Harvest Chowder

So far, El Paso has been treated to some unusually great spring weather. We are used to windy-dusty-allergy-infested springs, but instead it’s been warm, then cool with a bit of rain, and now it’s warming up again. In March, the El Paso Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatrightelpaso.org) held its first annual Delicious and Nutritious Recipe Contest. I thought it would be a fun challenge and the $5 entry covered a detailed nutrition analysis of your recipe with tips to make it healthier. Entering a soup recipe with harvest in the title was risky since it’s warm and springtime, but I was thinking more about the ease of transporting and keeping a dish warm if I was to be selected as one of the finalists. Also, soups are easy to make and a great way to sneak in a bunch of veggies.

Well, I was selected as a finalist and ended up winning 2nd place! I was really surprised that I won because a couple of other entries were desserts and I started doubting my entry. 1st place went to shrimp tacos that used a paper thin slice of jicama as the taco shell. I tried the taco shell with the salsas she made, and one was really good because it had vegenaise in it. FYI, Cafe Mayapan sometimes serves tacos with jicama shells and they can probably do a vegetarian version if you ask. 2nd place went to my soup which had sweet potatoes, navy beans, arugula, corn, chipotle. 3rd place went to a nopal salad that had feta cheese and fresh oregano in it. It was really refreshing and the nopales (cactus) had a good texture. I only got to try one of the desserts, which was raw fudge, and it was so good! She will soon be posting her recipes on her sister’s blog Tried and True, but in the meantime you can follow her on Instagram: triedandtruefood. I was waiting until they sent me the nutritional analysis before I posted the recipe, but they never sent it or posted it, so here it is!

harvest chowder aerial

Harvest Chowder

I must admit that this recipe draws inspiration from The Hoppy Monk’s veggie monk burger, except it doesn’t have black beans and isn’t nearly as delicious. I used navy beans instead, because they have a perfectly creamy texture that blend well.

Yields about 4-6 servings
Ingredients:
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 canned chipotle pepper, minced & 1-2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce (La Costena brand)*
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups vegetable broth (I used 1 Rapunzel brand vegetable bouillon no salt added cube diluted in 2 cups boiling water)
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups cooked navy beans or 1 15-oz. can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup or more arugula or your favorite greens or frozen spinach
1/2 tablespoon oil (I used canola)
*if you don’t like chipotle or want to reduce sodium, try using about 1 teaspoon of a mild chile powder or smoked paprika
Optional garnish:
1 poblano pepper
Lime juice from half a lime
handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
Preparation Instructions:
  • If using the garnish, roast the poblano on a grill or open flame on stovetop until charred on all sides. Set aside in a covered container to steam and cool.
  • Saute shallots for about 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add sweet potato, cumin, oregano, and chipotle (or paprika or chile powder), and stir and saute for a few more minutes.
  • Add broth, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and soft.
  • While the soup is cooking prepare the garnish. Peel and rinse the poblano, and dice. Toss poblano with lime juice and cilantro and season with salt and pepper if desired.
  • Add 1 cup of the navy beans to the soup and puree until desired thickness is reached (use an immersion hand blender or transfer soup to a blender).
  • After blending, add frozen corn, greens, and the rest of the beans. Simmer for about 4-6 more minutes, or until greens are wilted and corn is cooked through.
  • Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Serve in bowls topped with garnish.
If you want a richer soup, you can also add a bit of milk or half & half, or top with sour cream and cheese. Other good garnish toppings would be pepitas and tortilla strips or crumbled tostadas.
harvest chowder side

La Semilla Edible Institute

This blog has been neglected for about 3 months, but I promise you I have good excuses. One excuse I am most excited to tell you about is that I submitted a grant proposal to implement seed libraries at all of our El Paso Public Library locations. During the process of writing the grant I came across a workshop offered during EPISD’s spring break. The Edible Education Spring Break Institute was a four day workshop organized by La Semilla Food Center. It was targeted towards teachers on how to incorporate gardening and cooking in the classroom, but they allowed me to register since we offer youth programs at the library. Plus, it totally aligned with the grant I was writing.

