Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Birrieria Aguinaga

So, a while back I lost a work related bet with one of my sales guys. The wager was a taqueria lunch of the loser's choosing. So, thanks to a recent DMN article about the popularity of the taquerias around town, I chose Birrieria Aguinaga. This joint was recognized for its Goat (Birria) tacos, so we figured we'd give it a shot.

We arrived at the location on NW Hwy shortly after 11:30, and the place/parking lot/neighborhood was empty. This isn't normal for this side of town, but I can only assume we were early. When on the way home from work, and around dinner time the parking lot is always packed.

My meal started with delicious chips and salsa -- They were not superb, but pretty tasty. I ordered two Birria tacos, one Carnitas and one Al Pastor. All on flour tortillas (with the cilantro and onion on the side). I know I'm non traditional, but I prefer the flour tortilla, and want to make sure I'm not over cilantro'd. The plate of taco's came with some DELICIOUS pickled onions. The flour tortillas were clearly homemade and fresh.

The Birria taco is delicious -- it's vaguely smoky, greasy and tender, much like good barbacoa. This was my first experience with birria, but I'll be back for more, it was perfect just with a squeeze of lime and a few of the pickled onions.

My carnitas was also a fine specimen. I treated this more traditionally and loaded the tortilla down with cilantro, lime and onions, and added the house green salsa. The carnitas was tender, with just the right amount of crispy on the edge.

The Al Pastor left something to be desired. It was clearly Pork, not the traditional lamb, but I'm ok with that. It didn't have the usual slight sweetness one associates with al pastor. I loaded it up with lime juice and pickled onions and enjoyed it none the less.

I can assure you I'll be back for a fine goat taco, but have many more locations to scout out for my favorite carnitas in the NW Dallas area. We're now making bi-weekly trips to different taquerias, so I'll continue to update.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Smoke Dallas

Saturday was a fine day of Christmas shopping for Joy and I. Fighting the sea of Dallas holiday traffic and huddled masses of shoppers really embiggens the holiday spirit in me. Or anger, one of the two. Just so you know driving on NW Hwy at 3pm on a Saturday 2 weeks before Christmas sucks.

I had decided that I wanted BBQ for dinner Saturday night early in the day. I figured we'd go give Smoke a shot <www.smokerestaurant.com> as I had heard good things. We'd have gone for lunch, but it's pretty well out of the way from anything we were going to be doing that afternoon. So, we had Great Outdoors (#12 hot please). Note that the Great Outdoors is next to Backcountry BBQ on Park @ Greenville. We almost had a double bbq day. Or maybe we should have just had Backcountry for lunch, and skipped Smoke for dinner.

We arrived at Smoke about 8pm, were seated at a table too close to the next couple, and enjoyed a couple of complementary cornbread sticks with jalapeno jam. Good, but not great. We ordered strictly bbq and bbq related sides. Smoke has quite the extensive menu, most of which looked delicious, but I was here for BBQ. Brisket sandwich, Pulled Pork sandwich, 1/2 rack of ribs. For sides we enjoyed fries and the hominy casserole.

First, let’s talk about sauces. They bring a four pack to the table. House sauce is a tomato/molasses sauce which isn't overly sweet, but isn't overly flavorful either. There is a vinegar/red pepper SC sauce, a mustardy sweet NC sauce and a "Tex Mex" chipotle/tomatillo sauce. None of them are very good, but the SC sauce has a nice punch of heat.

Brisket Sandwich:
Unless specified, I want sliced beef. This came out chopped, and topped with two 3/8" thick slices of sour pickle. I didn't ask for chopped, nor did the menu indicate that I was ordering a chopped beef sandwich. Either way, the bun was fantastic and the meat just so/so. A little dry and no real smoke flavor to speak of.

Pulled Pork:
This sandwich, on the same fantastic bun as above, was good, but not really bbq. The tender shreds of pork were sauced lightly with the vinegar/red pepper sauce and topped with cabbage slaw. Traditional style, which I can respect. Unfortunately there were not chunks of bark in the pulled pork, and NO smoke flavor. If I didn't know any better, I'd assume it came out of a slow-cooker/Crockpot.

1/2 Rack of St. Louis cut spare ribs. Here's where all of the smoke flavor in the restaurant went. Wow. There is no lack of smoke flavor in these. There is also no lack of rub, or sticky sweet glaze. I really, really wanted to like these ribs but there are just too many flaws to approve. The first bite was pretty outstanding, but after you polish off a rib or two it's just too much. Too much rub -- caked on uncooked powder in your mouth. Too much or the sweet glaze that's masking the flavor of the pork. Too much smoke. I'm guessing there's smoked paprika/smoked salt in the rub which is causing part of the problem. The ribs did come with pickled carrots which were pretty awesome.

The fries have a smoky sweet dusting of salt -- like a Wing Stop fry with attitude. At first, you love this. After a while the smoke becomes slightly overpowering and you wish they were just good fries.
The hominy casserole, on the other hand, is awesome. Bacon, jalapenos, grits, hominy and cheddar. I'm going to be making this for Christmas dinner, assuming I can find a recipe.

There's a chance I'll give this restaurant another shot -- cause I really want to like it. I've heard nothing but good things about their house made sausages, so I'll likely be back to try those. We'll see.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


So, venturing through the local Salvadorean market and hunting for dinner stuffs, I found a tray of radishes. For about $1.60, we got 20 or so radishes. A couple of them went on a salad last night and today, we have a lot of radish left.

Misty did some work on google, and up popped green beans and radishes. We sliced them thin, tossed them in with butter, the beans, added a little green onion, garlic, soy sauce, and pepper. We sauteed this up and went to work. The radishes took on the soy and garlic flavors so perfectly and their semi-transparency made them the perfect addition. I could see eating just the sauteed radishes - they are also somewhat sweet when cooked down, and they really are delicious.

We will be doing this one again - for your winter, pick up a radish!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Best Water Ever

The Ioussen Pot treats your water like royalty. Charcoal pieces and rocks from Mt. Iou, an active volcano on the eastern part of Japan's Hokkaido, filter the water in a magical way. It is said the minerals imparted by the rocks have a natural power that will properly orient your healthy life.

I don't know about all that, but I do know the water that pours out of this magical little pot is delicious, slightly rocky tasting, and, at the least, makes me feel like I am doing something right.

This device is not inexpensive, but we got it as a wedding gift, so bonus to us! Try some next time you're over.

[see? instructions in Japanese mean this is the real deal]