Food Pic Friday: Churro Borough

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Move aside, food trucks, this is the era of the pop-up. We had heard of these mythical churro ice cream sandwiches, even saw pictures of these elusive treats on social media, but the existence of this epic duo had yet to be confirmed. Until one day, we saw a Facebook post that announced the time and date for the release of a round of tickets to The Churro Borough Pop-Up. “Tickets” are free but, as they represent one of only 300 available slots, were extremely limited. I sat in front of my computer at 9:50am, F5-ing my browser window over and over until the “Buy Tickets” button finally appeared. It was like trying to buy concert tickets back in high school. They sold out in four minutes but Martin and I each snagged a pair of tickets. We were so excited.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches: Spanish Latte x 2, Horchata, Vanilla Custard.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches: Spanish Latte x 2, Horchata, Vanilla Custard.

That Sunday afternoon, we arrived at the Mexicali Taco & Co. storefront on the outskirts of Chinatown. There was already a long line forming, each person eager to spend $4 a pop on these desserts. We took his parents with us to celebrate his mom’s birthday, and they could not believe that so many young people put in that much effort for this exclusive sweet. When our turn finally came, we each only got one since we had dinner plans shortly after. Mine? Horchata. It tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in the best way possible, though the churro itself could have been crispier.

If you want to get one of your own, follow Churro Borough on Facebook for their latest pop-up updates. I don’t know if I would go through all that trouble again, but if they ever purchased a truck or brick & mortar storefront, I would be happy to stop by for a $4 churro ice cream sandwich; this is LA’s new gourmet cupcake and I hope it sticks around for a long time.

IN EXCITING NEWS, tickets for the next pop-up go on sale in just ONE HOUR. Here is their update from their Facebook page:

Come join us this SUNDAY, August 10th at Mexicali Taco & Co!

*** Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday, August 8th! ***

Sunday, August 10th 2-5pm
702 N. Figueroa Street
Downtown Los Angeles

Purchase (FREE) tickets for this pop-up – Limit 2 per customer. Only 250 tickets available!

Each admission ticket will allow up to 2 sandwiches per customer. $4 per sandwich.

CASH ONLY (ATMs available on-site)

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/churro-borough-summer-pop-up-series-v5-tickets-12565201857

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Summer Days: Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars – Culver City, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles
Rainbow of Paletas at Mateo's Ice Cream and Fruit Bars

Rainbow of Paletas at Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars

HAPPY JUNE from us here in sunny southern California!

The days are longer, the sun is shining brighter, and the weather is just screaming for (what else?) ICE CREAM! I had had Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars bookmarked on my list of places to check out for years, all the way back when we still lived in Palms. Now we live in Del Rey, which is right around the corner from this unassuming strip mall off Sepulveda Boulevard near Lucerne. A flourescent orange length of retail with a giant laundromat anchor, you just can’t miss this spot. Mateo’s is squeezed in all the way in the corner.

The storefront is tiny but boasts brightly colored signs depicting fruits both familiar and exotic. It looks and smells like walking into a giant cornucopia, in a good way. The case of ice cream features flavors I’d never seen elsewhere like mamey, smoked milk, and horchata with walnuts. Making our way further into the store, we find the paletas — Latin American fruit-based ice pops (or popsicles). The paletas are arranged in a rainbow, with pink and red strawberry (including a halved strawberry embedded in the middle of the popsicle), golden-colored mango con chile, bright orange-hued cantaloupe, green cucumber con chile, bright alabaster coconut, copper-colored tamarind, and some more sweet-tooth-appeasing creations like chocolate dipped and shaved coconut dusted paletas to finish. It’s an amazing sight, and certainly appetizing on a warm summer day.

Best of all? Each paleta is just $2. TWO DOLLARS. An amazing deal especially for the sheer quantity and quality of fresh fruit that goes into making each paleta. They taste like the ripened fresh fruit is pureed, strained, poured into the molds, and frozen. No frills, no additives. On our first visit, I had the cucumber on chile. I love cucumber desserts, and this one was icy and refreshing with just a slightly salty kick from the chile powder. The main part of the paleta was almost too icy, with the high water content of the cucumber itself, but I definitely enjoyed the bits of diced fresh cucumber embedded throughout. Martin had a creamy, coffee-flavored bar that reminded me of a Fudgesicle in texture. Ahh nostalgia… we knew we were going to come back.

