Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mi Pueblo

I woke up last Sunday morning with a craving for dim sum and Chindian, which is why we found ourselves at the entrance of Mi Pueblo for dinner.

Ten years ago, we went to their east side location on Euclid Ave near the Euclid Tavern and Case Western Reserve University. Bug wasn't impressed at the time so we didn't return until just a few weeks ago to the west side location on Lorain Ave. We have patronized the mercado adjacent to the west side location over the years, however. This is where I discovered that fresh chicharrones are so buttery!

Mi Pueblo
Mi Pueblo storefront

When Bug finally woke up at 4 p.m., we drove over to the mercado and bought Mexican chocolate, dried guajillo and ancho chiles, then popped in next door for dinner.

We walked in and slid into a booth. There was a large party in full swing, so a feeling of dread washed over me. Rojo and verde salsa arrived with a basket of chips and our menus a couple of minutes later. The chunky tomatillo salsa is piquant and complements the spicier, earthy (from ?cumin) and a touch grainy red sauce.

Tortilla Chips
Tortilla chips

On our previous visit, we were served a small platter of pickled carrots and onions. The carrots were vinegary, rubbery-crunchy as expected from slices of thick-cut pickled roots. Its absence was mourned on this trip.

To tame the slow burn, horchata ($1.95), a nutty, sweetened rice water, was helpful. The drink is thicker and smoother than the glass I drank at Ohio City Burrito, the only other place I've tried horchata.

Three special dishes are served on Saturdays and Sundays only:
:: Menudo ($7.95) -- tripe beef soup served with cilantro, onions, and tortillas
:: Birria estilo jalisco ($9.95) -- goat soup served with cilantro cebolla and tortillas
:: Birria estilo Michoacan ($10.95) -- steamed goat served with mole, tomatillo sauce, Spanish rice, and refried beans

Birria estilo Michoacan piqued my curiosity so I ordered this. A minute later, the waitress returned, informing me they were out. Being Sunday, I considered the possibility so I had already picked a 2nd choice; their delicious carne adobada ($13.95), a dish I enjoyed the first time we ate there several weeks ago.

Bug and I typically avoid ordering the same dish at restaurants so we can share. He was apparently so impressed with my carne adobada last time, he ordered it. I scampered to find a 3rd choice -- pollo en mole poblano ($10.95) was an immediate 3rd. I love the choices here!

Pollo en Mole Poblano
Pollo en mole poblano

My eyebrows jumped when my platter arrived. Yikes, that's a lot of mole! The thick sauce is a bit overwhelming at first, not in spiciness but in its complexity and strength; smoky and slightly bitter, then peppery, followed by a subtle sweet and nutty flavor.

Their Spanish rice is faintly salty and sweet. I like the refried beans because it has some texture to it since the beans aren't completely pulverized and isn't as sweet. With the sprinkle of tangy cheese, perhaps cotija, the refried beans are an experience if you're used to the almost peach puff (pink) mash, with a mild sweet tone, and covered in "Mexican cheese."

Pollo en Mole Poblano saucy
Polle en mole poblano

Four fresh corn tortillas were brought with my order. They aren't the typical flat, dry, and chewy tortillas, but thick, soft, and moist flaps of corn with a little char on the skin. On both visits, I discovered myself eating one by itself.

Three moist, grilled breasts rested cozily under the blanket of mole. I was only able to finish 1-1/2, stuffed in tortillas with beans, and rice. Bug had an amazing midnight snack with my leftovers. Salad greens and cucumbers would have made this dish perfect for a variation in texture and temperature.

Bug's platter of carne adobada arrived. Grilled leeks, salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, raw onions, Spanish rice, refried beans, chunky guacamole, and tortillas accompany the grilled 10 oz steak. The beef is marinated in what tastes like a sauce composed of tomatoes, garlic, cumin, chiles, citrus, pepper, and salt.

Carne Adobada
Carne adobada

The steak is cut to about 1/4" and served folded in half, transforming itself from a hunk of meat into a tender, slightly tangy, peppery, and smoky grilled steak, when rolled in the fluffy tortilla with lettuce, cucumbers, and rice, makes a wonderful meal in just a bite washed down with horchata.

Carne Adobada sides
The other half

The party had wrapped up 3/4ths through our meal. Service did not suffer at all. I am hopeful that we'll be returning on a Saturday so I can try the Michoacan dish. Perhaps I'll try one of 4 of their desserts! Pastel de 3 leches, cake made with 3 kinds of milk (usually condensed, evaporated, and whole milk), sounds luscious.

- Cassaendra

Mi Pueblo
12207 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44111
Tel: 216 671-6661

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dancing in the Dark

Five minutes after I returned to my office from a dismal meeting on protocol changes, a coworker entered my office to drop off 2 large shipping boxes. The ~15"x12"x12" Dean & Deluca (D&D) shipping box caught my eye. I thanked him and muttered, "Don't I wish it was a real Dean & Deluca box for me." When reports arrive for me in boxes, they are frequently recycled.

The clear, unaltered D&D stamped packing tape piqued my curiosity. Tendrils of excitement began to take hold as I deftly sliced opened the flaps to reveal a leaf of D&D tissue, card, brochure, gift invoice, and a white Styrofoam lid with D&D embossed in clean, bold Copperplate letters.

