Gastronomo de Mexico

After it’s grand opening last weekend, everyone is talking about the newest hot spot in town. Located on Peachtree St, close to the Fox Theater, Escorpion Tequila Bar and Cantina is trendy, young and eclectic. The place where Escorpion houses now has seen a few change of hands over the years.

Owner Riccardo Ullio already has successes of Sotto Sotto and Fritti under his belt and a reputable name when it comes to serving good quality food. Although Escorpion offers a cuisine different from Riccardo’s Italian roots, the expectations are still high.

The cuisine at Escorpion can be described as “upscale regional Mexican.” If you are still debating to go, here is what a typical experience at the Escorpion would be like….

It will take you a few minutes to go through the extensive list of cocktails, tequilas and liquors on the drink menu. If you are an adventurous drinker, always looking for new concoctions, you won’t be disappointing. Try the El Chamuco with blackberry and ginger or Pueblo Unida, a spicy habanero salt rimmed lime margarita.

For starters order the chunky Guacamole or one of the many ceviches. The Tuna Ceviche is an interesting treat for the palate and the eyes. Cubed pieces of sushi grade tuna are lost against diced watermelon. Gently seasoned with sea salt and served in a glass, it is a perfect dish on a summer evening.

The cuisine here is described as “regionally authentic” and they truely live up to that. Even though the names would sound familiar, they are not your off-the-mill Tex-Mex dishes that you find at most restaurants in Atlanta. The Cheese Chili Rellenos is  nothing like you have tasted elsewhere. Spicy whole chilis are surrounded by a light fluffy egg meringues, melted Monterey Jack and Corija (Mexican) cheese and a savory tomato gravy. A tablespoon of the combination melts away as soon as it touches your tongue.

The Fish Tacos found here are not for the faint hearted. While the tilapia fillet is deep fried, it is drizzled with a spicy mayo made with poblano peppers that can serve as a nice compliment to one of the fruit infused tequilas.

Chicken Tamale with avocado sauce is just what it sounds like. While the Fish Tacos are on the spicy side, the tamales are bland. There is something for everyone here!

Desserts are not  strong suit here. Both the Flan and Tres Leches are nothing to rave about. Best to come here for a few drinks and enjoy some small plates to keep you nourished. The restaurant has a club feel after dark and is open till late every night (1am on weeknights, 2 am on weekends). There is a lively atmosphere with international music and festive crowds, so stay on and join the dance floor.

Escorpion Tequila Bar and Cantina

800 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Hawaiian Dinner Party

I love themed parties! In fact, I always try to create a theme around any dinner party I host. It helps me keep the menu together, try new recipes and make things interesting for my attendees. In the past, I have organized a game night, pool party, grill day, just tapas, wine and cheese, TV show finales, Moroccan, Mexican, Indian, Italian and much more. But this was my first time hosting a Hawaiian dinner party.

With the help of my friend Sonia Viteri, we decided on a menu for 15 people who were part of the group, Dinner with a Passport, a once a month dinner adventure meet up founded in Atlanta. We had less than 24 hours to plan, shop, prepare and host! With a few emails, phone calls, and shopping trips, we settled on a easy and light menu that would beat the heat of the summer (in Hotlanta) while representing the fresh ingredients used in Hawaiian cuisine. We found most of the recipes on the internet and adopted some of them as we went along.

The best thing about this menu is not much prep work is required. Only a couple of hours of marinating and chopping is sufficient. Everything is cooked and assembled just before serving. Good option for a last minute party thrower!

We greeted our guests with lei’s and offered Mai Tai’s and wine for drinks. The first course was a coconut fried shrimp. We used beer batter and unsweetened dry coconut (toasted in the oven) and deep fried the shrimp as guests started to arrive. Sonia whipped up a sauce with mashed pineapples, chillies and mustard to serve with the shrimp.

For the second course, we prepared three different kinds of salads. The tropical fruit salad was mixed cut fruits served in the shell of a watermelon. There were kiwis, watermelons, pineapples and papayas (pretty much all the fruit we had left over from making other dishes).

The papaya cucumber salad with a spicy dressing was a huge hit. Cilantro, ginger, sugar and red chili paste worked their magic on each other to create this flavorful dressing that made the fruits jump up and down with excitement. Papaya pairs well with spicy, tangy sauces in case you never tried it before. We served the salad over a bed of fresh lettuce leaves.

Next was a crunchy watermelon salad with cabbage, fried noodles and green onions. The black sesame seeds and chopped mint leaves added a lot of color to this already colorful meal. It was refreshing with the right balance of sweetness and crunchiness.

For the main course, there was Huli Huli Chicken, grilled drumsticks marinated in pineapples, white wine, soy sauce and ginger. We marinated the chicken for 2 hours and then kept basting it with the marinade while cooking so its nicely caramelized. The chicken was sweet, tender and juicy after being on the grill for 30 minutes.

It was paired with a short grain jasmine rice cooked with coconut water and sesame seeds. The rice was served in frozen pineapple shells. It’s sole purpose was to remind you of the tropics, so we named it Tropical Rice. There were also Hawaiian rolls for those who preferred bread.

Dessert was a simple Hawaiian banana fritters. Small variety of bananas (lady finger) were cut in half and fried with butter and brown sugar. We made a sauce from rum, water and dark sugar and drizzled it over the bananas and vanilla ice cream. If you plan to make this, make sure the bananas are fully rips, else they won’t taste sweet.

 

 

 

Watermelon 3 ways

It’s summer already and the mercury is rising. One of my favorite things about summer is fresh watermelon. It is cool and refreshing on a hot summer day. Watermelon is low in calories, but not in sugar and offers tons of vitamin C, A and B. In fact sweet, juicy watermelons are actually packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature. So go on and enjoy a guilt-free summer of watermelons in a variety of forms.

Most people enjoy raw sliced watermelon but you can actually do a lot more with it. Here I will show you how to incorporate watermelon into 3 different courses. This is just a start. The possibilities are endless!

Watermelon martini

(recipe courtesy of Chef Art Smith)

Servings: Makes 6 large martinis

  • 4 cups watermelon (with the rinds, seeds removed)
  • 1 cup lemon vodka
  • 1/2 cup cointreau or triple sec
  • 2 limes , squeezed
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • Garnish ; pieces of watermelon, lime, sugar cane

In a blender, combine the watermelon chunks and puree. Remove pureed fruit and pour into a pitcher and keep very cold, even a little frozen to make it icy.

For two generous martinis, add one cup of watermelon puree, 1/4 cup of lemon vodka, and one tablespoon of cointreau or triple sec to the blender with three ice cubes and blend. Pour into a nice festive glass, garnish with watermelon chunks, limes and a stick of sugar cane.

Watermelon salad

(makes 4)

  • 2 cups watermelon, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds, lightly roasted
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 4 oz. crumbled plain feta cheese
  • 4 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar

Arrange the arugula on 4 salad plates. Divided the watermelon and spread over the arugula on each of the plates. Top with feta cheese and sesame seeds. Drizzle the vinegar and enjoy.

Watermelon and mint sorbet

(Recipe courtesy of Ciao Bella)

  • 6 cups chopped seedless watermelon
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, minced

Make a simple syrup by mixing the sugar in water on low heat until completely dissolved. Let cool. In a blender, combine the watermelon, lemon juice and simple syrup and blend until smooth.  Add the mint leaves. Pour into an ice cream machine & churn according to directions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze overnight.  Serve cold. This recipe makes 2 quarts.