While I don't partake in the bolder side of the revelry, this year's Spring Break gave me an opportunity to indulge in a few of my favorite activities- tinker around the house, catch up with friends, and explore new restaurants. My friend Claudia is in the top three of my list of favorite dining companions. Claudia just knows food. She's traveled the world, hangs with chefs, and is a killer cook herself. In fact, I've often said she should be writing this blog. Ironically, though, she is one of my strongest supporters and faithful cheerleaders in this writing journey.
This time we decided on upscale Mexican food, a cuisine I can only enjoy at a very high level of quality. I'm a Mexican food snob. Talavera resides in Miami's bustling area of Coral Gables. The space is bright and sleek with oversized blue and white ceramic vases providing pops of color. The menu is not overwhelmingly long, but it's a good representation of classic Mexican fare.
They start you with a basket of crisp blue corn tortilla chips and two dipping salsas, tomato and tomatillo, both too spicy for me, although I tried the tomatillo and found it delightfully sweet until I felt the kick. We ordered a bowl of guacamole, which came garnished with pork rinds, definitely an inventive twist. The guac gifted my mouth with a fresh pop of spring in every bite.
Claudia ordered the green enchiladas, filled with pulled chicken, surrounded by their peppy tomatillo sauce, topped with lettuce and crumbled cotija cheese. A simple dish, with mild flavors that come alive with the saltiness of the cheese. We thought the chicken was just on the side of overcooked, but the sauce provided a savory moisture to compensate for the slight dryness.
One particular traditional Mexican dish that has always intrigued me but I've never tried is Cochinita Pibil. I've heard Rick Bayless, a popular American chef who specializes in Mexican dishes with a modern twist, speak of it on TV with contagious excitement, and this was the day that Cochinita and I would be properly introduced. It consists of slow roasted pork wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in citrus juice, which results in a savory sweet explosion of flavor. This is not your average pulled pork, folks.
The succulent Cochinita Tacos brought some friends to the party besides warm soft tortillas. Savory rice and black beans prepared well enough to impress this tough Cuban expert. Also invited were more fresh guacamole and strips of pickled tomato so tangy, even Cochinita puckered up with delight. Some meals just make you happy.
Good company is a key element in a satisfying dining experience. Good company in addition to good food create a spiritual moment for me. On this day, I had both in spades.
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