It gets no better than this. They were very, very sweet and there were many of them. She got a good batch, but she really needs to get two to three times more. If she gets enough we will plug in the freezer before the kitchen is finished and there should be good progress in the kitchen again this week. Mark has promised we will be done by mid-August. We appreciate his great work and are looking forward to it. The name of the U-Pick farm is Black River Blues in Rochester, Washington. She is going to try to go again in the next few days before the season is over.
Lorena and I were a little discouraged with the taco scene in the Twin Cities of Centralia and Chehalis even though we have only been here now for a couple of weeks. That has all been remedied now that we have been to El Sabor de Mexico in Chehalis to have some lunchtime tacos. Without reservation we believe the quality of the tacos was every bit as good as the ones at the one true best taco shop, Tacos Regio Monterrey, in Lewisville, Texas. That being said, we would have to give the edge to Tacos Regio because they have more of that street tacos feel that we really like. Nevertheless, that is a matter of personal taste and we truly love the home style tacos of El Sabor which are almost certainly the healthiest of the two. The tortillas are hand made, soft, corn tortillas.
We got a tip from the guys who installed the granite in our kitchen, two from Mexico, one from Puerto Rico, that this was the go-to, authentic taco house in the Twin Cities. The Mexican guys rolled their eyes when the Puerto Rican gave his advice on which Mexican food was the best even though all three agreed on El Sabor. As for those other places we tried, they, too, were irritated with the pushy, much more famous place that sells mediocre (in our opinion) tacos and makes a big deal out of the fact they do not serve chips before the meal like there is something authentically Mexican about that–there is not. Some restaurants in Mexico serve chips, some do not, and none make a big deal out of it. It surely seems they have been away from Mexico long enough to forget both what is good and what is authentic. The other place we tried in Centralia would have been a very mediocre Tex-Mex style place if it were in Dallas and we are not big Tex-Mex fans even when it is good Tex-Mex, not that there is anything wrong with that.
El Sabor de Mexico is an older building, but it was very, very clean during our first visit. We talked with the owner who is from a beautiful colonial city, not to far from Monterrey name Zacatecas. We also met her son and daughter who work at the restaurant and a couple of loyal patrons of the place from Guadalajara. It is a very friendly place and is now, just like with our granite installation buddies, our go-to taco house. It is good enough we doubt it will be displaced from that perch anytime soon.
It does not get much better than this. Our friends, Phil D. and Eric P. went to our Sunday morning church meeting this meeting. Afterward, out little home church had a going away party for us. I can not tell you how much we appreciate and love these people. We have met with them only for a year, but it has been a joy. The party was Mexican themed and, boy howdy, they know how to do it. Here are a few pictures to give you a flavor of how it went. Please note that the last picture was absolutely a result of the first two.
We had dear friends over for dinner last night. Whenever that happens Lorena instigates a conversation in person or on the phone that takes almost exactly the same form every time. It happened again yesterday. I love this.
I was sitting at my desk in my office in Lewisville programming and the phone rings.
I pick up and Lorena asks me “Should I do A or should I do B?” about some cooking thing.
So I ask, “What do you think would be best?”
She says, “A.”
I say, “Ok, do A.”
She says “Ok! Thanks!” and hangs up.
Some time in the following day or two she will say something to the effect that it is really good that I tell her what to cook because she can never think of the right thing.
The dinner, as always, was brilliant. Lorena talked the people down at the one true taco shop in Lewisville, Texas into giving her a couple dozen of their very thin corn tortillas when, in reality, they don’t sell tortillas. They sell tacos. But she has that Mexican Mafia thing going and is comadre with the owner of the shop. She grilled sirloin steak in strips, onions and chile morron, made her hand made salsa, sliced up avocado and mango, chopped some raw onions and cilantro, etc.
Today, she is down at the gym working off all those extra calories while I sit and type (writing this blog post and programming on the sickle cell disease project). Don’t ever try to tell me I didn’t hit the lottery when I married her.
