Category Archives: Mexican

FOOD - "The Delicious" - Mexican

Cafe El Presidente in Flatiron

April 14, 2015

If you love Tacombi, a Mexican restaurant in Nolita and one of my favorite spots, you’re going to love its younger sister, Cafe El Presidente. It has the same menu as the former, but with expanded options and an even more airy, open atmosphere — if Tacombi is someone’s backyard, Cafe El Presidente is the whole city. They have the same practices though — food made from scratch with fresh, local ingredients.

Inside Cafe El Presidente


Central kitchen area with spectator seats


On a Friday night, it was buzzy and crowded but with a bigger floor plan you’re not rubbing elbows with fellow patrons. I went recently with a friend and we basically ordered…everything.

Starters to order: Guacamole, esquites (grilled corn con cotija cheese & chipotle mayo), and ceviche guerrero (fresh local fish in lime juice)

Guac and creamy esquites


Guacamole


Ceviche


Creamy esquites

If you’re going to order one (why, but OK), the esquites are not to be missed. Cafe El Presidente has a lot more taco options for vegetarians too: maize y poblano (Grilled corn and poblano chile topped with chihuahua cheese), black bean and sweet potato (sautéed sweet potatoes over Rancho Gordo beans), bongos chamula (sautéed mushrooms), and frijoles con queso (beans with chihuahua cheese)
. Of course, they’re known for their Baja Crispy Fish (Baja-style local cod battered and fried), so if you’re new you have to at least try this with their homemade sauces. If you’re not, try their picadillo de angus regio (beef picadillo tacos), or pollo yucateco (slow roasted free range chicken).

Mini tacos here start at $2.49 each


Crispy fish, shrimp, and mushroom tacos

I was so excited to see that they had shrimp back on their menu (sonoran shrimp, a spicy shrimp taco with cabbage). The waiter warned me it was going to be spicy but I told him I can handle it. But guy, fair warning it’s really spicy and it wasn’t the original creamy shrimp they used to serve at Tacombi which I was expecting. Still crying for them to bring that back.

Beef and fish tacos


Corn, potato, and chicken tacos

We should have stopped here but we wanted something sweet so we got their chocolate and dulce de leche cake (which was a perfect accompaniment to a creamy latte):

Cake


Latte

Finally, if you’re looking for a lighter drink, they have fresh pressed juices everyday. We tried their verde (apple, celery, kale, pineapple, lime and mint), and naranja (papaya, carrots, pineapple, and orange).

fresh pressed juices

A delicious meal satisfying every craving we had. We practically had to roll ourselves out.
REPORT CARD
Meal: Dinner

Occasion: Trying something new
Price: $$
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: ***
Food: ***
Service: ***
Would I go back?: Yes and with more friends :)


Restaurant Info:
Cafe El Presidente

30 W 24th St,
btw 5th and 6th Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 242-3491
Flatiron

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Shy
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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Mexican - Spanish/Latin American

Otto’s Tacos in the East Village

December 14, 2013

I always say good Mexican food is not NYC’s forte, which  may not necessarily be true for long. I have a short list right now — Tacombi in Nolita is up there; Oficina Latina has good bites and a fun atmosphere; La Esquina (must try their queso). Now there’s a brand new joint on the block: Otto’s Tacos in the East Village which just opened last month. I stopped by a couple days ago to check it out with my friend Feeny, and got the run down of the menu from owner Otto Cedeno himself (he’s real! And you’ll likely catch him there).

Otto's Tacos. Source: Instagram

The food, which I’ll get to in a minute, was among many highlights to the story. Maybe not so surprisingly, Otto was influenced by his LA-roots for the west coast style mini tacos (although rooting for the Lakers may be his strongest connection to Cali these days).

