Fiesta Jalisco—the BEST Mexican Restaurant in Steamboat

I’ve been coming to Steamboat Springs for almost fifteen years, so I’ve eaten at most of the restaurants in the area.  There are a lot of great choices and I can’t hit them all.  But every time I come here, I have to take a trip to Fiesta Jalisco (445 Anglers Drive), which is hands down the best Mexican food in town.

We went there for lunch the other day after the mountain proved to be way too cold for skiing (there was really great powder, but one of our group started to get frostbite on his cheeks, and none of us could feel our toes).  The second best thing to skiing is obviously inhaling huge amounts of Mexican food, so we headed to Fiesta Jalisco.

As we entered the restaurant, we saw a sign on the door that it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary next weekend! I wish I could be here for the party.  There’s going to be a mariachi band.

The restaurant itself is great for taking family or friends.  The bar area is really fun (and the margaritas are delicious), and the dining area has great décor—notice the bull heads on the walls and the cactus chandelier.

Fiesta Jalisco

Chips and salsa—oh! the homemade salsa—are brought out as soon as you sit down.

The extensive menu has many great choices, but I typically order the Enchiladas de Molé (best thing on the menu, in my opinion).  This time, I changed it up a little bit (but not much) and ordered the Chicken en Molé, in an attempt to be more healthy by having a dish with less cheese (not sure if I succeeded).  The molé sauce here is incredible.  I enjoyed every peanut buttery, chocolatey bite.

Chicken en Mole

This meal comes with tortillas (not shown) so you can sop up every last bit of sauce—yum!

For those of you who like pictures of food (which I’m guessing is most people reading my blog), here’s another photo of some Camarones Fajitas and a little Queso Dip in the back (Fiesta Jalisco makes a delicious buttery queso).

Camarones Fajitas

Fiesta Jalisco, I’m sad to miss your 10th anniversary celebration, but rest assured, our love affair will continue.  I’ll see you again in March!

Fiesta Jalisco on Urbanspoon

Circle R Gastropub, Oak Creek, Colorado

Sometimes it’s worth a short drive to experience a true culinary adventure.  I’m once again in my favorite town in the world, Steamboat Springs, and I have discovered a hidden gem of a restaurant!

Some local friends of ours took my sister out to a small town called Oak Creek over the summer, and she insisted that we go there last night to try out Circle R, a local gastropub.  Oak Creek is about 20 miles from Steamboat (drive towards Rabbit Ears Pass on I-40, turn right on 131 and follow it until you get to the town.  Turn right on Sharp Street, drive over the railroad tracks, and the restaurant is on your right at 202 South Sharp Street.)  Believe me, this spot is well worth the drive.  It is only open Thursday to Saturday, so it may be worthwhile to call ahead for a reservation.

The restaurant has a full selection of craft beer on tap, a game room, live music, and all the patrons seem to know each other.  The dishes are mis-matched, the staff is friendly…it’s got a great atmosphere!

Circle R Restaurant

Chef Lawrence Jaconetta changes up the menu daily.  Everything looked incredible (and check out the prices!)  My sister and I didn’t know what to choose.  We wanted one of everything.

Circle R Menu

After much deliberation, we went with duck, pork sliders and surf n turf.  Then for dessert, a lime-pear bread pudding with pomegranate seeds.  My mind was blown by the pork (AMAZING!),  and the crab cakes that came with the surf n turf were some of the best I’ve ever eaten.  Even the salad garnish that came with the duck phyllo pastries was delicious.

Circle R Food

An appetizer, two entrees, two glasses of wine, and a dessert, and we walked away with a $50 tab.  Our only regret was that we didn’t have more people so we could order and share more of the food on the menu.  So, if you’re in Steamboat Springs, definitely take a food adventure out to Oak Creek’s Circle R.  You won’t regret it.  In fact, it might be the best meal you have during your stay.

Circle R Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Circle R Bar on Foodio54

Food for Thought: Government Shutdown and a Long Island Iced Tea Party

I live in Washington, DC, and yes, I’m a federal employee.  I’m now on Day 3 of the government shutdown.  So, yesterday, I hosted a “F*ck the Tea Party” Tea Party, serving up some Long Island Iced Tea (recipe to follow—this is a food blog after all) and Lynchburg Lemonade (Jack Daniels and lemonade, a southern favorite).  I invited my fellow furloughed friends to join, and we tried to make light of a serious situation.

Everyone has been telling me to enjoy my time off, which is a nice sentiment.  I’ll certainly make lemonade out of lemons and take advantage of these new found free hours during the day, but I don’t think people realize what this really means for the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been closed out of their jobs.  This isn’t time off.  This is unemployment.  Let’s call a spade a spade.

We’ve all seen in the news that weddings have been cancelled because national parks are closed; veterans had to remove the barricades to the World War II Memorial, while police enforcement graciously turned a blind eye; and of course, the National Zoo’s panda cam is tragically down.  I do not want to make light of these events (well, maybe the last one), but this only scratches the surface of what is happening.