Right after Lorena and I got married, we lived in a condo in Boynton Beach, Florida so I could work on machine vision systems at Motorola’s now-extinct pager manufacturing facility there. Lorena had really not eaten a lot of Chinese food growing up in Monterrey, Mexico–why would she when she lives in the Mecca of all great Mexican food (I know that is a religious discussion). Nevertheless, even though there was pretty good Mexican food in Florida, it did not rise to the level of that available in Monterrey. So, every now and then, when I got a yearning for Chinese food, Lorena would grudgingly indulge me and go to one after another of a string of truly mediocre Chinese food restaurants (mostly buffets of relatively bland offerings in the retirement haven that is South Florida). She convinced herself that she really did not like Chinese food. I cannot say I can blame her given the fare.
That all changed when we saw a Chinese food drive-through place on the side of one of the main thorough-fares that had once been a Checkers hamburger place. It was drive-through only with no place to sit and eat. I remember it was not situated so well–if we did not go there in the F150 pickup, we had to get out of the car because the window was out of reach of our SHO Taurus sedan. That changed everything. They made the food as spicy (hot) as she wanted, the vegetables were fresh and the place was clean. From then on, we went there once per week until we left South Florida. We searched in vain for something that equaled that Chinese food in Oregon, Texas, North Carolina and just about everywhere in-between. We were unable to find anything like it until I walked by it on my way to work one day. The place we found is called the Rice Pot Express, located on the State Highway 121 Bypass and, in our opinion, fits into that category of food so good we believe (for us anyway), it is the one true best Chinese food take-out restaurant. Of course it is run by some really nice Korean people with Mexican cooks. Just like when we were able to find the one true best Mexican taco shop in Lewisville, this one is going to make us even sadder to be leaving Texas.
Kelly texted me this a couple of days ago. It is hear food and cooking log. She has always been a big cooking buff what with her gourmet Grandpa Milo and the eclectic by unsurpassed everyday cooking of her Mother. Now though, she is taking it to another level. In the meantime, her redheaded Mexican Dayanita is definitely entering the cooking fray. She is currently taking culinary classes in Mexico and, based on recent Instagram posts, is investing some effort upping her confectionery sills. Kelly, for her part, has added some pretty amazing finger foods suitable for potlucks and other assorted get-togethers. This does not bode well for my waist line.
Confitería de Dayanita
Grandpa Milo was an amazing cook. He always said presentation of food is often more important that even taste. He said that to everyone who ever cooked with him. Every time Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah came to visit us, Kelly and Christian cooked with him so they heard that mantra a lot. Christian is a good cook, but does not have a lot of time to spend on food. It is so bad, he usually keeps a case of Soylent in his refrigerator for when he just runs out of time, but needs some energy. That is a story for another time.
Kelly, on the other hand, takes the time to cook and has gotten very, very good. She takes Grandpa Milo’s maxim to heart, so her stuff often looks quite amazing. She has been doing this now for years. There are some areas where she needs to broaden out her repertoire, but by and large, she has the fundamentals nailed and, with the all important presentation aspect she is a savant.
We missed Kelly dearly during her first Christmas ever away from family. It is all good, though. The Hormans were very kind to invite her to spend the holiday with them in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. It looks like she cross-country skied and did something with horses. That is the best we can tell that went on because we saw some pictures on Instagram. She was obviously having to good a time to communicate much so we are grateful for that.
As for us, we felt pretty adventurous for choosing something other than our go-to (turkey) for Christmas dinner. Lorena cooked up prime rib with lots of fixin’s an then added (from scratch) Lemon Creme Puffs for dessert. We are never going back. I cannot believe how good it came out and I have to admit that prime rib left-over sandwiches are at least equal to turkey left-over sandwiches. The only thing we did wrong was not make enough.
