New York Times: Houston Enchilada Love

Every Wednesday the New York Times brings readers the anticipated food section with articles about restaurants, recipes, wine and spirits. This week's feature story was about making Texas style (Tex-Mex) enchiladas at home, based on the recipes of a few iconic Houston restaurants -- right up my alley (sort of)! For research Sam Sifton dined at Houston’s El Real, Teotihuacan, Molina’s Catina, El Tiempo, Spanish Flowers, Sylvia’s and the original Ninfa’s on Navigation. What’s not to love? As a full-fledged foodie (and a mom who has never managed to develop any cooking skills, like ever) I’ve dined at most all of these places more times than my fair share, and I have to say that Sam was lead in the right direction. 

For a summer project a few years back I decided to search for "The Best" steak in Houston and blog about it. It was all about the strip. I went to numerous Houston steakhouses and ordered the strip steak (medium), then came home and wrote and rated. While it was a pleasurable experience, I ultimately quit writing and deleted the blog (thinking nobody was reading) and then realized I was wrong. :( Readers: You must comment to let bloggers know you are listening!! #comment #notkidding. Now I’m inspired to do the same thing for enchiladas! But who has the time? Plus, I have a dilemma. I lived in El Paso for four years and spent numerous weekends in New Mexico, where I became very used to the question (regarding enchilada ordering) red, green or Christmas? In New Mexico they make enchiladas with red or green chile sauce (not gravy) and it’s a whole different kind of love. My first mistake was ordering green at Chopes in Las Cruces -- thinking red chiles would naturally be hotter. Live and learn! I couldn’t even eat the dish. And I needed a tall glass of milk to take the edge off. I remember being truly mad because I really, really wanted to finish it. Eventually my palate became accustomed to the heat and my new mantra was: Everything tastes better "with a green chile on top!" Even Central Market celebrates Hatch Green Chile Season (a roasted scent that should be bottled). The Hatch Green Chili Festival is also a fun event to attend!!

Tex-Mex and New-Mex are two very different kinds of appreciation. But when it comes down to it my heart belongs to Texas -- Houston, Texas. And that means Tex-Mex. For years my family has been dining at El Patio on Westheimer (every, single, week -- unless sick or out of town). A photo taken of us even made it on their website! On Tuesday’s kids eat free and on Thursday’s there’s a Mariachi band that is sure to entertain you at the table. It is a traditional Houston establishment that has been around for decades in the Galleria area. It also boasts Club No Minors, an experience I’ve yet to live (but have heard stories), and it's been a life-long job for several of the employees. And the cheese enchiladas are as good as it gets -- the cheesy variety with chili gravy, one of the three types mentioned in the New York Times article. They also serve the Felix Cheese Enchiladas -- a recipe El Patio took over after Felix, Houston's oldest Mexican restaurant, closed its doors. So good! And (on a side note) the steak Tacos Al Carbon are THE best in town. It's the same smiling faces time and time again. It's family. If you go ask for Rolando (our waiter) who is in his 60’s and has been waiting tables at El Patio since he was sixteen. I know this because we talk to him. His real name is Orlando but they changed it for the restaurant gig. Some customers call him Roland. Rolando loves jewelry and never takes off the layers of bracelets he wears up his arms. We love Rolando. And when he sees us walk through the door he doesn't even have to ask for our drink order. And you can't beat that! If Sam Sifton could have read this post before writing his piece, El Patio would surely have been on his list -- "with a fried egg on top!"


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