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La Condesa – Napa, CA

While strolling down Main Street in cute St. Helena I couldn’t help but notice this hip new Mexican joint and I couldn’t wait to try it.  When you walk in you are immediately struck by the vibrant blue painted walls that look something reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw’s closet in Sex and The City only a tad bit little brighter!

The menu is loaded with flavor punching Mexican favorites with a new twist to them such as the pickled strawberry, roasted pepitas and queso fresco guacamole.  Say what?!  Another dish that stood out to me was the Panza de Puerco Huaraches with pork belly, blue cheese, fig jam, black pepper caramel, arugula and tomatillo.  Wowzers!  I’m not even sure what to say except that I’m looking forward to going back just to try some of their interesting modern Mexican dishes.

I chose to take them up on their $15 lunch special which included a salad, 2 tacos of my choice, rice, beans and a scoop of ice cream for dessert.  Perfect!  PS – the Cream Cheese Ice Cream is delicious!  Tastes just like frozen cheesecake…yum!

Casa Salad – mixed greens, queso fresco, avocado, tortilla strips and balsamic vinaigrette

Cochinita Pibil Taco – seville orange-banana leaf marinated berkshire pork, cabbage, pickled red onion and pickled jalapeño & Pescado Taco – griddled pacific rockfish, cabbage, salsa de arbol, pico de gallo, and chipotle mayo

Coffee Chip Ice Cream

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C Casa – Napa, CA

For those of you who have been to the Oxbow Market in Napa you already know how incredible it is!  Although I had been there once before, I hadn’t actually eaten at any of the stalls.  On a recent trip down I needed a quick bite and decided on C Casa.  The menu made it hard for me to narrow down my choices…everything sounded so fresh and yummy.  I settled on the C Chop Salad and one salmon taco which was a special that day.  YUM!  I chose well:)  And I would definitely order them again.

There’s a charming outdoor space where you pick your order up right at the window otherwise there’s ample space inside.

C Chop Salad – with queso fresco, red bell peppers, pumpkin seeds & creamy cilantro lime dressing

Grilled Salmon Taco – with grilled corn relish, poblanos, green onions, romaine, garlic aioli, micro greens and avocado crema

In my most recent issue of Bon Appétit I came across the taco recipes and couldn’t wait to try them out…so I put my magazine in my purse and headed straight to the grocery store!  I decided to try out the homemade chorizo for my first batch along with the homemade corn tortillas (so excited to finally use the tortilla press I registered for:)) and the pickled red onions.

I’m just going to post the chorizo recipe however if you’re interested in the tortillas and/or pickled onions just go HERE and HERE.  I know you’re probably not going to believe me but this recipe is SUPER easy and so delicious!  My husband had to talk himself out of eating everything I made because he knew he wouldn’t feel good.  The good news is the chorizo saves well and is great with some scrambled eggs, avocado and tortillas.  Yum!

Ingredients

  • 6 dried New Mexico chiles
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground pork

Ingredient Info:

  • Dried New Mexico chiles are sold at specialty foods stores, Latin markets, and some supermarkets. Smoked paprika is available at most supermarkets.

Preparation

  • Heat a large dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles; toast, turning often, until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from pan and let cool.
  • Using kitchen scissors and working over a medium bowl, cut chiles into 1″ rings, reserving seeds and discarding stems. Cover with 1/2 cup hot water; let soak, stirring occasionally, until chiles are soft and pliable, about 10 minutes.
  • Transfer chiles with seeds and soaking liquid to a blender. Add garlic, paprika, 1 Tbsp. salt, and pepper; pulse until a paste forms.
  • Combine pork and chile paste in a large bowl. Gently mix until just blended (do not overwork the meat).
  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook chorizo until cooked through, 7–8 minutes. (Be sure to let meat brown before turning and breaking it up into small pieces with a spoon or spatula.) Season with salt. DO AHEAD: Chorizo can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before serving.

