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Monday, July 21, 2014

Rick Bayless Tortas Frontera - Chicago O'Hare, Terminal B

With the amount of traveling I do, I connect a lot through O'Hare in Chicago.  Usually the offerings are quite boring.  But, when I flew through O'Hare this week, I was greeted with a new offering from Rick Bayless, Torta Frontera.

The new restaurant in in Terminal B, right by B12 to be exact.  On their menu, they offer homemade tortas (basically a Mexican style sandwich) and salads.  Everything is made to order right in front of you.  No heat lamps here.  They also have craft beer on tap.  Finally, all of their ingredients are sourced locally, a plus in my eyes.


I ordered the Chorizo Torta.  Perfectly cooked chorizo sausage on a fresh torta roll.  The roll is stacked with black olive spread, pickled red onions, sautéed green chili, and finally covered with Chihuahua cheese.  The sandwich is toasted until the roll is crispy and the cheese melts.  The sandwich is served with a side of chile verde, my new Mexican favorite, for dipping.  This sandwich was one of the best I have ever had.  Spicy sausage, salty olives and cheese, all brought together with the onions and peppers.  The chile verde made it even better.

To top everything off, they put your sandwich in a nice, small shopping bag with handles.  This allows you to walk the terminal with your rollaboard, carry on, torta, and a drink without dropping anything.  It is the small details that count.

Since everything is made to order, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get your order.  But, it is worth every minute.  Next time you are in O'Hare, give Torta Frontera a try.  I would even walk over from the C gates.  Overall grade, A+.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Friday, July 18, 2014

La Casa Garcia - Anaheim, CA

My travels this past week took me to the West Coast.  Anaheim, CA to be exact.  When I checked into my room I fired up Google Maps and looked for something close to my hotel that was not a chain.  Lucky for me, only one block away was a local Mexican restaurant by the name of La Casa Garcia.  So, after a quick conformation that the place was good by the front desk, I set out on my little Mexican adventure.

After scanning the menu, I decided to go outside my little box and have Chile Verde for the first time.    Chilebrown over at Mad Meat Genius is always on a quest to find the perfect Chile Verde, so it has to be good.  Right?  Well lets see.

First, I was brought my obligatory bowl of chips and salsa.


The chips were excellent.  Not too greasy, as restaurant chips can be, and a hint of salt.  The salsa was flavorful.  Not overloaded with cilantro and packing a nice kick at the end.  Good start to the evening.

Each dish came with a soup or salad.  So, I decided upon another first, a bowl of Albondigas Soup.


Albondigas Soup is a traditional Mexican meatball soup.  It is usually a chicken stock base with beef meatballs.  One bite and I was hooked.  This broth was some of the best restaurant soup I had ever had.  The meatball was tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned with a touch of cumin.  Not overcooked at all.  The vegetables were nice and tender crisp as well.  Round two, success.

Next up, the main course.


Chile Verde is a sauce of tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic with chunks of slow cooked pork.  This sauce even had chunks of fresh tomato added in for good measure.  It was outstanding.  The pork was perfect.  I grabbed a fresh tortilla and scooped some of this bounty inside.  I was expecting a spicer sauce.  But, I was not disappointed.  A hint of spice, this sauce was bursting with flavor.  When I ran out of tortilla and meat, I started scooping up the sauce with my tortilla chips.  Why haven't I tried this before?  The refried beans were excellent, but the Mexican rice was a bit bland and under seasoned.  It didn't matter to me.  Just starchy filler in my mind.

For an encore, I totally wrecked my diet and ordered some churros.



Again, very good.  Any churro that I have ever had was overcooked and dry.  Not these.  Crispy and lightly sugared on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside.  My only wish was that they had served them with honey and not ice cream.

This was a great experience.  Now I see why Chilebrown is on a never ending quest for the perfect Chile Verde.  I just may join him in his quest.

If you are in the Garden Grove district of Anaheim and in the mood for Mexican food, La Casa Garcia has my recommendation. Grade: A.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grilled Polenta

Our favorite Italian restaurant is Combine Brothers up in Sharon, PA.  It is a bit of a drive for us.  But, the time is worth it for all of their scratch made Italian dishes.  But, that is a post for another day.    I mention them because on their menu you can order homemade polenta topped with any of their sauces or al a carte toppings.  One of their most popular combinations is polenta with sautéed greens. I prepared that dish at home one evening, but had lots of left over polenta.  After some reading, I found that you can slice the cooled down polenta and pan fry tip crisp.  So, why pan fry, when you have a grill?

The recipe I used to prepare my polenta was Alton Brown's.  I was very happy with the result.  Rich and creamy.  It paired well with the greens.  When I was done with dinner, I put the leftovers in a plastic container that had some surface area.  I also sprayed the inside of the container with cooking spray so that my solidified polenta would slide right out.


The next day, I was making some London broil and grilled tomatoes for dinner, so I thought the polenta would go great on the grill.  So, I removed the polenta from the container and sliced into dinner sized servings
.
I brushed each side with olive oil, then placed on the grill when I started grilling my tomatoes.


I flipped when I started getting grill marks on the first side.


I then served along side my sliced tomato and London broil.

The grilled polenta was pretty good.  The char and caramelization from grilling added a nice flavor that you do not usually have with standard polenta in a bowl.  This was only my first time around working with polenta of any type.  You might be seeing more of this dish once our fresh greens can be picked from our garden.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Tomato Peach Salsa

Last week down in the Outer Banks, before Arthur crashed the party, I had an opportunity to take something I have always wanted to do off of my bucket list: go deep sea fishing.

It was a great day with friends and family, here are some pictures from the day.


Waking up...





Action photos


I couldn't believe how blue the water was.


Catch of the day.  36 pounds.


Guy, Captain of the Sea Dream and his first mate, Tyler, were outstanding hosts.  I would recommend the Sea Dream, out of Hatteras Landing, anytime.  

So, on the hasty drive home, I plotted on how I would cook this beautiful fish.  I settled on a simple grilling topped by Tomato Peach salsa.  Here is the recipe.

First, I made a batch of our homemade salsa:

Ingredients:

4 Cups Roma Tomatoes, Diced
¼ Cup Sweet Onion, Diced
2 Jalapeno Peppers, Seeded and diced fine
3 Cloves Garlic , Minced
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Dried Parsley
1 tsp Cumin
½ tsp Kosher Or Sea Salt
1 Lime, Juiced

I am the only one that likes peaches around here.  So, I removed two cups of the above after mixing and added in two peaches, skin removed and diced.  The salsa went into the refrigerator to chill.


For the Mahi Mahi fillet, I rinsed and dried, then rubbed liberally with olive oil.  Then, I added a healthy grinding of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  I let the fillet sit out for about an hour to come up to room temperature for grilling.


I lit the grill and evenly distributed the hot coals.  Then, I put the fillet on direct heat to get some sear on the outside.


I flipped after about seven minutes.  I know that sounds like a long time, but Mahi Mahi is a dense, meaty fish and this was a thick fillet.  Adjust your cook times to match the size of your catch.  You know your fish is done when it turns opaque and is starting to flake.


After seven more minutes, I removed from the grill and let rest while I grabbed some plates.



I sliced, topped with the tomato peach salsa, and served with the first fresh corn of the season, some sautéed fresh green beans, and a glass of Fox Run Arctic Fox.


The fish was outstanding and fresh.  It should be considering it was five days old.  It was tender and juicy with just the right amount of sear.  The salsa added a nice flavor that complemented this mild fish.  Hope said she likes it better than steak.  That leads me to ask the question, "Who kidnapped Hope?"

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill