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Chili ‘n’ Chips at Vintage Cafe

Tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are now typical European bar food. Rare is the English pub that doesn’t serve “nachos.” The influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine fascinates us here at Texas Eats. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked her to chronicle Tex-Mex influences on the local English fare. Here is her latest report:

 

 

While perusing the food at a nearby coffee shop with a friend, I was delighted to find chili con carne offered on the lunch menu. The chili was made with “minced beef and kidney beans in rich chili con carne sauce with tomatoes and red peppers” and a choice of rice or chips. Naturally, chips were the only way to go, and I wasn’t disappointed in the mound of thick steak style chips served on my plate. I used the chips like, well, chips, scooping the chili onto them with almost every bite. The sweetness of the red peppers was nicely balanced by the cumin and other spices. Any Texan will tell you that beans don’t belong in chili, but other than that it was a tasty lunch!

Mexican Monday Part Two – Not-chos

Tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are now typical European bar food. Rare is the English pub that doesn’t serve “nachos.” The influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine fascinates us here at Texas Eats. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked her to chronicle Tex-Mex influences on the local English fare. Here is her latest report:

Part two of my Mexican Monday adventures ended up being just as puzzling as the first.

One nice thing about England – there’s always time for a pint. There’s a perfectly placed Weatherspoon’s across the street from the local grocery store, and  boyfriend and I have fallen into the routine of getting a pint and some lunch before our shop. Luckily for me, our normal shopping day is Monday, so I was able to once again try a Mexican Monday menu.

This time, we decided to split the basic “Large Nachos” off the Sharers part of the normal pub menu as well as our own lunch items. I figured I’d have better luck with an item that’s always on the menu versus a daily special.

The first thing I noticed was the piles of toppings along the chips. So far, I’m not sure that England has grasped the concept of nachos being completely covered all over in the good stuff, but I was willing to forgive it. The next thing I noticed was that, once again, my queso was no bueno! At first I thought that they’d forgotten the cheese completely, but on closer inspection I found it.

If you can even call this cheese? What should have been a soft, stretchy, melty goodness had been baked or broiled into a rock-solid cement, holding all of the chips together in one solid puck of crunch. I had half a mind to march down to the bar and ask them if they knew what nachos even were! At one point, my boyfriend tried to pick up a chip on the edge and ended up with the entire disc up in the air, dropping toppings onto the plate and table. We both laughed about it, but our smiles faded as we tried to break off pieces to scoop up the toppings with. We were either breaking off crumb sized corners or big blocks of four chips stuck together, and the whole thing was getting soggier from the minute from the large piles of wet toppings. It was just a mess.

As of this posting, Mexican Monday at Weatherspoon’s no longer exists. With the luck I had, I’m not surprised it’s been replaced by a hot dog and burger menu. I’m willing to admit it might just have been the location I was going to (I realized later that both disastrous orders had been from the same pub) but I have to say that Weatherspoon’s hasn’t impressed me with their Manx-Mex offerings.

Oh well! I’m sure I’ll find better as I keep looking.

Mexican Monday at Weatherspoon’s – A ‘Dilla?

Tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are now typical European bar food. Rare is the English pub that doesn’t serve “nachos.” The influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine fascinates us here at Texas Eats. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked her to chronicle Tex-Mex influences on the local English fare. Here is her latest report:

On one rainy afternoon while running errands, I stopped for a swift pint at a local Weatherspoon’s, which is a chain of pubs which are known as the destination for “cheap and cheerful”. Imagine my surprise when I saw this paper placemat on the table!

Nachos! Quesadillas! I thought I’d hit the Manx-Mex jackpot! But alas, my luck was not to be. I ordered off the Mexican Monday menu and I have to say that my experiences were sub-par.

On my first attempt, I ordered the BBQ pulled pork and cheese quesadilla. (BBQ pork is not exactly Tex-Mex, but it’s a definite favorite among the English since I see it almost everywhere!) The plate came with “Mexican-style” rice (I think we’d call it Spanish rice. Tomato-y with bits of onion and a hint of cumin), sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. I was pleased to see some good looking grill marks on the tortilla and eagerly dove into my food.