The very best part of this holiday season is that Christian came in for a few day so we would not be alone. That would have been more than we could handle. Lorena and I were ecstatic to have him here. He is working on the next phase of his dissertation work, playing his guitar (one of the strings was broken so we had to wait a day and a half until a store was open so we could buy some new ones), eating good food and discussing life with us. This is the thing for which we live. He got a new Fuji camera and has been taking pictures, all of which are shown here. The one at the bottom of this post if of Christian stringing his guitar with Kiwi the remaining twin cat sister giving very pointed advice.
Today, we were able to take Christian to The One True Taco Shop here in Lewisville. He concurred that the tacos were great. That was the only possible right response to eating there.
In the great “who makes the best tacos and tamales in the world” religious war, Lorena and I are decidedly on the side of those whose culinary skills emanate from Monterrey, Mexico. We had been very disappointed with what passed for Mexican food in the restaurants in the suburbs of Dallas where we currently reside. We got advice from all kinds of people including our Mexican family who lives in the area (originally from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon), people from work, people from church, people on the street we begged to help us–but we came to the very sad conclusion that no good Mexican food was available within driving distance of our house. There is lots of Tex-Mex, but we really do not count that is Mexican food anymore than the stuff that was available from Louie’s Chinese Restaurant (the early 1960’s Cottage Grove, Oregon restaurant of my youth) counted as something that had anything more than a passing resemblance to real Chinese food. That does not mean we do not like it. We like both Tex-Mex and Americanized Chinese food. But no one would mistake what we thought was the only Mexican food available in our area with the “one true Mexican food.”
WE WERE WRONG! So wrong. We found a place in Lewisville, TX that we believe is the very best Mexican food we have ever eaten in America. Here it is:
Tacos Regio Monterrey
502 S Old Orchard Ln
Lewisville, TX 75067
The reality is the only thing we have had there are the tacos de carne asada with a side of sautéed onions and the pork tamales. They probably make some other good stuff, but I doubt we will ever find out because we really, really love the way they make their tacos and their tamales. We have ordered up a couple of dozen tamales (18 pork and 6 chicken–to try them out) for Christian’s upcoming visit for Christmas. We need to see if we can get some of their salsa, too. Make that both of their salsas, red and green. They serve their tacos with two tortillas, carne asada, chopped onion and cilantro. They are those small corn tortillas that they coat with cooking oil and heat on the grill before they put the meat in them. Just wow.
We promise to never denigrate the tacos in Texas ever again although it should be noted the owners and cooks at Tacos Regio Monterrey are all proud Regiomontanos.
Update: I should note that the best (and possibly most gracious) way to describe this place is as a “hole in the wall” restaurant. That being said it is quite clean and the people are, as expected of people from Monterrey, gracious and welcoming.
Update II: I would be negligent to not note that this place is downright cheap inexpensive. We were stunned and felt a little guilty the first time we were there when we got such a reasonable bill. Maybe it was what we ordered.
Update III: Amazing. I got on to google maps and found an image of what used to be the Louie’s I was talking about from the 1960’s. I used to go to elementary school with the Louie twins who were just my age. The last I heard of them was a long time ago when I went to my cousin Karin’s high school graduation and the Louie twins both got the award for never missing a day of high school. Kind of impressive actually. Here is the picture from google maps in Cottage Grove Oregon–ovbviously under new management:
Lorena has been earning points for shopping at the Tom Thumb supermarket near where we live. She used all her points to buy a new turkey cooking pan and rack because our old pan started to rust. She is giving it double duty to cook the flan. It does not get much better than that–flan and a turkey in a free pan! Lots of reasons, big and small to be thankful.
Grandpa Milo called this morning, too. His Thanksgiving with my siblings and all the kids’ cousins will be tomorrow afternoon just because of how all the timing worked out. The reason he called is because he remembered a hymn he thinks might be good for Grandma Sarah’s funeral. We have to look up–we know the hymn really, really well, but do not know the number off the top of our heads. He sang “…we’ll gather round the throne, a victor throng” and a few more lines we could not quite make out. He is obviously very sad, but much better than a week ago. These are more things for which to be thankful–a recently passed Mother/Grandmother in a good place and Grandpa Milo who stays optimistic in the face of a very difficult time.
