Calaveras Cantina – Jupiter, FL

Working in south Florida recently, I happened on this modern Mexican restaurant that’s a game-changer.  You can find all manner of terribly ordinary Mexican restaurants around the country with typical fare and average food.  However, when we stepped into this beautiful spot with authentic fare and a modern twist, we were psyched!  By land or by sea, a stop at Calaveras Cantina in Harbourside Place will be well worth your trip.

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We walked into the bright open space and were greeted by friendly staff and the aroma of onions, spices and fried deliciousness.  The space is quite large with a bar, comfortable booths and outdoor seating to enjoy Jupiter’s weather and harbor.  The bright wall decorations and colorful glass lighting make for a lively environment.  We settled into the menu while sipping some Casa Margaritas.  There’s a lengthy selection of margaritas and other cocktails, available by the glass or pitcher (dangerous!).  You should try their Watermelon Jalapeño for a sweet-hot twist on the original.

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There was no doubt we needed fresh corn tortilla chips.  We also quickly realized that table side guacamole was a no-brainer.  Fresh, creamy, spicy and citrusy, it was the perfect pairing with our margaritas and chips.  I was impressed with the servers who were attentive and clearly “guac experts”!  There’s a dizzying selection of traditional favorites on the menu with a modern twist – think duck confit empanadas or pork belly tacos with kimchi.  I settled on the traditional tacos al pastor with spicy pork, pineapple, cilantro and chihuahua cheese.  How happy were my tastebuds??  Wow!

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I don’t get to Jupiter enough, but when I do, I will certainly make Calaveras Cantina a regular stop for lunch or dinner.  Whether a casual afternoon lunch or dinner with clients, this is an experience that everyone will appreciate.  Curtis Peery and friends have built a fantastic concept that warrants kudos on many levels – food, service and atmosphere.  Check out more of Palm Beach’s tequila-serving gem at calaverascantina.com.  Dig in!

Beef Tongue Tacos (Tacos de Lingua)

When we had an opportunity to split a whole steer with some neighbors, we jumped at the chance.  My first question was, “does anyone want the weird parts?”  Luckily for me, no one did and I ended up with a beef tongue.  What do you do with a beef tongue?  Well, you make the best tacos you’ve ever had!  The richest beef lays a perfect foundation for all your favorite south-of-the-border toppings in this easy dish.

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BEEF TONGUE TACOS

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Lbs. Beef Tongue
  • 4 Shallots, Diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Peeled & Smashed
  • 1 Tbs. Salt
  • 1 Tbs. Black Peppercorns
  • 3 Whole Bay Leaves
  • 2 Tbs. Canola Oil
  • Small Corn Tortillas
  • 1 Avocado, Diced
  • Pickled Red Onions
  • Queso Fresco, Grated

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Instructions

  • Rinse beef tongue thoroughly and place in a medium stock pot.
  • Place shallots, garlic cloves, salt, peppercorns and bay leaves in with the tongue.
  • Cover completely with water and place on stove on medium heat covered until boiling.
  • Turn down heat and simmer with lid cracked for 3 hours.  You may need to add some liquid along the way to ensure the tongue remains covered.  HINT:  the skin on the tongue will turn bright white – that’s OK!
  • At 3 hours, take the pot off heat.  Remove tongue from liquid and place on a cutting board until you are able to handle.
  • Using a sharp knife to start it, peel the outer skin from the tongue completely.  Remove any excess fat or connective tissue.
  • Dice meat into 1-inch cubes.
  • In a cast iron skillet, sauté meat in canola oil until edges are crispy, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Remove meat and drain on paper towels.
  • Serve immediately, assembling tacos with meat and toppings listed in ingredients.

If you can get past the idea of the tongue, you’ll experience the richest tender beef you’ve ever had.  With it’s deep flavor, it stands up to spicy salsa, the bite of pickled red onions, creamy avocado and salty queso fresco.  (SIDE NOTE:  Don’t buy pickled onions!  Dissolve 3 Tbs. sugar and 1 1/2 Tbs. salt in 1 cup white vinegar over low heat.  Add 1 Tsp. black peppercorns and pour the hot liquid over a thinly sliced large red onion.  Allow to cool and store covered in the refrigerator.)  The combinations are endless, but the star of the show is the beef that can taste you back!  My friend Marcos would be so proud of me.  Dig in!

Bakersfield – Cincinnati

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The Over-The-Rhine area of Cincinnati has been wonderfully developed over the last 5 years with a myriad of interesting shopping and food choices.  Chances are, if you’re looking for something in particular, it’s probably there!  Bakersfield was one of the early entrants in the OTR area and they have been wowing people with their Tacos, Tequila & Whiskey since they opened their doors.

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This location has a small patio out front with a large garage door that opens to the street.  The long narrow space provides plenty of seating, but I think we’d all be happier if there was more space in the bar.  The place is dark, loud and surprisingly comfortable.  This is not a spot for a quiet date, but perfect for lunch or dinner with a group of friends.  We started off with a cold beer from their moderate selection as well as a Spicy Margarita.  The latter will light you on fire, but I’d recommend a coupe of these mason jars of lightning to anyone stopping by!  The queso with chorizo was hot, spicy and gooey – the perfect accompaniment to the salty fresh chips.

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The menu has a great selection of appetizers, salads, tortas and tostadas, but they’re know for their tacos.  Order by the taco and sample several from their selection of 9 different varieties.  The food is simple, fresh and beautiful.  Our short rib, fish, steak and corn/blackbean tacos were all delicious!  I meant to try the pork belly, but couldn’t get past the first three I ordered.  I guess that’s a good excuse to stop back soon!

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While we’re proud of our Cincinnati gem, the owners have now opened five more locations in Columbus, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Indianapolis and Charlotte.  You can read all about them and view the menu at bakersfieldtacos.com.  You can also check out their feature from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives here.  Take a look, stop on by and be sure to bring your big-boy pants to have a Spicy Margarita!

Milwaukee Public Market

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One of the best ways to get a true feel for the people and the food of any city is to visit the local market.  If they don’t have an historical market, most cities are working hard to establish new ones as a gathering place and showcase of the fine foods they have to offer – Milwaukee Public Market is one of the finest examples I’ve seen.  Located downtown, conveniently near plenty of parking and other shopping, they feature tons of vendors with prepared foods, delicious ingredients for your own cooking, on-site cooking classes and a full calendar of interesting events.  To give you an idea, in the 3 days we were in town, we visited this place 3 times!

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Looking for some great coffee and sweets?  Grab a fantastic pastry or cookie from C. Adams Bakery.  The selections are endless and beautiful!  You’re definitely going to want to accompany your selection(s) with a honey vanilla latte (iced or hot) from Anodyne Coffee.  They roast their own beans and have some really great drink options.  Right across the street, and with 5 more locations throughout the city, is Colectivo Coffee.  They are worth a stop as well with a great selection of house-roasted coffee drinks as well as pastries and sandwiches.

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Looking for some real food?  Check out Aladdin for delicious homemade hummus and other Middle Eastern delights.  The St. Paul Fish Company has lots of selections of fresh fish for you to take home, but there were a ton of people sitting at their counter with smoked salmon on a stick or having fresh oysters shucked right in front of them!  I had the breakfast tacos one day from Margarita Paradise and was blown away with the quality and freshness.  Finally, for a huge selection of meats, homemade sausage, fresh salads and an endless number of sandwiches and panini, check out Nehring’s Family Market.

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My only regret is that we didn’t have more days to explore and try more things at the Market!  I highly recommend checking it out for a quick meal or a day trip before shopping in the Historic Third Ward – you’ll be one very happy foodie if you do…