El Guapo’s Taqueria on the Cape

Guapo Shore Shack - not really sure what this VW bus has to do with Mexican food...

After a morning at one of the many over-crowded beaches in Cape Cod, our little boy passed out in his car seat. My husband and I went in search of some fish tacos. I used my Trip Advisor iPhone app, even though it has lead us to two closed restaurants in as many days. Called “El Guapo Taqueria” on Trip Advisor, the logo says “El Guapo’s” while the sign proclaims “Guapo Shore Shack” though it is at least two miles in from any shoreline. There are few seats inside, so be prepared to sit outside and hope for good weather. The menu boasts “Burritos, Burgers, Beer” and I would say they are more heavy on the Burgers than the Burritos.

Simple, crisp, and flavorful... Just the fish taco we were craving!

The fish tacos were simple and delicious. Two corn tortillas stacked up and some fried fish, piled with shredded cabbage, zingy lime cream dressing, chopped tomatoes and onion. The fish – local cod – was perfectly fried in a light, crispy batter which was not too thick or doughy. The plain shredded cabbage was fresh and plain, not tossed in a dressing like at some places.  Since chips and salsa were not free, we decided to “upgrade” to guacamole. Save your money folks! The chips were hard and had a semi-burnt taste like the frying oil needed changing. The guacamole had no spice or liminess, and there was a whole chunk of avocado the size of the seed in our small portion.

If you’re in the area the Fish tacos are worth the stop! Pick some up and take them with to the beach. Near the rail line bike trail as well.

Rating: Average – (great fish tacos but due to the staple of chips and guac being below par we can’t rate it too high)

239 Underpass Road
Brewster MA 02631

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Dia del Niño- with a niño

I'm not sure who is more excited about the treat bag!

I’m sure my husband was more excited about Dia del niño this year than our son, since he is only 11 months old. I have to admit, I felt that the celebration at Mercado Central in Minneapolis was a little underwhelming.

First sucker!

There was a little stand where kids could go up and pick up a package a goodies and a sucker. There were also clowns making balloon animals, which fascinated our son for a little while. After grabbing a snack from Manny’s Tortas we went outside and had some Mexican style corn (elotes) with cream, cotija cheese and chile. That was the best part of the day in my book!


First elote- Mexican-style roasted corn.


Watching his balloon animal being made. He wouldn't let go of his little treat bag... mainly because of the noisy cellophane, I think, and not because he know what the goodies inside were.



Free face painting. He's not really sure what's going on.

Fascinated by the clown... from a safe distance of course.

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Goat Cheese Arepas with Black Bean Salsa

Arepas (ah-RAY-pahs) are more common in South America, originating in Venezuela, where they are the national dish. They are delicious, mouth-watering little corn cakes with a slight crisp on the outside and a soft, steamy sweetness on the inside. In fact, these sumptuous snack cakes are getting so popular, New York City actually has an Arepa Bar (Caracas Arepas – with locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Roneria) which was featured on an episode of Bobby Flay’s show “Throwdown” (and the sister’s who opened the place won!). They can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night snacks, stuffed, topped, sauced and salsa’d. You are only limited by your imagination with these golden goodies.

This recipe was inspired by a cooking class we took in 2009 at Kitchen Window on vegetarian appetizers. I apologize that I do not remember the chef who taught the class.  These are gluten-free, and vegetarian. The dough works well for our “Mexican” kitchen where we always have Masa Harina on hand. However, purists will tell you that true arepa dough is made from Harina P.A.N. which is pre-cooked cornmeal, instead of the corn flour of Masa Harina which is used to make tortillas. All you need to add to the Harina P.A.N. to make arepas is water and salt (and this would turn in to a vegan option).

Ingredients – Arepa dough

2 cup – fresh or frozen yellow corn kernels (we suggest not using canned corn as it has more moisture which can throw off the texture of the final product)

1/2 cup – milk, scalded – (can be any kind of milk, we use Skim only because that’s what we have on hand. To scald milk heat on medium until just before it gets a skin across the top)

1 cup – Masa flour (for tortillas) or extra-fine yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup or 4 oz – goat cheese, (preferably garlic herb) crumbled

3 TB – butter

The little bit of golden crisp = delicious!