La Semilla is a nonprofit group in Anthony, New Mexico that is doing great things for our community, while growing delicious food. They are dedicated to fostering a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of Southern New Mexico and El Paso, TX. They teach cooking and garden skills in classrooms, afterschool clubs, and have cooking nights for families. They are currently accepting applications for their really cool summer day camps for K-6. So, if you’ve got $45 and a bored kiddo, sign them up! Visit www.lasemillafoodcenter.org for more details. They operate on a 14 acre demonstration farm, which produces some delicious fruits and vegetables. You can buy their produce on Saturdays at the Downtown Artist & Farmers Market from 9 am-1 pm.

Gemstone Greens. Best & most beautiful salad mix I’ve ever had! They don’t even need dressing.

The institute took place at Bowie High School, which was the perfect setting since they have a student garden that is about a year old. Activities at Bowie Jardines are incorporated into the science, business, and culinary school programs. Throughout the institute, we visited the garden to learn about concepts and apply activities. If this institute is ever offered again and you’re an educator, you NEED to sign up. I know that our Texas school system lives and breathes STAAR testing, but I think it is possible to incorporate some of these activities and concepts into the classroom with little effort. I’m going to implement it into our library youth programs, as we have much more flexibility. Our challenge is that we sometimes lack an audience. Here’s a quick little recap of what we learned and did in photos: Day 1, March 9:

Composting area

For lunch on this day, we broke up into teams and made different massaged kale salads that were all yummy.

    Day 2, March 10:

For lunch on this day, we had a cooking demonstration from Eduardo Bouche, who teaches cooking classes at Creative Kids and at Proper Printshop. He made vegan ceviche where the seafood was replaced with boiled cauliflower. It was refreshing and delicious! You can attend his free vegan cooking classes on the 1st & 3rd Sundays of the month at 5 pm at Proper Printshop on 800 Montana. Visit epvegan.com for more info.

Day 3, March 11:   

For lunch on this day, we had a super flavorful dish taught by Jacqueline Cordova of The Green Ingredient. We used a spiralizer to make raw zucchini noodles that were tossed in a marinara sauce made from tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and other ingredients. Even though the dish was raw, the “noodles” had a nice toothsome texture that went great with the marinara sauce that could rival a slow-simmered sauce.

The day ended with a field trip to Academy West where Travis Duckworth is doing some really interesting and amazing things to teach and encourage sustainability in our region. El Paso Academy is a 9-12th grade charter school located in both east and west El Paso, but the west location has a huge community garden project going on in their own 1.25-acre backyard. A maze of trenches, composting, an amphitheater, chicken coop, and more all being built by students and the community. Anyone can volunteer to help out during their garden work days that occur every month. To learn more, read this article that appeared in the El Paso Times.

academy west

Academy West

Day 4, March 12:   So, on this day I happened to have an interview for a promotion scheduled following the workshop. I was a ball of nerves the whole morning, but this was my favorite day. We got to plant our own herb gardens and keep them, which totally relaxed me. I even hauled my herb garden with me to the interview at the Main Library. We also learned about traditional foods of the southwest, like nopal, chia, and amaranth. For lunch, Chef Norbert Portillo of Tabla demonstrated how to make a salad. As a food blogger and fan of Chef Norbert’s work, you know this was super exciting for me. I learned some new techniques and then ate a salad made with greens that had been harvested from their farm that morning. Talk about fresh!

Chef Norbert Portillo of Tabla

Chef Norbert Portillo of Tabla

Pozole (Take 2)

Three years later, I am finally updating and sharing a second, more improved pozole recipe. Click here to read Pozole (Take 1). It’s not that I’ve spent all that time trying to perfect it, I just hadn’t revisited making pozole until this year. I sort of forgot about it until some local spots reminded and inspired me to make it again.