I plopped down with the card in my hand, reading the message several times, recalling my telephone conversations with CW over a span of several months. I mumbled, "Jeez, she didn't have to..."

The snug foam lid gave way. Nestled between 3 chilled pillows was a cube the size of my hand wrapped in glossy red paper. Definitely not a stack of work to sort through.

I cautiously removed the wrapper, careful not to tear it messily. (Why? I believe it is partly out of respect.) A sturdy, horizontal-grained white ballotin emerged with D&D emblazoned in silver.

Dean Deluca Box
The trove

Once open, there was no doubt what lay beyond the burnt sienna sheath. An intoxicating bittersweet aroma of dark chocolate exhaled, betraying itself.

Dean Deluca Desc
Guests of honor

I read through the eclectic list. Aside from being the first entry, the first to captivate my curiosity was the balsamic strawberry, white chocolate ganache with strawberry, flavored with balsamic vinegar, molded in dark chocolate.

Dean Deluca Asst Washed
My precious

Next to catch my eye was the blood orange, dark chocolate ganache with blood orange puree, enrobed in dark chocolate. Which should I try first?

Dean Deluca Asst
Eenie, meenie

Several years ago, we bought a small tin of D&D's chocolate covered Kona coffee beans at Whole Foods. While we enjoyed them greatly, this ballotin of chocolates exist on a different plane. Each bite is met with a bittersweet introduction, followed by a sweeter silken ganache, whimsical and coy, as if deliberately veiled to remain mysterious.

Deciding which is my favorite is difficult. Manhattan Dark is tantalizing, smooth, smoky, and spicy. Mahogany, leather, and a warm flame crackling in a fireplace come to mind. Balsamic strawberry and caramel fleur de sel are intriguing as their respective pairings augment each other. Lemon thyme and raspberry are more innocent. I can faintly hear children giggling, or it's the voices in my head. Toasted almond and vanilla milk are velvety, honest, and reliable, like you'd hope your financial adviser would be. Blood orange and jasmine pearl tea are pleasantly subtle, like two women quietly enjoying tea under a parasol on a sunny day in late spring. Hazelnut is the most straightforward and the piece I am saving for last because I accidentally ate the 2nd Manhattan Dark.

Many thanks to CW. I am glad all is well with her and her family.

- Cassaendra

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Bug and I drove to Target last weekend to grab some corn and a box of crackers to put the finishing touches to a pot of soup.

We walked out with corn, crackers, and...
- blueberry lavender yogurt bars
- Robin eggs
- Nerds jelly beans
- Cadbury orange chocolate eggs
- golden kiwi and strawberry sorbet
- pomegranate blood orange sorbet

Lavender Box
They were on clearance!

What is not to love about candy coated chocolate covered malt that turns your mouth and lips turquoise! The bumpy tart Nerds coated jelly beans were interesting. I wouldn't be sad if they were never made again (Bug loves Nerds). It seems the colors aren't associated with a particular flavor. The sweet pink ones were all right, but the tart pink ones were mediocre.

Last year, we enjoyed a pint of Archer Farms' blueberry lavender sorbet, as well as their pomegranate blood orange sorbet, so I was confident the yogurt bars would be palatable.

Lavender Blueberry Bar
Lavender puffy clouds

With the temperature soaring into the mid-80s, this was a fantastic reprieve. The blend of frozen yogurt improved the overall flavor by toning down the sweet sorbet. A wee bit more lavender would make this outstanding, at least for me.

Little Fluffy Clouds - The Orb

- Cassaendra

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Sometime Food

Milk n Cookies
Milk n cookies

Recently, Bug called me at work and greeted me with a yelp, "chocolate chip cookies!" I replied, "Oooh!"

These cookies don't have lavender, matcha, or chocolate from La Maison du Chocolat, which would have been silly and wasteful. The ignition of my craving for chocolate chip cookies? A Tollhouse recipe with a couple of adjustments that I discovered at La Fuji Mama's blog several weeks ago.

They were delicious, crisp around the edges and soft in the center. In its familiar circular form, they didn't last more than 12 hours. I think this is why Cookie Monster had to go on his campaign educating everyone that cookies are a "sometime food."

Bug took care of making the cookies as I've had bad luck making cookies since I was a kid. They turn into cookie sheets, literally.

From Rachel at La Fuji Mama, adapted from the Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

2-1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 c (12-oz package) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate large mixer bowl, beat together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until the dough is creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating the dough well after each addition. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes and then remove the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

The recipe made 20 cookies for us. We used chocolate and peanut butter chips.

In some way, I was hoping the cookies would come out as a sheet to validate that I'm not an awful baker. As evidenced by the photograph, it quite assuredly validated that I am an awful baker.

The next time we make this, I'd love to use matcha and white chocolate chips.

La Fuji Mama has an esprit de corp named the Washoku Warriors who cook from the book by Elizabeth Andoh, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, a wonderful book that I purchased a couple years ago. Her book beautifully captures traditional techniques of Japanese cooking and applies it to traditional dishes, as well as maintaining that spirit with new dishes.

- Cassaendra

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