Vitea – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

This is always a must for breakfast when we make our way down to PV.  Although they’re open for lunch and dinner as well, I’ve only ever been for breakfast.  I get the same thing every time…the chilaquiles with chicken.  It’s large and can easily be shared.  I think about this dish a lot when I’m gone and always look forward to going back when I’m in town.  The beans that are served with it are SO good…I could probably go for two servings of those:)  I almost forgot to mention that with your breakfast you get a selection of sweet breads to munch on.  My personal favorite is the sugar one…yum!  You won’t be sorry you went here.  The food is outstanding, the service is great and the location gives you a great view of the ocean along with some great people watching.  (Dogs are welcome outside!)

Tacolicious – San Francisco, CA

It seems like ever since I moved from SF that new restaurants have been popping up like crazy which makes it even harder for me to decide where to eat when I go back to visit.  Tacolicious in the Marina is new to me and I finally got the chance to try it out.  Located on Chestnut close to Fillmore it’s such a cute spot.  Not huge inside but there are great windows facing the street that slide open on a nice day.  All in all it’s a great location and the decor couldn’t be more perfect.

I loved everything I tried!  And if I were to go back I’d love to try the Aztec Chicken Soup, Shrimp a la Diabla, Rock Cod Taco, and the Traditional Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate…um…yes please!

Grilled Squid Veracruz – tomato-caper sauce, olives, garbanzo beans, cilantro

Marina Girl Salad – romaine, avocado, cucumber, radishes, pumpkin seeds, cotija cheese & added grilled shrimp

Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Taco…DE-LISH!

Cactus South Lake Union- Seattle, WA

The new South Lake Union Cactus is officially open and it’s very deserving of your attention.  Located next door to Tom Douglas’ Cuoco and Brave Horse Tavern on the corner of Terry and Harrison, it’s ideal for Amazon employees and those enjoying the newly revamped area as much as I am.

This is the 4th Cactus to open and overall a breath of fresh air with the decor mixing new with mid-century.  It stands out from the previous 3 locations decor wise but the food remains the same and is still outstanding!  Another exciting detail is that come summer time, there will be ample outdoor seating which we all know is hard to find in Seattle.

Favorites dishes of mine include: Navajo Fry Bread (amazing!!!), Spiced Caesar, Sonoran Spa Chicken, Chimayo Enchiladas, Pescado Tacos, and then the Flan for dessert…it’s the best I’ve ever had!

Check out the awesome lanterns!

Cowhide booths?  Love them!!!

My delicious Prickly Pear Margarita

One of the specials that night – Negro Modelo Braised Short Rib Tacos with house-made corn tortillas, smoked Oaxacan and cotija cheeses, and sour red cabbage…delicious!  These should be on the permanent menu:)

I forgot to mention the cool art

A view of the bar from the private dining area above

Mezcaleria Oaxaca – Seattle, WA

Our friends opened their second Oaxacan restaurant on Saturday (La Carta de Oaxaca being the first) on top of Queen Anne and invited us to the soft opening earlier last week to try out the food and see the new space.  Wow!  The owners, Jon and Graham, were kind enough to let everyone order whatever they wanted off the menu at their expense!  Everything we ate was SO good!  We cleaned our plates and left excited to come back.

A dish I didn’t get to try but can’t wait to get next time is the Barbacoa de Cabrito – Chilé marinated and slow roasted goat, served with beans and corn masa Oaxacan style.  The people next to us got it and it looked incredible!  I’m also excited to try the Tacos Dorados – rolled and fried tortillas filled with ground pork and topped with black beans, salsa, guacamole, Oaxaqueño cheese and Crema Mexicana.

Be sure to try some Mezcal!  Considering the restaurant is named after the Oaxacan alcohol, it might be a good idea:)  Enjoy!

Gringas Oaxaqueñas – Barbequed pork in flour tortillas with quesillo, pico de gallo and salsa verde.  Oh my these are amazing!

Enchiladas Verdes con Pollo – Shredded chicken and corn tortillas in tomatillo sauce with onions, Oaxaqueño cheese, crema Mexicana, pinto beans and rice.  Yum!!!

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