Showing posts with label mexican food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mexican food. Show all posts

5/5/15

What You Missed at Thrillist's 2015 Taco Knockout

Remember when I told you about an epic taco event taking place this past weekend? Well, it was flipping fantastic and indeed epic.

Thrillist Taco Knockout pinataThrillist Taco Knockout event


Thrillist's 2015 Taco Knockout drew more than 600 people to the Hudson Hotel's Tequila Park Taqueria on Saturday May 2. There were pinatas and sombreros and tons to eat with 10 different tacos from NYC restaurants all competing for the acclaimed Taco Knockout belt. 

The 2014 Taco Knockout belt
Armed with empty stomaches, my pals and I had a mission to try all 10 in the 4 hours we were allotted and we felt the mission was more than doable. We were given our cocktail tickets and a fancy blue chip in which to vote for our favorite.


First things first...Milagro cocktails! I tried the "Freshest Margarita" while my friends sipped on the "Paloma Milagrosa."

Milagro cocktails at the Thrillist Taco Knockout event

Margarita at the Thrillist Taco Knockout event

Then we got right down to it. Here's the listing of tacos in the order we tried them and our thoughts on their merits:

Chef Alfonso Ruiz & Chef Tom Casatelli’s Sunset Pork with chipotle pineapple pork, pickled jalapeno corn tortilla, picked red onion & chipotle crema: This creation from Ho'Brah was a fairly standard taco, but delicious nonetheless. The meat was cooked nicely but the flavor combination was nothing special.

Sunset Pork Taco from Ho'Brah
Sunset Pork Taco from Ho'Brah
Chef Robert Cho’s Cho Nut Taco with smoked brisket, bacon, smoked kimchi, bourbon chipotle sauce, cheddar cheese, fried ramen crumble on a buttered fried tortilla with powdered sugar: This was a real flavor explosion from the chefs at Kimchi Smoke. They combined traditional Korean flavors with downhome-style BBQ deliciousness. The powdered sugar and fried ramen crumbles were unexpected yet welcome.

Cho Nut Taco from Kimchi Smoke
Cho Nut Taco from Kimchi Smoke
Tequila Park Taqueria Executive Chef Geoff Rudaw’s Chicken Vindaloo Taco with mango chutney, raita & crispy mee krob noodles: This was my favorite hands down and the one I voted for. I love it when flavor combinations from different ends of the world meet and this taco epitomized that concept. The only thing we wanted was a bit more heat.

Chicken Vindaloo Taco from Tequila Park Taqueria
Chicken Vindaloo Taco from Tequila Park Taqueria
Executive Chef Jesús Nuñez’s Taco y Olé with beef oxtail, fried egg cream, piquillo pepper, crispy jamon Serrano, herbs and pickled veggies: This taco, from Socarrat Paella Bar was another flavor fusion. We also appreciated how colorful it was, and I was a big fan of how the sauces mixed well in each individual bite.

Taco y Olé
Taco y Olé from Socarrat Paella Bar
Chefs & Owners Eduard Fraundeer & Wolfgang Ben’s Crispy Chicken Schnitzel Taco with ramp remoulade, radish and Austrian pumpkinseed salsa: "I love ramps," my friend exclaimed as she took a bite into this taco. The chefs from Edi & The Wolf really threw a curve ball with this taco, both because it was the first hard shell we had tasted and also because...schnitzel!?! It was much enjoyed, especially because of the ramps.

Crispy Chicken Schnitzel Taco from Edi & The Wolf
Crispy Chicken Schnitzel Taco from Edi & The Wolf
Chef Thomas Kelly’s Smoky Carnitas Tacos with manchego, crispy tortilla strips, corn salsa & creamy chipotle: Food truck cum storefront Mexicue went all-out comfort food with their taco. All together I thought it tasted reminiscent of a cheeseburger, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. My only complaint about this taco was how much liquid spilled out whenever I tried to take a bite. Definitely not something to eat on a first date.

Smoky Carnitas Tacos from Mexicue
Smoky Carnitas Taco from Mexicue
Chef Barry Frish​’s Buffalo Chicken Taquitos with family secret buffalo sauce and bleu cheese/ranch dip: When we first saw these creations from Taquitoria, a conversation was instantly sparked on the glories of Costco taquitos my friends and I apparently both devoured in middle school (those were the days). These babies were served with a combination sauce that had a bit of a big kick. The glory of the dipping sauce was though that you could control how much you wanted. Thanks for the walk down memory lane Taquitoria!