My annual El Paso food year in review will soon be published, but until then, here’s a recipe and trend watch report in case you don’t want to go through the trouble of making it yourself. In 2014, El Pasoans were treated to three vegetarian versions of menudo/pozole (the difference is explained in Pozole (Take 1)).

  • Joe, Vinny, & Bronson’s Bohemian Cafe

Both meat & vegan menudo is featured every Sunday. This place has a lot of other veg-friendly menu items; make it a 2015 resolution to try it out. I liked this menudo a lot, but found it a little salty for my taste and wanted more hominy. I liked their use of thinly sliced tofu as a stand-in for the tripe. For $5, you get a good-sized bowl with bread.

Veggie Menudo @ JVB with tofu. The bread looks pale because they had run out of butter that day.

Veggie Menudo @ JVB with tofu. The bread looks pale because they ran out of butter that day.

  • The Mustard Seed Cafe

This was one of my favorite places of 2014. You can’t beat delicious, healthy, AND affordable vegetarian food that supports a great cause (they also have meat options). I love that El Paso now has 2 non-profit eateries (Cafe Mayapan is the other). The downside? Very limited hours of operation (Wed-Fri, 11am-2pm). Also, the menu changes every week, which is fun, but a shame if you missed something like pozole, featured only twice this year. The suggested price (it’s pay-what-you-can) was $2 for a cup and $4 for a bowl that came with all the fixins, and you got to choose between green or red, meat or vegan. I decided on red, and it was very good, although it was more like a stew to me, since it was loaded with veggies.

Red pozole @ The Mustard Seed Cafe

Red pozole @ The Mustard Seed Cafe

Also on the menu was garlicky bread from Belle Sucre, corn & black bean salad, & lime pepita cookies (vegan & baked in-house!)

Also on the menu was GARLICKY bread from Belle Sucre, corn & black bean salad, & lime pepita cookies (vegan & baked in-house!). The bread was delicious, but boy, did I have dragon breath for like days.

  • Eloise

This month, Eloise released a new winter menu that debuted newcomer, Menudont. It’s a large bowl of of hominy and seitanic tripe (seitan is “wheat meat” or meat sub made of vital wheat gluten for you nubes). I have yet to try this one, because it is a whopping $13. I’m sure it’s worth it, as it’s a really big bowl and they make the seitan in-house.

pozole take 2

Pozole @ La Casa de Lisa

The Recipe: Vegan Menudo/Pozole

Tips & Ideas:

  • Meat stand-ins: I never liked the meat in there to begin with, so I don’t add any subs in my recipe. If you really want added texture & protein, try seitan, tofu (maybe frozen & then thawed for a chewier texture), tofu skin (dried bean curd sticks), textured vegetable protein, or shitake mushrooms. My Instagram friend @undeadben1 says he takes sliced tofu and fries it in vegan butter until it’s a little crispy, which adds texture and richness.
  • Chile: I can’t find the dried chile pellets at the farmers market anymore and I’m too lazy to make it from scratch. Bueno brand is my favorite and can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. It has no added seasonings. I like using the Special Reserve Premium Red Chile Puree. If you’re going to make your own, all you have to do is remove the stems and seeds from about 4 dried red chiles (guajillo, cascabel, or ancho are the most common used for menudo), submerge them in hot water for about 30 minutes, and blend the chiles, adding enough of the soaking liquid until you get a smooth sauce. Strain it if you don’t want it all cascarudo (as in a bunch of chile skins floating around).
  • Broth: In my opinion, the brand of Edward & Sons Not-Beef boullion cubes are what make my pho and pozole really good.
  • Hominy/Posole: Use canned if you must, but there’s nothing like a slow-simmered soup. The nixtamal is raw and needs to cook for about 2-3 hours, and that’s also what’s going to give you a more authentic broth. Seriously, don’t use canned hominy. Frozen nixtamal is easily found in El Paso grocery stores in the freezer aisle, usually next to the chile or Hispanic products.

This recipe makes a whole pot or about 6 2-cup servings, but you can double it if you’re making it for a big crowd.