The rice was about what you’d expect for mediocre Mexican rice, and the salsa tasted like Picante or a grocery store equivalent, but that was fine with me. The guacamole didn’t disappoint and the pepper slices on it made me smile. But after my first bite into the quesadilla, I knew something was terribly wrong. I opened up the tortilla to see…

…no cheese! NO CHEESE! How can they call this a quesadilla if there’s no queso to it?! I checked the menu again to make sure this wasn’t some bastardized spin on a quesadilla, but the text confirmed there was definitely supposed to be cheese on it. I heaved a sigh and spread my condiments over the pieces to try and save it, not wanting to make a scene at the bar to get it fixed. The BBQ pork was nice and there was enough in the tortilla, bit a ‘dilla is just a ‘dilla when there’s no cheese.

Tune in next week to hear about another puzzling tale of Mexican Monday at Weatherspoon’s!

Galveston Eats Movie Premiere Party!

On Sunday April 2 from 6 to 8 pm, Beerfoot Brewery on the Seawall at R 1/2 and 28th will host the Galveston Eats Movie Premiere—the first public showing of a series of short films about forgotten Galveston foodways–hosted by Robb Walsh. The event is free to the public.

During the celebration, Beerfoot Brewery will offer happy hour prices: $2 well liquor, $2 domestic bottles and $1 off draft beer. 

The three films that kick off the series are:

Island Olives: Did you know Galveston once had hundreds of olive trees? Exploration of Galveston’s century old history of olive cultivation and cookery with interviews of Lawrence “Junior” Pucetti at Sonny’s and Ronnie Maceo at Maceo’s Spice Company. Italian immigrant stories and demonstration of olive curing techniques and muffaletas and olive salads are included.

Going Crabbing: Why are crabs disappearing from Texas restaurants? Demonstrations of crabbing techniques and cookery with visits to Gaido’s and Benno’s restaurants and advice from Captain Joe Kent, the Galveston Daily News fishing columnist.

Island Oktoberfest: Why do we all drink German-style beer? Galveston’s German immigrants and their contributions to brewing are featured with a trip to Oktoberfest, a visit to the abandoned Galveston Brewing Company building and interviews with Mark Dell’Osso at Galveston Island Brewing and Heath Cherryhomes at Beer Foot Brewery.

The Galveston Eats short film series is produced in cooperation with The Gulf Coast Food Project at the University of Houston and funded entirely by donations.

Manx-Mex Chronicles: Chapter Five: Fajitas Bonitas

Tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are now typical European bar food. Rare is the English pub that doesn’t serve “nachos.” The influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine fascinates us here at Texas Eats. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked her to chronicle Tex-Mex influences on the local English fare. Here is her latest report: read more Manx-Mex Chronicles: Chapter Five: Fajitas Bonitas »

Manx-Mex Chronicles: Chapter Four: Chimichanga Cha-Cha

Tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are now typical European bar food. Rare is the English pub that doesn’t serve “nachos.” The influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine fascinates us here at Texas Eats. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked her to chronicle Tex-Mex influences on the local English fare. Here is her latest report:

 

The interior of Chiquito’s is a decidedly Mexican mixture of festive and relaxed. Beer bottle chandeliers (using only bottles from Dos Equis and Corona, of course!) light up piles of straw sombreros that are strewn everywhere for guests to wear and take selfies in. They’re especially popular with the kids.

 

My Manchester Chimichanga was served in a suitably English fryer basket of chips (or fries, if you’re from America) with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream on the side. (The name means “thing-a-ma-jing.”) It was filled with Mexican-style rice, beans, “jalapenos cheese sauce” (a distant relative of queso) and melted mozzarella, with a choice of meat (chicken, chili beef, or BBQ pulled pork) or habanero mushrooms. I decided to try the habanero mushrooms and was delighted by the decent kick of heat I got from them. Besides the infamous curries, I thought that this was the land of the bland!

Always delighted to be proven wrong.

Note from Robb: Though it was actually invented in Tucson, Arizona; the chimichanga, which is essentially a deep-fried burrito, is lumped into the Tex-Mex category by many Americans and most Europeans. The Manchester version pictured here is certainly Texas Size!

Manx-Mex Chronicles: Chapter Three: Nacho…Bowl?

Tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are now typical European bar food. Rare is the English pub that doesn’t serve “nachos.” The influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine fascinates us here at Texas Eats. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked her to chronicle Tex-Mex influences on the local English fare. Here is her latest report:

 

 

Nachos are probably the most common Tex-Mex dish in England–they are front and center on the pub grub Hall of Fame. But my first taste of English nachos wasn’t very inspiring. On the menu they were described as being “stacked high and covered in jalapeño cheese sauce, jalapeño peppers, melted mozzarella, sour cream” and then topped with my choice of either salsa and guacamole, or chorizo and cranberry salsa (huh?). I chose the more traditional of the two, wanting to stick to a more authentic Texas taste for my first try.

 

When the nachos hit the table, I was baffled. Nachos in a bowl?! The slightly scorched chips were standing upright in a funnel-shaped bowl with all of the toppings piled on top. By the time I was finished taking pictures, they were half way to soggy.  The chips I was able to pick up and eat tasted good, though it was a challenge to keep any of the toppings on them as the slightly sodden tortilla chips collapsed under the weight of all those toppings. Other than that, they weren’t bad, and the combination of toppings and chip mush at the bottom of the bowl was actually pretty tasty.

Manx-Mex Chronicles: Chapter Two: ¡Tequila!

Tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are now typical European bar food. Rare is the English pub that doesn’t serve “nachos.” The influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine fascinates us here at Texas Eats. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked her to chronicle Tex-Mex influences on the local English fare. Here is her latest report:

 

A tequila sampler: Just like home!

 

2: Manx-Mex Agave Beverages 

JW: When I moved to Manchester, I was worried that I might never drink good tequila again. Most of the stories I’d heard were about a clear liquor that tasted like petrol. But one of my first Manchester Tex-Mex experiences, a visit to Chiquito’s at Salford Quays, put my mind at ease. A tequila sampler offered there featured (pictured from the darkest going clockwise): Patron Incendio (chocolate and chile flavored), Patron Reposado, Don Julio Anejo, and the Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia. Also pictured are a house margarita (left), a Negro Modelo, and an elderflower margarita (right).

Houston, we are off to a good start!

Manx-Mex Chronicles: Chapter One: Nacho Walks into a Bar

Manx-Mex Defined:
The popularity of Tex-Mex restaurants in Europe peaked sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, but Tex-Mex flavors became indelibly imprinted on the palates of Europeans, especially the French, English, Irish and Dutch. Today, tortilla chips and salsa, chili con carne, and fajitas are familiar menu items. And rare is the English or Irish pub that doesn’t serve some variation on “nachos.”

We first ate Tex-Mex in France in the 1990s. Chapter 14 of The Tex-Mex Cookbook is titled: From Paris, Texas to Paris, France: Twenty-First Century Tex-Mex. Along with menu graphics from the early days of Chuy’s and a portrait of Big Rikki, the Guacamole Queen, there is a narrative about the rise of Tex-Mex in Paris, France.

“Mexican food is too elaborate and too old-fashioned for Parisians,” one restauteur told Robb Walsh. But “Tex-Mex sounds like cowboys and Indians, like the Wild West, and the food is all so crunchy and spicy, it fits the image.” Another Paris restaurant owner remarked, “La Cuisine Tex-Mex garde le parfum de temps des pionniers.”

At Texas Eats, the influence of Tex-Mex on world cuisine is one of our favorite topics. So when our correspondent, Julia Walsh, moved to Manchester, England in January 2017, we asked here to chronicle what she calls Manx-Mex (Manchester-style Tex-Mex cuisine).

Taco Art: Gauguin or Cezanne?

The artists who paint still lifes of tacos and other dishes on the exterior walls of restaurants and food trucks never cease to amaze me. I suspect there are few talented art students putting themselves through school this way.

Their artworks serve the extremely utilitarian purpose of advertising the variety of choices on the establishment’s menu: a useful service for those who can read English and an vital one for those who can’t. Sometimes their efforts are cartoonish, sometimes merely commercial, but quite often they create images that belong in the realm of folk art.

I posted this photo on Twitter with the headline: “If Gauguin painted tacos.” My wife, who has an MFA in Art, suggested: “It looks more like a Cezanne.” What do you think?