Federal bureaucrats get a bad rap, but the truth is, most of my colleagues have dedicated their time to a career in federal government because they are truly passionate about their agency’s mission and serving the public good.  Right now, we’re wondering when we’ll get to go back to work and stressing over when we’ll get paid again.  Monthly bills don’t go away, mortgage/rent payments don’t disappear, and we still have to eat.

Not to mention, if we are not at work, our jobs are not getting done.  Last week, my program at the Department of Education awarded nearly $90 million in funding to school districts across the country.  We’ve now given them money, but they likely won’t be spending it, because we are not there to give them a green light or guidance.  And, if they do decide to start spending it, there’s no federal oversight to ensure they’re operating within the laws.  We’ve pretty much just put the parking break on innovative programs for our children’s education (does that seem like a bad idea to anyone else?).  And, I’m just referring to one program and one agency.  With the vast majority of federal funding being distributed at the end of the fiscal year (September 30), this is probably the case for programs across agencies (housing, health, transportation, energy…).  It worries me just a bit, and seems quite irresponsible.  Thanks Congress!

Jon Stewart put it nicely, when he explained that the Affordable Care Act is a law that was passed by the book and upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional.  This is not the time or the place for Congress to be debating this issue.  Federal employees should not be pawns in this ridiculous political stand off.  (Let’s not forget that Congress and the President are still getting paid right now).

I have to say, I thought I came up with a clever name for my event, but in reality, I’m not just angry at the Tea Party.  Republicans and Democrats alike are holding my life in limbo.  So, Congress, this is my plea!  Get your act together and stop being so irresponsible.  Do your job (I’d proudly do mine if you’d let me).  Fund the government.  I’m really hoping I don’t have to host another tea party next week.

Long Island Iced Tea

  • 1 cup gin
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup tequila
  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 1 cup light rum
  • 1 1/2 cups sour mix
  • 2 cans Coke

Enjoy, but don’t drink too much :)

Dreamland Bar-B-Que: Southern BBQ at its Best, Birmingham, AL

I’ve been neglecting my blog this summer.  I have lots of excuses:  house hunting, traveling, wanting to spend time outside hiking and running…  I’ve been collecting lots of content, but I guess I’ve been suffering some writer’s block.  So, I have to give a shout out and major thank you to my dear friend at Baking Me Hungry, who has inspired me to write again.  (Thank you for lunch today!  It was wonderful.)

I recently took a trip home to Birmingham, Alabama, to get some much needed R&R and spend time with my mom.  I have to give her lots of credit for lifting my spirits and showing me a wonderful time at home (who knew Birmingham could be so fun?).  We stopped by Magic Muffins for the best muffins in the world; went on a hike in Oak Mountain State Park; stopped by the psychic fair at Books, Beans and Candles, Alabama’s largest metaphysical coffee shoppe (yeah, I know, wrap your head around that one); and ate at one of the best BBQ joints in Birmingham—Dreamland!

The original Dreamland Bar-B-Que opened its doors in Tuscaloosa in 1958 (The same year Bear Bryant started coaching—RTR).  The no frills restaurant came to Five Points Birmingham in 1993 (right around the time I moved there!).  Service is friendly, sports are playing on the TVs, food is served on styrofoam, and I’m pretty sure my eating utensil was a spork.

Dreamland Exterior

Dreamland has the best ribs in Birmingham.  You can see them being cooked to perfection in the brick smokey grill (also notice the super classy neon sign just above.)

Oven for RibsAs soon as you sit down, you will be brought a few slices of white bread and mouth-wateringly delicious BBQ sauce (it really is the best ever!).  A half rack of ribs and a few sides were enough for mom and me to share.  I highly recommend the fries, baked beans, potato salad and slaw.  I probably would have eaten more ribs if they were in front of me, because it’s hard to stop…even if it makes you feel gross…you know what I’m talking about.  Don’t miss out on the banana pudding either.

Ribs and Sides

Oh how I miss good Southern BBQ!  This is a Bama institution that makes me proud.

Dreamland Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon Dreamland Bar B Que on Foodio54

And, as a side note, there are a few other wonderful BBQ places in Birmingham that are worth checking out:  Miss Myra’s, Johnny Ray’s, Jim and Nick’s, and Demetri’s are my top picks.

Roasted Mushroom and Green Bean Farro Salad (Guest Post: Natch)

While Natch is out fighting wildfires in Alaska (Natch, be safe.  We’re all so proud of you and can’t wait for you to come back and tell us about your adventures.), she’s also educating us about healthy eating.  You’re in for a treat.  This is a great read!  Thanks for the guest post, Natch.

I recently heard about the latest craze in the “diet” world based on Mark Bittman’s book, Eat Vegan Before 6:00.  I use the word “diet” loosely because it’s not really a diet per say, but more of a shift in the way to think about the role of animal products in the American diet.  The concept is simple; eat a primarily vegan-based diet for most of the day, then eat the foods you can’t live without at night in moderation.  No calorie counting, forbidden foods or guilt allowed!

