A Fresh Take on Frozen Burritos

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When my stomach cries out “yo necessito burritos,” my first thought was never a frozen burrito. Nor was it “why is my stomach talking to me?” Normally, I’d convince coworkers to save their sack lunch and adventure to the closest taqueria. If I had the ingredients at home, I would make my own.

The folks at Red’s Natural Foods reached out with some samples of their natural and organic burrito offerings. Maybe it was my #burritos2015 campaign that caught their eye. Their latest frozen burritos go way beyond what you’d envision from an icy burrito buried in the freezer section. The few frozen burritos I have had prior to Red’s were bean and cheese or something labeled meat and cheese. Continue reading A Fresh Take on Frozen Burritos

Quest for Chicago’s Best Burrito | La Cocina

la cocina, chicago, burrito

It pains me to give a low rating to a taqueria. Even at its worst, Mexican food is always a good decision. With my office’s move to the city, I have to find a new burrito spot. Sadly, La Cocina isn’t it.

Upsides: Their staff was friendly and the service was fast.

The burrito, however, wasn’t that good. Al pastor is my life blood. Their tortillas were about medium size, not the jumbos other taquerias normally use. This would be fine if it were amply full. Mine was light on all ingredients. I went with 8 coworkers and the verdict was the same for all the burrito eaters. Those who got taco salads were satisfied with the meat portions.

Additionally, we had 3 baskets of chips for the table. We asked for another basket toward the end of our lunch and were told it would be $2. That’s like an Italian restaurant charging for more bread. Chips are insanely inexpensive to make.

Coming in just under $9 for just the burrito, without rice or beans, La Cucina will not be my cucina.

You Doing the Wiggle?

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These days have been full to the brim with non-stop movement. Each morning it becomes more and more difficult to recall what I did the previous day, partially because I have an odd condition where it’s incredibly difficult for me to sleep somewhere other than my home bed.

Each night we’ve slept in a different room. Students are now back on campus and start classes today. Quite a difference from our arrival night where the casa was a ghost town. The Synergy house has some policies that would’ve really changed my collegiate years. Rather than have the housing office choose your roommate (ulcer giver) for you, they have a meeting where everyone shares their bugaboos and you pick your roommate(s) and room. Then, plot twist, you have another meeting next quarter to establish if you want to irritate/live with a new group of people.

Yesterday started with assisting making breakfast for the students in the house. The house is an interesting place. There are elements that I wish I had during my college years: a legit, restaurant-caliber kitchen, gorgeous views, friendly inhabitants, and an attitude that can only be described as Californian. Someone plugged in their iPhone and started bumping some Gretchen Parlato. I was on pancake duty and learned how to use a 12-burner stove. The house has a well-stocked kitchen and several cast iron skillets. It took some time to master the heat and not make “hella burnt” cakes. I confirmed that when I cook for others I become what some call “an ass.” It isn’t my best self. I’m not a perfectionist in many ways in my life, often asking myself “what difference does it make?” But when preparing food for others, whether it’s a date, family or friends, I ditch the niceties and work toward making a stellar product. In the end, the motley crew of five made scrambled eggs, hash browns, and chocolate-nut pancakes. I heard rumors of mimosas.

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After we finished cooking, we met the inhabitants of the commune. Annie, the ever-friendly RA, had sent an email the previous night asking if anyone had bikes Michelle and I could use. A bunch of students volunteered theirs. Two kind kiddos stepped up and gave us keys to their wheels. Loaded up with water and some protein bars we rode off for the Caltrain to San Francisco.

The train dumps you in SoMa (South of Market street). Michelle and I looked around, then at a map near the station. Next thing you knew, we’re cruising along the Embarcadero, pier after pier, stunning vistas of bridges. I stopped a few times to take it all in and snap some pics.

Our first stop was Codmother’s Fish and Chips for a baja fish taco. Pretty tasty snack.

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Next we faced a hill. A very large hill. A hill you wouldn’t see in Chicago. A hill that will haunt your dreams. Staring up towards the heavens I looked at Michelle and she looked at me. Vamos! I’ve never taken spin class. I wish I had, but I dont think any class can prepare you for the hills of San Francisco. They are alive with the screams of the out-of-shape. I managed to make it about half to two-thirds of the way up the hill before waiving the surrender flag. I walked the bike another block closer to heaven before taking a few moments to let my heart come down from humming bird tempo to that of a normal human. The flip side of these monstrous hills is the complete joy of speeding downhill.

