Tag Archives: mexican

Economical in East Harlem: Restaurant San Cristobal

In the thousands of times that I’ve visited New York City in the past, I had never spent time in Harlem. Now that I’m living here, I’ve made it a point to experience all parts of Manhattan.  So, when a friend from home came to visit this past weekend, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to charter new ground. Thus, we journeyed North-East, out of the Mo-Hi bubble, and into Spanish Harlem. While Harlem houses rich culture, it also houses rich food. After walking around a bit, we came across a notable gem: Restaurant San Cristobal, also known as Cafe Ollin.

Restaurant San Cristobal is a small  Mexican restaurant. Walking through their doors was like walking into Mexico. The quaint little restaurant is covered with Mexican-style ornaments and they play traditional music.

The decor was almost as amazing as the food (and their prices). We each  ordered our own tacos and shared one of their famous tortas (a kind of sandwich), all for under $20.


I had ordered the “chicken taco con todo.” What delighted me most when seeing this dish come out was how green the avocado was. All ingredients were fresh, which was reflected in the quality of the taste.


This is their traditional “cemita” with breaded steak. It is a sandwich filled with black beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado, oaxaca cheese, and chipotle. The chipotle added the perfect bite to this sandwich, satisfying all taste buds.

So, he next time you’re in the mood for Mexican and are planning on getting Chipotle, consider Restaurant San Cristobal. It’s authentic Mexican food that will probably end up costing you less.



Purely Food Porn: Dos Caminos Meatpacking

(Disclaimer: this is not a review entry but a photo-dining experience)
Last week I went to Dos Caminos in Meatpacking for NYC Restaurant Week.

Having only been there for a quick bite simply for guac and chips (or fajitas), it was my first time getting the “full meal” experience at the restaurant.

I had their Prix-Fixe lunch menu with Chicken Tortilla Soup, Chile Rubbed Brisket Taquitos, and Torta de Chocolate & Caramelo. My friend ordered the same appetizer with Grilled Organic Salmon Tostada and Tres Leches Cake. And of course, we ordered guac and chips: the Shrimp. Chorizo & Roasted Tomato.

This is not a review entry, but I would say that although the dining service was great, I would not go back to dine for a full-meal experience. Perhaps I have a different taste for Mexican food, as I’ve been and dined in Mexico and lived in Texas for a few years and had Mexican food there, but the food was not that special compared to other Mexican restaurants around New York or in other big cities. Of course, the reasons for it might be that the restaurant caters to American consumer’s general taste for food, and that the ingredients they use could be and probably is not all from Mexico, which could account for a subtle taste difference.

That is not to say that all the food I had: appetizers, entrees, and dessert, were not good. They were tasty and cooked perfectly, and I finished every bite that was on the plate. After all, the place was pretty full, the vibe that the restaurant’s interior created was great (like most big Meatpacking restaurants/bars), and people seemed happy about their orders. Clearly Dos Caminos is doing something right. My only big disappointment was their Tres Leches cake. I don’t know if it was just that day, or if they simply have a different recipe, but the cake was really hard and barely wet, making the cake less flavorful than what I had expected.

I would definitely go back for their guacamole though. I must say. The big bite of shrimp, roasted tomato, guac, salsa verde, and toasted tortilla chip, were on fleek.

Below in the last two photos are the details of the menu for both NY Restaurant Week and their regular Guac selections.

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[caption id="attachment_11696" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Dos Caminos nyrw Dos Caminos nyrw


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SoCal Cooking: Mexican Rice

        This dish is by far the most versatile of Mexican cuisine. It makes sense, as rice is the main staple food for nearly all mexican dishes.  This recipe stays true to the original. Consisting of only the essential ingredients, this recipe does not need a lot to offer so much. It is very easy to make in large amounts, and very hard to screw up!  

Mexican Rice
The color alone should make you hungry!

