A Review of Taqueria Del Rodeo

November 19, 2009

This is the best Mexican place in town in my opinion.  Consider yourself disclaimed…

For those that aren’t “in the know,” Taqueria Del Rodeo (or Taco Rodeo if I’m in a funny mood) is located in the small strip mall right by El Maguey on Nifong.  It was started by a person who worked at El Maguey for several years, all the while saving and dreaming of doing it better.

I’ll be honest if not a bit politically incorrect: the reason I visited Taco Rodeo for the first time is because I consistently saw several Mexican construction workers eating lunch there, not at El Maguey.  That clued me in that there must be something good happening in there, and I wanted to check it out.

This place is small, really small. Tight quarters and kind of loud. Service is decent, they seem to operate in an effective tag-team waiter fashion. And it’s almost always busy at lunch, moderately low-key for dinner.  Cleanliness is about on par for a typical Mexican restaurant.

For the food, their chips and salsa are just ok and yes, they do the pointless beans and rice side dish with almost everything. BUT, they have REAL MEXICAN COCA-COLA MADE WITH REAL SUGAR.  All caps because it’s exciting to me and I order one every time I go.  It’s in a bottle, made with real sugar, and absolutely screams 1987.  They have decently priced lunch specials every day and I’ve tried something new almost every time I’ve been. Their taquitos are phenomenal, perfectly seasoned and fried. Their tacos have WAY too much cilantro, but the meat is cooked well and it feels like the simple, tasty Mexican street food I crave.  Their grilled chicken and steak dishes are also cooked and seasoned perfectly.  Ironically both the best and worst mole dishes I’ve had have been there too.  The only mis-step I’ve experienced was a mole that was oddly sweet, really sweet.  But, I’ve had mole dishes several other times that were home runs.  I wouldn’t steer away from it for sure.

7/10 – – Always satisfying and while not the best Mexican food I’ve had (that would be Frontera Grill in Chicago) it’s the best we have in town.

Sick blogging and squash soup

November 12, 2009

Since I’m sick and can do little else, I thought I’d post a picture and brief recipe of a nice fall soup, Butternut Squash and Apple Curry soup.  I had something like this a while back at Wine Cellar Bistro and tried to re-create it at home.  I was moderately successful my first time.  I roasted butternut squash and then added to a pot with onions, tart apples, chicken stock, salt, pepper and a bit of apple juice.  Oh, and a touch of curry powder.  I’m going to cut the stock next time and go with a little more water as the stock is actually a bit overpowering here. However, lots of potential.  Puree and serve, with a garnish of cream if you like.

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A review of Tin Can Tavern & Grille

November 8, 2009

I checked out Tin Can Tavern before the Baylor vs. MU horror show on Saturday.  I had heard good things going into it but this was my first visit. The atmosphere is interesting, definitely fitting of the name “Tin Can Tavern.”  I didn’t check out every nook and cranny, but it has a bit of a sports bar feel to go with that “Cheers” sort of atmosphere.  I was mostly looking for a large TV to plant myself in front of, which I quickly found.

On to the food!  Their menu is simple enough; there’s nothing on it that you’d look at and think, “Wow that sounds impressive/intriguing.”  It looks a step above bar food from a menu-only perspective, and has a ring of classic diner to it.  I ordered the meatloaf sandwich and fries, my friend had the grilled chicken with bacon and macaroni and cheese.  The food came quickly after ordering and the plating was simple.  I think one word would accurately sum up the taste: awesome.  The meatloaf sandwich was outstanding and I’m anxious to try the meatloaf dinner.  I’ll say up front that I’m a fan of meatloaf, however my friend is not.  He was surprised that he really liked Tin Can’s version though.  It was lighter in texture than what I’m used to, but stayed together well.  It was well-seasoned, moist and had the delicious ketchup and brown sugar glaze on it. It was served between slices of perfectly buttered and grilled bread, and it was one of the most satisfying sandwiches I’ve had. The fries appear to be made in house, cut McDonald’s size on a mandoline, blanched in hot oil and then fried crispy. They’re sprinkled with what I think is Old Bay Seasoning, and they were fantastic.

My friend is a bit of a grilled chicken connoisseur , he orders it often. His final take on it: one of the best he’s had.  Cheese and bacon made it even better.  And the mac and cheese?  It’s homemade, period.  It tastes almost exactly like my friend’s mom’s homemade mac and cheese.  It was delicious and I’m excited to have it again.  Maybe paired with the meatloaf dinner or the breaded and cooked to order buttermilk chicken I keep hearing about.

Tin Can Tavern and Grille does simple food, but they do it really really well. So many restaurants are caught up with making things sound and look good, but they forget about making things taste good. Tin Can doesn’t, pure and simple.

9/10 – I can’t wait to go again.

Nominations for The Best of Columbia

November 7, 2009

These things are a joke but some people take them seriously.  “Then why are you telling me about it, Ryan?”  Good question and it has 2 reasons in the answer: because I want people to experience better food and more restaurants, branching out. Second, I have an interest in keeping some of the places I worry about open, because they’re my favorite!  (If you don’t have a preference, vote Bamboo for sushi and Taqueria Del Rodeo for Mexican!) 🙂

http://www.insidecolumbia.net/

Mizzou Meat market – consumed

October 30, 2009

So I’ve had the opportunity to try the ground lamb, the bacon and the pork tenderloin.  The tenderloin was good.  I prepared it 2 ways: the first was a simple dice and stir fry with sprouts, noodles and black bean sauce. The second was more of a roast.  I didn’t brine it when roasting like I normally do, and that makes a big difference in my opinion, tough to give it a fair shake I guess.  Overall I liked the flavor and the tenderness would’ve been fixed with the brining.