Sure enough, on our next visit I opted for the mango con chile which I enjoyed even more because of its natural sweetness, the soft chunks of ripe golden mango, and the toothsome texture, much less icy than the cucumber one. The chile powder, reminiscent of the packets sold alongside fresh cut fruit by the street vendors, was just spicy enough to feel a subtle kick. Definitely a summer favorite, I know I’ll be coming back specifically for this paleta over the next few months (and beyond — we all know how beautiful the weather is here year-round).

Martin saw the cantaloupe paleta in the display case, one of his all-time favorite fruits and a new addition for the summer season, and just had to have it. He shared only a small nibble, but I could taste how sweet yet refreshing it was. Like a frozen agua fresca, that paleta embodied the purest essence of cantaloupe. It was so freaking good.

Our only regret is not giving this place a try sooner, but now that we’re in the know, you can bet we’ll be coming back and telling all of our friends (starting with you dear readers!). Happy summer indeed.

Plenty of Paleta Love from NomNomCat!

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Check out Mateo’s Ice Cream and Fruit Bars: mateosicecream.com

4929 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230

See their Yelp reviews here!

Mariscos Chente – Del Rey, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

I know what you’re probably thinking. Where the heck is Del Rey? That’s okay. We didn’t know either until we moved here. And it took over a year of living in this teeny tiny region bordered by Culver City, Mar Vista, Marina Del Rey, and Venice to finally discover the wonder that is Mariscos Chente. At this hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant specializing in mariscos (seafood), the small menu boasts two pages of shrimp dishes, a third of fish dishes, and a final page dedicated to ceviche.

Camarones Borrachos - shrimp in a tequila garlic sauce

Camarones Borrachos – shrimp in a tequila garlic sauce

We’ve returned on multiple occasions since our first fateful visit less than a month ago. It’s that good. The camarones borrachos (above) were like a “drunken shrimp” dish packed with a strong tequila punch. A bit too strong for me, but Martin enjoyed it.

But first, the chips and salsa... and our drinks

But first, the chips and salsa… and our drinks

Shortly after we place our order, the friendly waitress brings out a basket of freshly fried tortilla chips and a small bowl of salsa verde. Tangy from plenty of limes and tomatillos, with just the right amount of kick, this snack is the perfect way to whet our appetite for the delicious meal to come, especially when paired with Mexican Coke and tamarindo Jarritos.

Camarones a la Diabla - shrimp in a spicy red sauce

Camarones a la Diabla – shrimp in a spicy red sauce

As I’ve mentioned on this blog, I LOVE spicy food. Absolutely love it. If I’m not sucking in air and making that hissing sound by the end of my meal, it was not done right. Of course, I had to try the camarones a la diabla, so spicy that it even bears the devil’s name. Full of garlicky, salty, spicy flavor, this dish definitely wowed me.

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo - shrimp in butter and garlic salt

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – shrimp in butter and garlic salt

Swimming in a sauce that’s bright red from all the tomalley hidden in the succulent shrimp heads, these camarones al mojo de ajo are excellent in their simplicity. I think this dish is the best way to really taste the shrimp… and butter. Martin and I both love it, so when we’re struggling to venture out and try something different on the menu, we’ll usually order one of these and one of something else to share.

Suck the goodness out of those shrimp heads!

Suck the goodness out of those shrimp heads!

The best part is that the shrimp are served head-on. Each order comes with 12-15 shrimp (about a pound I’d wager), which means 12-15 delicious shrimp heads from which to harvest tasty, tasty brains. The good stuff that tinges the sauce a brilliant crimson. My favorite part is the “thigh” of the legs. Sweet shrimp meat covered in a thin crispy layer of (edible) shell, it’s totally worth the crunch.

The Graveyard

The Graveyard

Let the heads pile up as you devour the entire platter. For $15, the portion is generous, especially for lunch. Sometimes I even push a shrimp or two onto Martin’s plate to help me finish.