The more surprising part is Otto’s background comes in tech (he was the head of Operations and Production at Livestream), not necessarily a culinary one. But, he explained, his passion for the NY neighborhood he’s been residing in on and off since he was a teenager, and of course, really good Mexican food is what drove him back to set up shop on the corner of 9th and 2nd Avenue. “I said it has to either be in the East Village or I’m not doing it at all,” Otto said. Is it for the cool factor? I ask, considering East Village does boast some of the best restaurants. He replied that it was to give back to the area he lived in for so long. It really is as much about the tacos as the neighborhood for him.

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Guacamole

THE TACOS

The tacos are served on a homemade corn tortilla that are prepared right in the front of the taqueria. They come filled with your choice of carne asada (beef), chicken, pork, shrimp, or mushroom and chef suggested sauces (which you can customize if you’d like).

Carne asada (beef) tacos


Chicken tacos

Feen got the beef and chicken and I opted for the shrimp and mushroom. Everything was bursting with layers of  flavor — Feen said the beef was the best she’s ever had and the chicken was just as good, and I can say the shrimp and mushroom didn’t disappoint either.

Shrimp taco


Mushroom tacos

It’s hard to lose with fresh chopped vegetables like onions, tomatoes, and cilantro, and seasonings done so right that you probably wouldn’t even notice that there was no cheese topping them (note: none needed). The thicker-than-flour corn tortillas also gave the tacos more density in every bite.

Corn tortillas

MASA FRIES

They serve the standard guac and chips but the masa fries is one of their strong points of differentiation from other Mexican places — when was the last time you’ve been to one and saw fries on the menu? These aren’t any normal fries either.

Masa Fries

Instead of going the usual potato route, Otto’s makes them with the same masa corn flour. The recipes was a serendipitious mistake — Otto said chef Joe Lonigro was making masa and when they didn’t turn out right, threw them in the fryer. Masa fries were born. These are paired with chipotle mayo sauce which makes everything taste even better — unless you don’t like chipotle mayo (in which case, what’s wrong with you?).

HORCHATA

Mexican Coke and Horchata

Made in house daily, a fresh and sweet rice milk and cinnamon drink that almost tastes like dessert…

CHURROS

…until you realize you can also have dessert with their churros and dulce de leche dipping sauce.

Churros

And might I add, nothing on the menu is more than $3.50. You would be doing a disservice to yourself by not stopping by. Otto’s definitely brought sexy good Mexican food back to a city that never tires of bragging all the amazing cuisines here.

Now, if he can only do something about those Lakers… (JUST KIDDING, OTTO!)


Restaurant Info:
Otto’s Tacos

141 2nd Ave.
at 9th Street
New York, NY 10003
646-678-4018
East Village


REPORT CARD
Meal: Dinner

Occasion: Checking out the new restaurant
Price: $
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: *** (no frills and casual for a bite-and-go. Just a few communal tables and bar stools)
Food: ***
Service: ***
Would I go back?: Yes!


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Shy
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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Homemade - Mexican - Recipes - Spanish/Latin American

Recipes: Chicken enchiladas, creamy corn esquites, and guacamole

November 21, 2013

I’m nervous to cook a lot of things for a big party, but chicken enchiladas — chicken enchiladas I can do. My friends and I basically stole adopted the recipe from our resident chef in college, Hana Khan. I remember she used to bake tandoori chicken like it ain’t no thang and we all continued to be impressed with how she worked her way around the kitchen in those early years while we were still trying to figure out our left foot from our right.

Mexican food night!

The creamy enchiladas are pretty easy to make (thanks to some shortcuts), but it has a couple of moving parts. Rafia decided to make guacamole and corn esquites (creamy corn) to compliment the main course, and I think it all worked pretty well together! I also loved how she turned the shells of the avocados she used to make the guacamole as little holders for the corn (presentation, people!). Here are all the recipes:

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

(makes about 15 enchiladas)

Ingredients:

1 lb Chicken breast
Red chili powder seasoning
Cajon seasoning
8 oz tub of sour cream
2 Campbell’s cream of broccoli soup
Tortilla wraps (they usually come in packs of 8, so I get two of them)
Medium or hot salsa (depending on preference…I use medium just to be safe)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Canola oil (to fry chicken)

Directions:

1. Cut chicken breast into small cubes and start seasoning with red chili powder and cajun seasoning right away. I just do it by eye, and make sure all the chicken is full coated, but think it’s about 2 tbs of each seasoning.

