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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Taqueria con Servicio de Bar “La Cabaña”

I’ve had tacos at quite a few places in Mexico – including some really great ones – but last night I was introduced to a place that outshines them all: Taqueria con Servicio de Bar “La Cabaña”. (Yes, that’s how the name is printed on the awning, and the only way one can find it listed on the internet.)

Located in the neighborhood called Azcapotzalco, it’s not exactly a place the casual tourist in Mexico City is likely to go, and I’d be hard pressed to recommend a special trip there. But damn, these tacos are good. Proof that all you need for great food is good ingredients and careful, competent preparation.


So, a quick slideshow tour showcasing the highlights... first up: longaniza and lengua.


Longaniza is a a type of sausage, crumbled and lightly fried. It was a deeply flavorful, pleasant surprise. Its companion in the photo is beef tongue: tender, moist, perfectly prepared. Both are simply stunning.

The obligatory pastor:


Every taco place in the city serves pastor (except the ones that specialize in other types), and, except for El Hequito, which is in a class by itself, this is surely among the very best. Beautifully marinated, spit-roasted pork with just enough char to make the texture interesting.

Costilla:


Another outstanding offering – slices of beef short ribs, utterly tender and delicious.

Chuleta con queso:


Marinated pork chop meat is lightly grilled, then cheese melted over it. Perfectly tender, and incredibly delicious. These may be the greatest tacos on the planet (with the longaniza and lengua here giving them a run for their money).

Sesos:

"I can smell your brains."

Considering the widespread fame of tacos de sesos, I felt I needed to try it in a place where it was likely to be excellent. And for brain tacos, it most likely is excellent. But I’ve never been much of a brains fan (at least when it comes to eating them), and I believe I can now safely cross them off my list of things to order again.

Cecina:


Cecina in Mexico is not the same as cecina in Spain, where it is beef that has been salted and air-dried, producing something akin to a beef equivalent of prosciutto (the deep, almost purple color is quite amazing). In Mexico, it is beef that has been salted and marinated, then cooked. In two nights worth of experience here, I’d have to say it’s a bit hit-or-miss. The first night, it was moist, tender perfection... the second night, a tad dry. Still, a taco well worth eating. (The picture is from the second night.)

The greens that accompany every taco order:


Lime wedges, cucumber slices, and pápalo (sometimes called “Bolivian coriander” – I can't make this stuff up...).

My friend Miguel loves the flan here and assures me it's some of the best in town. Before ordering it, you should know that, like cecina, flan in Mexico is rather different than flan in Spain. In Mexico, it's sweeter. Much sweeter. When I tasted it, I was fairly certain it must be made with sweetened condensed milk, and some recipes I found on the internet for Mexican flan confirm this. It's quite good... just far too sweet for me.

The prices are quite reasonable, and it’s open very late. It’s also locally quite popular: at midnight on a Friday night, there was not an empty table in the place.

Taqueria con Servicio de Bar “La Cabaña”
Eje 3 Nte (16 de Septiembre) 36 – Centro de Azcapotzalco, Azcapotzalco
Ciudad de México, Distrito Federal, México
(+52) (55) 1742 1343

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mom's Dutch Kitchen

Do you remember Dutch Pantry? It was a chain of roadside restaurants that used to dot highways in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and other locales. They served Pennsylvania Dutch-inspired family fare, sold kitschy Pennsylvania Dutch-themed souvenirs, and were built to evoke Pennsylvania Dutch barns - complete with hex signs! The chain collapsed in the late '80's (there's a fascinating nostalgia website devoted to Dutch Pantry here), but somehow a couple of Dutch Pantries managed to survive and continue to operate in Pennsylvania. I've eaten at the Clearfield one a couple of times on road trips in the past year. The former glory has faded a bit, but it's still one of the best roadside options you'll find on Pennsylvania's I-80.

That is, unless you're passing by Danville. If you are, a meal at Mom's Dutch Kitchen is obligatory. It is the real home-cooking counterpart of Dutch Pantry. AND you can get scrapple here (for you scrapple fans), which was never possible at Dutch Pantry.


No Pennsylvania farm breakfast would be complete without a nice slab of scrapple (and a bowl of sausage gravy):


The menu is large and varied, but for the real experience, stick to the homey items, like meatloaf, which is fantastic. It's accompanied by stuffing and real mashed potatoes, and yet another side dish of your choice. In the Dutch Pantry tradition, I got spiced apples - freshly made, and delicious. Soups are also great... their white bean with ham is stellar, and I got a bowl of chicken noodle soup that was more like a dish of grandma's chicken and noodles, moistened with a little broth. Delightful.

None of those photos turned out to be usable, unfortunately. I had better luck the evening I ordered country-fried steak. That's not something I would normally think of ordering outside of Texas (where it is, of course, called "chicken fried steak"), but when I read that they top it with sausage cream gravy here... well, how could I resist? I'm glad I didn't. (How do you make real mashed potatoes even better? Top them with sausage gravy, too!)


Dutch Pantry was famous for its apple fritters. When I spotted them on the menu at Mom's, I had to see how the compared. There is, in fact, no comparison whatsoever: Mom's Dutch Kitchen makes the greatest apple fritters I have ever had. Just light enough to be fluffy on the inside, and just crisp enough on the outside for the perfect texture contrast. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, they are one of the world's few perfect desserts as far as I'm concerned.



If that doesn't tempt you, they also have a great selection of Amish pies. If you've never tried shoo-fly pie, this just might be the place to do it. I did, and it's great.

Open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, and located at the PA Rt. 54/I-80 interchange, Exit 224.

Mom's Dutch Kitchen
25 Sheraton Rd, Danville, PA 17821
570-275-0840

Friday, July 3, 2015

La Polar

My second trip to Mexico was drawing to a close and I still hadn’t tried the famous birria. David and Guadalupe assured me that the place to go was La Polar... and all of Mexico City seems to agree with them.

It’s been around for over 75 years, and birria is pretty much all they do. It’s usually described as a “spicy stew”. I would take issue with the description “spicy”, but it is tasty.

Soon after ordering, the condiments arrive:


Limes, chopped onions, avocado, and a mole-like sauce of chiles, chocolate and other spices.

Then the stew arrives:


Essentially a large bowl of stewed mutton in a light broth seasoned (very lightly) with cumin, some onion, oregano, and bay leaf, it is both hearty and soothing. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t find it very exciting. Good, but I’m not eager to have it again. Perhaps it’s better in its home territory of Jalisco.

The place is huge, and has a real party atmosphere. Be ready for a non-stop barrage of strolling mariachi musicians. Open until 2 a.m. every day.

La Polar
c/Guillermo Prieto 129 – Col. San Rafael, Delegación Cuauhtémoc
Ciudad de México, Distrito Federal, México
(+52) (55) 5546 5066

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