You may be thinking, aren’t Mexican rice and Spanish rice the same? They are not– in fact, the crucial difference lies in the seasoning. Spanish rice tends to use saffron instead of cumin, and green herbs like oregano instead of cilantro, which is commonly found in mexican rice. The differences are small, but noticeable. If you like a smoky, spicy after taste, this is the dish for you. While it can work as a main course, this rice is usually served as a side dish. Whether the main dish is enchiladas or empanadas, the combination of garlic, cumin, and onions provides the perfect company to any other dish. Experimentation is also key in this recipe- you can add more vegetables like peas, corn, or carrots without changing the overall taste. Since this is a vegetarian post, I refrained form adding any meat, but beef is also a good addition to this dish. 


2 cups rice, cooked

2 serrano peppers, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup of tomato sauce

3 tablespoons Cumin



1. Add oil to the pan and cook the rice and garlic. Mix the rice with the oil, cook on medium-high heat.  

2. Add onions, continue cooking for 5-6 minutes. 

3. Add peppers and cumin, mix well. 

4. Add tomato sauce.

5. Let the rice cook for 15 minutes.

6. Let cool uncovered for 6-7 minutes, and serve!

Vegetarian Enchiladas

One of my favorite Mexican dishes is Enchiladas. They are perfect for feeding large groups and are pretty simple to make. In this installment of Mexicali cooking, I make vegetarian enchiladas, and do so in less than an hour! I know that time is a precious commodity on college campuses. Since us college students don’t have much time to put into cooking (or sleeping),  we rely on buying pre-made food or walking to Chipotle. However, if there is a Westside, there is a way! Making these enchiladas is very simple, and should take only 10 minutes to prep, and 50 minutes to actually cook and bake. While some days, our schedules necessitates packaged pre-made food, I entreat you all to try this recipe on a Sunday afternoon, because Chipotle really isn’t  Mexican food.

Vegetarian Enchiladas
They are really, really good.



5 flour tortillas (use corn if you can!)

2 cups of Sliced mushrooms

1 can of Black beans (14 oz)

1 1/2 cup of frozen corn

1 large onion, diced

3 green onions (dice both the bulb and green stalks)

6 mini bell peppers

1/2 cup of Cilantro

1 bag of Sargento’s Mexican cheese

3 cloves of garlic, diced


Enchilada sauce:

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can vegetable broth (12 oz)

6 oz of tomato paste

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup of water

1 tomato, diced 



To make the Enchilada sauce:

1. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil, then add the flour, stirring for about 35 seconds.

2. Add chili powder, continue to stir for a minute to two minutes.

3. Add vegetable broth, tomato paste, tomato, cumin, oregano, stir very well, and reduce the temperature to low heat.

4. Cook for 10-15 minutes, the sauce will thicken itself. If you want it to be less thick, just add up to 3/4 cup of water and stir well.


To make the Enchilada mix

1. In a large skillets, grill the mushrooms for about 4-6 minutes, or until they are soft and have browned.

2. Add garlic and continue to cook for 3 minutes.

3. Add onions, cook them until they are soft, not translucent.

4. Add the corn, beans, green onion bulbs, mini bell peppers, and spices.

5. Add the cilantro and cook on low heat, mixing well.

6. Grease the baking dishes with a little bit of oil.

7. Warm up each tortilla on the stove top, then place about 1/2 cup of bean mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Wrap the tortilla, and place it so that the seam side is not facing you, but on the baking dish.

8. Once you fill the baking dish, with about 5 wraps or so, spread the enchiliada sauce over them.

9. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 cups of cheese over the wraps.

10. Place the baking dish in the oven, bake for 25-35 minutes.

11. Top with the green onion stalks, and serve!




Dinner and a Movie: Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me prizes at the pier

I have a minor obsession with minions.  I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of “Despicable Me 2” since this gem was released over a year ago.  Let’s face it, Gru’s minions are the best part of his villain universe. Their rendition of an ode to bananas and potatoes is just wonderful (and may or may not be my ringtone).  The second installment in the Despicable Me franchise finds villain-turned-father Gru (Steve Carell) attempting to use his dark past to help him save the world, all the while coming into his role as father to his three adopted daughters.  Carell, by the way, opened two summer movies in one weekend, the other being indie hit “The Way Way Back.”

