Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Break for the Border

Tonight it’s the turn of Tex Mex for the team. I can’t explain what I find strangely abhorrent about most Mexican food but it would be fair to say I’ve probably never had it anywhere near its best and so far I’ve never actually enjoyed it. And to be frank, re-fried beans – actually fried twice more than is acceptable in my mind. Ughh, and then it resembles, no I won’t say. All those of you who love re-fried beans may well be put off and those of us who deeply mistrust them know already what it looks like – and it’s not good!

I think some of my wariness is based on a very bizarre Christmas meal thirteen of us out went for at a brand- spanking-new Mexican restaurant when I first started working in the city. So new that we were the first customers and so new that the staff didn’t seem to know what the food was, where the toilets were and what on earth they were doing there. It was a terrible, terrible night on so many levels. So awful that they invited us back a month or so later when they’d got they act together. On the second visit some of our party managed to get extremely drunk and not notice that an extra zero had been ‘added’ to the bill and then spent a fun filled fortnight or two trying to get our money back. Hmmmm! And they had horrible mud coloured re-fried beans! I believe this restaurant is no more, clearly other people thought you could eat better else where, actually anywhere on earth could feed you with more talent!

Maybe it’s a bean thing with me, I don’t really like beans with the possible exception of green beans and broad beans. I guess I can cope with a haricot in a cassoulet, though my problem with haricots is their frequent proximity to tomatoes and clearly for me that is a pitfall. I also don’t like chilli beans though I don’t seem to have the same problem with jelly beans! I can vaguely recall playing a bean based game whilst a Girl Guide. This is a dim memory but I think it was an elaborate game of tag coupled with a exploration of the many varieties of beans. The tagger would shout out various beans and we would respond accordingly. For example, she yells out “jumping beans” and we’d jump, “frozen beans” and we’d shiver, “baked beans” and we’d mime sweltering, “French beans” and we’d reply “ooh, la, la!” and then “runner beans” and we’d all run away and try to avoid being tagged. If tagged you became the bean caller I think for the next round. I don’t remember anyone ever yelling out “haricot beans” as the ensuing mime would have been somewhat obscure. I don’t feel that this game resulted in a bean related trauma that still affects me today but it’s possible!

And here we are again at the spiritual home of the bean in a Tex Mex restaurant - On the Border and I’m trying not to be too suspicious. When we availed ourselves of the Mexico’s finest fare last year I made the heinous crime of ordering (prompted by DD of course) duck confit and garlic mash. It’s probably best not to relive that as it was the stuff of nightmares, but admittedly that was poor ordering in a Tex Mex restaurant! Today we start first with some platters of miscellaneous Mexican morsels. The hot chicken wings are rather feisty yet tasty so I stick with those – well if it ain’t broke… For the main meal we take to the tables and consult the menu which has helpful photographs of the potential delights on offer.

I’m never really sure about the ordering from pictures, it’s the culinary equivalent of buying from Argos and smacks of wondering around touristy cafés in Spain and Cyprus looking for some good food in places devoid of murderers. I am often biased against places with pictures maybe as many of the pictures look tired and strangely tinted which can be unappetizing. I want to read the delicious ingredients in the dish I am about to eat not necessarily wonder what that strange lump of something is lurking next to the main attraction.

But this menu looks much better than the Tex Mex hex we experienced last year so things are looking up, I go for the Bandera Sirloin – a centre-cut Choice sirloin topped with an avocado relish served with grilled vegetables and cheesy pepper Jack mashed potatoes. The steak was quite nice; it was well cooked and had a little kick from its Mexican makeover. The plate was certainly well packed if that's considered a good thing. The mash wasn’t entirely to my taste but a very fair job all round. As American J says – "low cost, high value" – hmmm enough said really!

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