Pinch of salt

Oil – (olive, canola, or vege) for the griddle or pan

Mixing it up

  • Use a saucepan to heat butter, scalded milk, and corn until it simmers. Put it in to a food processor and coarsely grind the corn and put in mixing bowl. Corn mixture will still be chunky.
  • Add Masa, cheese, and salt. Mix thoroughly by hand or with a spatula until the Masa is totally absorbed and the whole mixture is fairly smooth with the cheese evenly distributed. Drape a towel over the bowl and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Use a large melon baller or a small kitchen scoop to get some dough (about the size you would use for a cookie) and pat until flattened like a small pancake, about 2 – 3 inches across, smaller if appetizer, larger if main course. Put on to an oiled griddle or cast iron pan over a medium low heat until golden brown. About 3 minutes on each side. (TIP: do NOT every use soap on a cast iron pan. When you first purchase the pan treat it by rubbing it with salt and oil and heat up. Wipe off. Rub with more oil and heat again.)

Black Bean Salsa

One of the most colorful and fresh tasting salsas we make - even "cheating" with canned beans

2 cups cooked or 1 – 14 oz can Black beans (if you are making fresh beans, soak beans at least 3 hours before cooking or overnight if you have time. Soaking helps reduce bean-caused gas, and also helps them cook faster)

1/4 Cup – onion, either yellow, white or possibly green onions for a flavor twist

1/2 cup – Cilantro – chopped (you can put in less if you wish)

3 cloves of garlic – chopped fine

1 jalapeño pepper – minced (take out seeds and white interior ribs to reduce heat)

1/2 Bell pepper – any color – chopped (yellow is the “prettiest”)

2 med tomatoes (usually we use Roma) seeded and diced

Bright and colorful!

1/2 lime, juiced

Salt to taste

  • Combine all ingredients and stir well. Best to make the salsa at least an hour ahead of time, cover and let sit in fridge so the flavors have a chance to mix.

Serving it up

Spoon a generous helping of Black Bean salsa on top of the hot of the griddle arepa. Drizzle with Mexican crema (or mix regular sour cream with a little milk to thin it out). Add roasted red peppers or chipotle pepper to sour cream and mix in a blender for an extra layer of flavor. Top with some chopped avocado if you have some laying around.

The finished product.

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Rojo Mexican Grill- West End

Ok. I must start by saying, I have been watching way too much day time TV this winter, being holed up in the house with a newborn. The chef from Rojo Mexican Grill has been doing mouth-watering cooking demonstrations on almost every local news show so I have been wanting to go there for months. The location was appealing to me since I have never been to the Shops at the West End in St. Louis Park, so when it was my turn to pick the location for Ladies’ Night Out, I had my mind made up in a flash.

Opened in August 2010, the restaurant is co-owned by Jason Merritt and Michael McDermott whose father founded Chi-Chi’s (which, by the way, is slang for a ladies “twins” – my hubby just about died laughing when he saw his first Chi-Chi’s sign – he thought it was a topless bar).

The cuisine is described as ‘”Traditional dishes… but with bold new flavors or in unique presentations.” The website also uses “traditional but with modern influence” to describe the decor. The restaurant is beautiful with the rich, red booths (Rojo means red), dark wood, stone, and shiny, silver steel blending together to create an inviting place to spend a few hours. There are display stations where you can see guacamole, salsa and tortillas being prepared. Though the concept of this appealed to me when choosing the restaurant, I actually was not a fan. I love tableside guac prep but as we were leaving the salsa table cook had on elbow length gloves and was reaching in to stir a big vat of salsa (which is more like pico de gallo in my opinion). Something about those gloves just threw me back to being on a dairy farm and seeing my dad pull on shoulder high gloves to “reach in” help the cow give birth. No fault of the restaurant, but I couldn’t shake that image and decided the idea of seeing my salsa prepped fresh is much better than the execution.

Our waiter was very friendly and helpful with recommendations for both drinks and food. I ordered the El Guapo which is Hornito tequila shaken with lemon and lime and then mixed with Ginger Ale. Sadly, though I expected the ginger ale to give it a crisp bite, the tequila taste dominated the glass. I often will enjoy a Paloma at home, which is tequila and Squirt or Fresca, with a salted rim. Divine! This makes me think that either the Ginger Ale isn’t a strong enough soda or the bartender was a little heavy on the liquor. At a hefty $7 for a short glass filled with ice, this was a costly disappointment.