Buffalo Chicken Taquitos from Taquitoria
Buffalo Chicken Taquitos from Taquitoria
Executive Chef Adrian Ramirez’s Mahi Mahi BLT Taco with grilled mahi mahi, chipotle-piloncillo bacon, shredded lettuce, lime pico de gallo, agave cilantro aioli: Frankly, I'm surprised we didn't see more fish tacos. This version from La Esquina was perfect for me and almost earned my vote although my friends thought it was a bit too spicy. The thing that most impressed me about this taco was that the chefs were making the tortillas right in front of us. Talk about fresh!

Mahi Mahi BLT Taco from La Equina
Mahi Mahi BLT Taco from La Equina
Executive Chef Sasha Shor’s House-Cured Smoked Pork Belly Taco with poblano lime ranch and hot pink pickled onions: Talk about flavor! This taco from Tres Carnes was the ultimate in mega-rich taco with homemade pork belly that melted in your mouth. I also got a kick out of the hot pink onions.

House-Cured Pork Belly Taco from Tres Carnes
House-Cured Pork Belly Taco from Tres Carnes
Executive Chef Brian Tsao’s Beef Bulgogi Tacos with wonton skins, Asian pear, kimchi slaw, toasted sesame & scallion: Last but not least, this taco from Mira Sushi & Izakaya wins the award for most likely not a taco, but it was still good anyway. The crispy wonton shell gave it an interesting flair and the beef was flavorful.

Beef Bulgogi Taco from Mira Sushi & Izakaya
Beef Bulgogi Taco from Mira Sushi & Izakaya
Other scrumptious food items available throughout the event were super-creamy guacamole from Rosa Mexicano and all sorts of churros (some with bacon bits and dulce de leche and there was even a chocolate fountain!).
Guacamole from Rosa Mexicano
Guacamole from Rosa Mexicano
Churros
Churros!
There was also fantastic entertainment by DJ Dirty Digits, percussionist Jimmy Lopez and flash mob performances by the Northeast’s finest mariachi band, Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino and folkloric dance group Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York. 

Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino
Mariachi Tapatio de Alvaro Paulino
Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York
Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York
Where can I get one of those dresses?

As the event wrapped up and everyone yearned for their stretch pants, Mexicue was awarded the 2015 Thrillist Taco Knockout belt for their Smoky Carnitas Taco.


Chef Barry Frish from Mexicue wins the Taco Knockout
Chef Barry Frish from Mexicue wins the Taco Knockout
And lastly, here are some snaps of my and my friends with our taco-eating hats on...literally :)

Friends at Thrillist's Taco Knockout

Friends at Thrillist's Taco Knockout

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! Celebrate responsibly, please!

4/30/15

Get Your Tickets for Thrillist's Taco Knockout this Saturday--Unlimited Tacos, Cervezas and Churros!

Still looking for ways to fill your Cinco de Mayo weekend? I know a place where you can stuff your face with tacos, cocktails and cervezas in addition to help select the next belt-winning taco chef.

Thrillist Taco Knockout Logo

Thrillist is hosting their annual Taco Knockout this Saturday May 2 from 2-5 pm at Tequila Park Taqueria at the Hudson Hotel (356 W 58th Street @ Columbus). There are 2 ticket options: general ($65) which comes with unlimited tacos, cervezas, and churros as well as 1 custom cocktail and especial ($80) which adds on early entry (1pm) as well as one additional custom cocktail. Pretty much no matter how you shake it, it's an amazing deal.

Last year's event looked like a fine fiesta--and featured taco flavors like sriracha lamb and duck chorizo--so I can't wait to see what they cook up this year. I'll be there with my taco hat on so come say hi if you decide to spend your afternoon feasting al fresco with Thrillist!

4/21/15

This is Where to Eat Your Tacos on Cinco de Mayo

If tacos were a food group, I would have no trouble fulfilling that dietary requirement. I love the versatility of those flour or corn tortilla vessels of yumminess--carne asada with tomatillo salsa, mole chicken with toasted sesame seeds, even fried cactus with crumbled queso fresco and I'm game! 

