Category Archives: Restaurants

The Ocean Grill…or Mesanje en un botella

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The weather in Louisiana is warming up now, but we have recently had record cold weather.  The temperatures dropped into the low twenties, and then there was the freezing rain.  The roads were not navigable.  I was content to stay at home and get some work done.  However, I couldn’t help but daydream about warmer weather.  My thoughts wandered to last summer when my sisters, our husbands and I traveled to Puerto Vallarta with my cousin and his wife.  It was my sister’s tenth anniversary and they quite generously wanted to share it with family.

Family fun
We had a great time

Before we left, I was told that we would be dining at the Ocean Grill during the trip.  My sister had been to the restaurant more than once and loved the food and the atmosphere.  One of the cool things about it, she said, was that we had to travel by boat to get there.  I have since learned from their faq that one can also hike there from Boca de Tomatlan.

My brother-in-law arranged for us to have a boat for the day, and we all were looking forward to being out on the water.   My sister had made a reservation which is required for one of their three seatings (11 am, 1pm and 3 pm).  We could have also taken the Ocean Grill’s boat taxi from the Boca de Tomatlan pier but we were planning on making a few other stops as well.  We met our boat at the marina and all piled in.

bar
Ocean grill bar

Although it had not happened to her before, my sister began feeling symptoms of motion sickness soon after we embarked on our journey.  She didn’t feel well at all when we arrived at our destination.  Luckily the perfect remedy awaited!

The original dock had been destroyed by a storm, so we had to make a beach landing.  There we were greeted by Wilson, the canine host.

wilson
Wilson is the perfect canine host

The Ocean Grill’s gracious human host, Alfonso offered to us upon our arrival the best margarita I have ever had.  An elixir including fresh lime juice, ginger and mint leaves, it was a refreshing start to a delicious meal.  When I returned home I had lots of fun attempting a re-creation of this cocktail.

While we were waiting for our drinks, Alfonso told us that he was from Mexico City and when we asked about his building project he explained that he was in the process of adding a spa and boutique hotel to his seaside restaurant.

refreshing margarita
Margarita with fresh lime, ginger and mint leaves

The perfect atmosphere on a good weather day, dining at the Ocean grill is outdoors and covered.  Even the bathroom has an ocean view.

loo view
View from the bathroom at the ocean grill

 

Grilled Clam appetizer
The hickory flavor added a smokey flavor to the warm butter and lime on the grilled clams.

We each ordered a variety of items from the menu so that we could share the experience.   If I close my eyes I can still taste the butter-lime hickory sauce that was covering the grilled clams.  The smoked marlin tostadas were delicious as well but I dream about those clams.  The fresh guacamole was quite appetizing and enough for us all to have a generous amount.

While we waited between courses I walked around the restaurant and absorbed the refreshing atmosphere.  Construction continues on the addition and Alfonso tells me that they hope to be finished in March of this year.

Construction
When we were at Ocean Grill in June, construction was in progress on an addition.

There were printed menus as well as a menu posted on a blackboard behind the bar — in Spanish.  The catch of the day is served with a choice of side and a choice of sauce.  A couple of us ordered the fish with different sauces and sides.  I think my favorite of the sauces was the lime butter sauce.  We were trying to place the smokey flavor and Alfonso solved our puzzle — hickory.

Red Snapper
The catch of the day was Red Snapper and was flaky and delicious.

 

smoked marlin tostadas
Smoked Marlin tostadas

Entrees were well presented.  Fresh red snapper, shrimp, Octopus and a hamburger (yes, a hamburger) were the items ordered.  In the photo to the left, one can just see the fried plantains that are peeking out from under the fish.  They were crispy and a great compliment to the lime butter sauce.

Fresh fish with the house sauce
I think this is the Sarandeado sauce on top of the Catch of the day with a side of black beans.

When it came time to pay the bill…we realized that not all of us knew that the restaurant is cash only.  There isn’t an ATM, so there was a tense moment while we all gathered our pesos.