It seems that like so many of us, Gru has a soft spot in his heart for guacamole.  At a Cinco de Mayo party, a lovelorn Gru assures his host Eduardo that he is doing alright.  “Nothing is wrong,” he asserts, “I’m just chilling…with the guac…from my chip hat.”  That’s right.  He wears a tortilla chip sombrero, the brim of which is filled with guacamole.  If that doesn’t say fiesta I don’t know what does.  Eduardo attempts to comfort him, telling him that he, too, “has spent many night trying to drown my sorrows in guacamole.”  And who hasn’t, really? Of course, as any Culinarian would, I spent a good chuck of the rest of the movie wondering how and where to get a chip hat.








Homemade Chips & Guac

Making a chip hat quite large enough to fit a human head and heavy enough to hold guacamole in its rim is a feat I unfortunately have no accomplished.  But I can help you make a mini chip hat—perhaps you can adorn your favorite minion with it (mine is Stuart).  Mine isn’t quite as sophisticated as the one in the movie.  To keep it super simple (and healthy) I made a microwave tostada bowl.  Simply place a tortilla atop an overturned microwave-safe bowl.  You may want to spray your bowl with non-stick spray or oil so that the chip comes off more easily.  Microwave it on a paper towel for about 1 minute.  Check to see how hard it is—depending on the size of your tortilla you may need to adjust the time.  Once your shell is crispy enough, gingerly remove it from its bowl, and voila—you have a tostada shell!  Just be careful not to heat it for too long, or it will break as you try to get it off the bowl.

As far as the guacamole itself goes, I leave that largely up to personal preference.  Play around with avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, chili, lemon, lime, and salt until you get the perfect mixture.  Trader Joe’s actually carries a guacamole kit—all you have to do is chop and mix!  This guacamole is fairly smooth and consists mostly of avocado—but you can leave it chunkier, or add more ingredients until yours is just right.  This super easy dish is perfect for a summer gathering.  Or, if you have little tortillas like I do, you can make yourself a fancy-looking snack!

Importing Tamales: It runs in the family

Manon’s winter break story is filled with TSA trials and tribulations, but her good humor and amazing cooking skills leads us once again to a fantastic recipe.

Every time my family and I go to France, my parents manage to bring the most outrageous things with them in the suitcases. A couple years ago for example, they were able to fit a Weber barbeque into the bags, accessories and all. We have one in California and my dad swears it’s the best outdoor grill on the market. He’d been wanting to introduce American, barbequed burgers to his French in-laws, so naturally, the Weber was the only way to properly do so. Interestingly enough, it turns out that the summer we imported the barbeque was the year that that particular brand and model became available in France. Oh well..

In other years past, my mom’s brought back fabric for curtains or crabmeat for crab cakes (we haven’t found good crab meat in France). One time she even tried to bring back a bottle of sake for the sushi night we’d been planning on having, but it didn’t go through security. The incident that really topped them all was when my mom bought a 9 x 12 foot rug for the living room and brought it to France. I still don’t understand how she was able to fold and fit it into a TSA-approved bag, but somehow it got through. The rug was, to be sure, a beautiful addition to the living room, but I think the hassle of that particular trip officially stopped my parents from bringing any more crazy things back to France.

Even though my parents have finally stopped importing crazy things, I always crave the foods I can’t have while in France, so I’ve now taken up their old task. I had extra room in my suitcase this winter, so the day before the flight I went out and bought a bunch of salsa, chili powder, Maseca, and cornhusks: we were going to make tamales. Little did I know what I would be getting myself into.

When I had decided to make tamales I knew it was going to be a time consuming process, but I had not anticipated it taking quite as long as it did. By God, it literally took forever. I mean, the preparation itself is pretty easy: you basically just stew the meat, mix together the dough (masa), and stir a chili preparation into the meat. But it’s the assembly that takes time. I guess part of the problem was that since I had so much meat I had to double the recipe, so I ended up having an incredible amount of masa to use up. Good thing I had bought the big bag of maseca and two cornhusk packages, because after a bowl-full of masa and 40 corn husks later I had only used up half of the meat filling and needed to make a new batch of dough. Finally, after a full afternoon of filling and folding cornhusks, victory was mine, and the freezer was full of chicken and beef tamales. All that was missing to have a perfect Mexican-themed dinner party was a couple of ripe avocados for guacamole and a fresh batch of margaritas. Continue reading Importing Tamales: It runs in the family

I love you, California

Even though we’re now based in New York City, Columbia students are from all over the world.  The wonderful result is that we get to salivate as we hear about dishes from many different places.  I personally look forward to returning every couple of years to California to visit my relatives. My parents, sister, and I only ever have two things on our “to-do” list – be with family, and eat at all of our favorite places.   (Hint: long post coming up.)