8 cups water
4 cups faux beef or vegetable stock (I use 2 Edward & Sons Not-Beef bouillon cubes)
1/2 package (1 lb.) frozen nixtamal (uncooked hominy)
1 14 oz. container of red chile sauce, thawed if frozen
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½-1 teaspoon salt
olive oil

Garnish ideas: lime, shredded cabbage, dried Mexican oregano, crushed red pepper, cilantro, onion, queso fresco, radishes, etc. Don’t forget the buttered and toasted bread.

In a large pot or dutch oven, bring water to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 and half to 2 hours, or until the hominy is cooked. Add more water and salt if necessary. At the end, add a drizzle of olive oil and stir. This will add a bit of greasy richness that the soup is missing from lack of meat.

pozole

Review: Dragonfly Wine & Sushi Bistro

Chef's choice vegan roll w/soy steak

Chef’s choice vegan roll w/soy steak

Doniphan Street’s newest resident is like nothing El Paso has ever experienced before. Combining Japanese and Korean influences with a touch of fusion and molecular gastronomy, Dragonfly is an affordable upscale restaurant. Friendly staff and owners will guide you through their massive menu of hot and cold appetizers, sushi, sashimi, nigiri, entrees, noodles and desserts. It’s not only for wine lovers; sake and draft beers are also served here.

Starters vary from kimchi edamame and squid salad, to tempura crab cake and spicy tuna tacos. The “new age” section features green tea-cured salmon with yuzu-wasabi cream, seared white tuna with avocado puree, kimchi vinaigrette, shiso and pop rocks and other innovative dishes. Choose from over thirty sushi rolls ranging from standards to chef creations with local names. The Bunny 2nd has shitake tempura and sweet potato, avocado, vegan cheese, spicy mayo and eel sauce rolled in soy paper. If you’re watching carbs, try the Okinawa Cuke which is served without rice. It’s a cucumber-wrapped roll with tuna, salmon, krab, avocado, greens and ponzu sauce.

The washoku section is where you’ll find Japanese and Korean specialty entrees like bulgogi (Korean grilled beef marinated in soy, fruits and sake) and katsu (breaded and fried chicken with sweet miso sauce) served with miso soup, rice and seasonal vegetables. You won’t find ordinary steamed rice here either; white and black rice is cooked in a high pressure cooker. Vegetarians will be in heaven with the variety of options including Teriyaki soy or tofu steak and green spinach ramen.

The creativity doesn’t stop at dessert; try mochi in various flavors, fried ice cream (green tea, plum or red bean) or cheesecake gnosh (ganache?) with powdered nutella, candied bacon and blueberries. Word of mouth is sure to make this inventive newcomer and trendsetter a local favorite.

Additional Veg Snob Notes:  All I can say is WOW. This place is amazing, especially for vegans and vegetarians. They don’t have a written vegan sushi menu, but they have noted that they will make whatever vegan roll you want. They have vegan cream cheese, mayo, and soy steak! I gave Chef Ji full reign, and he created the best roll I have ever had as evidenced by the photo. It was very much worth the $9 that I was charged. The tofu steak was also very good, but I didn’t care for the soy steak. The soy steak was a very small portion for the price and kind of reminded me of Boca brand veggie patties with more texture.

Visit them on Facebook to view hours and menus at facebook.com/dragonflysushi
Dragon Fly on Urbanspoon

This review was originally published in What’s Up Weekly on June 25, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Best of the Best Chow Winners

The winners of the Best of the Best awards were announced a few weeks ago. For 11 years, What’s Up Weekly magazine has played host to letting anyone who attends their annual voting party, select the best of what El Paso has to offer. I wasn’t able to go to this year’s voting party or awards ceremony, but both events are crazy and a lot of fun. Some of the nominees that go to the voting party try really hard to get as many votes as possible by handing out food samples, swag, and even trade votes. It’s one of those things you need to experience at least once. You get to meet a lot of people (unless you’re really shy like me) and get a bunch of free stuff.