We always try as hard as we can to find nice things to say about the place where we are. Really, it is easy to find nice things to say about our part of the Metroplex here in the Dallas area, but I have to say that we have struggled when it comes to authentic Mexican food in our neighborhood. Friends, acquaintances, food reviewers and total strangers on the street , bless their hearts, have universally pointed us to Tex-Mex which, in our humble, but sincerely held religious conviction, is , at its very best, and I am trying to be gracious when I say this, Americanized Mexican food. Some people actually like Americanized Mexican food.
With that said, we have new hope. Our good friend John S. has invited us to meet him at a little place outside of the rarefied air where we live–thirty minutes away (almost the same as across the street in Texas-speak)–called Cuquita’s Restaurant advertising Comida Mexicana. It got rave reviews in the Texas press. We shall see what we shall see and taste what we shall taste sometime this weekend. We have hope that it will not be Tex-Mex.
We bought Christian a really nice set of kitchen knives for his birthday last year. This year, Kelly flew out to see us in Texas for her birthday and we did not do much else. She is working on her qualification exams, finals and research so hard she does not have time for much anything else than to do that cook, exercise and go to meeting. So we decided to send her something that might help her with her cooking. There are no better tools for the kitchen than like a good set of cooking knives. She really is a very good cook and beside the staple things she does, she loves to experiment. We got Kelly the exact same set we got for Christian before. This just made Lorena and I realize how much we cannot wait to get back into a house so Lorena can start cooking with gas again!
Christian and I talked last night about avocation. There were lots of things we tried when the kids were growing up as part of our homeschool and just as part of life. We focused hard on specific academic paths that gave the kids as many options as possible when it came to career choices. The reality is we did not do so bad at that part–the kids are now in a place they can go virtually any direction they want career-wise. At the other end of the spectrum were things that would be characterized as life skills and or avocations. We had varying degrees of success with things that were not the central focus of our homeschool academics, but at which we invested time, effort and a fairly large amount of our resources. I thought I might make a list of some of that stuff. I say only some of it because there was so much that I know I will miss a bunch of it. So what am I talking about:
- Music–Lorena and I are actually very limited in our musical ability. The kids are a lot better than us, but not exceptional. Kelly can play the piano and sing very well. Christian is much better at classical guitar than he thinks he is. All in all, we did not do so bad. Both the kids got ten years of music/instrument lessons and both still love to play. I would put this in the joyful avocation category.
- Art–We did well in art. Of course there is the drawing (e.g. here and here) and all the crafts we did, but the thing that surprises me most is that we all like to go to Art Museums when we are together. We know some artists we like and enjoy art appreciation as much or more as we enjoy making art.
- Cooking–Lorena is amazing and deserves a post all by itself. She has followed a pretty incredible culinary path that is wildly eclectic. Kelly is going down that same path, but with here own twist that is heavily influenced, I think, by the fact that she lives in the amazing food culture of the Pacific Northwest. Christian is more utilitarian, but goes on a baking or cooking binge that pushes the envelope on a semi-regular basis. As for me, I make an OK omelet which is also the entire cooking legacy I leave to my children. Well that and how to cook a turkey.
- Sports and exercise–This deserves a post all by itself because we made a decision very early on to assure that exercise become a normal part of life, but sports, especially football, basketball, soccer and baseball were given very, very low priorities on the list we wanted the kids to do or watch. Part of that is because I had seen this so up close and personal, but part of it was because those sports are a time and resource drain that have negative value as either life skills, avocations or activities that engendered positive values. We tended more toward swimming, running and a little bit of hiking. Both the kids are active as weight lifters and runners these days.
