All ice and no leaving the apartment makes Chow, Baby a dull food critic. All ice and no leaving the apartment … I went a little crazy last week. The icepocalypse was tough on me, not because I got cabin fever, but because my cabin isn’t exactly a winter wonderland. It’s more like Hooverville with cable TV. And that was before my electricity went out. That was a problem, because the only thing between me and hunger was a comically huge collection of leftovers from area restaurants. Seriously, it was like a game of Tetris just trying to cram another to-go box into my fridge.
With the power off, I knew I had precious little time to finish all of those boxes. So I did what any neurotic, shivering binge eater would do: set out to eat as much as I could before it went bad. I was able to get my grill started outside, so I could at least heat up the food — although warming soup on a barbecue grill while my extremities froze did not make for dining pleasure.
I started with a box full of delights from Mariposa’s Latin Kitchen (5724 Locke Ave.). I visited the place last year around this time (“Extra Mustard and Hold the Mayans,” Dec. 19, 2012) when I was sure the world was going to end. I thought the then-new restaurant was OK, but nothing special. Either the place has come a long way, or that first visit was just on a bad day. When I returned last week, every morsel I put in my mouth was exquisite.
If you want to really treat yourself, try the mini taco plate ($8.95), featuring a trio of oh-my-God-good pork, beef, and chicken tacos. Don’t let the word “mini” dissuade you. Those lil’ suckers are the pack mules of delicious taco ingredients. For example, my favorite of the three featured a fresh-made corn tortilla; shredded pork that was tender, juicy, and well-seasoned; and toppings of shredded cabbage and a chipotle-lime sauce. The tacos were just as good the second time around. I also got a bite of my guest’s pork empanada with a ginger sauce ($8.95) — although she took that one home. The crust was flaky and buttery, and the ginger sauce brought out sweetness in the pork that I didn’t taste in the taco. The accompanying sweet plantains were a nice complement to the plate.
I used to frequent Thai Tina’s when it was on the corner of Henderson Street and White Settlement Road. But ever since it moved downtown (600 Commerce St.), it has seemed kind of unapproachable. It’s as though my high school sweetie blossomed into a total hottie after we broke up.
But I can’t quit you, Double-T, at least not as long as you offer the hot basil duck ($16.95). The roasted, basil-flecked half-duck is sliced, then served with sautéed onion, red bell peppers, tomato, and pineapple, all swimming in a spicy white wine and chile sauce. Even re-heated on a grill, the dish is poetry on a plate. The glistening bird was succulent and shamelessly tender.
The jalapeño and cilantro soup ($6.95) from Reata (310 Houston St.) was a welcome treat, though heating it up on the grill proved tricky. I made a makeshift bowl out of tin foil. There was a lot of leakage. What little soup got to my mouth was delicious, spicy, and warming.
Every good food binge is followed by conflicting feelings of shame and deep satisfaction. If you don’t feel both, you didn’t do it right. At least I saved myself from having to throw food away or get on icebound roads to forage for fresh groceries. Even braving the depths of my refrigerator wasn’t as dangerous as that.
Contact Chow, Baby at firstname.lastname@example.org