latin

Barrio, Minneapolis, MN

I really ate like a queen in Minneapolis. After our eventful dinner at the News Room, we went back to Minneapolis and decided to have lunch across the street at Barrio Tequila Bar. Yes, a tequila bar. For lunch. Don’t judge us.

Barrio has a really funky and fun energy. At around 1pm during the week it was packed with local professionals taking a time out for lunch on the patio and inside the restaurant (I happened to visit during a freakishly hot week in May so patio seating was in full effect). We waited about 10 minutes for a seat, which was well worth it.

We were seated upstairs, which was great because a) we were inside in the air conditioning while it was 90 degrees out with 100% humidity (maybe a slight exaggeration, but not by much); and b) we got this view of the restaurant:

First we ordered some margaritas. You can’t go to a tequila bar without ordering one. It’s basically a rule. I went with the Cesar Chavez, described as Barrio’s “Champion Margarita”. Sam ordered something equally delish, though to be honest I can’t remember which one she got. All I know is I tasted it and it was fabulous as well.

Barrio has 117 tequilas on hand. This was fascinating to me because although I love trying different beers and wines to enjoy the flavors, I had never actually thought about the differences in types of tequila. Each one has it’s own tasting notes and geographical region and you can order a shot of any of the 117 varieties. Barrio also gives suggestions on “compadres” (companions to the tequila, like different juices, beer, or soda) to pair with the tequila. Although we stuck with our margaritas for lunch, I’d love to learn a little more about the tequilas at Barrio.

We had a hard time choosing one thing to eat for lunch, so we ended up doing a couple of small plates. It was a great idea because the plates had about enough for the two of us to try, then we could have something new.

Things were super spicy, which made me thankful for my margarita. I’m not very brave when it comes to spicy food, but everything was so fresh and good that I kept eating even when my mouth felt like it was on fire. To a normal person, the level of spiciness would be fine. What can I say, I’m kind lame with that sort of thing.

Again, a Minneapolis restaurant really impressed me. Barrio was an awesome place to have lunch with my bestest, enjoy a cocktail, and take in some local city atmosphere. Cheers!

El Oriental de Cuba, Jamaica Plain

I have nothing but wonderful, happy feelings for Oriental de Cuba. Dane and I have been going here for about 2 years now. Every visit is delicious. Always.

El Oriental de Cuba is located on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. The restaurant has been a neighborhood fixture since 1994. In 2005, the site faced a major setback when it was destroyed by a fire deemed to be an arson. El Oriental rebuilt and came back strong in the community in 2006, and has been thriving ever since. Once you’ve tried their food, it’s easy to see why.

My absolute favorite menu item is the Cubano sandwich. Besides the tostones, they’re also my favorite. OK, they’re both my favorite. Whatever.

Dane always gets something different. He’s tried everything from the pork chops, to ropa vieja, to arroz con pollo. Today he opted for the Churrizo sandwich. If you’ve never had it, churrizo is a latin sausage. And it’s delicious. This was another winner for El Oriental de Cuba.

Oh man, now I’m really hungry. We are big fans of El Oriental de Cuba, and feel pretty strongly that everyone should try it. We’d be happy to take you there. So just let us know. Any excuse to eat there, we’ll happily take.

Just go there. Now. Stop waiting. Thanks.

Ropa Vieja

This is one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. Dane had ordered Ropa Vieja at a Cuban restaurant we frequent in Jamaica Plain. After taking my friend Heather to the restaurant, she told us her dad makes amazing Ropa Vieja, and graciously volunteered to get us the recipe. All I can say is THANK YOU HEATHER!

Dane tends to be the one who does slow cooker/meat based meals for us. Maybe it’s a man thing, but I’m definitely ok with letting him cook while I relax and do things like write blog posts about him cooking.

Ropa Vieja (which, not to be gross, literally translated means “old clothes”)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak (You can also use skirt steak or brisket. We actually couldn’t find any of those things, so we used top sirloin.)
  • 3 quarts plus 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 4 teaspoons bouillon granules
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  • 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • Bay leaves
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder

Add the meat, water, and some salt and pepper to a large pot. Bring to a boil. Foam will form on the surface, make sure you skim that off and get rid of it. After 5 minutes or so, add the garlic powder, bouillon, and parsley flakes, and onion powder and reduce the heat. Cover the pot partially and let the meat cook over medium-low heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. You want to be able to easily shred the meat once it’s done. Dane cooked ours for about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Your kitchen will smell AMAZING, but try and restrain yourself from eating it just yet. It gets better.

Remove your meat from the pot and shred with a fork. I had a little too much fun with it and decided to just use my hands to separate it. Put the meat together, cover and set aside for the moment.

In a big skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onions until they start to become translucent. Add the peppers and garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Now add the tomato sauce, stir it all together, and let it begin to bubble. Add the wine, vinegar, some salt and pepper, the garlic and onion powder, and bay leaves. Stir together and add 1/4 cup water. Let it come to a boil, the lower the heat and let is simmer for 5-10 minutes.

At this point I started making some yellow rice and beans to go with the main dish. This was the only part of the meal I was allowed to help with (which was fine with me). All I did was boil some water, add the rice and seasoning (that was all from the same bag) and follow the directions. Then I drained and rinsed some red beans, and added them to the rice when there was bout 5 minutes left for it to cook, just so the beans would be heated.

Back to Dane’s part. Add the meat to the pan with your veggies and stir together. Simmer this delicious mix for about 30 minutes, covered.

After a half hour, you’re all done! Time to eat! Serve with or over the yellow rice and beans. And make room, because you’ll probably want more.

Salud!

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