It was the best of food, it was the worst of food. With apologies to Charlie Dickens, that's really the only way to describe a couple of our recent restaurant meals. Let's start with the worst.
It was probably our own fault, really. I mean, we're in Mexico, so why are we trying to find USA-style breakfasts? What's wrong with huevos rancheros, machaca con huevos, chilaquiles, etc? Nothing really, it's just that sometimes you want something else. I mean, in the States we sometimes had huevos rancheros and they were pretty darn good and pretty much like they serve here. So it doesn't seem like it should be too much to ask in a city the size of La Paz to be able to find eggs, hashbrowns and sausage/bacon/ham maybe even with an English muffin on the side. It's not like we're asking for eggs Benedict or eggs with chicken fried steak and white gravy. Just spuds 'n' eggs with some meat. Or NO meat. That'd be OK, too. And, it's not like we can't cook this stuff ourselves. We can. And we do a pretty darn fine job of it if I do say so myself. But sometimes a guy just wants someone else to do the cooking and clean-up.
We ran out of propane Friday night and couldn't get more until Monday. So we used this as an excuse to go out to eat a couple times over the weekend. Looked like a good time to try to find a breakfast joint.
After trying various Mexican establishments with no luck, we finally decided to, against our better judgement, try Applebee's. I mean, why should Applebee's even be here except to provide the same menu they provide in the States? So we went with high hopes. C'mon, even the schlockiest chain restaurant can usually make a decent breakfast.
We perused the menu and were pretty disappointed. They were basically serving the exact same things you could get at any other restaurant in town: huevos rancheros, machaca con huevos, chilaquiles, huevos divorciados, etc. Finally Lulu spotted huevos al gusto: eggs, potatoes, sausage or bacon and a biscuit. Okay, that sounded pretty straightforward. I'll order that. Lulu decided to opt for pan francais con salchicha (French toast with sausage).
The first sign that this wasn't going to be an epicurean delight was when the waitress asked how I wanted my eggs, revueltas ó fritas (scrambled or fried, although she used some other word or phrase instead of fritas). Forget "over easy", "over medium", poached, etc. Scrambled or fried. Period. So I ordered them fried and with sausage.
Here's what we got:
I got 3 eggs sunny side up. OK, not my first choice but I can eat them that way. For potatoes, we're not talking hash browns or home fries. No. How about seasoned steak fries? And not even GOOD steak fries! But that's not the best part. What do you suppose I got for sausage? If you guessed "chorizo" I can only say "I wish!" Nope. How about one hot dog, sliced lengthwise and grilled? Not bad enough that it was a FREAKIN' HOT DOG! But it was ONLY ONE FREAKIN' HOT DOG! The biscuit was at least good although not like any biscuit I'm used to. And no butter, just a single container of strawberry jam.
Lulu got 3 slices of wheat sandwich bread dipped into what must have been the thinnest egg batter ever as it didn't coat the bread very well, and then fried. She also got one of those fine pieces of "sausage" and the fruit that was supposed to accompany the breakfast never seemed to materialize
So, at this point we've decided to give up on finding an acceptable gringo breakfast in La Paz. If that's what we want, we'll make our own on board. On the rare occasion that we go out for breakfast from now on, we'll stick to Mexican breakfasts as I guess we should have in the first place.
Now for a happier dining experience:
On Sunday evening, we decided to go to one of our new favorite places, La Tacqueria Super Burro on Abosolo. That's the place where I took the photo of the cocinera for an earlier blog. On the way we stopped at one of the ubiquitous mini-super-marts for some beers to take along.
Our cocinera wasn't working tonight but there was what looked like a crack team of young cocineros ready to fill her shoes. We had already decided to try something different tonight rather than just ordering another super burro, although we KNEW they were good. It's not that hard to make a decision since they only have a few things: tacos, burros, huaraches, papas rellenas, alambres and maybe one or two other items. Your meat choices are carne asada, puerco al pastor, or tripas. Lulu ordered the papas rellenas (stuffed potatoes) with carne asada (roasted beef), and I had a carne asada huarache (basically an oblong, puffy tortilla buried under grilled vegetables and meat.
Lulu's papa rellena is on the left in the photo. It was mashed potatoes covered with melted cheese, carne asada, mushrooms and corn. It was assembled on a piece of foil and was allowed to warm up by setting the foil package onto the same grill that everything there is cooked on. She really liked it. Matter of fact, we made our own version on board last night. My huarache is on the right. It was indeed a puffy tortilla covered with carne asada and grilled vegetables but then also covered with raw shredded cabbage, a tomato slice and a bunch of cheese. It was excellent. The plate of various condiments and the three molcajetes of salsa are typical of the sit-down taco restaurants we've eaten at here. Lots of limes, cabbage, chiles, radishes, pickled carrots and onions, and cucumber slices. The salsas are a fresh salsa crudo (aka pico de gallo), a spicy red chile salsa and version of guacamole. Lulu's dish was 65 pesos and mine was 50 pesos so the whole meal, minus the beers that we brought with, cost 115 pesos or about nine bucks.
We were too early to get the puerco al pastor (spicy pork). It was being assembled while we were eating.
Many, many layers of very thinly sliced pork that has been marinating in a spicy chile sauce are piled on this vertical spit. Ultimately, a half a pineapple will top the pile. You can see the bottom half of the pineapple at the bottom of the pile of meat. Then, the heating element on the left is turned on and the vertical spit rotates slowly. As the meat on the outside of the stack gets done, it's sliced off , exposing a new layer to the heat. Haven't had it at this place but where I have had it, it's really good. This preparation was going on at about 7:30 PM so I'd guess you'd have to wait until about 9:30 or 10:00 to get puerco al pastor.
So, what are we having for dinner tonight? Lulu made a pizza topped with Italian sausage, shitake mushrooms, black olives, green onions, a little bit of her superb spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella cheese. She also puts red pepper flakes in the dough for the crust. And tomorrow, guess what I'm cooking for breakfast. That's right, spuds 'n' eggs and sausage.