Octopus with Kalamata Tapenada
The octopus was an adventurous choice and very tasty

As we were leaving with our bellies full,  we walked around the lagoon looking at the sand crabs.

sand crab
The beach was home to many sand crabs

 

Someone noticed a wine bottle that had washed up and joked about a message in a bottle.  It turned out that there was one!  Apparently the little boy who put the message in the bottle had released it into the water just the day before.

Our trip to the Ocean Grill was a memorable occasion and one that I hope to repeat.

Mesanje en un botella
As we were leaving we found a message in a bottle

Chili, Chile, Chill…or Grill Caliente

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fried green chili peppers with dipping sauce
The fried green chiles were served with a chipotle ranch dressing.

I often say that I don’t want to move away from Louisiana because of the food.  Few states have a culinary heritage as rich and colorful as my home state.  New Mexico is one exception.  In my travels there, I have come to especially appreciate the chili sauce.  In fact, if you want to try it, El Pinto Restaurant in Albuquerque has some of the best chili sauce I have tried and you can order it and have it sent to your home!   The sauce is made on site and with a family recipe. Their web site also has some more information about the chile.

There seems to be some confusion about usage of the word and “chile” is often used interchangeably with the word, “chili.”  If you are traveling in New Mexico and are offered chili it is unlikely that your host is offering a stew with meat and beans.  Nine times out of ten when you hear that you will be served chili in New Mexico you will also hear the words, “red or green.”  If you can’t decide you should say, “Christmas,” which means that you will get both red and green chile sauce with your meal.  New Mexicans take pride in their chili and many have a family recipe…sort of like Louisianans take pride in their family gumbo recipes.

I found a site that has much more detail about New Mexico and chile.

When I was in New Mexico last December I had dinner at a warm and welcoming restaurant that I liked so much I ate there two nights in a row.  Ruidoso, New Mexico is a town in the mountains.  It is my habit when I travel to check my travel apps and consult the Internet for recommendations.  I checked in to my hotel and then proceeded to make a short list of candidates.  Then I went and asked the desk attendant.  I was so glad I did!  He told me that he eats often at Grill Caliente and so I decided to try it.

fried chilis with chipotle ranch

Grill Caliente is on 2800 Sudderth Drive in Ruidoso and was just a little over a block away from the Ruidoso Hotel.  I noticed that there are tables outside and imagine that outdoor seating must be popular in summer months.  However because it was cold outside when I walked in they offered me a table near the fireplace.

Karen Davis and her husband Phil were such gracious hosts that I almost felt like I was having dinner in their home.  I learned that they opened a different restaurant in Ruidoso and sold it years before.  They moved away but the mountains called them back and they returned to open Grill Caliente.

Grill Caliente offers a menu of southwestern themed food and the sacred chili is ever present on the menu.  Additionally their beer and wine menu offers a selection that should appeal to a variety of tastes and wines are offered by the glass and by the bottle.

As I mentioned I had dinner there two nights in a row and tried different menu items — all were well presented and delicious.  I think my two favorite items were the Veggie Poblano that I had the first night (grilled poblano pepper stuffed with grilled vegetables and topped with queso blanco and served with black beans.) and the Fried Green Chili Rings (green chili, poblano and jalapeno rings battered and fried, served with chipotle ranch dipping sauce) I had the second night.  However the tenderloin taco and mushroom taco I had the second night were delicious as well.  I can still taste the veggies in the stuffed poblano.  They were grilled just the way I like them — crunchy still, but a flame kissed flavor imparted by the grill enhanced the taste of the zucchini and squash inside the poblano.

I took the leftovers back to my hotel, thinking that I would be able to munch on them on my long drive back to Albuquerque.  Alas, the refrigerator in my room did not cool and I had to discard the box.  I may try to recreate the stuffed poblano at home, but something tells me that I will just have to return to Grill Caliente — if not for the fried chili peppers or the dessert that I was too full to try, for the warm and welcoming hosts who made me feel at home.

2 tacos -- one steak and one mushroom
2 tacos — one steak and one mushroom

Grill Caliente on Urbanspoon

Chicken Piccata with angel hair pasta is one of our favorites!