There are tons of categories that have changed throughout the years. I pretty much only care about the food categories and the best blogger category, which has been changed to best blogger/social media publisher. It was most likely changed due to the Annie’s Adventures facebook page winning last year and not actually having a blog site. Congratulations to her for winning two years in a row! She is constantly updating her facebook page with all sorts of cool events, places, and restaurants in our region. My blog didn’t even make the finalists, but that’s okay. I didn’t go to the voting party, nor do I think I should even be nominated since I’m a freelance writer for What’s Up.

Fun fact #1: I wrote 10 of the blurbs for the food category winners. I’ll include only my writeups here because it’s my blog and I’ll showcase my work if I want to ;) You can click the links on the other ones to read the rest.

Fun Fact #2: I wrote the BBQ & steak ones! Ironically, as a vegetarian, I was really honored to have been chosen to write them. It made me feel like Maggie (the editor) has faith in me as a writer!

Fun Fact #3: The hardest one for me to write was Tacoholics because I love them so much! They work so hard and their tacos and salsas are amazing!

Okay, enough with the fun facts, here are the 2014 Chow winners:

 

Best Asian Restaurant: Genghis Grill

After three back-to-back wins, P.F. Chang’s has been dethroned by Genghis Grill, a fast casual chain that came to El Paso in 2012. At this Mongolian-style restaurant, customization and interaction is key. Armed with a single metal bowl, your job is to conquer more than 80 ingredient options. Choose proteins, veggies, seasonings, sauces, and a starch – noodles, rice, or flour tortilla. Overwhelmed by the choices? Follow one of their recipe suggestions. Once your bowl is assembled, hand it over to the cooks and let the show begin. At Genghis, you have only yourself to blame if you don’t like your food. 1318 George Dieter Dr., 915-600-2822; genghisgrill.com.

Best BBQ: Cattleman’s Steakhouse

It’s easy to forget that Cattleman’s serves BBQ when steak is the reason to make the trek out to Fabens. Not to worry; you can save room for steak by ordering the BBQ appetizer. In true West Texas tradition, their beef is smoked overnight using mesquite. Combo plates are available with large back ribs, thick slices of brisket or beef cubes cut from the fatty end that has caramelized into a smoky crust. Arrive early; BBQ is served while it lasts. By the way, this local 40-year veteran was finally able to bust Famous Dave’s six-year winning streak. 3450 S. Fabens Carlsbad Rd., Fabens, Texas 79838; cattlemanssteakhouse.com.

Best Bakery: Belle Sucre

Best Breakfast: Basico Bistro + Cafe

Best Coffee/Tea Shop: Starbucks

Best Dessert: Craze

Best Fancy-Schmancy Restaurant: Cafe Central

Ask any local for a fine dining suggestion, and they’ll most likely recommend Café Central, a restaurant that is no stranger to this category. Hidden in downtown El Paso, this elegant and ambient restaurant’s kitchen is run by Chef Armando Portales, a four-time James Beard award nominee. Starters are indicative of the standards set here; fried Dungeness crab cakes and octopus carpaccio served with stuff you can’t pronounce are two of the five current options. Their signature cream of green chile soup is not to be missed. Whether gathering for lunch, dinner or cocktails, Cafe Central is sure to impress. 109 N Oregon St., 915-545-2233;cafecentral.com.

Best Gourmet Pizza: Ardovino’s Pizza

Several new pizza places have opened, but none have been able to beat Ardovino’s 11-year winning streak. Over 50 years of pizzas, salads, sandwiches and gourmet foods have made their four locations a local tradition. Ardovino’s does gourmet pizza decadently with options like salmon and fennel and Canadian bacon and asparagus, but The Four Seasons pizza is what truly sets them apart. It’s a large 15-inch pizza divided into quarters: sundried tomato and pesto, artichoke and roasted red pepper, green chile and ricotta and spinach and garlic. Good luck choosing which quarter to sample first. Celiacs won’t miss out; gluten-free crust is available. 206 Cincinnati St., 915-532-9483; 865 N. Resler Dr., 915-760-6000; and additional locations,ardovinospizza.com.

