken looked like after it was cooked and shredded:

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

I think it could have used a little more flavor and more tomatoes! {But you know how I love tomatoes.} Truth be told, these two recipes are pretty interchangeable. You can add more or less of one element to your liking. It’s just the amount of seasoning that you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Basically, you are making your own 

Chipotle Burrito Bowl or Taco Bell Cantina Bowl!

Either of these dishes can be served alone, over rice, in a tortilla, atop a salad or with tortilla chips. I didn’t think he would, but Rob said he’d even eat it if I made it with shredded pork instead of chicken.

And with that, here is my Monday Food Journal. Warning: I felt binge-y all day.

Breakfast

Mon-Bfast

Grapes and 90-second Egg Sandwich with cheese and spinach

Snacks

This is where the binge-y feelings began…

Weight Watchers Coffee Cake (individual sized)

South Beach Whipped Chocolate Almond Snack Bar – For the record, these aren’t that great. I got them because I had a coupon and thought they’d be a nice snack to tide me over. They taste a little bit like a Three Muskateers candy bar. However, this 100-calorie bar didn’t satisfy me like a piece of Dove Dark Chocolate would.

2/3 cup Neapolitan ice cream

Lunch

Poor Man's Caprese

Poor Man’s Caprese

Just like Sunday, I enjoyed grape tomatoes atop cottage cheeze with a drizzle of Italian extra virgin olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. However, my tomatoes were getting a little too ripe and I needed to finish them up. Therefore, my Monday portion size was about twice the size you see here.

Snack

It must be that I’m not at work. I felt a little binge-y in the afternoon, too. Sure, I didn’t have a big lunch, but I had already eaten a bunch of morning snacks! For the afternoon…

First I had an apple along with this fruit dip:

Mon-Fruit Dip

Fruit Dip made with 2 oz greek yogurt, 1 tsp honey peanut butter and a shake or two of cinnamon

Another handful of grapes

2 Dove Dark Chocolates (almond variety)

Another South Beach Whipped Choc Almond Snack Bar

Dinner

Just as Biz would do, I put my Santa Fe Chicken atop a bed of spinach:

Mon-Dinner

There is some brown rice under the mixture, too. Then I added some extra toppings: salsa, a little cheese, half of a Wholly Guacamole 100-calorie pack and a dollop of Greek Yogurt (added at the last second and not pictured):Mon-Toppings

Snack

1/2 cup Neapolitan Ice Cream

Well, then I finished off the carton of Neapolitan Ice Cream. Okay, so there’s a reason I can’t keep ice cream in the house. I think this post of Katie’s came just in time! 😉

I also found another reason why I shouldn’t be eating ice cream everyday. I woke up craving (and have been craving) sweets. And it’s obvious that my sweet snacks aren’t satisfying that. Good news, I woke up this morning, ate a clementine and put that craving to bed!

What is your favorite Slow Cooker Recipe?

Cheers~
Carrie

A Cantina Bowl…

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It was my mom’s birthday today!

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Unfortunately, I had to send her birthday wishes from afar since she lives a state away. But that didn’t stop me from celebrating in my own way… So how did I celebrate?

I ran 3.5 miles.

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Why?

Because I have legs.

I have legs that work.

I don’t want to take them for granted.

Thank you, Mom, for giving me healthy legs!

I ran on the treadmill {thanks to Stacy} while watching an episode of Psych {thanks to Jen} in our basement room that houses a TV, DVD player and our workout equipment {thanks to my husband}.

Afterward, I didn’t cook. I wouldn’t make my mom cook on her birthday! Instead, I asked Rob to cook pick up some dinner. Truth be told, I haven’t eaten fast food very often in the past year. But recently, something has caught my eye. So I asked Rob to pick it up for me:

Taco Bell Cantina Bowl {Photo Source}

Yes, I asked my husband to pick me up some Taco Bell. It’s almost as if when they were putting together the commercial for this new product, that they had me in mind. They knewhow to market it just for me.

Fresh ingredients.

Fresh flavors.

Created by Celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia.

Yeah. The Marketing and Advertising Departments at Taco Bell know exactly what they are doing. They baited the hook and reeled me in. I first learned of Chef Lorena Garcia when I watched America’s Next Great Restaurant, a reality-style show where contestants competed to persuade judges to invest in their concept to open up the next great fast-casual restaurant. Chef Garcia judged the competition alongside Chef Bobby Flay and Chipotle Mexican Grill founder Steve Ells. Most recently, however, I’ve seen Garcia compete on the latest season of Top Chef Masters.

Here is the description of this menu item from the Taco Bell website:

“Experience our new citrus-herb marinated chicken, flavorful black beans, guacamole made from real Hass avocados, pico de gallo prepared fresh daily, roasted corn & pepper salsa and a creamy cilantro dressing, all served on a bed of cilantro rice.”

