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Posts Tagged ‘Mexican’

I feel like lately, I’ve really been digging Mexican food. Maybe it’s the warm weather or maybe it’s my love for corn tortillas or maybe it’s the delicious guacamole that accompanies every meal…whatever the reason, there is nothing better to me than sitting outside on a warm day and enjoying a fresh margarita, guac, salsa and chips.

In hearing many of the reviews for Playa Cabana, a Mexican restaurant that prides itself in fresh and local cuisine, it immediately moved to the top of my list for restaurants to try upon my return to Toronto. And thankfully, a friend of mine had yet to dine there and was up for an early dinner to try to beat the crowds and long waits we had read about.

Guacamole and homemade corn tortilla chips

The guac was good, the chips were fresh, but something was lacking. Maybe it all needed a bit more salt or a bit less heat on the guac…but I think this was the first time there was actually some guacamole left in the bowl for the waiter to take away. Little did we know, this was probably a good thing as the rest of the food was so delicious.

Tacos de pulpo: Grilled octopus tacos with charred jalapeno salsa

Tacos de pescado (baja style): Grilled white fish tacos

Have you ever had octopus tacos before??? Well, you are missing out! And the fish tacos, (now don’t all yell at me here) were some of the best I’ve ever had. Next time, I definitely want to try to score a spot on their patio to satisfy my summer time cravings.

Another restaurant that was on my radar even before moving back to Toronto was Acadia. A southern inspired spot in Little Italy, it has a very small, but unique and inventive menu. I already knew what I was ordering when I arrived there with my friend…and I am glad that I was not swayed by the other delicious sounding menu items.

Anson mills grits: gulf prawns, oyster mushrooms, pimento cheese, ham hock consomme, parsley

Yarmouth Albacore: blackened spices, chickpea, brown butter emulsion, maque-choux, dill

Wild rice and quinoa pilaf with golden raisins and pecans

I honestly can NOT stop thinking about these grits. Creamy, cheesy, salty, sweet, and that smokey ham broth…I would be happy with a double order of these grits on my next visit. And there will be a next visit…anyone craving some southern comfort???

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So here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! My thoughts on who has the best pizza, pasta, Mexican food and more in all of New York! Some things to note: I had many amazing meals and dishes that are not mentioned here. These are just some that really stood out to me…not to say I didn’t enjoy many many more! I also didn’t cover “the best of” every possible food category because that would just take way too long…both to write and read! And of course, I was not able to get to even half of the restaurants on my very VERY long list. This may shock some of you with the plethora of restaurant related posts on this blog. But trust me, there are just so many good restaurants here…it’s kind of overwhelming (and very stressful!) But I did what I could, and without further adieu and in no particular order…

The Best Appetizer: Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with truffle honey butter and burnt orange toast from Locanda Verde (review)

The Best Brunch: Cookshop (review #1 #2 #3)

So I think the fact that I went back to this place three times speaks to how good it is. From the ideal location right next to The Highline, to the wonderful and homey atmosphere, to the absolutely delicious food! Let’s look back at some of my favorites, shall we?

Scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, smoked salmon, caramelized onion, served on homemade biscuit and watercress salad

Pastry board: chocolate chip scone, sweet potato bread, apple muffin, pecan sticky bun, blueberry jam and butter

Poached egg popover: poached egg, popover, leek and cheddar fondue

The Best Mexican: Barrio Chino (review #1 #2)

I originally fell in love with their strong margaritas and fish tacos. A return visit showed me that their enchiladas were truly top notch.

achiote and citrus rubbed tilapia served with avocado salsa and pickled onions

Enchiladas Verdes: green enchiladas stuffed with zucchini and mushrooms and melted oaxacan cheese served with black beans topped with queso fresco

The Best Vegetarian: Pure Food and Wine (review)

This is definitely a special occasion vegetarian restaurant but truly delicious! Even for the non-vegetarians among you!

Chocolate mint sundae with thin mint cookies, chocolate ice cream, mint ice cream, and whipped cream and chocolate sauce…never knew a vegan raw sundae could taste so good!

Zucchini and local heirloom tomato lasagna with basil pistachio pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, and macadamia pumpkin seed ricotta

The Best Dessert: The salted caramel sundae from ABC Kitchen (review)

I know what you’re all thinking…yes, I do love me some Big Gay and Ample Hill, but those are in a category all to themselves. This is the best plated restaurant dessert…come on, totally different!