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo - shrimp in butter and garlic salt

Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – shrimp in butter and garlic salt

As you can see in the background, each plate comes with a mound of rice. The garlicky rice is deceptively, impressively flavorful and the texture is fluffy but chewy. So good! From the shrimp to the shrimp to the shrimp to the rice, Mariscos Chente is definitely worth a visit. If you remember to call ahead, you could even order an awesome fried fish by the kilo (the pescado sarandeado) which takes at least 30 minutes to prepare. We honestly lack the foresight, but someday we’ll definitely try it and update this post. And if you go here for dinner, there are plenty of cerveza offerings on the menu to pair with the camarones¡Salud!

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Check out Mariscos Chente:

4532 S Centinela Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90066

See their Yelp reviews here!

Zesty Tequila Lime Chicken

Main Dishes, Recipes

For the title of this post, I had contemplated making a pun on Tequila Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird… get it, get it?), but as our primary modification to Ina Garten’s recipe was to add three types of citrus zest, zesty it is! That’s right folks – lime, lemon, and orange zest all play a huge role in making this marinade really sing. That and some good tequila. No need to break out the top shelf Patron or Don Julio – your favorite low-to-mid-tier gold will do. We recommend aiming for a $20-30 bottle; we used Sauza Commemorativo, a gorgeous amber-hued añejo tequila aged 18 months in oak barrels.

Zesty Tequila Lime Chicken

Zesty Tequila Lime Chicken

NomNomCat Tips:

#1: You really don’t want to skimp on the marinating time, so be sure to plan well in advance! This recipe recommends overnight marination; I managed to get in 24 hours by prepping this meal as I was cooking the night before’s dinner. If you do need to multitask a bit, you can marinade frozen chicken pieces so that they defrost and absorb flavor at the same time (thus saving time from waiting for the chicken to thaw first). Again, it must sit at least overnight and if using frozen, be sure to rinse off any ice crystals before dropping the chicken into the marinade.

#2: If ever a recipe really depended on a microplane, this would be one of them. Don’t have a microplane? Use the finest side of your box grater. Don’t have a box grater either? Time to get one. Just kidding, sorta. You could skip the zest (Ina Garten did in the original recipe and I’m sure hers comes out just fine), or do it the old fashioned way – take a vegetable peeler and try to get as thin a slice of the peel as possible. Use a paring knife to scrape off or cut away any pith (the bitter white part). Then just finely mince the peels and voila – zest!

Microplane - very important, though not mandatory

Microplane – very important, though not mandatory

#3: I have both grilled and baked these chicken thighs, and I’ve found that both methods are good in their own ways. I like the ease of sticking them in the oven and forgetting about them for 45 minutes, at which time I can serve and eat. Baking would also be a great way to bring back a bit of summer when the weather starts getting too cold for grilling. If you do decide to grill these, about 10-15 minutes per side would be the ballpark. Grilling is a delicate balance between making sure they are sufficiently cooked (165 degree internal temperature) and that they don’t dry out. You may want to make extra marinade to reserve for basting.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup tequila

1 cup fresh squeezed lime and lemon juice (approximately 3 limes and 2 lemons)

1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (approximately 1 medium orange)

The zest of all citrus fruits above

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you can add more to kick it up a notch!)

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on (or about 1 pound of chicken, your choice of cut)

Lots of Citrus Zest

Lots of Citrus Zest

Prep the citrus. I’m a slow zester, so it took me a while to put this marinade together. Be prepared – the kitchen is going to smell amazingly fragrant as the peels start to release the aromatic citrus oils.

Measuring Out the Citrus Juices

Measuring Out the Citrus Juices

Combine the marinade ingredients. Taste if you dare. It should pack a punch.

Marinating in a Plastic Bag

Marinating in a Plastic Bag

Clean the chicken thighs and place them into a plastic gallon-sized zip-top bag or glass container. Pour the marinade over the chicken and squish around to get the chicken really coated. If using the zip-top bag, let as much air out as possible to ensure maximum chicken-to-marinade contact. If using a glass container, create an airtight seal using plastic wrap or its lid. Refrigerate overnight.

