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Friday, January 4, 2013

Three favorites for the holidays: Holy Taco, Chateau de Saigon and the Shed

Betal rolls to be rolled into ricepaper with herbs

Wayne and I reached our 20th anniversary as a couple on New Year's Day. I always like to say we met in the public library. But, truth be known, our first contact was in the notorious Eagle bar (subject of a controversial raid in 2009).

Wayne, who is both the smartest and nicest person alive, tolerated eating-out nearly every night when my "Grazing" column was weekly. On the rare occasion that my column wasn't run, we called the reprieve "Freedom from Food Week." Now, with "Grazing" returning to a monthly schedule and not requiring much restaurant dining, our freedom is broadened. We don't have to dine anywhere we don't like.

Thus, to celebrate our anniversary, we went with our friend Rose to Chateau de Saigon, one of our longtime favorite Vietnamese spots. Wayne ordered the exhausting roll-'em-yourself summer rolls for the table. The principal filler was steak rolled in betal leaves. Wayne tends to favor complicated tasks, like dunking the rice paper wrappers in hot water just the right amount of time to make them soft enough to roll up, but not so soft they fall apart.

Rose and I ordered my usual favorite of crunchy rice topped with pork, cooked until glazed with fish sauce in a clay pot....

Speaking of favorites, that reminds me that my Friday night dinner pals wanted to go for Mexican again. Why do they so often want Mexican but immediately demand that it not be "too spicy"? What they really want is bland Tex Mex. You know: an enchilada with awful rice and refried beans.

Happily, we settled on chef-owner Robert Phalen's Holy Taco, where we'd dined before and they all loved. Nearly everyone at the table ordered the flautas, my favorite dish there recently. But this visit, everyone shrugged and said the food was okay, "not bad."

The driving factor behind this shift in attitude seemed to be the presence of a friend whose partner manages a Mexican restaurant in a nearby city. He said that both his flautas and his chicken-heart taco were greasy. They were no such thing to my palate. But we agreed to visit his partner's place soon to try out some grease-free Mexican cooking. I'm suspecting it's Tex Mex. Talk about greasy! We'll see.

Anyway, I loved my meal, as usual. There are a few newbies on the menu and more to come, according to our server....

Wednesday night was, of course, $3 slider night at the Shed at Glenwood. I've been passing over the sliders for the most part, having become addicted to chef Todd Richards' parsnip soup and cornbread made with Edna Lewis' recipe. I do have to also have the merquez sausage slider. Richards is revamping the menu within the next few weeks.

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