Cafe El Presidente Mexican restaurant

I was recently invited for dinner at Cafe El Presidente, the year-old outpost of the Tacombi chain's well-known Mexican-inspired creations located in the Flatiron district. Walking in, you almost think you've entered a marketplace instead of a sit-down restaurant, with a juice bar on your right, hanging fluorescent lighting above, and black and white checkered tiles below. But then you realize that this is just a rarity in New York: a restaurant with space enough letting you walk around without needing to bump into anyone else. I couldn't help but wonder what used to be in this space as we settled in and I watched the chefs at work in the large open kitchen near our table.

Cafe El Presidente Mexican restaurant dining room

Cafe El Presidente Mexican restaurant kitchen

First things first, drinks. I decided on a margarita with salt (no frills necessary if it's good; $12) and my boyfriend ordered the Oaxacan Old Fashioned (pronounced Wa-HA-Kan for those of you too shy to order it correctly; $14) with mezcal instead of whisky. Both were solid libations, but I'd love to go back and try the Pina Colada ($13) because nothing screams vacation (even if it's just for a few hours) like a pina colada.

Oaxacan Old Fashioned and Margarita
Oaxacan Old Fashioned and Margarita

The menu came, and we were surprised by its understatement. We almost thought that we had to mark off what we wanted with a pencil and just hand it in, as you would to a street cart vendor or something. But alas, it's all part of the ambiance.

Cafe El Presidente menu

We also took the time to admire the impressive selection of hot sauces available on every table. I'm a bit of a whimp when it comes to spice, so I was not about to even touch the "Oro Negro" (literally: black gold) bottle of habanero concentrate and grapeseed oil, although I did admire the numerous warning signs. The other sauces--morita, cascabel, jalapeno, and habanero--were more recognizable and I made a pact with myself to try at least one over the course of the meal.

Cafe El Presidente hot sauces
Hot sauces

To start, we tried the Esquites ($3.95), which was grilled corn with contija cheese and chipotle mayo, and I would HIGHLY recommend it. Served in a cute paper cup, appropriately feeding on the street food theme, it was so good that I could have gobbled up 2. We also had the Ceviche Guerrero ($14.95) served over guacamole. I could taste the freshness of the fish, and the lime juice truly brought out the sweetness as well. Again, I could have made a meal out of just this dish.

Esquites
Esquites

Ceviche Guerrero
Ceviche Guerrero

For our main course, we split the Gringa Madison quesadilla ($7.95) and 6 tacos: al pastor ($2.49), Baja crispy fish ($4.95), Puerco Toluca ($3.49), Nopal de Matehuala ($3.49), Sonoran shrimp ($4.49), and the seared fish de Ixtapaleno ($4.49). Holy my goodness and ay caramba. Note to self: never go here alone.

The quesadilla was served open faced with all sorts of goodies including heritage pork and Chihuahua cheese. It had more of that chipotle mayo which really tied everything together. As for the tacos, my favorite was definitely the Baja crispy fish because it had the perfect ratio of crisp to succulent. I also really loved the Puerco Toluca (chorizo) with the Cascabel hot sauce--see, I tried it! Also, if you've never sampled cactus (nopal), do yourself a favor and try this one. It was paired with swiss chard so I considered it my "vegetable" for the meal.

Gringa Madison Quesadilla
Gringa Madison Quesadilla
nopal, Puerco Toluca, seared fish, Sonoran shrimp tacos
From top left: nopal, Puerco Toluca, seared fish, Sonoran shrimp tacos
Al Pastor and Baja crispy fish tacos
Al Pastor and Baja crispy fish tacos
No meal is ever complete without dessert and at Cafe El Presidente, this means Tres Leches Cake. Literally meaning "three milks," tres leches is your typical sponge cake that sits in a mixture of whole, sweetened condensed, and evaporated milk for a little while to get all moist and creamy. This version is layered with jam and topped with coconut--yum!

Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches Cake
Taking a look at Cafe El Presidente's brunch menu, it's clear to see why this place is fabulous. Huevos rancheros, empanadas and breakfast tacos? Sign me up! 

For Cinco de Mayo, they are throwing a special France vs Mexico party (with costumes encouraged!). Email info@tacombi.com for reservations.

Cafe El Presidente Cinco de Mayo celebration

So, will I be back? Most definitely. These are some of the most legit tacos I've had in a long time, and that's coming from a California girl. It also helps that the tortillas are made fresh in the kitchen every day in their on-site tortilleria and that all ingredients are sourced sustainably. Come with a date or celebrate with a group, but either way, you're sure to have a delicious fiesta in your mouth.

Disclosure: Our meal was comp'd, but all opinions are my own.

