Sunday Brunch at Dorado Tacos

As a former resident of Chicago, a city known for turning out some serious, authentic Mexican food, I searched high and low for a potential substitute for my favorite taquerias in the Windy City.  Located within walking distance of my home, Dorado Tacos & Cemitas fits that bill.  Dorado offers a short roster of tacos, salads, cemitas, and weekend brunch specialities that capture the flavors from the Baja coast and Puebla, Mexico. 

Weekend brunch offers breakfast quesadillas and tacos with scrambled eggs, queso fresco, salsa, and guacamole.  Additional toppings include house-made chorizo (a favorite), grilled steak, vegetables, and chicken.  My pick for the day was a plate of huevos rancheros and black beans with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

Two sunny side up eggs, corn tortillas, salsa ranchera, queso fresco, scallions & cilantro compose the huevos rancheros.  The eggs don't need a splash of hot sauce due to the fiery punch and bright flavors of the ranchera sauce.  The black beans were perfectly simmered and seasoned.  The simple meal paired well with the Ibarra Mexican hot chocolate.  This steaming cup of chocolate was perfect for a cold day. 

Details:

Dorado Tacos & Cemitas
401 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446
11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

On-the-Road Dining Adventures

Capturing some of the meals eaten away from my kitchen:

BBQ Chicken Salad courtesy of American Airlines (not terrible, but not spectacular .. it is airline food, after all)

Blazin' Burger with Village Fries (rosemary & thyme) from Good Stuff in DC

Dinner at Carrabba's in Panama City, FL

Spicy Chicken Sandwich & Fries from Chick-fil-a.  Craving achieved.

Chicken/Rice/Green Chile Soup and House Salad with Grilled Corn from Chili's.  Surprisingly good.

Kosher-style hot dog from Five Guys.  Tried to make it Chicago-style but no sport peppers, celery salt, or neon green relish existed.

Black & Bleu Burger from Boston Burger Company in Somerville, MA.  Simple and well-prepared.

 

What do your dining experiences look like when (or if) traveling for work?

Top Five Things in Portland

Two weeks ago I traveled to Portland, Oregon for an international food conference.  The conference planners picked a city bursting with hot food trends, locals supporting their local farmers, and restaurants gaining popularity.  Picking my favorite things was tough as there were so many, but I settled on five must-do/see sites.

Gruner: a five month old restaurant serving German and Austrian cuisine using ingredients found in the Pacific Northwest.  The wine list was easy to navigate with the help of a well-versed server, and I was really happy with my choice of spaetlze with braised chicken, morels, riesling, crispy shallots, and thyme.

Ace Hotel: a quirky boutique hotel that offer budget friendly rooms in order to experience the best of Portland; Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a local coffee company, cranks out excellent brews and sells pastries and Voodoo Doughnuts; patrons sip their morning cup in the lobby of the Ace while catching up on the day's news either in print or virtually (free WiFi).  Another hotel feature is Clyde Common, a restaurant and bar turning out excellent seasonal food and shaking (or stirring) appetite-inducing cocktails.  With two happy hours (one mid-day, the other after 11 p.m.), there is always a deal to be found. I still crave the fries with harissa and creme fraiche dipping sauces.
Anne Amie: spend an afternoon in the Willamette Valley at this biodynamic vineyard sampling pinot noir and pinot gris wines. Located in the Yamhill-Carlton District, the vineyard is LIVE certified which means Anne Amie uses sustainable wine growing & wine producing practices.  As part of the conference, I was very happy to taste a variety of Anne Amie wines paired with an incredible lunch from Thistle Restaurant.  

Powell's Books: an entire day's vacation could be spent in this treasure trove of a bookstore.  Multiple levels, discounted books, and a coffee shop make this store the world's largest independent seller of new & used books.  
Portland Farmer's Market: skipping out of the conference early on a Saturday morning proved to be a smart decision.  Local shoppers converged on this market buying fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers in all colors of the rainbow, cheeses, and breakfast from those magical food carts.  Seafood vendors sold oysters and salmon; bakeries displayed cookies, muffins, and macaroons.  After seeing the market (and buying some sweets for later), my only regret was not having a kitchen in which to prepare a meal.  

What are your favorite spots in Portland? Leave your picks in the comments.

Fritz Pastry: Sweets on Diversey

It was only a matter of time before I stopped reading the mouth-watering tweets from @fritzpastry and actually went to the bakery to try some of the sweets.

I was not disappointed.

One sunny Sunday afternoon, I decided to hop on the El and check out Fritz's offerings.  A ten minute walk from the Diversey Brown Line, the bakery looks like a former residence at the corner of Southport.  Warmly greeted, Istudied the chalkboard menu and peered into the case of cakes, pies, and tarts.  Macaron flavors rotate on a regular basis, and for those customers that have more of a savory appetite, lunch options include soups and sandwiches.

Wanting to try one of each item, the baskets of freshly baked donuts, croissants, and brioche were calling my name, so I decided to try a cinnamon & sugar donut (donut hole included!) along with a latte.  I also purchased a cinnamon brioche and two macarons (raspberry & chocolate) to take home and enjoy later.

