Mission: perfect burrito

I’m not sure how I’m ever supposed to eat burritos again, not after the absolute-perfection-in-burrito-form I had for lunch today.

All other burritos will live in the shadow of the delicious one I had at Danny Bowien’s California style taqueria, Mission Cantina, in the Lower East Side, not far from his short-lived (but hopefully soon to be resurrected) Mission Chinese Food.

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Mission Cantina’s carne asada burrito

Before bringing his restaurants to New York, Danny Bowien was a big deal in San Francisco, where phenomenal tacos and burritos are easy to find, and clearly he picked up a thing or two and brought it to the east coast, cause the burrito I had today was a 10 clear across the board.

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So much awesome in just one handful

For starters, instead of being filled with tons of gut-filling rice, sad wilted lettuce and mushy tomatoes, this bad boy (easily shareable between two people if you don’t have a the bottomless pit of a stomach that I do) was stuffed, generously and evenly throughout, with  carne asada, beans, guacamole, crema, queso blanco and salsa fresca. The carne asada, which I went with on the server’s recommendation (other choices were lamb, carnitas, fried skate, veggie, chicken and al pastor) was oh-so-soft and juicy, tender and full of flavor. The guacamole lent a creamy freshness to balance the hearty, rich beans, and the cheese did what it always does, made everything better. It was a wonderfully messy, saucy affair with juices running down my hands and my cloth napkin working overtime, and I loved every minute of it.

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Even the chips are delicious!

The tortilla which let’s be honest, no one ever cares about was more than just a vessel for burrito goodness. Tortillas are made in house, and it shows, because instead of being bland and rubbery, this one actually tasted like something you’d want to finish, or to use as a sponge for all of the burrito juice run off. And to really push itself into the realm of greatness, the tortilla had a slight golden crisp to it, from where the burrito had been lightly seared for a perfect finish.The burrito alone was enough to make me an instant fan but Mission Cantina really sealed the deal with its accompanying tortilla chips. Usually an afterthought or distraction, these were anything but. Each one was thick and crunchy, fried in house and dusted in a punchy, colorful blend of spices that made it impossible not to each every last crumb of them. Two salsas, a tangy, avocado filled green sauce and a thicker, smoky red one were served with them, but almost not necessary because of how good they were on their own.

Burritos of New York, I’m not sure things will ever be the between us. Mission Cantina, I’m all yours.

Mission Cantina on Urbanspoon

Sunday brunching with a Mexican twist

And on the seventh day, God created brunch.

Sundays, lazy ones that start when you roll over in bed and marvel at the restorative powers of sleeping in, are made for brunching. In New York, where the options are limitless, brunch on a rainy Sunday morning/afternoon is a wonderful thing. No one’s in a hurry. Everyone wants to rehash their weekends. And almost everyone can go for a bloody Mary or mimosa. It just makes the impending blow of Monday that much easier to deal with.

So when my friend Holly, who was in from out of town visiting her old roommate, told me they were going to brunch, I happily tagged along. There was talk of an all-you-can-drink special and the food being good, but I didn’t need much convincing. They had me at “brunch.”

While I typically associate brunch with the standard American breakfast staples like pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage, I also welcome variations. This Sunday, our destination, as Flaneur and I huddled together underneath a too-small umbrella and made our way down to Alphabet City in the East Village, was Mercadito Cantina.

Pineapple and mango mimosas

A small but cute and cheery taqueria, Mercadito Cantina’s brunch menu had classics like eggs (scrambled, benedict and sunny side up) but dressed up with spicier,  more exciting ingredients like habanero peppers, roasted garlic and pico de gallo. Even the mimosas had a little more pizzazz, and so that’s exactly where I started.

The mango mimosa I ordered came in a champagne flute but unlike its orange counterpart had a little spice at the end of each sip, courtesy of a bit of green chile added to the orangey-yellow drink. The mango, which already has a strong, tropical sweet taste, felt even more exotic when it was mixed with the fizz of the sparkling wine and the subtle zing of the green chile. Continue reading