2. I then put it all in a Ziplock bag to marinate. I let it marinate overnight in the fridge. If you don’t have that much time, you can just let it sit for an hour or two.

3. In a sauce pan, pour canola oil (about 1/4 cup), and let it warm. Start frying the chicken once it’s warm. After frying all the chicken, place in a plate and keep aside til you make the sauce.

4. In a separate pan or pot, pour sour cream and cream of broccoli soup. Mix it together and warm til the sauce thickens. Then, add the chicken to the mixture.

5. Pre-heat oven to 350. Then use a rectangular baking pan (13×9-inch ones are ideal) for tortillas. Make sure the bottom is greased well.

6. Once the sauce/chicken mixture is ready, spoon about 1/4 cup of the mixture and place a little in each tortilla. Fold over filling and roll up in the tortilla. Place tortilla in pan (seam down). Place each tortialla side by side in the pan.

7. Once each tortilla is placed side by side to fill the pan, take a spoon and spread the top with the salsa. Then, sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted on top.

CORN ESQUITES (CREAMY CORN)


Ingredients

1 pack of frozen corn
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons cojita cheese (or you can use crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese)
Cilantro
1 white onion
Olive oil (to sautee onions)
Cayenne pepper or ground chili powder, for sprinkling
1-2 jalapeno peppers
Salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

Chop the white onion. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan and sautee onions. Then, add corn and continue to satuee and salt to taste. Next, add a cup of water, cayenne pepper and let it all cook until water evaporates. When corn is tender, mix in mayo, butter, jalapeno peppers and cilantro. Sprinkle with cheese.


GUACAMOLE


Ingredients:

4 ripe avocadoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced grape or cherry tomatoes (or mangoes if you’re feeling adventurous)
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
Coarsely chopped cilantro, to taste (about a 1 1/2 teaspoon)
Juice of one half lime (tip: you can grill it in a skillet (it enhances the flavor and warm limes produce more juice)
1/2 teaspoon each cumin and chili powder (or to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients except the avocadoes, salt and pepper to give the flavors a chance to meld for a half hour or so. Mash the avocadoes with a fork so there are whole pieces of avocado and then gently fold in the other ingredients. Serve immediately.


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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Mexican - Spanish/Latin American

Tacombi in Nolita

February 16, 2013

Because I’m constantly trying to discover new restaurants in the city, I rarely return to the same ones (unless, per my made-up rule, I bring someone new). But there are times I have “moments” with certain restaurants — my go-to’s that I like to bring everyone to since I’m pretty sure they’ll leave the meal feeling more than satisfied. My current relationship for this very reason is with Tacombi in Nolita. The first time I went, per my friend Sadia’s suggestion, it was a blistering cold night. One of those nights that we probably would have ended up ordering in at either of our apartments, but I figured I could use a change of scene. The moment I walked into Tacombi, I felt like I left the cold city far behind. It felt like a beach party in here:

Inside Tacombi


The WV van in which they serve food from their home base in Mexico


.


Menus

It had a very fun, very non-pretentious vibe. The menus came out on a slip of paper, and we quickly ordered guacamole and the corn esquites to start.

Guacamole and chips

When it came out, the waitress told me not to forget to squeeze the lime on the corn and mix it up before we ate it. Both were so fresh and especially appreciated the spicy chili powder mixed in with the corn.

