mexican monday: fish tacos & queso.

Mexican Monday was a great success this week!  While the menu generally consists of quesadillas plus a range of dips, I decided to focus only on two components this time: Fish Tacos with Green Apple Guacamole and “A More Natural” Chile Con Queso.  It was one of those meals that seemed to take forever to prep, because of all the chopping, peeling, and grating involved!  (I really need to take a cooking class on knife skills!)  The end result was SO worth it though.

I considered substituting chicken for the cod in the tacos, but ended up following the recipe almost exactly.  The chicken probably would have been fine, but the cod really complemented the other items in the taco well.  I love discovering strange ingredient combinations that just mesh.  Green apples in guacamole?  I knew that could either be weird or amazing…  and it really turned out great!  Refreshingly light and delicious.

Fish Tacos with Green Apple Guacamole

I’ve had a difficult time photographing tacos and quesadillas, so I just held it open this time!  Plus, now I can show off my manicured thumb.

This is the first time I’ve ever made queso, and in browsing through a few recipes, I noticed quickly that Velveeta cheese is a standard ingredient.  Now, I don’t mind eating things with Velveeta.  At this point, I realize that probably every queso I’ve ever had has included Velveeta… and I will continue to charge forward and dip my chips in these quesos!  However, there is something about creating the food on my own that makes me very picky about what I use.  I have weird rules for myself, like I hate using canned vegetables, frozen meat, or pre-grated cheese (this rule is not as important as the other two).   Anyway, I searched and found a recipe with more natural cheeses.

Queso substitutions:  I used a poblano pepper, a light green pepper (a medium-spicy mystery pepper), along with the jalapenos.  For cheeses, I chose a New York Cheddar along with a Habanero Pepper Jack from somewhere in the midwest.

Side-note on peeling tomatoes… is there an easy way to do it?  This is probably an odd comparison, but I almost felt like I was peeling a human!  The roma tomato was so slimy and veiny underneath.  (Sorry, that is very unappealing.)

A More Natural Chile Con Queso w/Tortilla Chips.

The queso was SO good.  We still have some left over, so I have just been loving life.  I was humbled yesterday, because the Washingtonian posted on their Best Bites Blog that Chef Jeff Tunks uses Velveeta in his mac & cheese at Passion Fish.  I adore Passion Fish and everything they do, and it is true: Velveeta does make both queso and mac & cheese pretty good.  I think I’ll stick to this delicious recipe though.  :)

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top 100 restaurants: zentan

Zentan is a hip and ritzy Asian restaurant created by the famous Chef Susur Lee, and located near the McPherson Square metro in DC.  We discovered the restaurant when Village Vines emailed us another free $10 credit to get 30% off our final bill, so we went straight to their restaurant list and made our choice!  It’s also fun, of course, that Zentan turns out to be another Top 100 restaurant.

I definitely want to go there again.  I loved the modern vibe of the place, and the wait staff was very friendly.  Chris wasn’t as impressed as I was, but I think he just wished we’d ordered different sushi rolls.  We chose our entire meal and wine based on our waitress’ recommendations, and I was thrilled with all of it!  Next time, we’ll choose more of Chris’ favorite sushi instead.  :)

This was our view of the restaurant (before it filled up and was hopping!):

The bar and awesome candles at Zentan.

We ordered a 2009 Adelsheim Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Crisp, refreshing, and to the point.  We started with a half-order of the Singapore Slaw, which had a salted plum dressing and peanuts in the mix.  It was very light, and a great way to begin.  Next, we shared the Escolar, which is Asian crudo (raw fish) with pickled jalapeño, jicama, and shallot-sesame dressing.  As the waitress had said, it was just a really clean and nice fish!

Finally, we ended with two sushi rolls: The “Brick” (spicy lobster, scallop, barbeque eel, avocado, & tobiko) and The “Rock & Roll” (crispy calamari, yellowtail, mango, & jalapeño).

The "Brick" and the "Rock & Roll" Signature Sushi Rolls.

We usually ask for roe-less sushi… but oops, forgot to do that this time!  So we just tried to scrape off the roe as best we could and not think about baby fish being born in our stomachs.  :)

What is it about sushi?  To me, it might be the most romantic food in the world…

I really loved Zentan.  It reminded me of Passion Fish, a restaurant in Reston that is more highly-ranked on the Top 100 list.  I do think I might like Passion Fish better than Zentan, but I definitely prefer DC over Reston.  In any case, it’s wonderful to know about two delicious and trendy sushi restaurants now!