The Dog House (Bodega Bay, CA) – Amidst all the great family bonding and hours of reading while it rains (constantly), my family always makes sure to make the walk or drive to this treasure.  The Dog House is comfortably separated from the ocean by a mere parking lot.  Its menu is short and to the point.  Burgers, hot dogs, bottomless fries…the quality flavor and grilling perfection are astounding.  With a wall of just condiments, The Dog House gives you a great (meat) base and lets you build up from there.  This meal wouldn’t be complete without a chocolate shake.  (The top picture is of a Cheddar Cheeseburger…be still my heart…)

Screamin’ Mimi’s (Sebastapol, CA) – Here, the ice cream and sorbet are priced by their weight.  So, if you play your cards right, you can get away with a lot more whipped cream than you would’ve if you had just bought your own can of it.  The flavors are innovative and ridiculously delicious.  Mimi’s uses natural and local products, so their ice cream is always creamy and fresh.  Here is a sundae of Mimi’s Mud – a strong espresso ice cream with chunks of brownie, hard fudge, and white chocolate.  So good.

Nick’s Coffee (formerly Roaster’s; Sebastopol, CA) – I got an email a few months ago that simply stated “Karina and Nick bought a coffee shop!”  If you know me at all, then you know that I have found my true soulmate in coffee, so you can imagine my excitement.  Karina, my cousin, and her husband Nick now run a cozy, wonderfully intimate independent coffee shop.  Nick and Karina chat with customers while they prepare drinks.  The coffee is flavorful, with sweeter hints of cinnamon that contrasts with the natural bitterness.  Best part?  Putting whipped cream on anything…including my pumpkin latte.

Enrique’s (Long Beach, CA) – Ever since eating here, I could no longer eat Chipotle and tell myself that I was eating Mexican food.  Enrique’s is a family owned and run business.  The storefront is unassuming, and inside, Enrique’s is decorated simply.  The traditional Mexican dishes hit all of the targets just right: tangy melting cheddar, hot corn tortillas, sweet and spicy salsa, well seasoned carne asada… I’m sad that I can’t go back any time soon.  Enrique’s truly caters to the customer: in addition to well orchestrated creative plates, Enrique’s offers over twenty different combinations of enchiladas, burritos, tacos, beans, and rice to make sure that you get exactly what you want.

Katella’s Deli (Long Beach, CA) – A classic outpost of the boisterous deli, Katella’s maintains both a restaurant and a take out deli.  While the pastrami and fresh bread are great, my favorite part about Katella’s  is the pastry counter.  The cookies are works of art; flaky or crunchy, chocolate or raspberry, sprinkles or M&Ms.  My mom even got her wedding cake here.

So, in a nutshell (haha, see, because it’s about FOOD…nevermind), that was my trip to California.  While we can’t visit these places on our Columbia budget, this blog helps to support our group’s addiction to good food, worldwide.  I hope that everyone’s break was filled with deliciousness.

[Post and photography by Amanda.  If you’re feeling hungry, you can click on the photos to see a larger version! (: ]

Event: Taco Night!

Tomorrow night (11/12) at 8-9 pm in Lerner 569, the Rotaract Club is offering Super Tacos (by the Super Taco truck) at only $4 a plate (with a drink) or $5 a plate (which includes a drink AND chips!). The Rotaract Club is hoping to promote its International Service Trip and build awareness for La Hogar Antonia Astengo of Argentina, a children’s home for those who have suffered domestic abuse.

To learn more about the event, visit their facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=168911616460142&index=1.