Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trixters, fajitas and a drink named mitch — oh, and the end of the world

July 24

Mercadito Cantina doesn’t have a full liquor license, just one for beer and wine, so drink consultants Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay, the Tippling Bros., had to get clever.
I was early last night for my dinner there, so while I waited for my friend Andy Battaglia, Tad gave me the low-down on the tric-quila.
You know how tequila has sort of a spicy bite to it? Well, sake doesn’t, so they added chiles, white and black pepper and Sichuan peppercorns to it to simulate that bite. Tad poured me a taste. It’s pretty cool. Kind of tequila-like. It's used to make what the restaurant calls “Mentirosas,” which I think means liars or tricksters, because there’s not really any tequila in them.
I started with a Paper Daisy, which is made with lime, agave nector and orange flower essence (and tric-quila) and is meant to taste like a Margarita.
Andy was right on time and I asked him if his friends pretty much thought the world was going to end soon, maybe today or tomorrow (or the day after).
He said that indeed some of his friends were gloomy.
That’s going around a lot these days, and neither Andy nor I were able to determine exactly why people think things are so much worse now than over the past several thousand years (or past 500 million years, if you get right down to it). Remember how we were all going to die from avian flu a couple of years ago, and how Y2K was going to make planes fall out of the sky at the turn of the millennium? That's not to say the current dangers of economic collapse, environmental disaster, global political instability etc. aren’t legit, but those things are always around. Doesn’t anyone remember the Cold War? DDT? Thalidomide? The Second World War? The Great Depression? Hasn’t anyone read about the deaths of almost the entire population of North America from small pox in the 16th Century, the death of half of Europe from the Bubonic Plague in the 14th Century?
Can anyone in the developed world even imagine a cholera epidemic?
How about the asteroid that killed all the dinosaurs?
I’m truly sorry that the polar bears are in trouble. I really am. But that’s not going to keep me from enjoying my tacos and taquiza.
A taquiza is Mercadito Cantina’s version of a fajita. It’s served in corn tortillas rather than flour ones along with a choice of salsas, onions, cilantro and lime.
We had the chef pick the food for us (I’m not sure whether it was chef-owner Patricio Sandoval or chef de cuisine Ivan Garcia, because the place was packed and so he understandably didn’t come out to chat). He sent out the carne asada taquiza (grass-fed skirt steak, marinated with hoja santa) along with the salsa verde and the salsa de cacahuate (peanut).
He also sent out some head-on shrimp marinated in roasted garlic, and two types of tacos: estilo Baja, which had beer-battered shrimp, roasted habanero, avocado and cole slaw; and the pescado (tilapia in this case) with a poblano chile-tomato-garlic mojo.
We had three types of guacamoles: traditional, chipotle (also with pineapple, pico de gallo and mint), and sandia (watermelon with habanero peppers, epazote and pico de gallo).
And three salsas with crispy cornbread bites: Veracruzana (roasted tomato, capers, pickled jalapeños), habanero (with grilled tomato, garlic, lemon and crema fresca, as well as habanero chiles), and chipotle (with roasted tomatillo and garlic).
We also sampled another Mentirosa, the Papa Low, made from passion fruit, an herb called papalo, jalapeño, salt and pepper. And we had a couple of Miches (prounounced "mitches"), which are the Tipplong Bros. riff on the Michelada, a sort of Mexican Bloody Mary made with beer instead of vodka. It’s not nearly as gross as it sounds.
I had the ker~mich, made with cucumber, hoja santa, agave nectar, cumin and salt. Andy had the happy~mich, made with watermelon, lime, hot sauce (it says salsa picante on the menu, which sounds a lot better and means hot sauce), and hibiscus.

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