Tag Archives: mexican

El Rayo’s New Cantina is a Hot Little Watering Hole

9 May

I had been dying to try out El Rayo’s newest addition, El Rayo Cantina, for weeks when my friend Brandi suggested we go there for a girl’s night dinner. I arrived a little early since they don’t take reservations to (quite happily) find that she had called ahead to get our name on the list. SCORE! So, that gave me some time to sit down and order a specialty cocktail and chow down on some of their house chicharones before she arrived.

I ordered the Slow Burn to start. I’d like to start of by saying I am not a tequila kind of girl, but I decided to expand my horizons since I was in a Mexican restaurant that serves so many amazing tequilas. The Slow Burn consists of habanero, black pepper, and chipotle infused tequila, lime juice, a hint of dry vermouth, olive brine and triple sec and then rimmed with what they call a “spicy Oaxaca mystery powder.” It was spicy and intense. I really liked it, but didn’t see how someone could stomach more than one, literally, I almost have heartburn just thinking about it, but if you like spicy liquor this was an interesting and inventive drink. I have never had anything like it.

The Slow Burn

Brandi ordered her usual—La Ciudad. It’s made with tequila and lime juice. Brandi described it as an “elegant margarita.” It’s shaken and served straight up in a martini glass. She had two (they are that good, my friends, that good).

We decided to start with the Tortilla Chips and Three Dips to start. It come with a homemade bean dip, homemade guac, and homemade salsa verde. The guacamole was the clear winner, and being the guac snob I am I can honestly say it was some of the best I have ever had. I loved it. Highly recommended.

Tortilla Chips with Guac, Bean Dip, and Salsa Verde

For dinner Brandi went for the Tostada with shredded beef and I ordered the Fish Relleno.

Brandi loved her Tostada. She said it, “Was delicious! It’s been years since I’ve had a tostada and it was the perfect blend of cabbage, cilantro, meat and sour cream. Creatively done and very tasty.”

Tostada

I also thought my Fish Relleno was creatively done. It was essentially fish stuffed with crab and shrimp and rolled into an almost burrito like shape. The lime vinaigrette that was on top was killer. I could drink that stuff with a straw. It really complemented the dish. My one complaint is that some of the rice wasn’t fully cooked, it was either that or the veggies…I couldn’t tell, but there was a weird crunch to the rice. Nothing that killed the entire meal, but I would prefer a fully cooked side on my next visit.

Fish Relleno

I’m really looking forward to going back and trying even more things on their menu. And with as many specialty cocktails as they have this could become the regular girl’s night spot.

Cantina at El Rayo on Urbanspoon

Taco Escobarr—Serving up Inauthentic Tacos the Right Way

22 Dec

Taco Escobarr on Congress Street in downtown Portland

I came home on Monday night simply unwilling to cook. Yep, I’m that lazy and unmotivated. Mark suggested Tu Casa, and while I adore that place, I wasn’t ready for our 450th visit to be achieved that night. Since he had his heart set on Latin American food I knew I had to come up with a like alternative, so I went out on a limb and suggested Taco Escobarr. I must say I’m not the biggest fan of NOSH, so I wasn’t expecting much from this sister establishment. I figured it would probably walk the line between bad Americanized tacos with yellow cheese and a bacon-dusted nightmare.

We arrived at 6 in the evening, just in time to miss happy hour. I felt that was an incredibly bad omen, but sat down anyway. There was a table open in the window so that made the bleak evening seem a little brighter because I love to people watch while I eat. Once seated, a very friendly waitress came right over to take our drink order, and since I missed happy hour I ordered plain tap water. Mark followed suit. I learned just what a cheapskate I can be when I miss happy hour by one minute.

The menu was small but adequate. Since I hadn’t eaten there before I was confused by the several different offerings of taco shells/accompaniments. I asked the waitress to explain, which she did and I felt it steered me in the right direction a little bit.

