Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fiesta Mexicana!

Quesadillas (back), Sopes and Salsa Rojo (front).

Maybe it's just a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or maybe it's just because I have come to love real Mexican food, but I'm back home in Baltimore and feel worse for it.

In order to soothe my pains and hunger pangs, I've found my way back to Fiesta Mexicana in Rosedale and have dragged Chef Spike along for the ride. When I first told him about Fiesta Mexicana before I left for Mexico City, Chef Spike was a bit more than skeptical. He was outright indignant. There could be no place in Baltimore with authentic flavors in spite of my assurances.

Like I might have said before, the interior is relatively plain. Just plain drywall and drop ceilings. To lighten up the mood, the walls are painted in a vibrant yellow and there's Mexico decorations all over the place, as well as candies and the ubiquitous Bimbo bread rack that you see all over Mexico City, giving it a festive and happy ambience.

Senora Lopez is behind the counter with her fastidious assistant who, last time, was huddled intently over chicken she was shredding. This time, we were the only people in the joint and it was time to grind.

Our pambazo(left), quesadillas(back) and enchiladas verdes(front).

On many occasions, when dining with friends, we like to order several rounds to share so that everyone can get a taste. To say that we indulged ourselves is being too modest. We went to town. At one point, the ordering was so frenetic, I thought we were ordering everything on the menu. Spike is what one might term a "Mexi-phile" - he's spent a lot of time in Mexico touring and eating his way through the countryside. He even spent his honeymoon there and his last restaurant venture included many Latin influences. Combine that enthusiasm for the food and our methodology for ordering multiple "tasting" dishes and it's going to get ugly.

Rather than get into the gory details so early on, I'll just list our order:

- Two Sopes - one sin carne, the other Chorizo con Papa
- Pambazo - Fresh roll tossed in a guajillo sauce, flash fried and stuffed with sausage, lettuce, potato, sour cream and cheese.
- Enchiladas Verdes
- Three Quesadillas - Hongos, Papa con Chorizo y Rajas con Queso.
- Two Jamaica Agua Frescas
- Two Coca Colas Hecho en Mexico
- Two Jarritos Mandarin sodas

And on top of that, Spike almost ordered a round of tacos!

Spike suspiciously eyeing the pambazo.

We start off with a round of "Mexican Cokes" - that unique clean, crisp fizz of Coke that we don't get here in America. What a shame it is that Coke from Mexico (and beyond) is better than that in the nation which founded Coke. It's cold and delightful.

There's no class or decorum amongst friends - especially when you're the only people in the joint and we tear into the food. First the sopes, then the quesadillas, then the pambazo, and then the enchiladas. This feast is an ugly scene. A bite here, a tear there and a cut of the knife as we divvy up the bounty. Adults would be horrified.

The steak course arrives to finish us off.

It may not have been our finest, white tablecloth hour, but it sure was good.

Like I said, Spike had been skeptical of the place since I told him about it before leaving for Mexico. A Baltimore joint with sabor autentico? No way. But now? Oh, yes.

Savory. Delicious. What's that I taste? Lime? Roasted tomatillo? Roasted guajillo? There's a slight burn. Fantastic. Whatever it may be, it's just damn good and we can't seem to get enough.

The Damage.

But secretly, I'm scared. Scared that we ordered "too much." The last time I was here, I merely had the totopos and the enchilada de mole and that had me wasted. Those two were super-filling and now we had this cornucopia of Mexican food landing on our table in waves that easily could have fed a party of five - and Spike wanted to order tacos too? We were in trouble.

Not too long after the steak tampico arrived, I realized that we were "in the weeds" and running deep. Our brisk pace had slowed to a dead crawl. Sizeable pieces of pambazo and totopos rice remained. Even pieces of steak lie hidden beneath the onions. We were done. Bloated. Stuffed. There was some enchilada remaining, but I made it my personal vendetta not to leave any enchilada unescorted. I made good on my promise.

Senora Lopez presents us with our "dessert" - Tacos a la Mexicana

Completely wasted, Senora Lopez urged us on to a final course beyond our better judgment: an order of tacos Mexicana - a pork taco with red, white and green toppings to emulate the national flag. This round was on the house, so we couldn't turn it down. I closed my eyes as I ate the taco - both savoring the flavor and concentrating on digestion.

We were wiped out. Done. Finis. Pau.

The food was excellent. Just simple food and simple flavors, simply prepared and delicious. We left stuffed beyond our imaginations and satiated in our hunger for proper Mexican cuisine.

I can't wait to go back this week.

One Straw

The bounty from One Straw Farm.

Some of you know that I've been migrating towards locally grown, fresh foods lately. This is the latest harvest from One Straw Farm in White Hall, Maryland. They're an MDA Certified Organic farm and they produce some great crops.

This week we've got an assorment of produce, ranging from fresh tomatoes, red and yellow sweet peppers, one butternut squash, zucchini and watermelons.

The tough part about working with freshly harvested foods is that it really stretches your imagination on how to use it. I'm thinking a soup for the butternut squash, guacamole for the tomatoes, agua fresco for the watermelon and just plain 'ole roasting for the peppers and zucchini. In the meantime, it will be a mad rush to use them before they turn.