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After hearing loads of good things about Que Chula es Puebla, we decided to take the family over for dinner last week. We live a block from Taco Riendo and Las Cazuelas, so good mexican isn’t hard to find around here. And with Dos Segundos and El Camino Real, it would seem that the burrito needs in this area are well met.
I, however, would disagree. I remember years and years ago making a weekly trek down to South St to a place once called Sausalito’s. They had amazing and simple burritos,take out or eat in, no frills and no pretense. For a vegetarian (at the time), it was perfect. Fast forward to the present and migrate northwards: where’s a boy to go for a simple burrito? Places around here, while delicious, are sit down, get a beer and a platter type joints, taste the authenticity and experience the service and nightlife*.
Enter Que Chula es Puebla. Its the second (that I’m aware of) mexican place at this location. The first one turned Lois off by the addition of celery in her veggie burrito, and we never really gave it a second chance. Que Chula, however, deserves a second chance. Soon. The menu is the kind of Spanish dictionary that makes this recent meat eater want to work my way through the entire thing. That might actually become a goal, we’ll see. Perfect portions, chips with queso blanco and salsas, reasonable prices. This is indeed the place that we’ve all be waiting for.
Well, perhaps that’s a bit dramatic. The ambiance is cold and dull. There is no music, no soft lighting, no separate dining menu. But honestly, that’s whats so great about it. So lets get a six pack of fizzy yellow Mexican beer, scan a paper take out menu, and feast on all the treats that cows and pigs and beans can provide to us, by way of Que Chula.
*I’m purposefully leaving out Pura Vida, a wonderful place that gets far too little respect, and far too little patronage from me.
Saturday night we had dinner at the newest addition to Northern Liberties, Dos Segundos. Its a northern reincarnation of the popular Cantina Los Caballitos in South Philadelphia. We’ve only been to the Cantina once, but this newest spot seemed to have a very similar menu. We started with a white cheesy scalliony nacho plate, it was delicious, though a bit too greasy. We stayed simple for our meals, Lois had a spicy and hearty faux beef burrito, and I had the vegetarian chimichanga. Somehow I have a hard time believing that a chimichanga is “authentic” Mexican (maybe its my childhood memories of Chi Chi’s and Taco Bell), but it really doesn’t matter, because it was delicious.
The beer menu, at least as published, was mediocre at best. They very well might have had a draft menu that I didn’t see. And I didn’t ask, because my eyes were set on the tequila menu. I’m not much of a tequila drinker, but I’m a sucker for learning about any drink. Particularly when the menu is so thorough and informative. After reading all about the differences between Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo tequilas (Lois was on her second white peach margarita by this point), I opted for the “liquid smoke” flight. It was a 3 glass flight with a tequila from each category, which the menu described as akin to the peaty malts of Islay. With a comparison like that, how could I resist? (For the record, my poor wallet rarely allows my rich tastes to indulge in my favorite Islay whisky’s, Lagavulin and Laphroaig). I probably wouldn’t have made the connection on my own, having very limited experience with tequila, but the comparison was apt. The three tequilas in the flight really did have a subtle smokiness. Even the Blanco, the lightest of the three.
I’m mixed on the dark decor and the layout. Its not the kind of place I could imagine spending hours in. Particularly with the clientèle of this particular evening. But would will definitely go back, if only to learn about, and try more of their tequila selection.
I have a small collection of beers in my cellar. Every once and awhile I’ll pull one out for a special occasion. This past Friday night we went out to our local BYOB, Las Cazuelas, with some friends, and I brought along a bottle of 2006 Allagash Musette.
Lois and I have had a rocky relationship with the restaurant. Its only 2 blocks from our house, but the last time we went, we had a less than perfect experience. So we haven’t been back there in awhile. But we decided to give it another chance. This was a much better experience, not mind blowing, but not a disaster. We had the cactus salad and the shrimp ceviche to start. Lois loves the cactus salad and it didn’t disappoint, and the ceviche was lemony and fresh. I ordered the special, a shrimp and calamari with rice dish cooked in beer. For all the server’s interest in my bottle of Musette, he didn’t say much about the beer in the dish. And I couldn’t pick out much beeriness in the dish. Oh well, it was tasty nonetheless. Since I’ve started eating seafood, after 10 years of strict vegetarianism, I must say, I’m a sucker for shrimp.
Now for the beer, the real reason for the post. The label had a bottling date of August 2006, so it was 4 months shy of 2 years old. We had similar vintage bottle of Curieux a couple months ago, and it had aged amazingly, so I was really looking forward to trying the Musette. The bottle opened (by me, I think the server was afraid to open it, ha ha) with a distinct pop, which surprised me. There was clearly plenty of carbonation still in there. This was confirmed by the healthy headed pour. As for the taste, I was not only surprised by the level of carbonation, but also by the bitterness of the hops; they were still very up-front at almost 2 years old. The sherry-like qualities of a well aged beer only peeked through a bit as it warmed up. Overall the beer tasted rather fresh, and was incredibly drinkable, particularly paired with the subtly smoky cactus salad.
My only regret is that I don’t have another one of these. I’d love to age it for another 2 years and see how it progresses. Oh well, time to stock up the cellar again.