Sundae: salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts, popcorn, whipped cream, chocolate sauce

The Best Sandwich: The scuttlebuck from Saltie (review)

Homemade foccacia bread with pickled veg, hard boiled egg, greens, feta, house-made aioli, olives, and capers

The Best Salad: The kale salad from Northern Spy (review)

Kale salad with cheddar, delica squash, almonds and pecorino (the potato gnocchi on the right were excellent too!)

The Best Meatball: Piccolo Angelo (review)

Meatballs the size of my head! In a marinara sauce

Honorable Mention: Chicken meatballs from The Meatball Shop (review #1, #2)

Chicken meatballs in tomato sauce topped with grated parm and foccacia bead

The Best Pasta: House made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted breadcrumbs from Frankies Spuntino (review)

House-made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted breadcrumbs

The Best Pizza: The stracciatella and spinach pizza from Co (review), the margarita from Keste (review), the overall experience and uniqueness from Pauli Gee’s, (review #1, #2) and the bee sting from Roberta’s (review)

So I know it may not be proper to name FOUR places as “the best pizza,” but I think pizza is a very complex dish and there are many different kinds. When craving the traditional margarita, none is better than Keste. For your white pizza, head to Co. For the ultimate pizza parlor experience and very unique pies, travel to Greenpoint to see and meet Paulie Gee himself. And for fantastic sweet sauce mixed with spicy sausage and sweet honey, Roberta’s is truly top notch. All the crusts were fantastic, the sauces well seasoned, and the pies perfectly charred.

Stracciatella: crushed tomato, stracciatella, arugula, black pepper from Co

Regina Margherita: tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes, basil, and extra virgin olive oil from Keste

Grapeful dead: Baby spinach, olive oil, mild gouda, shaved parmigiano reggiano, and pickled red grape halves from Paulie Gee’s

Three pies from Roberta’s: From right to left: the margarita, the bee sting (spicy salami, hot honey) and seasonal (kale, parm, fontina, lemon garlic oil)

The Best Asian Food: Talde (review)

Yes, I realize this is quite a broad category. But, Talde really wins for me for it’s perfectly cooked and flavored whole fish and it’s wacky over the top cereal bowl dessert.

Whole market fish: banana leaf roasted topped with tumeric-tomato chutney

The Best Burger: The lamb burger from The Breslin (review)

Chargrilled lamb burger with feta, cumin mayo, and thrice cooked chips

Best Ice Cream: Anything from Ample Hills (review)

Seriously…any of their hand crafted, small batch ice cream is absolutely delicious. And they make EVERYTHING in house…from the butter cake in the ooey gooey to the oatmeal cookie dough in Nona D’s oatmeal cookie. I have yet to find a place EVER to match these cups and cones.

Nona D’s Oatmeal cookie on the left and pumpkin with graham crackers and marshmallow on the right

Honorable Mention: The salty pimp from Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (review #….too many to count!)

This sweet and salty cone should really be in a category of its own. In fact, the whole shop should be! From it’s eclectic decor, to boisterous servers, to a menu filled with names like Bea Arthur (which is also delicious btw) and Affo-“gay”-to, how can you  not fall in love with it?

The Salty Pimp: I think you’ve seen this maybe one or two times here before! Caramel line ice cream cone with sea salt and chocolate

The Best Overall Dining Experience: ABC Kitchen (review)

This award  is based not only on the food, but the whole package…service, atmosphere, and the all-round feel of the place really makes a difference to me. ABC kitchen was a stunning restaurant with fantastic service, beautiful food, and obviously, so delicious!

Line caught tuna sashimi marinated with ginger and mint

Roasted beets with homemade yogurt and balsamic

Honorable Mentions: Traif (review) and Degustation (review) and Allswell (review)

Traif’s unique combinations and flavors really blew me away. The 5 course tasting menu at Degustation was so impressive…if they only had better service, I think this could have been a winner! The fact that I am STILL thinking about the pork from Allswell is definitely worth noting. Also worth noting is I visited all three honorable mention-worthy restaurants with the same friend…I think she may be just as food obsessed as myself!

Crispy pork belly, caulilflower, peperoncini, romesco, parsley-garlic from Traif

Third course: seared trout with chard leaves on a bed of corn, farro, and pea succatash with chorizo oil from Degustation

Roasted pork with aioli, anchovies, capers, and homemade olive bread from Allswell

I think that I could have really gone on and on…I will never forget the arepas from Caracas or the tofu from Gwynett St. or the octopus from Kefi…but I had to cut it off somewhere! I hope I have helped you sort out where to eat in a place where you will never EVER run out of restaurant options. I have already had some fantastic Toronto restaurant experiences and have many home-cooked meals to share with you. So please, STAY TUNED!