The flavors definitely sound like ones that I would enjoy. And If you’ve ever eaten at Chipotle, you’ll find that the description sounds oddly familiar, too.  I wonder how Steve Ells feels about this? Still, the “Next Great Restaurant” in which the trio invested failed within months, so Garcia and Ells are no longer partners.

Without even looking at the calorie/nutrition content, I asked Rob to pick up the Cantina Bowl.

And I enjoyed every bit of it.

Yes, this is definitely a step up from what you’d expect from Taco Bell. Actually, think Chipotle or Qdoba, but with a more manageable size. Of course, I’m not stupid. This is a mass produced item. The ingredients are not as fresh and natural as we’d love to believe. But you know what? It’s as good as it’s gonna get out there for fast food. And I’m glad I gave it a try.

But here’s a great sidebar:

My favorite kind…

And just in case you were wondering, the nutrition facts of the Cantina Bowl can be found at Fat Secret or on the Taco Bell website. It’s not too bad. Sure, I ate all of the calories that I just burned running. But it was tasty. And worth it.

But I have something else to look forward to:

My CSA box tomorrow is supposed to include both tomatillos and hot peppers! How can I not take advantage of this to find something wonderful to cook from The Homesick Texan? I have a feeling that these ingredients will be even better.

Have you cooked with tomatillos?

If so, what’s your favorite thing to make?

Cheers,

Carrie

Beaverton Tavern – Beaverton, MI

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Who would have guessed that when traveling in Michigan, you can get some of the best-tasting Mexican food in a little tavern in a small town?

I’m using the term “Mexican food” loosely because frankly, in the Midwest, you don’t often find authentic Mexican food, even in many restaurants owned and operated by Mexicans. And I don’t think Tex-Mex is quite accurate as a label either. I’m reading a cookbook titled The Homesick Texan thanks to Kat. By what I’m learning, I don’t think we can truly call all Mexican-American food Tex-Mex. The flavors and cooking techniques in Tex-Mex cuisine are a specialty all their own.

In general, Midwesterners make their Mexican food a little more simply. And while I do like spicy food {hey, this blog isn’t called Season It Already! for nothing}, “Minnesota Spicy” is something quite different. It’s used to refer to mildly spicy food that Minnesotas tend to think are SPICY. Now, I didn’t grow up in this state, but over the years, I’ve come to learn that if spice is on a 5-point scale where 1 = mild, 3 = medium and 5 = hot; Minnesota spicy would probably be equal to a 1.5. 😉 Minnesotans, do I have that one right?

I digress.

This post isn’t about spice or Minnesota.

It’s about nachos… in Michigan.

Nachos have become an American staple in any bar-and-grill-type restaurant in the United States. Wouldn’t you agree? They have evolved into a type of food that has become almost as classically American as a hot dog. {Don’t you see nachos on the menu at every baseball game?}

In any case, every time we go to back to Michigan to visit friends and family, we have to go the The Beaverton Tavern.  We affectionately call it “The BT”. {I have no idea if locals call it this, but we do!}. And we nearly always order the same thing:

Shredded Beef Nachos

Oh how I wish that my pictures turned out better here… But it’s a little dark inside. {Have you ever been in a brightly lit tavern? I didn’t think so.} And apparently I didn’t have my flash on, nor was I paying attention. I was probably too anxious to eat the dang things. You’ll just have to take my word on this one:

These nachos are perfect.

I am not sure that I have ever had better!  No wonder they were voted Mid-Michigan’s Best Nachos & Burritos by WNEM TV 5 Viewers.

The topping-to-tortilla chip ratio is unmatched. I even think nacho guru Kristin of Iowa Girl Eats would approve.

They use real cheese. When it comes to nachos, Rob and I disagree on this one: real cheese vs. cheese sauce. I’m a Wisconsin girl, so I want the real, melty thing. Plus, it’s just better quality! And while Rob argues that the cheese sauce is better and makes true nachos, somehow he can overlook this at The BT. Otherwise, he’d order something else, right? And usually, he won’t share these nachoswith me. But I talked him into it this time around.

Here’s how:

On my very first visit to The BT back in 2004, not knowing about the nacho perfection, I ordered this:

Puerco Flautas: Shredded pork & cheese in flour tortillas, deep fried, covered with a sour cream sauce and served with picante rice & refried beans

Um yeah. There really is nothing healthy going on here, but oh-so-good. That’s why, on this visit, I convinced Rob to split it with me. {Or actually, I ended up having only a couple of bites and he stole the rest… At least he shared the nachos!} It was at the end of that meal that we agreed that all future annual visits will require the splitting of the puerco flautas and the shredded beef nachos at The BT. You know, big life-altering plans and such. I still wonder how they make and keep their shredded pork and beef so juicy! {Maybe I don’t want to know. Naiveté does have its virtues.}

Here’s just another note on Mexican food in Michigan restaurants. You can laugh at me all you want, but I had never heard of the term “Wet Burrito” until I came to Michigan. But they are a common menu item at restaurants I’ve visited throughout the state!