Cafe El Presidente on Urbanspoon

5/3/13

You Want to Visit the Park with Tequila in Its Name

Last night I went with my friend Jen to check out the grand opening of Tequila Park Taqueria in the Hudson Hotel. It was a tad chilly by the time we got there, but with my jacket on it was a super enjoyable night at a rooftop bar.


The place is very large by comparison to other similar venues, and the vibe is definitely downtown meets uptown ($16 for margaritas?! Holy cow!?), yet nostalgic and whimsical (hello strings of lights, fake grass, and foosball tables).



In all honesty, their menu looked super interesting. I started with the Horchata Apple Blossom Margarita with Riazul Reposado and apple blossom honey and Jen got the Smokin' Apple with Corzo Reposado, ginger, mezcal and red sea salt. These couldn't be more different apple margaritas if they tried. Mine was on the sweeter side while Jen's had quite the kick, but I enjoyed them both.

Horchata Apple Blossom and Smokin' Apple Margaritas ($16 each)

For food we split two orders of tacos, one from the "common" side of the menu--the crispy 48-hour pork carnitas ($8 for 2)--and one from the "uncommon" side of the menu--sriracha cheesesteak ($12). Both were served on homemade tortillas and the latter packed quite the punch with the sriracha. Would highly recommend both!

Crispy 48-Hour Pork Carnitas Tacos ($8)
Sriracha Cheesteak Tacos ($12)

No visit to Tequila Park is complete without at least 3 rounds of foosball (best of 3 wins of course!). We played 4 and yours truly won 2, leaving with sufficiently sore arms. I forgot how much fun those little men on poles could be!!

Ready, set, foosball!!

It's definitely the start of rooftop bar season, so what do you think? Will you check out Tequila Park?

12/27/11

Elemental Dining

Williamsburg is fast becoming (or already is) the new awesome place to own a restaurant. To stand out and survive, each has to have something unique to draw people in and keep them happy hungry customers. Would a menu complete with Italian-style pizzas, South American seafood dishes and juicy burritos do the trick? I think so. 


On the border of McCarren Park, away from the hustle and bustle of Bedford Ave., you'll find Cu 29 Copper. Named to bring about thoughts of chemistry and harmony between different cuisines, the restaurant was decorated in warm hues of rust and of course, copper, with the center point being the large brick oven. I was invited by the owners on a nippy Sunday night to sample the menu and get a feel for this hidden gem.

We were seated in the large back room, with a view out to the good size outdoor patio. How I wished the weather was warmer so that we could have sat outside! When we arrived a family was finishing up their meal and a couple was canoodling/eating dinner on a cozy couch. There was a rather large elevated space in the corner and the host told us that they regularly have live music on weeknights. 


We started with the Roasted Garlic Shrimp. Talk about garlic. The sizzling dish packed a punch of flavor. I would watch out for this dish on a first date, but man oh man was it delicious. The shrimp were succulent, and my only complaint would be that I wanted more bread to sop up the remaining sauce. 

Roasted Garlic Shrimp

The next dish was Cu 29 Copper's Signature Pizza. The fluffy, slightly blackened (in a good way) crust was piled high with pepperoni, sweet sausage, peppers, mushrooms, red onions, black olives, hot cherry peppers and mozzarella cheese. With a slight kick, this pizza was super tasty. We came close to finishing it, but then the waiter reminded us we still had one more dish to try.

Cu Signature Pizza

The last dish, and my favorite, was the Seafood Moqueca, a traditional Latin seafood stew with coconut milk, lobster broth, cilantro and toasted pine nuts, served over rice. This dish came with lots of extra bread so as soon as we slurped up the mussels and found all the bits of calamari, we left no broth at all. The yellow rice was amazing as well after it had been sitting in the stew for so long.

Seafood Moqueca
Taking a look at the rest of the menu, I'm intrigued by the other pizzas (Italian Stallion anyone?), the tacos (especially the shrimp tacos with chipotle mole and the tuna tacos with sliced mandarin pico de gallo) and the banana nutella crepes (can't resist!). Drinks are reasonably priced with beers for $5 and signature cocktails ranging from $8-$10. They have a great lunch menu as well with specials around $8, and almost all the online reviews I've read about this place rave about its brunch.

Cu 29 Copper is located at 232 N. 12th Street (between Driggs Ave and Roebling Street).

Cu 29 Copper on Urbanspoon