Category Archives: Mexican and Tex-Mex

Cafe Pasqual’s in the Morning

Santa Fe favorite creates breakfast entrées.

P1090156On previous visits to Santa Fe, lunch or dinner at Cafe Pasqual ‘s has been on the food docket. I always enjoy this cheery eatery a couple of short blocks from The Plaza. The breakfast items are unusual, with flavorful versions of popular New Mexican favorites plus items I’ve never seen before.

Mexican cut paper flags and ristras hang from the high ceiling.
Mexican cut paper flags (a folk art form called papa piccada) and ristras of dried chiles hang from the high ceiling. They’ve been there long enough so that some are a bit tattered — the papa piccada, not the ristras.
Well-foamed cappuccino comes in a large, handle-free bowl.
Well-foamed cappuccino comes in a large, handle-free bowl.
Breakfast tortilla is a griddled whole wheat tortilla, melted Jack cheese, guacamole, eggs and salsa. This is a single. Doubles are also available.
Breakfast tortilla is a griddled whole wheat tortilla, melted Jack cheese, guacamole, eggs and salsa. This is a single. Doubles are also available.
Julia's wild salmon gravlax, a Scandinavian salmon dish. Line-caught, Cognac-cured salmon, Gruyére potato cake, watercress, chives and créme fraîche.
Julia’s wild salmon gravlax, a Scandinavian salmon dish. Line-caught, Cognac-cured salmon, Gruyére potato cake, watercress, chives and créme fraîche.

Price check, breakfast entrées, $9.75-$17.75.

121 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe; 505-983-9340.

Cafe Pasqual's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Southwestern Fare with Flair in Boulder

Small plates shine at happy hour at Boulder’s Zolo.

013Late yesterday afternoon, my husband and I went to Changes in Latitude to shop for maps and books for an upcoming trip. While we were at The Village shopping center, we heeded the siren call of Zolo Grill‘s happy hour. By the time we left around 6, it seems that every table and every barstool has been taken.

Ceiling design recalls the latillas of traditional ceilings in the Southwest.
Ceiling design recalls the latillas of traditional ceilings in the Southwest.
The signature solarita is not a particularly pretty drink, especially without salt on the rim of the glass, but it is a tall, tasty marg.
The signature zolarita is not a particularly pretty drink, especially without salt on the rim of the glass, but it is a tall, tasty marg.
A pair of pork belly confit sliders with pickled vegetable and ancho chile barbecue sauce, plus ramekin of a cooling dipping sauce.
A pair of pork belly confit sliders with
pickled vegetable and ancho chile barbecue sauce, plus ramekin of a cooling aioli.
My favorite is Zolo Grill's blue corn-fried oysters on the halfshell with crunch house slaw. jalapeño aioli
My favorite is Zolo Grill’s blue corn-fried oysters on the halfshell with crunch house slaw. and jalapeño aioli.
The tamale, a soft masa topped with julienned, steamed winter squash, is seasonal and will soon be replaced with another version.
Jalapeno relleno with Haystack Mountan goat cheese.
The tamale's soft masa is topped with julienned, steamed winter squash. This seasonal tamale will soon be replaced with another version.
e tamale’s soft masa is topped with julienned, steamed winter squash is seasonal will soon be replaced with another version.
The special chile cheesecake was not on the happy hour menu, but we shared a slice. The chile was subtly in the topping. Alongside, cinnamon crunch, slied strawberries and shaved dark chocolate.
The special chile cheesecake was not on the happy hour menu, but we shared a slice. The chile was subtly in the topping. Alongside, cinnamon crunch, sliced strawberries and shaved dark chocolate, plus caramel sauce and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar..

Price check: At happy hour, drinks, $3-$5 plus $8 for a beer and a shot. “Eats,” $2-$5.

Zolo Grill is on the Araphoe Avenue side (that is, the south side) of The Village, whose street address is 2525 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder.

Zolo Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mexican Food Down Under

Australo-Baja restaurant echoes Mexican-American fare.

DSC08436When we travel, we like to check out the occasional Mexican restaurant to see what other countries’ notion of Mexican food might be. Based on one Sydney experience at the Baja Cantina on multi-ethnic Glebe Point Road, it’s pretty close to US versions.

Baja Cantina echoes California-style Mexican dishes and does it quite well — better, in fact, than the Mexican food we have tried in London and Bavaria

Frozen pomegranate margaritas hit the spot after a day of intense
Frozen pomegranate margaritas hit the spot after a day of intense “touristing.”
Nice queso with enough chilies to make the smooth cheese pink.
Nice queso with enough chilies to make the smooth cheese pink.
Chicken flautas with a pile of guacamole and the obligatory shredded lettuce.
Chicken flautas with a pile of guacamole and the obligatory shredded lettuce.
Refried beans look a lot like refried beans back home.
Refried beans look a lot like refried beans back home.
Three kinds of super-fresh fish go into the ceviche in a piquant tomato sauce, topped with guac and surrounded by chips.
Three kinds of super-fresh fish go into the ceviche in a piquant tomato sauce, topped with guac and surrounded by chips.

Baja Cantina is at 43-45 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW. The local phone number is 9571 1199.

Casa Alvarez Green Chili Comeback

Popular chili now available at retail.

Remembering the restaurant.
Remembering the restaurant.

When I tasted the green chili — both pork and veggie/vegan — at Lucky’s Market over the weekend, my palate rewound to Casa Alvarez, which for two decades was arguably Boulder’s most popular Mexican restaurant. Their green chili was the stuff of local legend. Customers used to pick it up by the pint or quart.