Best Hottest Salsa: L & J Cafe

Best Italian Restaurant: The Italian Kitchen

Tradition has once again prevailed, as The Italian Kitchen takes this category three years in a row. The original location has resided in a cozy home since 1948 in Five Points, while the westside location came about in 2006. Italian-American favorites are served with a bit of El Paso flair, like the green chile chicken lasagna. Their warm, buttered bread is similar to bolillo rolls served with menudo, which ironically, is served on weekends at the west location. Chicken Angelo, eggplant Parmigiana and pizza are customer favorites. If there was a cheese lover’s award, Italian Kitchen would win that too, because most entrees are enveloped in a thick blanket of cheese. 2923 Pershing Dr., 915-565-4041; 450 Thorn Ave., 915-842-0775;theitaliankitchenelpaso.com.

Best Local Burger: Crave Kitchen & Bar

Crave may not strictly serve burgers, but they sure know how to make the best for four years in a row. Success lies in the use of certified Black Angus beef cooked your way and careful curation of toppings, ranging from classic to innovative. Tuesdays not only feature $5 burgers, but an over-the-top selection as well, like the Chef Boyardee, which features a panko-breaded fried cheese ravioli on a juicy beef patty with marinated diced tomatoes in pesto, spinach with lemon thyme, garlic aioli and a balsamic reduction drizzle. A veggie patty or chicken breast can even be subbed for beef. 11990 Rojas Dr., 915-594-7971; 300 Cincinnati Ave., 915-351-3677; cravekitchenandbar.com.

Best Mediterranean/Indian Restaurant: Zino’s Greek & Mediterranean

Best Mexican Restaurant: L & J Cafe

Best Mexican Restaurant is the most critical category in a border town where everyone has their favorites and own opinion as to what defines great Mexican food. Let’s just say that this four-time winner deserves this category once again due to a rich history and enchilada sauce. Who can argue with consistent local and national awards, as well as celebrity clientele? The best way to eat their signature enchiladas is to pay the extra fee and get half red, half green. This landmark is also known for their chile con queso and ground beef tacos made with potatoes. 3622 E. Missouri Ave., 915-566-8418; landjcafe.com.

Best New Restaurant: Independent Burger

Best Seafood In The Dusty Desert: Little Shack

What started as a literal little shack in the parking lot of a westside shopping center has now expanded and added a second location in the UTEP area. Small menu and small venue equals big, fresh flavor that has kept customers coming back for more and helping them steal this category away from Pelican’s. Little Shack is known for their fish tacos, shrimp cocktails and ceviche. Breaded and fried fish is served on a corn tortilla, topped with red cabbage, cilantro and chipotle cream. Generous portions of quality shrimp, red onion, tomato, cilantro, avocado and crisp cucumber make up their cocktails. 2701 N. Mesa St., Ste. 200, 915-603-6007; 5360 N. Mesa St., 915-321-1562.

Best Service in Town: Crave Kitchen & Bar

Best Spot For Steaks: Cattleman’s Steakhouse

Being way out west, there are plenty of times when we don’t feel like a Texas town, but there’s always Cattleman’s to remind us of our rightful claim. Situated on a ranch in Fabens for over 40 years, this has been THE place to go if you’re hankering for a steak. Cut right on the premises and cooked perfectly per the customer’s order, you can bet on a tender and flavorful steak every time. No need to feel inferior for ordering a Cowgirl steak (1 ½ lb. T-bone), because Cattleman’s has also been voted Manliest Steakhouse in America by Men’s Health. 3450 S. Fabens Carlsbad Rd., Fabens, Texas 79838; cattlemanssteakhouse.com.