Ready for the Oven

Ready for the Oven

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees or heat up the grill. Gently shake the chicken as you remove it from the marinade. Lay on a foil-lined sheet pan for baking at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or arrange on an oiled grill and cook for 10-15 minutes per side, depending on the size of your pieces of chicken.

After 45 minutes of baking

After 45 minutes of baking

Serve with fresh flour or corn tortillas, salsa, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, and diced onion. I liked using a bright, chunky pico de gallo for texture and flavor contrast.

Dinner is Served!

Dinner is Served!

Though the weather has been gloomy here in LA, we’re not quite ready to let go of summer yet! Celebrate with one last summery hurrah by serving up these street-style tacos filled with juicy, flavorful tequila lime chicken. Or bookmark us for next summer’s barbecues – just remember to come back and let us know how it goes!

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Day Six – San Francisco: Chez Maman and Tropisueno

Food Adventures, San Francisco

After a brutal 19-hour Greyhound ride (never again), we arrived in San Francisco and the first thing we did was pass out in our hotel room. After all was said and snoozed, we made our way out to Chez Maman, actually walking past it to Chez Papa and getting extremely confused before doubling back to the tiny hole-in-the-wall that boasts the best burger in SF.

We lucked out to catch the odd time between lunch and dinner and didn’t have to wait at all to be seated. Service, however, seemed to scale down with the slowdown in customers. We had very high expectations for the aforementioned burger.

Voila! Basic Burger w/ Swiss and Bacon, Side of Frites w/ Garlic Aioli

We ordered it the burger with swiss and bacon, rare. The burger turned out medium, disappointing. Had it been cooked correctly, it could’ve rivaled a lot of LA burgers, as the patty itself was well seasoned. The frites were also delicious with plentiful amounts of garlic in the aioli, perhaps a tad too much.

Crepes being formed then – regrets being formed now at not ordering one.

Next time I would be inclined to try their crepes and the much-raved-about carbonara and other classic French dishes. We saw many batches of moules frites being prepared, one of Alice’s favorite dishes. Definitely will give this place another chance.

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Check out Chez Maman:

1453 18th St
(between Missouri St & Connecticut St)
San Francisco, CA 94107

See their Yelp reviews here.

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Still drained from our ridiculous Greyhound misadventure and not too long after Chez Maman, we decided to stay close to the hotel and check out Tropisueño. As a caveat, we rarely have Mexican food, especially for dinner, but we thought “sure why not?” – partly out of how tired we were and how conveniently located it was.

Throughout the long trip to the Pacific Northwest I’d been craving sugarcane Coke, commonly dubbed “Mexican Coke,” but hadn’t had the opportunity to grab one. If there were a restaurant to get these, a Mexican restaurant was definitely the place to try, and lo and behold!

To accompany our delicious unsubsidized drink, we had what is purportedly SF’s best chips and salsa. Very fresh, crispy, and homemade – definitely made the same day or even several hours ago.

The chips came with a ménage a salsa: traditional red salsa, green tomatillo salsa, and a spicy chipotle salsa.

Alice ordered the ceviche de pescado – diced opaque cubes of tilapia, finely diced cucumber and avocado, bits of onion and cilantro, and lots of lime juice.

I really could’ve gotten these in LA but for whatever reason I got the street-food-style pork tacos.

Slightly more expensive than the food truck variety but tastes a little better. We shared the Cuban-style platanos fritos with black beans and Mexican crema. We weren’t a fan of the black beans, but then again, we’re not a big fan of beans in general. But the crema was an interesting addition to the crispy-fried plantains.

We finished our dinner with the Mexican flan which was a lot thicker than we anticipated, almost like a cheesecake.

Tropisueño was definitely impressive considering that neither of us are huge fans of Mexican food. We’ll have to check out the Happy Hour deals — and bring 5 friends (they’ll comp the host’s drinks for the whole night if you do!).

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Check out Tropisueño: www.tropisueno.com

75 Yerba Buena Ln
San Francisco, CA 94103

See their Yelp reviews here.