Evan Cormane, a member of the original Casa Alvarez family, sampling the new Casa Alvarez Foods green chili at Lucky's Market.
Evan Cormane  sampling the new Casa Alvarez Foods green chili at Lucky’s Market. His mother is Betty Artes, so he grew up in the restaurant, and the food line remains in the family.

Even though Ernesto Alvarez and Betty Artes shuttered the restaurant in the Willow Gardens shopping center, their fabled chili is back. Casa Alvarez Foods is up and running, making these great chilies for retail sale, and Lucky’s is among the first (if not the first) to carry it. Frozen versions are to make their appearance soon as well, and salsas are probably in their future too.

The company’s website is not functioning yet, but news and recipes are posted on its Facebook page.

Chi-Mex in Loveland

Casual taqueria has surprising Midwestern roots.

005Taqueria Los Comales in a strip shopping center on the fringes of central Loveland has all the earmarks of a  real Mexican spot — a salsa bar with eight salsas and four other items, an absence of combination plates and menudo on the menu. The space seems to have been repurposed from something that wasn’t always Mexican. The black Styrofoam take-out boxes are labeled Church’s Fried Chicken.

I like the promise on the back of a waitress's T-shirt.
I like the promise on the back of a waitress’s T-shirt.

I didn’t grab a plasticized menu, and there were no paper take-out ones, so I went on-line and was surprised that Taqueria Los Comales was born in Chicago and still has restaurants there, as well as in northern Colorado and elsewhere. The graphics and menus are identical, but there is no obvious ownership or franchise link between the Midwestern taquerias and the outliers.

Multi-item salsa bar. Guests may take as much and as many little portions as they wish. The tortilla chips brought to the table are double-thick and crisp.
Multi-item salsa bar. Guests may take as much and as many little portions as they wish. The tortilla chips brought to the table are double-thick and crisp.
The fajitas come in a hot cast-iron pan, but there the resemblance to typical Colorado fajitas ends. The meat and vegetables are chopped, cooked and topped with white cheese.
The fajitas come in a hot cast-iron pan, but there the resemblance to typical Colorado fajitas ends. The meat and vegetables are chopped, cooked and topped with white cheese. Two huge flour tortillas, rice, shredded yellow cheese and mashed refried beans come on the side.
The veggie burrito contained rice, onions, peppers and a bit of tomato wrapped in a flour tortilla. Too bad it was barely lukewarm. Smothered burritos are, of course, an option.
The veggie burrito contained rice, onions, peppers and a bit of tomato wrapped in a flour tortilla. Too bad it was barely lukewarm. Smothered burritos are, of course, an option.

Price check: Tacos, $1.75 or 3 for $7.99; tortas, $5.25; burritos, $5.85; dinners, $11.99.

1518 Madison Avenue, Loveland; 970-667-9998.

Taqueria Los Comales Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mezcal After a Subtle Facelift

Cantina vibe on Colfax + new kitchen.

001 - CopyWhen Mezcal opened in late 2003, it brought Mexican sizzle to East Colfax, a stretch that was not, to put it kindly, oversupplied with appealing restaurants where gifted chefs prepared interesting, seasonal food. Mezcal was bright and colorful, with appealing décor that was something of a play on south-of-the-border cantina kitsch. It was fun, it was popular and it served good food. Over the years, as ownership and chefs changed, and the kitchen saw a lot of hard use,  it was time for a makeover.

After several years living the expat life in Buenos Aires, owners Chris Swank and his wife, Loris Inez Venegas, are back running Mezcal — this time without additional partners. The restaurant was closed for three months while the dining room was refreshed, the bar expanded and most important, the kitchen was renewed. The couple also brought in the well-credentialed Chris Douglas as consulting chef to update the menu and chef Juan Ramirez to continue executing the dishes after Douglas’s gig is up. They’ve been tinkering with some dishes and bringing back some old standbys that they thought were history. Things have settled down sufficiently for Mezcal to invite some media for an early evening tasting. Here’s what we tried — in my case, along with delicious and potent margaritas:

Sensational queso fundido with roasted poblano peppers and a topping of chorizo jam.
Sensational queso fundido with roasted poblano peppers and a topping of chorizo jam.
Pozole rojo, a local fave featuring pork and hominy in a red chile broth, garnished with fresh cabbage, onion, radish and cilantro.
Pozole rojo, a local fave featuring pork and hominy in a red chile broth, garnished with fresh cabbage, onion, radish and cilantro.

Continue reading Mezcal After a Subtle Facelift

Kachina Grill’s Seasonal Corn Cart

Westin Westminster restaurant’s fall feature.

Kachina-logoOlathe Sweet Corn (capitalized because it is a trademarked brand name) was a little late this year due to all the spring rain. Now it is finally back in a slightly delayed season, and Jeff Bolton, the Kachina Southwestern Grill’s executive chef, is featuring it in several dishes, including the Quinoa Corn Pudding that accompanies the Smoked Bison Meatloaf and in the Corn Salsa, served with both the Chipotle Shrimp + Waffles (blue corn, last time I looked) and the Ruby Red Trout.

Excessively glamorous corn cart girl, but the grilled sweet corn is definitely down-home. Photo: Kachina Grill publicity photo)
Excessively glamorous corn cart girl, but the grilled sweet corn is definitely down-home. (Photo: Kachina Southwestern Grill)

But the most distinctive part of the corn season at Kachina Grill, located immediately adjacent to the Westin Westminster, is the restaurant’s “Corn on the Cart.” A waitperson pilots the cart throughout the restaurant to deliver delicious grilled corn to each table.

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