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Chicken Piccatta with angel hair pasta
Chicken Piccata with angel hair pasta

 

When Loup Garou and I met, it did not take us long to realize that we shared an interest in food and cooking.  Soon, we were discussing our favorite restaurants and we discovered that we both loved the veal picatta at DiGiulio Brothers in Baton Rouge.  Our next step was to find a recipe that would help us to recreate that dish.  We put together a couple of recipes and came up with something very close!  We have been cooking it for a couple of years now.  We have even cooked it with sliced eye of round instead of veal…of course that takes a little tenderizing!

Recently, I came across this recipe for chicken piccata and found that it is delicious and also very close to the dish we love from Digiulio’s.  It’s become a favorite at our home!

Simply Recipes is a great place to find recipes!

 

For the pasta, I often serve a whole wheat angel hair pasta tossed with basil, lemon, garlic and olive oil — much like this recipe from Giada De Laurentis.

GG

Texas Hill Country in August

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Strawberry Gelato
Refreshing Strawberry Gelato

When I travel, I try to read the local newspaper when I can.  Newspapers will tell one so many things about a place that may or may not be obvious.  Of course, one of the largest news items in Texas right now is the heat and the drought.  There was no doubt in my mind that it is hot and dry there!   When the Loup Garou, The Cub and I traveled to Kerrville, Texas last weekend to pick up the young goddesses from summer camp, the average temperature was 105 degrees and the air and ground in the Hill Country were drier than a desert.  When we left the first of the several camp closing events on Thursday afternoon, I announced that I needed ice cream.  The Loup Garou thought he was being funny when he said, “Well, if we head to Baton Rouge right now, we can get some gelato from Latte e Meile!”  Ha!

Instead, we ventured to the cool air conditioning of our hotel room where we would make decision about where we would have dinner.  I really already knew where we were going.  Rails is one of my favorite places to eat and I haven’t eaten there in years.  A former railroad depot, the small building was remodeled and turned into a restaurant — it even received an award for restoration in 2004.  Thursday night, we had to eat outside because we went without reservations. (I knew better but did it anyway.)   Luckily they had a sort of outside chilled air unit that is portable, and our server rolled the unit closer to us so that it would keep us cooler.  It was somewhat helpful, but we opted for a light meal and the house recommended chilled South African Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc because we still hadn’t cooled off from the earlier outdoor festivities.

We ordered the special appetizer of the evening which was grilled beef tenderloin wrapped asparagus tips served in a bed of  red bell pepper sauce and served with goat cheese and crostini.  The cub actually tasted it, but his palate has not yet welcomed the taste of asparagus.  I will say that he tried the goat cheese and loved it!  The tenderloin had a nice flavor and the goat cheese was a perfect accompaniment to the wine.

For our entrees, Loup Garou and I ordered salads — he a grilled beef tenderloin salad served with bleu cheese, tomatoes and red onions, and a balsamic vinegar.  The tenderloin was again, quite flavorful.  I ordered the grilled salmon salad, served in a bed of spinach with mandarin oranges and a citrus soy dressing.  All were delicious, including the red onion that I swiped from the Loup Garou’s salad to go with mine.  I especially liked the salad dressing on my salad.  The Cub enjoyed his Axis Burger, but he and the Loup Garou, who tasted it thought it might be a little over done.  I remember in retrospect that we did not order the Cub’s preferred, “doneness” so I think if he had ordered the burger to be cooked to medium, he would have liked it better.

When we finished our meal, we were brought a dessert tray, and much to our happiness, a strawberry gelato was offered!  There were several other yummy looking pies, cakes, and custards, but I had been wanting gelato since 4 o’clock!  Our server, Christina said that she made the fresh gelato daily and that it was a fairly new addition to the menu.  We loved the pieces of frozen strawberry and the creamy texture of the gelato.  It was quite lovely, and a refreshing way to wrap up the day.

I think I’m going to invest in a gelato machine…

GG