Best Sure-Bet For Good Food (Every Time): Crave Kitchen & Bar

Best Sushi: Sunny’s Sushi, Steak, & Seafood House

Best Tacos: Tacoholics

The pioneers of the gourmet food truck craze in El Paso are now taco trendsetters, breaking last year’s tie with Chico’s Tacos. Success led them to a funky spot in an eastside gas station, and now these vatos find themselves once again slingin’ out of the truck after the station closed down. Build your taco with sirloin, pork, chicken, or tofu, and choose a style. Korean BBQ is a must, but know there are other tantalizing options like grilled onions with queso fresco or homemade chorizo. Top ’em off with salsas so good, they’re likely to snag next year’s best salsa category. 7450 Gateway Blvd. E., Ste. B, 915-929-2592; tacoholics.com.

Best Tamales: Delicious Mexican Eatery

Best Veggie-Friendly Restaurant: Greenery Restaurant

EP Food News, July 2014

A couple of years ago I used to post local news on this blog, but that all changed when I began freelancing for What’s Up Weekly. You can read my restaurant writeups and Dish food news column a couple of times each month by picking up a copy of the local magazine or visiting whatsuppub.com.

A few things happened this month, including the Best of the Best issue, which have pushed the publishing date on my submission. So, I thought I would share the news here before it becomes old news that doesn’t get published. Plus I get to add my commentary here! :)

If you have any local food news, feel free to email, facebook, or tweet me.

Here are a few new places that I visited recently in photos. Click on the photos for more info:

Let’s get the disappointing news out of the way first.

  • Last month, I wrote that Opus World Bistro had closed down. Does anybody know what happened and if Chef Ross has plans of reopening?
  • Red Mountain Bistro made a huge announcement on their Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. They thanked El Pasoans for their gracious hospitality for the past 22 months, but then went on to say that they have decided to seize a great opportunity by relocating to Austin, TX. The bistro has been closed as of July 1st. I wasn’t really a fan of RMB, but it’s still upsetting to hear that a local business is leaving town. Hopefully someone will snatch up this unique spot quickly.
  • Also upsetting, is that WB Liquors will open in the former Double Dave’s Pizza location on Redd. I really thought that a fast casual chain like Chipotle was going to take it over. What a waste of a cool space.
  • Craft House Pub & Grub is now open on the westside next to Texas Roadhouse at 5020 N. Desert. The new bar offers a variety of craft beers bottled and on draft, liquor and a food menu of appetizers, hot dogs, burgers and sandwiches. For more information, visit them on Facebook. I’m sorry, but this new place was a huge disappointment for me. I was expecting this place to be like Hoppy Monk and it is far from it. It’s dark and plain in there and not in an ambient way. It kind of looks like a rec center in there. They offer a good variety of beers, but nothing really makes this place stand out. The food menu is typical bar food and there’s nothing vegetarian.

Onto happy news!

  • The eastside has been buzzing about a new spot where you can grab a gourmet burger and get your car washed. Tutu’s Burger & Hand Wash is located at 1641 N. Zaragoza. Visit them on Facebook. Gabe from El Paso’s Wurst Food Truck told me that they added a veggie burger and it’s the best he’s ever had!
  • Speaking of El Paso’s Wurst, Helga the food truck needs your help! They have entered Flo’s Fabulous Food Truck Contest to win money to help fund serious repairs that Helga needs. Last year, The Sweet Addiction cupcake food truck entered, but didn’t get enough votes. C’mon guys, let’s make it happen this year! Visit this link to vote. You can vote every day up until July 31. You can also visit facebook.com/epwurst
  • Rita’s Jamaican Cuisine has been open for a couple of months at 5929 Dyer. You’ll find jerk chicken, curry goat, oxtail, fried plantains, and more.
  • The TripAdvisor website ranked Sparky’s in Hatch, NM as the third best burger in the nation. Their green chile cheeseburger is what earned them this esteemed place. If you drive further up to Roswell, you’ll find the eighth best burger at Big D’s Downtown Dive. Their Tomahawk burger is out of this world, with aged cheddar, red chili and avocado lime mayo.
  • Chubby’s Bronx Deli will be opening another location on the eastside at 1830 N. Zaragoza where the NY Bagel Cafe & Deli was formerly located.
  • The Pizza Joint is adding a second location downtown at 500 N. Stanton. The new location will open within a couple of months and feature a full restaurant with a pizza window that opens out to the street.
  • A new tea shop will open late summer in the UTEP area next to Cabo Joe’s at 3233 N. Mesa. The Tea Spout will sell loose leaf teas and baked goods, like blueberry green tea scones. Get updates at facebook.com/theteaspout
  • Oktoberfest will return this year, thanks to a Fort Bliss agency that has taken over planning and hosting the event to take place at Biggs Park, September 19-21. The first two nights will cost $30 to include a German meal and stein, while the third night will be a free family night. Tickets go on sale August first. Can you believe I’ve never been to Oktoberfest? Shame on me! Maybe this will be the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EP Ballpark Food & Beverage Review & Guide