The thing that was great about all that stuff is we got into all of it and got excited about it at the same time we did not over emphasize it. We wanted this all to be something for which the kids could have lifelong enjoyment without it consuming their lives. We will have to wait awhile longer to see if we had any level of success at that goal.
I found out today that I only work 0.8 miles, walking distance from a WhatABurger fast-food restaurant. Even though I love the things and get a couple mile walk in if I go down there, it is a bad thing. The problem is that I love them and they are definitely not on my diet. I think they have that “White Castle” effect with me. Not everyone likes WhatABurger, but I love them. People who do not like White Castle Sliders do not get why people like them and vice-versa. I think my addiction started while I was getting my Masters degree at UTEP. At that time, Taco Bell and WhatABurger were the two closest fast food joints with cheap food. I am addicted for life to both.
Our Thanksgiving was super nice. We, as good Americans, ate too much the whole weekend. I, for one, only got one work out in over. As a tilter at Windmills, I have hope to remedy that starting now, but that does not mitigate the fact my belt went out another notch. It was great to have Kelly up her. We missed having Christian a lot, but I think he was well cared for by Ralph and Barbie.
Betty Blonde #434 – 03/17/2010
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.
Kelly is at her second annual American Marketing Association meeting, this year in Chicago! Chicago has a special place in my heart. I have flown through there a LOT over the years and have known a lot of people and good times in that great city. She met some great friends there, so some great sites and, above all, ate some truly great pizza. In the great Chicago versus New your pizza wars, I am definitely a Chicago partisan. I have to admit that I will NOT admit it when I am in New York–liking the pizza where you are is liking the barbecue where you are. It maximizes the food opportunities to like the food of the home team, wherever you are.
Chicago is where Grandpa Milo took me to my very first trade show in the Conrad Hilton Hotel Downtown. That is where we stayed, too. And, better than anything else, we went to Gino’s East for pizza. Some people say Giordanos is better, but I reject that out of hand. Tradition is not nothing and Gino’s has an ambiance of its own! To my Chicago friends, I salute you!
Betty Blonde #396 – 01/21/2010
Click here or on the image to see full size strip.
This is what happens to people who plant tomatoes in the Willamette Valley in the summer. It is a really good thing I married the salsa queen.
I am putting this up for posterity. Lorena is starting to harvest some pretty amazing vegetables on a daily basis. I can eat a lot, but pretty soon, even the two of us will not be able to keep up. Just wow.
I think my buddy, Troy, sent me these images just to torture me. We regularly met at Pam’s Farmhouse in Raleigh on Saturday mornings before we went into the lab to work on the GaugeCam project at NCSU a few years back. Very high on the long list of benefits of living in Raleigh is the stellar quality of the biscuits and gravy generally available in the South and the very specific benefits of Pam’s Farmhouse Restaurant where they only take cash, they serve their iced tea in Mason jars and the waitresses call you “Hon.” There might be a place here in Oregon that does biscuits and gravy right, but we have not found it yet.
That little bit of nostalgia was the latest in a series over the last couple of days. The anniversary of Lorena’s father’s death was a big part of it, but Kelly’s visit on the train got me to thinking about the several momentous train trips I had taken–A trip to Klamath Falls from Albany to visit cousin Merle when the kids were little (we saw a herd of elk a couple of feet from the train while moving slowly up a steep grade) and a trip from Portland to Idaho where I met a Catholic priest who became a lifelong friend.
I had completely forgotten about a great train trip my buddy Curt N. and I took from Boise to Denver on the train to visit our friend Karen K. That was one of two trips Curt and I took together to visit Karen, but the second one was a New Years eve trip to Seattle. Both trips were momentous high marks of my (relative) youth. The thing that triggered the memory of this trip was Karen K’s comment on the tribute post to Grandpa Lauro. I was so happy to see Kelly is maintaining the family tradition as is just as inspired as us about the train. It really is a great way to travel and all this brought a tear to my eye (especially the part about the biscuits and gravy)!