Normally, I would gobble up my favorite Mexican street food – Cotija corn – which is on the appetizer menu. However, on an evening out with friends I didn’t want to get my cheeks smeared with cream and cheese which inevitable happens when eating this delectable treat. The tortilla soup ($3.50 for a cup) was served with less flair then expected for a restaurant that touts presentation of dishes, it was served in a simple cup with a sprinkle of crispy tortilla strips on top. Although the flavor was a satisfying blend of tomato and chile, the texture was grainy and unappealing.

For a main course, I ordered fish tacos and traded one of the two for a veggie taco. Served on corn tortillas, similar to a Mexican taco stand, both fillings were unusual. Expecting a more typical light atter on my fish, the sautéed version was refreshing but the cabbage slaw was a little sweet and carraway seeds seemed like a misplaced flavor. The vege taco was a combination of  corn, sweet potato, squash,  and black beans, giving it a very earthy, fall taste. Satisfying but I wanted it to have some kind of sauce to add moisture. Serving refried beans in a dish was a nice way to keep them from invading the space of other food (I despise when my food touches) they were very typical. Sticky rice?  Am I at an Asian restaurant or a Mexican one? It was tasty but, in my opinion, sweet rice will never belong at a Mexican table. The flavor is all wrong, contrary to traditional rice that has a nice tomato flavor which compliments typical dishes. 

Now I’ll say upfront that I’m a sucker for churros. How can a deep-fried doughy pastry covered in cinnamon sugar not tempt the taste buds? I’ll be blunt on this one. Though the presentation was brilliantly perfect for sharing, over a dozen two-inch churros mounded on the plate with chocolate and cream dippers… they were TERRIBLE. Saturated in grease, with almost no cinnamon and sugar, and chocolate sauce so bitter that it couldn’t even be enjoyed on its own. A big heartbreak for me on that one.

Overall, great atmosphere, and a beautiful modern design (although I don’t really see a lot of “Mexican influence”) to the restaurant that makes it a comfortable place to sit and sip, chat and nibble. Food was ok but overall impression of it was more on the disappointed side. And pricey too. The bill for just me was $29. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much at a Mexican restaurant.

Rojo Mexican Grill
1602 West End Boulevard
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Phone: 852-657-5385
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 am – 11 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am – 12 am, Sun 11 am – 10 pm
Reservations: Highly recommended, especially on weekends
Rating: A+ for atmosphere, average food (with exception of very below average churros)

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Casa Lupita-White Bear Lake

Hard to spot sign. Look on south side of Hwy 96, in strip mall, next to abandoned gas station.

I must attribute the visit to this restaurant purely to Groupon because there is no way I would have noticed it by driving by on the road, despite the location on a busy four lane. The deal was $8 for $16 worth of food at Casa Lupita (though the restaurant website says New Casa Lupita)- White Bear

Small seating area and deli-style service

Lake (not St. Paul, like you’ll find listed some places on the web).  It was very hard for us to find. My

GPS directed us to Hwy 96 east of Cty Rd 61, and I see google maps also has the wrong location in some spots. The restaurant is located on Cty Rd 96 half-way between Hwy 35E and Cty 61 on the south side of the road, in a strip mall corner, next to an out-of-business gas station. Sounds like mouthful of a description but you’ll need the details to find it because there is only a small white sign with thin red letters.

Menu items range from $1.50 for a veggie taco ($0.99 tacos on Tuesday) to $8.79 for a House Specialty Plate  which includes one of three meats, rice, beans and tortillas.The restaurant is set up for deli-style counter service where you can see your meat, salsa, toppings options before you order and then they are assembled and prepared for you. The dining area is very small  (and a little dirty) so I’m guessing the place gets mostly take out business. According to the website, the restaurant, which opened in 2001, serves authentic recipes from the Castellanos family’s hometown of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. I believe that this is the same family who owned the upscale D’Castellanos Mexican Restaurant that was in White Bear Lake and closed in 2007. My husband and I ate there once and he did not like it, while I thought it was good but expensive.