Behold! A handy food and beverage guide to view on your phone or print out. Scroll to the bottom to get the guide.

 

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The Ballpark has to be one of the most controversial things that’s ever happened to El Paso. It’s mostly the way everything was handled, which we won’t get into here. I will say that at first, I was on no one’s side, especially since I’m a public librarian and our library system is a City department. Library patrons would come in and rant about it daily, and all I could do was smile and nod. But when fines and fees would come up, we now had a deflector. All problems could be blamed on that damn ballpark!

Well, I am in love with that damn ballpark. It’s a beautiful facility that’s like a scaled-down MLB park. Tickets are reasonably priced, but food, beverages, and souvenirs are where it gets expensive. Expect to pay $4 for a bottled water or soda. Twelve ounce draft beers begin at $5, but Thrifty Thursdays offers $2 select beers, popcorn, and Chihuarrrines. Chihuarrrines are those fried puffed wheat snacks, also known as chilindrinas. Don’t forget, they stop selling alcohol at end of the 7th inning.

As overpriced as the food may be, it’s creative and reflective of our city. There are condiment stations that have the typical fixings like onions, relish, ketchup, and mustard, but they also have jalapenos, two kinds of salsa, Valentina hot sauce, and Heinz hot sauce. Meateaters have all the fun and get the best value. At $10 each, they can opt for the nachos topped with pieces of beef and served in a souvenir dog bowl, huevos rancheros burger, or green chile bacon cheeseburger (burger baskets come with fries). Vegetarian options are limited to a $6 slice of cheese pizza from Peter Piper Pizza and a hummus sampler. For $9, you get black bean hummus, edamame hummus, and classic garlic hummus with pita chips. Sounds great, but I didn’t try it. Something about eating nine dollar hummus at a ball game didn’t sit right in my stomach.

Baseball stadiums across the nation, both professional and AAA, have better vegetarian and vegan options like veggie dogs, burgers, sausage, and more. Maybe we can convince Ovations Food Service to do the same by filling out this survey: www.ovations-survey.com

If you have a ticket valued at $10 or more, be sure to visit The City Hall Grill and Sun Kings Saloon (staff actually checks tickets at the door). Draft beer, wine, a full liquor bar, and a food menu that differs slightly from the other concession stands are available at these air-conditioned open seating areas. However, there are outside ticketed seats facing the field that cost about $17.

Not available at the concession stands, is the fried salsa appetizer, which they had run out of the two times I had gone. The third time’s a charm, because I finally got to try them, and after all the self-induced hype, they were a mild disappointment. For some reason I was expecting something like a cheese stick or cheese curd with a salsa center. Instead, they were salsa-speckled hush puppies that were overcooked and hard. At least the avocado crema drizzle was delicious. I’m a sucker for avocados and lime.

When you go to a game, make sure you fully explore the stadium. There is public artwork everywhere. Every time I go, I see something I missed the last time. Now if only I could explore the VIP areas. Hint, hint ;)

 

 

Click on the images to enlarge. Please note that menu items & prices are subject to change.

EP Ballpark Food Guide 1

EP Ballpark Food Guide 2