While I assumed that a wet burrito is one that is smothered with a sauce like an enchilada, it wasn’t until I started writing this post that I actually looked it up to be sure. 😉

And one last, completely unrelated sidebar about The BT: They have excellent croutons. My father-in-law likes to ask for an extra side dish of these highly seasoned, saturated pieces of crunchy goodness.

Where have you found the best nachos?

What’s your preference on nachos – real cheese or cheese sauce?

Cheers~
Carrie

La Chaya Bistro – Minneapolis {Closed}

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Remember when I showed you this picture?

It was from a night when my husband I went out and I practiced The 50% Solution.

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My husband likes to surprise me. He knows that the Twin Cities area has a lot to offer in terms of culinary delights. He loves it when he finds a restaurant that I haven’t ever heard of before. In fact, we found one of our favorite “south of the river” restaurants that way.

But this night, my husband drove just 15 minutes to south Minneapolis. {I love where we live!} Before we left, however, I asked him what type of restaurant it was.

“Mexican and Mediterranean,” he said.

I laughed. Who would possibly put Mexican and Mediterranean food together to make a restaurant? He must have been mistaken. He probably meant Mediterranean with a heavier influence on Spanish cuisine.

But I was wrong.

La Chaya Bistro is definitelya combination of Mexican and Mediterranean Cuisine – and the combination actually works very well. {What’s funny is that later that week, we saw Bobby Flay on the Food Network create a sauce that he said was both Mexican and Mediterranean inspired.}

So why Mexican and Mediterranean? The highly skilled chef is from Mexico, but also lived in Southern Italy. You can read more about him here.

One of the things I love about this place is the focus on quality ingredients:

  • Seafood that’s wild-caught and fresh {never frozen}
  • Meat that’s hormone-free and often from grass-fed animals
  • Fruit, vegetables and dairy products that are organic whenever possible
  • House-made pasta, sauces, and chorizo
  • Made-to-order tortillas

What’s more is that the restaurant supports local farmers as much as possible.

And as stated on their website, this is why the restaurant is named La Chaya:

“Chaya is a plant that is native to the Yucatan. It grows in the form of a bush; the leaves are edible and can be used much like spinach. Using this plant as our company name is to represent the freshness of food that grows wild without the use of chemicals. Along with the fact that it grows in Chef Garcia’s native Mexico!”

Because this destination was a surprise, I had no opportunity to check out the menu online beforehand. So I ordered a bit of bubbly and drooled over the options.


The bread you see above looks pretty basic, but is no joke. I have no doubt in my mind that it was one of Rob’s favorite bread baskets ever. I can’t tell you what makes this bread different than others. You’ll just have to try it for yourself!

We started with the Oyster Mushrooms Sautéed with Garlic and Guajillo Chili served with Grilled Bread:

Sometimes I have trouble remembering to take a picture before we dig in!

I wanted to order this because the description reminded me of tapas I’d had in Barcelona, Spain. However, the guajillo chilies gave this dish a unique flavor with just the right amount of heat. I don’t know that I’ve ever had guajillo chilies before, but I can tell you that I’ll have them again! The spice was perfect. I don’t know if that is thanks to the chili itself or to the chef’s ability to work with these ingredients so well, creating that perfect balance. Whatever it may be, I can tell you that this chef knows flavor. This is one place you’ll never find me screaming, “Season It Already!”

Rob ordered :

Housemade Fettuccini in a Light Cream Sauce

This dish is usually prepared with chicken. However, due to his allergies, he asked if he could substitute the housemade chorizo. Talk about flavor!

And while there were several things on the menu I wanted to try, I decided to go with the seafood special: the Mahi Mahi Tacos shown at the top of this post. I just had to have the made-to-order tortillas! While I could only finish one {after a piece of bread and the sautéed mushrooms on grilled bread appetizer}, I was a little nervous about boxing it up to go:

How would this taste the next day? Turns out, it didn’t need any reheating. The fish, salsa, cilantro and tortilla were perfectly fine cold and the guacamole had not browned as much as I had expected. It was a perfect lunch!

I can’t say enough about this restaurant.

The quality ingredients, the talented chef, and even the history behind the decor make it something special. Thank you, Rob! We will most certainly be back.

Cheers~
Carrie