My husband decided on a chicken burrito with black beans, while I had green chicken enchiladas. We also ordered some chips (about $2) to help fill us up (deli-style Mexican restaurants typically do NOT serve complimentary chips and salsa). I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of green salsa (it is by far my favorite type of salsa) and I must admit I found this sauce surprisingly bland. Usually green salsa has a nice tart tang but this was neither sour nor sweet, instead the creamy mildness made me feel like it wasn’t fresh and lost its flavor sitting too long in the steam table. It was not bad, just different from usual green salsa and

Enchilada combination plate, burrito, chips with salsa

maybe more widely appealing to those who don’t like the typical tang of tomatillo sauce. The two enchiladas were served with traditional Mexican tomato rice and I chose black beans instead of refried ones.  The burrito was not an overloaded Chipotle-style (which is great from a calorie standpoint) but my husband thought it lacked in flavor. Possibly it was just his choice of toppings because he said the burrito was very dry.

Overall, not a bad place to stop for a quick bite (if you can find it) when you want Mexican food, especially take-out, but want to stay away from a chain. Serving sizes are filling and prices are reasonable. While, for us, it lacked “wow” flavor and was hard to find, I can’t complain about paying $8 for a meal for two, courtesy of Groupon. However, I don’t think we will stop again.

I definitely give the restaurant kudos for doing the Groupon thing because over 1127 people purchased the Groupon and I’m guessing many of the purchasers (like us) would not normally stop at this somewhat hidden location.

(New) Casa Lupita Mexican Restaurant
1350 Highway 96 E
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Phone: 651-762-2948
Fax: 651-331-2422
Email: NewCasaLupita@q.com
Hours:  Mon – Sat, 11 am – 8:30 pm
Special deals: $0.99 tacos on Tuesday
No reservations
Take-out available
Rating: Worth a stop if in area. Not a repeat eatery.

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Quinceañera in Minnesota

The beautiful 15th birthday girl.

Two weeks ago we attended our first Minnesota quinceañera. The Quinceañera (15th birthday girl) was Mex’s great niece and, although we had a three week old in tow, I didn’t want to miss the event. In Mexico, a girl’s 15th birthday is like an American Sweet 16 party on steroids. The closest American event it compares to in size and ceremony is a wedding (or at least events traditional in my family). Fifteen is the age in Mexico where girls make the transformation from a young girl in to women. Traditionally, this was the age they were considered ready for marriage (the marriage readiness is not really the case in modern Mexico where education is becoming more valued and girls are more encouraged to attend college).

Amazing cake!

We arrived to the church pretty late so did not see much of the ceremony or prayers. There were a few family pictures and then everyone left the church to go to Plaza Verde on Lake Street for the reception party. I am so glad we got there early because soon after we arrived, the Plaza security stopped allowing people to enter because the reception hall was over capacity with almost 400 people in attendance. There was a mariachi band and a DJ, but the music was extremely loud for our little boy. I tried to wrap a blanket around his tiny ears to block some of the sound but we ended up not staying very long.

There was a head table where the quinceañera and her Court of Honor sit. This consists of chambelanes (her closest guy friends, usually around six) and her closest

Her last doll, dressed in a purple gown to match the birthday girl, and the head table.

girl friends or family members with whom she wants to share the spotlight. Many items are traditionally used in the ceremony such as a tiara, scepter, bible, and last doll. The last doll is used as part of the ceremony, representing the last of her childhood items because now she must focus on being a young lady.

There are many traditions throughout the celebration. The chambelanes participate with the birthday girl in a series of dances that start off the evening. Then there is a Changing of the Shoes, where the father and mother change the young girl’s flat shoes to high heels, symbolizing the Quinceañera’s transformation from a little girl to a young lady. It is also traditional for the parents to replace the headpiece worn by the girl during the church ceremony with a Tiara. This makes her a “princess” before God and the world, giving her the ability to face challenges in her future.

One of the traditional dances.

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Filed under Family, Hispanic-Latino events in MN, Holidays and Celebrations, Mexican culture

What’s in a name?