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We wound our way through the city, up and down some more hills and made our way to Golden Gate Park for Lindy in the Park. An institution in the Bay area. For the past 17 years, they have had swing dancing every Sunday. The only force that can stop the momentum of swing being heavy rain.

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We caught the tail end of the dance and spotted Jeremy, a man we met while swing dancing in Toronto! He invited us to join him for lunch at the De Young cafe.

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After an espresso, the second in my life, we chatted about the joys of dancing before Jeremy offered us entry to the museum. I’ve seldom turned down checking out a museum. They had an exhibit on Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953–1966. I’d never seen Diebenkorn’s work. His early work leaned toward Modern, while his later works were more portrait and landscape based. His work seemed incredibly solitary. The portraits were of a single woman, often faceless, often wearing horizontal stripes, a common motif in the work on display.

20130923-075605.jpgI wonder if I’d appreciate art more if I viewed it through circular-rimmed spectacles.

Often the people watching at an art museum surpasses the canvases on the wall. After the museum we walked through the Japanese Tea Garden adjacent to De Young.

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Before we parted ways with our lindy-loving friend, he shared “The Wiggle” with us. “The Wiggle” is a route to cut through San Francisco without crushing your quads on the hills. Luckily for us, Jeremy is an artist and always had pens and paper with him. Empowered with some caffeine and culture, we pedaled toward the mission district. As we exited the Haight Ashbury we asked a man on a bike how much farther Pierce Street was. He asked:

You doing the Wiggle?

“Follow the green arrows,” he said as he disappeared into the hills.

Right, left, right, left. We made the 3-mile trip to the Mission area in 15 minutes. Objective today: Find a t-shirt about The Wiggle.

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Our next stop was El Farolito–pitched to me as the best al pastor in San Francisco. This was the only Mexican food I’ve had so far on the trip–not counting the baja tacos–so technically it was the best. However, I wouldn’t say it was the best I’ve ever had. Delicious nonetheless. Perhaps i’ll have my leftovers for breakfast today. You read that correctly. I didn’t finish a burrito.

Michelle popped into an Asian bakery for some treats for the house. We snacked on a cookie before soldiering on toward the train. I promptly spit the cookie onto the street. It was a mixture of sandpaper and cardboard, with an oakey finish.

We made a few wrong turns en route back to the Caltrain, but made it back with time to refuel Michelle on caffeine at Philz. She was in heaven. The coffee shop specializes in pour overs. I’ve had less than 10 cups of coffee in my life. The majority of those coming after I started dating Michelle. Philz has custom blends of beans from all over the world to make a unique flavor creation. Michelle doesn’t often express wanting things, but before we left for the last train out of the city she said of the local coffee chain, “Andrew, I want it.”

Gringo’s Confessions

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The other night I was at a fancy shamancy dinner and was chatting about best meals to cook with a date. This conversation was with a man in his 50s who identified himself as a trophy husband, a career goal not too far from my own. He asserted that French cuisine was the best, since Italian and Mexican are common flavors. The last thing I want is my high-achieving future wife to think I’m common.

While some of my friends take Sunday Funday to be brunch and boozing, for me it means culinary project day. Eventually, I’ll start planning the week’s meals. Once that occurs I can truly become someone’s doting house husband.

Sunday night’s supper (a word I’m bringing back) involved homemade salsa verde and spice-rubbed chicken breasts. The result: best tacos I’ve had this year. Bonus for you, it’s hella simple. We will have to wait to see how successful it is as wife bait.

Continue reading Gringo’s Confessions

Breakfast Showdown: Me vs. Ronald Q. McDonald

Veggies and bacon

I was recently informed that McDonald’s southwest breakfast wrap was no longer available for a buck. Years ago, my boss used to grab them and during her carb-free days would ask me if I wanted the tortilla. I will go on record as to never turning down a tortilla. Ever.

Much like a drug pusher I was warned about during D.A.R.E., she hooked me on the breakfast burrito. It served as a gateway food. In a mere hours I would have the itch for bigger, meatier burritos that were affectionately referred to as “productivity killers” in the office. And yes, I do realize I was begging for her unwanted scraps a la Oliver Twist. Continue reading Breakfast Showdown: Me vs. Ronald Q. McDonald