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Applewood is situated on a small street off 7th avenue in Park Slope. You actually wouldn’t even notice it from the main street if you were on a little stroll. But once you walk in, you can’t help but be taken a back by its very charming atmosphere and farmhouse feel. Which is very fitting as Applewood focuses on seasonal, farm-to-table cuisine. My friend and I planned a “date” night to have a nice dinner together before I left and headed north to Toronto. And it also happened she had her wedding at this restaurant…which I could definitely picture with all the candles and cozy setting.

Three spreads: lentils cooked in duck fat, soft and salted butter, spinach cream cheese

Spreads and breads were given to start. The bread was freshly made in-house (sorry no photo-but just imagine a two large pieces of white and whole wheat bread with crispy crusts and soft interiors). The lentils were definitely my favorite and I proceeded to eat them also as a side dish with a fork. Can anything cooked in duck fat every be bad?

Sautéed ramps topped with a fried egg and dill aioli

Squid salad with rhubarb and sunflower shoots

Lemon risotto with parsnips and watercress

Pan seared hake with sweet potatoes, arugula, and lemon fondue

As the blog title states, the fish was delicious. Perfectly cooked, flaky, and buttery and that lemon cream sauce was simply divine. Both apps were also a hit but I have to say, my friends lemon risotto was really just not good. The rice was cooked well but there was no flavor at all. Not just under-seasoned, but really no seasoning — quite disappointing. Overall, I really enjoyed the meal at Applewood and have heard really great things…maybe it was an off night for the risotto chef?

I know I said I was trying to get all my restaurant reviews out to you, but I simply HAD to share this chicken dish with you as I think it is perfect for a light summer meal. This recipe for chicken marinated in a fresh lime mixture and served over marinated red onions and a cilantro infused black bean sauce is a great way to jazz up that boring boneless, skinless chicken breast.

Baked Lime Chicken with Black Bean Sauce (Adapted from Simply Recipes)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 limes, juiced

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

1 red onion, sliced thin

Black Bean Sauce

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 quart water

2 bay leaves

stems from one bunch of cilantro, chopped

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

salt and pepper to taste

Combine lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, oregano, salt and pepper and place in a bowl with chicken. Let marinade for at least 2 hours in the fridge.

Place beans and remaining ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour or so until reduced and nice and thick. Remove bay leaves and puree with hand blender. Place onions in a baking dish and place chicken and marinade on top. Bake in 400 degree oven, covered with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and broil for about 5 minutes until top is browned and chicken is completely cooked through. Serve chicken on top of black beans and onions.

Really delicious served with some guacamole and tortilla chips, and of course, a margarita on the side is always a nice touch!

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In an effort to continue to stay away from my touting everything as “the best____ I ever ate,” I am here to tell you not of “the best” black and white cookie, but what I think is “the ultimate” black and white cookie. And it is found only mere blocks from our small apartment at Joyce Bake Shop in Prospect Heights. I am by no means a black and white cookie connoisseur. I’ve tried a couple of versions, but am definitely not an expert. However, this cookie, you really couldn’t help but fall in love.

What really set this cookie apart from all the others was not the super tender crust, but the black and white frosting. That’s right, FROSTING! Not the usual gloppy glaze that sits on top of your average black and white cookie. This is true cupcake frosting, laid on nice and thick on the buttery cookie base. Just trust me and try it!

But before you indulge in this delicious cupcake-like cookie, I encourage you, no, I implore you to try this super easy and super tasty recipe staring avocado. Who doesn’t like this buttery and rich green fruit (yes, I do believe avocado is in fact a fruit). Normally found in guacamole, salsas, and as a salad topper, I have turned this fruit into the perfect taco accompaniment or Mexican themed dinner appetizer.

Panko Crusted Avocado Fries

1 Avocado, sliced into fry like sticks

1/2-1 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 lime, juiced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine panko with spices. Squeeze lime juice over avocado slices and toss gently in panko so you don’t break the avocado. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until panko is brown.

I served them with a dipping sauce made of Greek yogurt mixed with a little lime juice and some adobo sauce from a leftover can of chipotle peppers kicking around in our fridge. A delicious start to an Mexican fiesta!

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Since moving to New York and starting my blog, I’ve jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. At first, I was hesitant…already a Facebook user, why did I need to read about what everyone was doing in 140 characters or less? But, as I explored the Twitter world a little more, I discovered it was not only an amazing way to keep up to date on the latest news, celebrity gossip, and food trends/restaurant openings/recipes, but it was also a fantastic avenue for meeting new people. Not only have I made “twitter friends” with a shared interest in running and food, but they have also become real life friends. I had the pleasure of dining with new friends  made through this social media outlet at an old favorite, Barrio Chino, in the LES. We bonded over our shared love of running and food and enjoyed some fantastic and authentic Mexican dishes.

Guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips

Enchiladas Verdes: green enchiladas stuffed with zucchini and mushrooms and melted oaxacan cheese served with black beans topped with queso fresco

Tostadas Camaron: Two tostadas with sauteed shrimp covered in crema mexicana, queso fresco, lettuce, and avocado

It might be hard to tell from the dark photos, but the food was beautiful and delicious! Last time I visited this tiny and cozy spot, I went with the fish tacos (which another friend had and loved). But this time, the enchiladas were calling my name and I’m so glad I answered. I highly recommend this vibrant and flavorful green dish. There was also an un-pictured order of the chicken enchilada mole…also a hit. I can’t wait for more running and dining dates with a lovely group of ladies!

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On a recent trip to the grocery store, Adam and I spotted our favorite brand of corn tortillas on sale! Yes, it’s these things that get us very excited! So we immediately grabbed two packages, tossed one in the freezer, and I began brain storming what to do with this package of golden goodness. I LOVE corn tortillas…so much better than their bland flour cousins. And the best way I think to enjoy them is in the taco form. Fish tacos are not a new dish in our household..we’ve made tilapia tostadas with breaded tilapia on crispy corn tortilla shells and tilapia tacos with grilled fish in a more classic approach. But this time, I was looking for something different that still used tilapia as the fish of choice. I came across a Bobby Flay recipe that I decided to change-up a bit to make it my own.

Jalapeno and Chili Marinated Tilapia Tacos with Pureed Tomato Salsa (Adapted from this recipe)

1 pound tilapia fillets

Corn tortillas

Marinade

2 tbsp olive oil

2 limes, juiced

1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tbsp chili powder

Toppings

Shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes, diced red onion, chopped cilantro, and a yogurt/lime/chipotle mixture (just mix greek yogurt with some lime juice and adobo sauce), or anything else that floats your boat (or taco)

Combine all ingredients and marinate fish for about 20-30 minutes. Bake in preheated oven at 425 for about 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Fish out of the oven

Pureed Tomato Salsa

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

5-6 large tomatoes, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped

1 tbsp chipotle hot sauce

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 lime, juiced

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomatoes and jalapeno and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are soft. Puree mixture with immersion blender until smooth and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Add hot sauce, oregano, cilantro, and lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

Salsa

This salsa is really so delicious…so easy and much fresher tasting than the already made-jarred variety. The only thing missing was some guac…see? that’s where planning ahead would have helped me! No ripe avocados could be found at my grocery store…where’s a good, buttery, avocado when you need one!?

Mexican Fiesta! Fish tacos ready to be assembled!

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With all the warm weather we’ve been having in NYC over the past couple weeks, I’ve had very strong urges to sit outside and enjoy a margarita, chips, and some guac. Well, the other day this urge was so strong it could only be satisfied by visiting a restaurant that has been on my radar for quite some time now. After reading and hearing many good things from the twitter and blog world, Adam and I ventured to Prospect Heights with some friends to give Chavela’s a try. Chavela’s has a fantastic menu filled with lots of traditional and non-traditional Mexican treats…3 dollar tacos, fresh margaritas, and homemade chips and guac were on my mind and that’s what I stuck with!

Guacamole with homemade tortilla chips

We all commented that this was some of the most perfectly seasoned guacamole we’ve ever had. Some places have a tendency to under-salt their creamy avocado dip. Not Chavela’s…and with those delicious round chips, it was the perfect start to our Mexican fiesta.

Grilled corn with chipotle mayo and cojita cheese

The grilled corn was very unique and quite interesting tasting. While that chipotle mayo was quite tasty, they were a bit too heavy-handed with it and I think I would prefer a little less mayo, a little more cheese and spice.

The Nopales (cactus, avocado, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and pickled jalapenos) and The Pescado (tilapia, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle salsa, and lime)

Plato Don Vegetariano: roasted vegetables, corn on the cob, beans, rice, guac, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and soft tortillas

Fresh fish, spicy salsa, and cactus?? It’s amazing!!! Highly recommend! My friend highly enjoyed her enormous platter of vegetarian delights and had a very fun time assembling many different little tacos. I do have to say that when Adam and I saw the huge and saucy enchiladas the table next to us ordered, we had a bit of ordering envy. Well…this place might deem a return visit! The only thing missing is a patio…with even cheaper 2 dollar tacos during happy hour, I think I can forgive them!

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