I went for the Puffy Taco, filled with lettuce, tomato, and cilantro. I ordered three different fillings to try out what they had to offer—picadillo, ancho chile pork, and chipotle chicken. I also ordered a side of Mexican crema, green hot salsa, and had them throw some cheese on top. I love cholesterol, what can I say?

A trio with Puffy Shells

When my meal arrived, it was sans cheese and sans crema. I wasn’t really happy with this, but our waitress was great and she went right back to the kitchen and fixed the issue. When it returned mere moments later it looked perfect!

The Puffy Shell was rather tasty and held up quite well with the fillings. It reminded me of a hand-held taco salad. It wasn’t greasy, just light and airy, but it was lacking in flavor a bit. Luckily the fillings made up for that. The pork and chicken fillings were by far my favorite. The picadillo had a bit too much cinnamon in it for my liking and I really didn’t think the beef was that good. I also was upset that what was presented to be Mexican crema was nothing more than regular old sour cream. I think they need to update their menu if they aren’t going to be delving out the real deal.

Mark decided to order the crispy corn taco filled with onion, cilantro, and queso. He went for the crema on the side and three different fillings as well—carne asada (again with the beef), chipotle chicken, and ancho chile pork.

A trio with Crispy Corn Shells

His were pan-fried crispy and reminiscent of a mini-quesadilla. The cheese was melted and deliciously gooey. They were piping hot and very tasty. He won the taste off because I definitely preferred his choice of shell over mine. He said that he felt the carne asada was the best filling, but I really loved the ancho chile pork in the crispy corn shell.

Overall, I think that Taco Escobarr is doing a lot of things right. They have a small menu and they are mastering that. It’s also fairly inexpensive, we only spent $16. For Americanized versions of tacos they were really well done and I wouldn’t hesitate to eat here again or recommend it to others. If you are looking for a cheap and quick sit down dinner I think this is a great option in Portland, I just beg them to get real crema.

Taco Escobarr on Urbanspoon

Zapoteca—Upscale Mexican and Margaritas Served Straight Up

29 Nov

I was finally afforded the opportunity to eat at Zapoteca recently, due to a double-date night with Ben and Laura and a sweet Living Social deal (paid $25 to get $50 worth of food). We strolled down to their Fore Street location after imbibing a bit at Ben and Laura’s casa.

The valet attendant opened the door for us. I was glad we walked, because $6 valet parking hardly seemed like a good deal to me. Being the cheapskate that I am I probably would have driven circles causing us to miss our reservation instead. But I digress, because the minute we walked in the lively atmosphere took over. Bartenders were shaking up every kind of margarita imaginable. The smells from the kitchen were as spicy as the name of the restaurant itself rolling off my tongue. Zapoteca is no place to eschew in the vibrant Portland food scene.

We arrived promptly at eight o’clock for our reservation. We were told our table would be a few minutes, so we cozied up next to the bar to check out the cocktail menu. Just as we were about to order we were directed to our table through the back open kitchen area. I loved the concept and I could see everyone working and garnishing the plates. It was a perfectly beautiful, clean, and organized space.

When we were seated our waitress came right over to take our drink order. I decided on the Blood Orange Margarita, Ben got the Guava Margarita, Laura decided on the Pomegranate Margarita, and Mark (not one to drink Tequila) tried the La Rumba—a drink made with rum that was reminiscent of a mojito. We also put in for the Ceviche Trio, which consisted of one made with whitefish in a tangy lime juice with jalapeños; one made with huge chunks of lobster marinating in a grapefruit salsa; one shrimp and calamari ceviche made with lime, orange and chili habanero. Each came served in a martini glasses with tortilla chips on the side. I thought the whitefish one was by far the best, but the lobster ceviche was a huge hit with the rest of the gang.

Drinks at Zapoteca

Ceviche Trio

They were all delicious, but there weren’t nearly enough tortillas for four people and the large amount of ceviche.

We also had the steamed mussels with chorizo. They were in a rich sauce, and while the mussels weren’t of the freshest quality, the sauce made up for it.