Corn esquites served in a cup

Whenever I go to a new place, I use Foursquare to see what ‘tips’ other diners have left, and the crispy fish tacos where overwhelmingly popular. I found out later from the owner that according to their sales, the crispy fish tacos are the most popular item on their menu — people order double of that amount than the next item (the chicken taco). I’m usually not one for fish, but I had to give it a try. I order that and the shrimp taco.

Crispy fish (tilapia) taco


Shrimp taco

The tacos are small, but extraordinarily satisfying. I was already obsessed with the food, ambiance, and service that I came back a couple more times in the course of the next few weeks with more friends. Honestly, I don’t feel like Mexican food is NYC’s forte, as say places in California based on the places I’ve eaten at so far – and Tacombi made me regain my faith that there is hope. Everything is so fresh and tasty. Completely coincidentally, I was invited to come for a food tasting a week later, where I met the owners and chef (an adorable Luis Aguilar Puente, whom Tacombi brought over straight from Mexico after owner Dario Wolos was overwhelmingly impressed with the sauce he prepared in the food he ate…albeit during Sandy, but Luis didn’t complain about the timing), and learned more about the food.

Mini samples of Tacombi's tacos

This time I sampled the food under the guidance of Dieter Wiechmann (Tacombi’s co-owner) on what house-blended sauces I could try with the tacos. Seriously, the tacos are already good on their own, but the sauces bring it to a whole other level! Dario explained to me later in Mexico they are huge on sauces. “Anyone can cook decent chicken or meat, but what really sets one dish from another are the sauces you eat with them.”

Tacombi sauces


Fish taco with chipotle hibiscus flower sauce

I tried some of the green chili sauce with the shrimp (superb), and interestingly enough, Dieter recommended the sweet sauce with the fish (mind-blowing).

Yes, I helped myself to more corn esquites ;)


Fish ceviche

I also tried the fish ceviche (I know, I don’t even know who I am anymore). It comes with chips and saltines — with the latter is how they traditionally eat it in Mexico. I couldn’t believe how much I even liked the citrusy fish here. I feel like Tacombi was really challenging my taste preferences, and I’m happily converting. Just out of curiosity, I asked Dieter if he eats here everyday (I kinda always wondered if restaurant owners do), and he confirmed my suspicion. “The thing is, all the ingredients are really fresh but also made with really simple ingredients so even after eating here day after day, I won’t feel like I’m feeling sick of my stomach is having enough.” Plus, what better way to test out quality control but to have to owner order from the restaurant daily?

Veggie taco with avocado and mushroom


Taco of the week

Right now, they are running a special taco of the week — the week before was octopus (which turned out to be immensely popular), and they were also testing out lamb. The most dishes might make it to the regular menu, but they’re taking it by week to experiment.

Barrels of fruit drinks and horchata


Drink sampling

I should also mention the refreshing, light drinks they serve which I was able to get a tasting of. The horchata (rice milk with cinnamon), herbal hibiscus, watermelon, and pineapple are richly refreshing (the hibiscus is the only one that is more bitter, but loaded with antioxidants…it’s more of a mood drink) all which I can only tell will be even more in demand come spring and summer time.

Horchata

And PS, none of the tacos on their menu are over $6. Consider this deal sealed…I think I can make an exception to my restaurant rule for some places.

Coffee to go (Co-owner Dieter designs everything in the restaurant, from tables to the little stamps on their coffee cups)


REPORT CARD

Meal: Lunch and Dinners
Price: $
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: ***
Food: ***
Service: *** (Staff here have always been INCREDIBLY nice)
Would I go back?: Over and over again.

Restaurant Info:
Tacombi

267 Elizabeth St.
at E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10012
(917) 727-0179
Nolita

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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Mexican - Spanish/Latin American - Travel Feasts

Frida: Mexican Cuisine at the Americana Mall

November 15, 2012

Hurricane, winter storms, and the generally miserable weather on the east coast warrants a visit to California. And MAYBE my friends Yasir and Sarah moving out here had something to do with it. But 70s (aka perfect) and sun made it a little bit of a selfish vacation to get away from the madness in the city. I don’t think I realized how many people are out here but my days already have been full of good company, including having brunch yesterday at Frida at the Americana mall with the lovely Nadia of Sweet Pillar & Co..