So throughout my pregnancy my husband and I have gone through a number of name discussions. We had our girl’s name picked out almost immediately. The boy’s name was much harder. Of course, due to our difficulty in agreeing on a name, we were not surprised when the ultrasound tech told us we were having a boy. Well, actually she sealed it in an envelope and we “discussed” opening it (I persuaded, he determinedly refused) for three weeks until he finally gave in. We have since agreed on a name for our little boy… a first name that is…

Baby boy at 20 weeks

Our Minnesota and Mexico mixing lead us down another path of name discussion. When we got married, I kept my traditional Scandinavian last name with the -son. I am in real estate where name recognition is a large part of business so I decided to take the “easy route” and not change. However, there is no doubt in my mind that any children of ours would have my husband’s family name and rock the “z” (the Mexican equivalent of -son, Lopez, Hernandez, Vasquez, Dominguez, similar to Johnson, Anderson, Peterson). I never thought this would lead to any sort of discussion or argument until he told me one day that the baby would be have my last name. I was surprised and even more surprised when I realized he was completely serious and determined.

Up until three weeks ago I was adamant about the baby taking my husband’s name and would not even consider any other idea on grounds of being so untraditional. When we both want to focus on the positive of being bicultural and teach him to be proud of his Mexican heritage, not giving him his father’s name seems very contradictory to that message. However, the legislation in Arizona that the governor signed into law on April 23rd, made me see his side of the argument for the first time.

Known as SB1070, the law gives Arizona police the right to question anyone who “appears to be illegal” and require them to prove legal status on the spot. Legal residents are required to carry their green cards at all times or face 6 months in jail and/or a $2500 fine if they are caught without one. Of course, that is after the person has been detained until they have proved their status. Now, my husband was told by our attorney to always carry his green card so I don’t really see that as a big issue. What upsets me is that we could be on vacation in Arizona and he decides to run across the street from our hotel and pick up a pop and snack so just grabs a few bucks and leaves his wallet behind. Meanwhile a crabby cop is filling up his squad car and decides Mex looks suspicious and asks him to prove his status. Since he doesn’t have his green card he is now detained and fined and possibly jailed… All because of his cinnamon skin, black hair and accent.

I do agree that something needs to be done to solve the undocumented worker issue and the drug problems along the border. However, I do not believe the argument that there will be no racial profiling. When my parents, husband and I came back from El Paso we reached a border control checkpoint. The guard stopped us and asked us all for our status. My parents and I said we were citizens and Mex said he was a permanent resident. The border guard did not ask for any of our US passports but made Mex show his papers. Maybe this was because of his non-citizen status but I tend to believe it was due to the color of his skin versus ours. I hope that when he becomes a citizen we get in a similar situation so I can test my theory.

During week surrounding the controversial Arizona SB1070, there was also an uptick in news reports about hate crimes regarding Latinos. In March, there was a group of teenage Caucasians accused of beating and killing a man in New York on a night of “beaner hopping” as they called it. Also, there was a story with video of a Guatemalan man laying on a New York street bleeding. The video showed more than six people walking by and looking at him, one person even snapping pictures, with not a single one calling for help or checking to see if he was alive.

The idea of anyone looking at my husband and making assumptions about him based on the color of his skin or his accent gives me extreme pain. I know when he fills out his name on an application the person on the other end automatically knows his ethnicity and could possibly be making conclusions about his legal status. Laying in bed and watching the reports of hate crimes against Latinos and discussions of racial profiling, we are both saddened. Though the thought of my husband being judged and given a hard time because of his name or color, the idea of our child facing discrimination is unbearable to both of us. I finally see why he thinks it would be “better” for our child to be have my less controversial Scandinavian last name. Seeing his name on paper would conjure a different image with my name versus his. My husband has dealt with prejudice and bias based on his name for the last 15 years and he doesn’t want his son to be given a hard time or lose out on opportunities because if something we can control.

How do we choose? Can we have it both ways? Can we teach him to be proud of his name and heritage while still protecting him from prejudice and racial hatred? We will try by giving him a Scandinavian middle name and his father’s last name. Today is the 60th anniversary of the historic supreme court case of Brown vs. Board of Education that was supposed to end racial segregation in the US. The news report was showing inner city schools and the high percentage of minorities that attend them versus the more “white” suburban schools. It was an interesting story and opened my eyes more than ever before since both my husband and child will be minorities. It makes my heart hurt to think of the difference in how my husband and I are perceived and treated and I dread the first time I discover my son is treated unequally due to his race.

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