Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cinco de Mayo @ Crema Restaurante

Every year Cinco de Mayo rolls around, I bemoan the drunken debauchery that ensues and wearing my "party pooper" hat, delight in telling anyone within hearing distance that Cinco de Mayo isn't such a big deal in Mexico and that it is not their Independence Day (that would be Sept 16, dear misinformed reader). So why then do we care so much about Cinco de Mayo to celebrate it? I don't know, but probably because Americans love any excuse to break out the booze and get smashed.

Anyway, after getting wind of the special Mexican five-course prix-fixe meal with a French twist at Crema, my sentiments towards Cinco de Mayo shifted to the positive. And get this, as if that doesn't sound appetizing enough, each course comes with a Milagro tequila pairing. As chef Julieta Ballesteros explains in this article, this week-long festival pays tribute to the former Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian who ruled Mexico from 1864-1867 and left behind a French culinary stamp before his tragic end. So enough talking, let's get on with it!

First off was the chipotle-lime French onion soup pictured above (call me stupid, but I didn't realize the French actually came up with French onion soup, after all they weren't responsible for French fries, right?). If you've had enough of too heavy, too cheese laden French onion soup, then this is welcome relief! The chipotle-lime provided quite a strong kick and a fiery start to the meal. Next came the duck enchilada suiza topped with pieces of foie gras (what could be more French than that?). Been a while since I had this delicacy, so I was left yearning for more after eating my allocated one piece. Never mind that I am on a diet. Props to Crema too for the presentation of this dish.

I should probably mention the tequilas that accompanied the first two courses. The first one was a French lavender Milagro mini-margarita, then accompanying the foie gras was a pear infused Milagro silver. Both were pretty smooth and delicious, though not too overpoweringly strong. The waiter gave us actual pear slices soaked in the tequila too, for good measure. This all changed with the tequila for the next course which was a thin slice of chorizo frisse with greens. The pairing for this was tequila au poivre - yes, you read right - "with pepper"! Totally made my head spin, 80 proof liquor infused with black pepper. That was really hot, whew! (searching for a glass of water). Also, if you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can actually see the bits of pepper floating around.

The last main dish was queso flameado ala francesca, a baked casserole of Chihuahua cheese and mushrooms served with tortillas. Among all the main courses, I liked this one the least. To compensate, the accompanying full-bodied Milagro Anejo (which was poured into big wine glasses, up to this point we were drinking the tequilas from miniature containers) hit all the spots and kept me warm and happy while I pondered how the people in the Jalisco region of Mexico cope with all the tequila in their midst.

Lastly, time for dessert. Tonight's offering was crepes con cajeta y nuez (crepes with caramel and nuts) with pear slices topped by ice cream. It wasn't as sweet as I had hoped for (well, it did say caramel so expectations were raised), so left me feeling somewhat flat. Nevertheless, glad I forsook my usual stuffiness and came out on a fun, delicious, and refined way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. A toast to Crema's novel, brilliant concept and Milagro's wonderful libations.

Crema Restaurante on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vegetarian Dim Sum House

That is #6 (rice with bean curd and pepper) from the rice dishes listed on Vegetarian Dim Sum House's menu. I've developed quite a liking for it (preferably with white rice, although brown rice is also an option), and in the interest of healthier dining, I've been going to this big, sparsely decorated restaurant for the past few Sundays. That black stuff is mushroom or fungus, I need to show the photo to my Chinese teacher to make sure :-D. Other rice dishes I've tried are rice with bean curd and curry sauce (also good) and rice with spicy bean curd (never again, too much celery!).

Oh yes, the vegetarian dim sum dishes. There is a wide assortment, but it's pretty much hit-or-miss. I liked the fried turnip cakes, but not much else. Somehow the fake (oops, "mock") meat doesn't do it for me. Moreover, just because it's vegetarian doesn't mean it's healthy if it's deep fried and greasy!!! Vegetarian Dim Sum house also serves dishes made of mock chicken, mock pork, mock beef and even mock seafood - so in a sense it's heaven for vegetarians. For now, I'll stick to my usual #6 and papaya juice for a cheap, filling lunch option.

Vegetarian Dim Sum House on Urbanspoon