Friday, December 26, 2008

Feliz Navidad -2

Being disappointed and knowing that we would soon be headed to New Mexico, home of my second favorite regional food (of course, the food of Cajun Louisiana is my favorite), we decided to forget looking for good Mexican food. Then I saw a reference to a small café just a few doors away from Hill Country Café – Conchita’s on Main. Conchita’s was described as serving gourmet Mexican cuisine with imaginative twists on Mexican traditional staples.

Off for lunch we went to this small (seating for twenty-eight) and colorful café. I noticed that Conchita’s serves fish and salmon tacos, but I was looking for a good Chili Rellenos. So I chose that with sides of rice, beans, and guacamole salad. Chuck ordered al a carte and got a beef taco, beef burrito, and beef enchilada with a side of beans.

He ate his enchilada so fast that I didn’t get a taste, but he reports that it was very good. So were the taco and burrito, (I did get a sample of those). His only disappointment was that the beans were charro style rather than refried. Since I prefer the whole beans I was very happy with mine. My rice was mixed with chopped tomato and peppers and the guacamole was excellent with a hint of lime for acidity.

But let me tell you about the Chili Rellenos. This was a huge poblano pepper stuffed with the same seasoned beef that Chuck got in his three choices. The chili was topped with a copious amount of very good green chili sauce. But what made this a standout was the owner’s (Theresa, left) twist with the coating. It seems that a customer came in one day and lamented that one of his favorite restaurants in New Mexico had closed. This place, instead of battering the chili, wrapped it in a rice paper wrapper. Theresa thought that this was an interesting concept and gave it a try. And so, she has been serving her Chili Rellenos this way ever since. When fried, the rice paper wrapper becomes very crisp so you get a crunch with every bite. And the substitution of the rice paper for the batter makes for a lighter chili. While this may not be traditional, it is an excellent way to present a Chili Relleno.

But it was Theresa's story about her grandmother, Conchita (after whom the restaurant is named), that was very special. Conchita had come to the U.S. at age 18, married at 19, and lived to the age of 101, outliving three of her five children. Her passport and other meaningful items were arranged in the wreath on the wall.

Intrigued by one of the special desserts – fried pumpkin cheesecake – we had no other option than to share an order. What came was not my idea of cheesecake but was a decadent serving of intensely flavored pumpkin with the nutmeg and cinnamon that one associates with pumpkin pie. This was incased in rice paper wrappers and fried. This was served with a dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon and a sweet sauce. Very good but not really cheesecake. But then, what's in a name.

Finally, we had found delicious– if not traditional – Mexican food. We give Conchita’s 4.5 Addies and hope that time permits a return visit.

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