Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Welcome to Moe’s! Not in this college town...

Moe’s is total college town material.
The first time I went to Moe’s was in Tallahassee (if we’re gonna talk about college towns, let’s talk...). The place was packed. All I remember is a slew of college kids working behind the counter: some grilling up chicken and fajitas, some
taking orders, everybody being cheery. This was fun atmosphere. This was vibrant atmosphere. And when I decided on my burrito, they handed me a foil-wrapped burrito the size of my head.
I remember feasting on my chips and salsa and struggling to finish the cheesy, gooey, delicious burrito.
It was broke college kid food. And good broke college kid food at that. Truly delicious.
So you could only guess the excitement I felt when I found out they had opened one right next to my school. Indeed, college kid food. And so friends and I participated in Moe Thursdays where students got discounts. We ate there as much as possible filling up on the thick, rich queso and the tomatillo salsa that was always my favorite. Nice burst of cilantro, nice mild tomatillo flavor.
We’d walk out stuffed.
Graduation came around and I had to depart from my lovely Moe’s. But would you believe my luck - a new Moe’s was set to open 5 minutes from my house (and 5 minutes from all the other colleges, duh). I was ready for my Moe’s again.
My first experience at the new Moe’s was with my old Moe’s companion. We ordered our usual, but it just didn’t taste the same. We left. I didn’t go back for quite a while, but one day decided I was in burrito-mood.
Walking in, I ordered my usual: the Joey Bag of Donuts burrito. Rice, no beans, chicken, cheese, pico de gallo. Side of queso. Thank you.
The tortilla was steamed. The rice went on next. Oh, about 1/4 cup. Then the chicken, which wasn’t much more than the rice. Next the tablespoon sprinkle of cheese and the pico de gallo. When it was wrapped up in the foil in became the smallest burrito I had ever been served from them...ever. My side of queso was dropped in the bag along with the tortilla chips. I opted not to get my beloved tomatillo salsa because the salsa bar was so unbearably uninviting with dry, chunky salsa being offered.
When I got to work and opened my bag, I couldn’t believe how cheap they were. The thick, rich queso I grew to love was nothing more than barely thickened milk with some american cheese probably thrown in. I dipped one of my 10 tortilla chips into the queso. There was still flavor, but not how it used to be. Then I tried my burrito - my burrito that was probably a quarter of the size of what I used to get. My burrito that was probably a good 5 bites before it was over. There was barely any cheese to get that nice cheesy flavor. There was barely any rice to get that great rice flavor mingling with the other ingredients. And the pico de gallo was overpowering and just annoying.
I was so terribly disappointed. My only thought was "Taco bell is so much better".
And if you understood the years of gross-ness I felt for taco bell, you would understand that thought was practically radical.
And yet, their crunchy tacos with packets of mild sauce are so much better than that awful 5-bite burrito I was served at a place I used to once love.
No more Moe’s for me. Unless I make some stop in Tallahassee one day (where I will say I had the best Moe’s experience) or I make the drive out to my old school to enjoy what I used to think Moe’s embodied: burritos the size of my head, rich gooey queso, and tomatillo salsa you can’t help but love.
Unfortunately, for the college kids of Davie, there is no love here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

olé olé mis amigos!

In all honesty, my favorite part of going out to Vila’s - or any other "Mexican" restaurant for that matter - is that fabulous basket of just-out-of-the-fryer tortilla chips and the slightly spicy, not too chunky, just right for dipping salsa.
I could eat baskets and baskets of those, really.
So every now and then I do get inspired to make it at home. I’m really not a fan of frying at the house. It just makes everything fry-stinky.
But at the end of the day, buying a bag of Tostito’s and ripping it open just won’t do. This calls for some home-fried goodness.
Only those warm, crunchy chips can be a true vehicle for the cold pico de gallo.
When I make this, I really just guess amounts. I start off with a couple of tomatoes and some onion. Bunches of this, bits of that. I taste and then decide what I want more of - or if it’s perfect as is.
The perfect mid-summer snack. And I guess you could use Tostito’s if you really wanted to. But just buying a bag of corn tortillas and frying those suckers up yourself really is so so so good.
Where’s my sombrero when I need it??

Simple Pico de Gallo
2 large tomatoes, diced
½ small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small serrano pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until desired consistency.
If you do prefer your pico de gallo on the chunky side, chopping everything up by hand is just as good.
And - if I do say so myself - chip, salsa and cheddar cheese tastes extra delicious.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

the flay-meister

I will say, I never minded Bobby Flay too much.
Boyfriend hated him, but I really had to give the guy some credit. And then overnight, Flay-man turned into the poster child for Food Network in all his annoying glory.
Everything Food Network has to involve the guy in one way or another - essentially almost as bad as (dare I say) Rachel Ray.
From Throwdown to that Grill It! thing where "you mean I can cook up some burgers and hot dogs with Bobby Flay on tv for no reason at all??!", it’s all so overdone and idiotic.
He grills, we get it. He makes guacamole and uses lots of tortillas, we get it.
As as a man of his stature - having people say "ooooh bobby flay!" - I will say I’m rather bored.
His new effort is Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, NJ. The way I see it, the premise of a steakhouse is to serve steak.
Aside from having a fairly limited menu (not that I necessarily enjoy the cheesecake factory variety), 90% is all seafood. There is one section dedicated to the "Spice Rubbed Steaks with Bobby Flay Barbecue Sauce" and a small selection of chops including one veal, one chicken, one pork. Ooooh. The guy has turned himself into a brand.
And you know, it really does work for some people (ahem, Mrs. Stewart). But there are tacky ways of going about the brand thing. He’s tacky. And annoying.

And maybe part of the reason I consider his menu limited is because lobster is listed at least 10 times.
I get that whole using-similar-things-more-than-once thing, but redundancy has its cons.
And let’s not get into the "grilled chicken with bacon mustard vinaigrette". How about I make it at home and save myself the $29? Really.
And as for side dishes, there are at least 5 different ways he serves up a potato. Smashed with creme fraiche, fried, hash brown-ed, mashed, gratin-ed.
For somebody who won those James Beard Awards and had such critical acclaim, I’m really not entirely impressed.
Want to stick with the cuisine? Try some Rick Bayless for a change.