Being from Wisconsin, where meat and dairy products are involved in every course of every meal from the beverage to dessert, I initially was skeptical.  Doesn’t “milk do a body good?”  What about protein?

Bittman’s solution?  Flexitarianism.  Load up on fruits and veggies and experiment with more beans and grains.  And you still get to eat what you want after 6:00.  Now this sounds like a plan I can follow.

Since I already do eat quite a bit of fruits and veggies, I decided to focus more on the beans and grains portion of the plan.  My first experiment was with farro.  Farro is the oldest cultivated grain in the world and was extremely popular in the Middle East during biblical times.  It is a distinct cousin of modern wheat and looks like a plump barley grain.  Farro is an excellent source for complex carbohydrates and has twice the fiber and protein than modern wheat.  Different than some other whole grains, a carbohydrate in farro has been found to stimulate the immune system, lower cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels.  Sign me up.

I found an interesting recipe on Pinterest with ingredients I conveniently had gotten in my farmshare that week, and voila! a delicious, healthy, mostly vegan success.  (HG:  If you want to substitute vegan cheese in this recipe, here’s a blog with some options.)

Roasted Mushroom and Green Bean Farro Salad

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup farro
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup feta, goat or blue cheese, crumbled (I used goat)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme (chopped)

 

Directions

Bring the water and farro to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the farro is al dente. about 20 minutes.

Toss the mushrooms and green beans in the oil, thyme, salt and pepper and place them on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Roast the mushrooms and green beans in a preheated 400F oven until they start to caramelize, about 20 minutes, flipping them half way through.

Mix everything and enjoy.

 

Farro Salad

Go Bananas! Banana Milkshake and Ice Cream Fake-out

So, after months of not being able to do any strenuous exercise while I recovered from a stress fracture and a tear to the cartilage in my hip socket (annoying!), I’m finally FINALLY able to get back into more of a fitness routine.  I get to run again (I think I hit 8 miles last weekend!), but I have to take off a day or two between runs because my body’s not strong enough.  That means that I’ve been doing a lot of yoga and weight training to fill in the gaps.  I’ve also been trying to be extra nice to myself by cooking wholesome meals and eating nourishing snacks.

One of my friends tipped me off to the fake banana milkshake.  I’m obsessed!  Here’s the secret:  if you peel a banana and freeze it, then throw it in a blender with a little bit of milk (or nondairy milk of your choice), it creates a sweet, delicious drink that feels and tastes like a milkshake!  So, I get to have my cake and eat it too!

The ingredients for the milkshake are 1 frozen banana and about 1 cup of milk (add some cinnamon or cloves for a little something different).

Banana Ice Cream Fake-out Ingredients

I then decided to go bananas and took it a step further to see if I could make something that’s more the consistency of ice cream.  With a little less milk (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup), it worked!  I topped it with some walnuts, for a very wholesome sundae.  Yum!

Banana Ice Cream Fake-out

 

Sweetwater Grill, Steamboat Springs

I’d heard about Sweetwater Grill on my last couple trips to Steamboat Springs, but I hadn’t gotten around to going until my recent trip there in July.  I’m putting this on my list of fun summertime restaurants!

Sweetwater Grill

Located right on the Yampa River, the outdoor dining deck is probably one of the best spots in Steamboat for enjoying the scenery.  In addition to beautiful views and the peaceful sounds of the water, the deck also features a fire pit and lounge area, as well as a playground right next door (yes, your kids can entertain themselves while you’re enjoying your cocktails).

Outside deck at Sweetwater GrillHappy Hour goes from 4-6pm every day with half priced drinks and LIVE MUSIC.  We started with Happy Hour at the bar while we waited for a table outside for dinner, which also proved to be quite tasty.

My sister Dubs went with the Sweet Potato Gnocchi Ratatouille, which is sautéed with fresh vegetables in beurre blanc.  This dish was excellent!—a beautiful blend of healthy, fresh flavors.  The rest of us had our eye on the Bistro Steak, served with sautéed mushrooms and onions and side of blue cheese mashed potatoes.  I’ll say it again…BLUE CHEESE MASHED POTATOES—so good!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi Ratatouille and Bistro Steak

A quick note about the food and service: the servers are very friendly; however, they forgot to bring out the appetizer we ordered, even after being reminded, and the steak I ordered rare came out very medium (almost well-done).  The food was still good, and the server more than made up for it by giving us Happy Hour priced beverages and free dessert.  And, wow!  The Chocolate Lava Cake with vanilla ice cream and an oozing chocolate middle was very tasty.

Cocktails and Chocolate Lava Cake

So, yes.  I think I shall return to that beautiful deck and relax with some delicious cocktails and tasty food.  At least if the service isn’t perfect, the ambience will put me in a good enough mood to just roll with it.  Great summertime spot!

Sweetwater Grill on Urbanspoon