The bacon was great.  I’m not a fan of super-smokey bacon, I want to taste meat.  Their bacon fried up nicely and was that great mixture of chewy and melty/crispy.  Granted that’s more of how it’s cooked, but I found it to be flavorful and not overly-smoked, which I liked.

For the lamb I made a quick bastardized version of gyros.  I made a sort of lamb meatloaf concoction and roasted it at a higher temperature and sliced it, with onions, tomatoes and cucumber sauce on pitas.  It’s tough to say flavor-wise how the lamb is on it’s own with this dish because of the amount of seasoning I used, but I enjoyed the dish and will definitely buy it again.

Ribeye this weekend I think!

Mizzou Meat Market Part 2

October 21, 2009

I stopped by the market today and went just a little overboard.  I picked up: prepared pulled pork with bbq sauce, bacon, ground lamb, fresh ribeyes, pork tenderloin, bone-in porn chops, sirloin-tip filets, and tiger tails (homemade bratwurst stuffed with cheddar cheese).  All of this for $40.  Their prices are unbelievable and frankly, the ribeyes at $7.49/lb counted for $16 of my total.  So the rest of the items were basically $24…try doing that at a grocery store.  I’ll report on the taste later.

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Mizzou Meat Market

October 21, 2009

Is anyone familiar with the Mizzou Meat Market?  It’s run by the College of Agriculture.  The cattle, lambs and pigs are raised and slaughtered by the college, meet USDA standards and are Choice grade beef.  A link is below, I urge you to check it out.  Their prices are outstanding and they’re more of a butcher shop than any other place in town.  They can do custom cuts.  Does Schnucks offer custom cuts?  Not really.  From what I understand the taste is generally outstanding and for the price and knowing that it’s grown locally, it can’t be beat.  I’ve yet to try it but it’s high on my list of things to do.

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http://mizzoumeat.missouri.edu/

Pumpkin Ice Cream Happening!

October 17, 2009

I’m all giddy because I’ve got some Pumpkin Ice Cream happening right now in the ice cream maker.  It’s fairly simple: take your favorite ice cream base (like you were making vanilla ice cream) and substitute brown sugar for the white.  Add about a cup of pumpkin puree for every 2 cups of cream in your custard base and about a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. (Separately it’s ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon I think).  Then give it a churn and burn in the ice cream machine and you’re all set.  The pumpkin adds a richness to the ice cream that makes it feel amazing in your mouth.  Enjoy!

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A review of Grand Cru

October 17, 2009

I’ve always felt it to be unfair to completely write off a restaurant after giving it only 1 chance.  I can see the argument I suppose.  After all, people from out of town staying in the Stoney Creek Inn may only be in town this once and wander over to have a bite.  Good restaurants don’t have bad days; they should be “on” all of the time.  Like I said, I can see the argument on both sides.   However, having worked in the business I guess I’m more sympathetic.

Unfortunately, more often than not this philosophy just means that I get burned not once but twice.  I had high hopes for Grand Cru when it opened.  Their location was prime, their atmosphere intriguing and their menu innovative.  I’ve now dined and been disappointed twice; I’ll lump both reviews into 1 giant complaint session here.

Both times I’ve gone, the dining room was basically empty, save for the table next to where I was sitting.  A whole dining room full of empty tables and they sit the only 2 couples RIGHT next to each other.  I’ll never understand that, it’s incredibly annoying.  The live music was terrible, simply put.  A 1-man band singing tired Barry Manilow and Dave Mathews songs blared at full-on volume level 11, singing his heart out not 5 feet from his 4-person audience. Amazingly, requests to turn down the volume were relayed and ignored.

The service was slow and uninspired both times.  It didn’t send the message that we were the server’s only table, it sent the message that we were their ONLY table.  They were pissed that it was empty as it was and I don’t know that I blame them.  However, it was obvious how they felt.  Everything seemed to be in slow motion, from water to wine to food.

Speaking of the food,  I mentioned earlier that when they first opened I thought their menu to be innovative and thoughtful.  After eating there twice I now see things differently.  They’ve worked hard to make the menu sound impressive but upon further review, it’s obvious that it really only sounds impressive. Take their “house signature” appetizer “Poblano pepper stuffed with a duck confit and gruyere cheese blend, tempura fried and topped with our sriracha and gruyere sauce.”  This thing is a train wreck if I’ve ever seen one.  French cheese and duck confit, a Mexican pepper and Asian chili sauce and tempura batter.  Each of the individual ingredients is a big flavor and when they’re all put together it’s a 40-car pile up.  Especially if this bastardized version of a bad chili relleno is under-cooked and soggy.  It’s one of the worst things I’ve seen on a plate.

My steak was over-cooked, the date’s chicken was somehow incredibly over-cooked and yet cold at the same time.  It tasted vaguely as I imagine chewing on rubber bands would taste and feel in my mouth.  I imagine they felt very vogue when serving steamed broccolini, except that it was over-cooked, boiled and and sitting in a large pool of its own cooking water.  Lovely.

On top of this the whole meal was incredibly overpriced.  I did my good duty, gave it 2 chances to impress and left disappointed.

3/10…it was edible.

Wine On Washington

October 15, 2009

Note that a new wine store is open in Mexico, MO, Wine on Washington.  Opens today!

Just an addition for those getting here from google: 🙂

1015 S. Washington

582-0969