It was then time to order our entrées. Laura decided to go with the Enchilada Suizas de Pollo. This was a beautiful plate of wood roasted enchiladas with local Jack cheese and topped with fire-roasted tomatilla sauce, black beans and guajillo salad.

Enchilada Suizas de Pollo

She loved the dish, but thought it needed some extra spice, so she sent our waitress for some house made ghost pepper hot sauce. After tasting it, she claimed it wasn’t even that hot (though we all know ghost peppers are the hottest in the world). Her maiden name is Hernandez, so she joked that she was born to handle the heat. My background is French, so I didn’t even attempt that madness.

Ben ordered the Carnitas De Puerco. Those were made with locally raised pork shoulder and topped with a tomato chile sauce with black beans, salad, and grilled tortillas on the side.

Carnitas De Puerco

That block of pork looked absolutely amazing. I snuck a taste while Ben ate away. He was three-quarters of the way done before he realized he was eating it without the tortillas. He didn’t seem to mind, as it was perfect with, or without, them.

My husband, ever the beef lover, just had to try the Ancho Filete Con Champiñones. Locally grass-fed beef (his main weakness in life), chipotle sauce, and queso blanco harkened him to a gastronomic state of zen rarely able to be achieved in such a boisterous atmosphere. Topped off with some “perfectly cooked” asparagus and garlic cheddar chipotle mashed potatoes and you had one happy man.

Ancho Filete Con Champiñones

I was having the absolute worst time deciding what to have. So many items just sounded too good to pass up, but I finally decided on the Relleno De Puerco. It was an absolutely amazing fire-roasted poblano pepper filled with chorizo and pork, then topped with queso fresco and tomato habanero sauce with black beans on the side.

Relleno De Puerco

It was absolutely wonderful. The habanero sauce on top was quite spicy, but nothing a margarita or two couldn’t solve. The roasted pepper was cooked to perfection and I was very impressed with the quality of all the ingredients. I would definitely eat the dish again and would recommend it to anyone who has an obsession with relleno, because I have a semi-serious one and it was more than I even hoped it would be.

I don’t think Zapoteca is trying to give the impression that it’s authentic Mexican food, but the inspiration is quite fantastic. I think for an upscale Latin American food experience it hits a home run. They have a wide variety of menu choices (only one vegetarian option though…) and their drink menu is inventive to boot. The only complaint I have is that many of the dishes were quite salty (not to the immediate taste, but an after effect was felt later that night and next day). I simply could not drink enough water to quench my thirst for the next 24-hours. It was overall an excellent dining experience in Portland and I really just can’t wait to go back and taste some more of their menu items—I’m  definitely thinking enchiladas next time.

Zapoteca Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Southwestern Egg Bake

25 Feb

Sometimes living so far from the boarder of Mexico makes me crave stuff that I know I just can’t have…like a real enchilada or chili poblano. So in order to satisfy these cravings (and they are sooo strong) I figure I either a) Move to Southern California or b) learn to cook some Southwestern style, Latin inspired dishes. WARNING: This version is going very Americanized as I was only using what was in my house this morning!

One pound sausage cooked and crumbled (Chorizo would be amazingly delicious in this)

6 large eggs

Dash of milk

Dash of hot sauce

1 red bell pepper cut into small chunks

1/2 bag frozen corn

1/4 cup pico de gallo ( I like Goya) or you can use Tomatillo salsa very delicious as well)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (any spanish or mexican cheese, such as Queso Blanco or Chihuahua, if you can find them)

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 350º. Grease an 8 x 4 baking dish and layer with one cup of your desired cheese. Beat eggs and add a dash of milk. Salt and pepper the eggs. Add a dash of hot sauce. Beat again to mix. Pour over the cheese. Add corn, pico de gallo, and red pepper (you can also add diced onions or garlic if you wish). Mix together with a fork to blend all the ingredients together. Now bake it for 45-55 minutes. IT’S THAT EASY!

Enjoy, and don’t forget, Eat here. Go there.

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