The donut was yeasty and dusted with just enough cinnamon and sugar and paired nicely with the creamy latte.

The macarons lived up to the phrase "you can't just eat one" with their natural flavors and slightly chewy consistency.  The brown paper box with the blue Fritz was also a nice touch.  I would be very happy giving this treat as a gift.

My only complaint is that I wish lived closer to this gem of a bakery to try more of Fritz's daily pasteries and breads!

1408 West Diversey Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614-1112
(773) 857-2989

http://fritzpastry.com/

An Afternoon at the Publican

The Publican, part of the family of restaurants that includes Avec, Big Star, Violet Hour, and Blackbird, doesn't disappoint.  Going in the late afternoon before the dinner rush is the prime time to go: no wait, an attentive staff, and a fast arrival of dishes.  Sitting at the shiny golden bar provided an excellent point of view to the kitchen, beer taps, and stand-up tables.  Staffers folded napkins and sliced bread; servers met to discuss the menu and taste beers; the kitchen had a similar pre-service huddle.  A funny yet resourceful feature to each chair is a small "cubby" underneath the seat to hold menus or perhaps purses and small bags; it is reminiscent of grammar school.  

The pre-dinner menu is limited but offers a taste of the best that the Publican offers:

To eat:

Spicy pork rinds (with a dusting of spicy cheese): snap. crackle. pop; there is a reason why customers return for this fried treat

Frites with Louis's organic egg: what's more comforting that fresh fries with a fried egg on top?

Rillette sandwich with apples, apple-pepper jelly, arugula & onion: rillette on toasted bread -- the apple & arugula cut some of the richness for satisfying sandwich

Little Gem salad: basil, fennel, pig's ear & buttermilk-Muscatel vinaigrette: provided a foil to the pork & fried elements from the other dishes; salad included beauty-heart radishes

To drink:

Hennepin (farmhouse saison) Brussels, Belgium

Details:

837 W. Fulton Market 
Chicago, IL 60607 
312-733-9555

M-Th: 3:30-10:30pm 
F-Sat: 3:30-11:30pm 
Sun: 10am-2pm (brunch) & 5-10pm

2009: a year in review

Memorable Meals (in random order):

The Bristol, Chicago IL
Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal Quebec
Hungry Mother, Cambridge MA
Purple Sage, Park City UT
Thursday night only dinner at Terzo Piano, Chicago IL
Brunch at Hot Chocolate, Chicago IL

Favorites Things:

Ricotta & Fig Spread from Sportello, Boston, MA
Sea Salt & Caramel Cupcake from More, Chicago, IL
Alpha King and Gumball Head, Three Floyds Brewery
2006 Whispering Angel Rose, Chateau d'Esclans, France
Little Bloom on the Prairie (cheese): Prairie Fruits Farms 

Cheers to more good eats, drinks, and moments in 2010!  

Xoco Photos & Favorites

At the corner of Clark & Illinois sits the newest restaurant to the Frontera family, Xoco.  Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I have sampled a variety of menu items and would recommend all of them.  Depending on the time of day there will be either be no line or one that reaches to the door.  The open kitchen creates a welcome distraction and a chance to see how the tortas or caldos (soups) are made.  Everything is a la minute...meaning, nothing is prepared ahead of time.  I like that each item that I order comes to my table individually rather than all at once.  Watch as the pastry station carefully crimps the empanadas or assembles fresh fruit tarts.  Smell the churros as they come out of the fryer.  Check out how each bean-to-cup of chocolate is hand created for a customer.

Go with an open mind and leave with a full stomach. This isn't your average torta stand.  

--------------------------

Aztec chocolate: fresh-ground chocolate, chile, water, all-spice; drinkable, hot but not scalding, poured table-side into a white ceramic mug; pure indulgence and satisfying and will be a welcomed treat come winter time
Churro: Mexican chocolate & sugar sprinkling; not overly fried and a perfect accompaniment to the bean to cup chocolate
Open-faced breakfast torta: gently poached egg, tomato broth, sprinkling of cilantro and jalapeno, black beans

Choriqueso torta: homemade chorizo, roasted poblanos, artisan Jack cheese on a roll toasted in a wood-burning oven with a side of tomatillo salsa 

Mexican chocolate cookie

More details & the full menu can be found here: http://www.xocochicago.com

Terzo Piano: a dream of a three course dinner

(note: photos taken from the Modern Wing opening day in May 2009)

Terzo Piano, the new restaurant in the Art Institute's Modern Wing, offers a three course prix fixe dinner Thursday nights only -- the museum stays open late on this night of the week only.  Make a reservation and just go!

My food & wine choices:

NV Brut Rose, Cesarini Sforza, Trentino, Italy
2006 Whispering Angel Rose, Chateau d'Esclans, France

amuse:
crostini with smokey eggplant puree and goat cheese with herbs

first course:
hand rolled gnocchi with eggplant, summer squash, tomato, herbs, Carr Valley Marisa sheep's milk cheese

second course:
grilled Nettesheim Farms beef short ribs with braised romano beans, tomato, San Giacomo 5 year aged balsamic vinegar

third course:
red plum upside down cake with ginger and chocolate ice cream

mini-chocolate macaroons
cappuccino