Burrito Vegetariano


Burrito Vegetariano


Burrito Mazatlán

We split a burrito vegetariano (sautéed asparagus and zucchini with white rice, black beans, lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco and guacamole, wrapped in a flour tortilla) and burrito mazatlán (sautéed shrimp in a chile-pasilla orange sauce, onions, lettuce, and guacamole wrapped in a flour tortilla. Served with rice and beans). Without meat, you would think it would fall short but both burritos were fresh, tasty, and in the case of the mazatlan, spiced perfectly. We finished off with green tea and a very strong, but well-timed, latte.

Plus with plenty of outdoor seating, we felt like we weren’t missing the extremely beautiful day I was hoping for…even after sitting there comfortably for four hours. Time flies with good food and good company!


REPORT CARD

Meal: Lunch
Price: $$
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: ***
Food: ***
Service: *** (no one bothered us for taking our sweet time and there was no pressure to order more than we could finish)
Would I go back?: Yes

Restaurant Info:
Frida

750 Americana Way
Glendale, CA 91210
(818) 551-1666


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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Mexican - Spanish/Latin American

Antique Taco in Wicker Park

September 18, 2012

By Summar Ghias

Chicago’s trendy taco scene may always be distinguished (and ruled) by late night favorite Big Star. But that doesn’t mean Chef Paul Kahan doesn’t have his fair share of competitors. Fellow Wicker Park joint Antique Taco serves up similarly scrumptious tacos packed with punches of unexpected flavors. Given that I’ve dined there three times this month and somehow still can’t stop daydreaming about the dessert-like horchata milkshake, I’d say Antique Taco gives Big Star a run for its money. Almost.

Inside Antique Taco

The restaurant couples market Mexican fare with an antique vibe, complete with communal seating, wooden benches, and vintage china. And though it gets a little too loud on the weekends, it’s the perfect spot for an inexpensive weekday jaunt.

Having tried a substantial part of the menu, the grilled ribeye steak tacos are by far the superior of the bunch. The crispy fish tacos, with smoked cabbage, scallions, and the surprise sriracha tartar sauce, come in at a close second. And, while I won’t go as far as to say that the fish tacos are better than their counterparts at Big Star, I do think that the creative fusion touch gives it a distinction all its own.

Crispy fish tacos with tempura, smoked Cabbage, scallions, and sriracha tartar sauce

Tacos aren’t the only thing on the menu worth mentioning: the masa biscuit and lobster gravy entrée is just the right amount of comfort food.

The corn OFF the cob salad with parmesan, black beans, red peppers, avocado, and corn chips

The Corn OFF the Cob salad, with parmesan, black beans, red peppers, avocado and corn chips is ah-mazing. And, if kale is your current favorite superfood, the Antique Taco signature salad incorporates it into a mix of spicy peanuts, queso fresco, cranberries, sesame, cilantro, and pomegranate vinaigrette. Frankly, the chicken tacos are the only unmemorable thing on the menu.

The signature salad, with kale, spicy peanuts, queso fresco, cranberries, sesame, cilantro, corn chips and a pomegranate vinaigrette


The best item on the menu: Grilled ribeye tacos with a house steak rub, heirloom salsa, cilantro, onion and queso enchilado.


The drink of dreams: a horchata milkshake made with cinnamon, banana, almonds, and vanilla

I predict many more trips in my future – not to mention plenty more wasted hours spent daydreaming about that cinnamon topped horchata milkshake.


REPORT CARD

Meal: Lunch/Dinner
Price: $
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: ***
Food: ***
Service: **
Would I go back?: Most definitely


Restaurant Info:
Antique Taco

1360 North Milwaukee Ave.,
at Wood St.,
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 687-8697


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