Time to shell out

Tacos from Taco Party, clockwise from top left, mushroom confit taco, the Taco Party taco, the Bison flatbread, the grilled hanger steak taco, the al pastor and the fish taco.



QUICKREAD

MIKE’S GUACAMOLE

2 jalapeno peppers, roasted over open flame or baked in 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Cover, allow to cool, remove skins, chop.

2 Tbsp. crema (or sour cream)

1 large avocado

2 tsp. chopped cilantro (I used a Tbsp.)

Juice from 1/2 lime

Salt to taste

Place peppers in food processor, crema, process to smooth, add rest of ingredients, process to creamy.

MIKE’S TACO SEASONING

4 Tbsp. red chili powder. Use fresh.

1 Tbsp. each of corn starch, salt, garlic powder, paprika, freshly ground cumin (worth the effort)

1 tsp. dried basil

Mix/store in air tight container. I fixed crockpot pulled beef with a little unsalted beef broth and added seasoning to taste after pulling beef apart. Then I warmed it back up in crockpot and served it in corn tortillas with guacamole and vegetables, including cabbage.



I’ve loved tacos ever since I had my first one when visiting Colorado from the Midwest many years ago — long before Mexican cuisine became so popular everywhere. Soon after moving out here, we made Saturday night our taco night, with a lazy Susan filled with all kinds of goodies for tacos.

During a recent trip to California, I fell in love with Giovanni’s Fish Market & Galley’s fish tacos, made with freshly caught cod, grilled and served with cabbage, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and tomatillo salsa in a white corn tortilla. I had them three times and won’t try to duplicate them. They were too good.

I kind of fell into a Taco Journey after that, with a great conversation with Mike Hultquist of chilipeppermadness.com fame — a cookbook author, blogger and, to me, the professor of peppers. He grows many varieties, he loves and uses all, from the simple bells to the hottest and all in between. His freezers are full of them, and he preserves and dehydrates to add to his selection. He makes all his own sauces and seasonings,to add the flavor he seeks, and he strongly points out that chili peppers have their place in all cuisines. His taco recipes are an example; Szechuan salmon tacos and corned beef with creamy cabbage slaw are examples. See his taco seasoning and simple guacamole recipe below.

Then, my taco world exploded with a visit to Taco Party in downtown Grand Junction.

I discovered there are many kinds of tacos — those I will make at home and those I will leave to the creative genius of Josh and Jodi Niernberg, who bowled us over with their Bin 707 restaurant and have now opened Taco Party. I couldn’t and wouldn’t even attempt to duplicate what they make. I’ll just enjoy them!

These are not Mexican tacos. Josh says their concept is to combine the unconventional culinary experience and rural Colorado in all its freshness and goodness of local ingredients. Really, these are not like any other tacos you have ever tasted before, creating an explosion of tastes.

Josh and Jodi’s creativity is mind-boggling. They depart from tradition, as they celebrate our farmers, ranchers, brewers, distillers and winemakers. Their menu is different from day to day and changes with the season. The atmosphere is welcoming, new and energizing with its contemporary design and huge menus on the wall that will amaze you and are easy to read. Their staff is friendly, knowledgeable and more than happy to explain the menu items.

I have several menu favorites. Seriously, would you ever come up with these combinations?

To start, you must have their guacamole. It’s made to order, (mild to hot) with cherry gastrique, radish, serrano, kimchi, roasted red juri squash served with the best, homemade corn chips.

Then move on to the masa empanadas: cheese, preserved plum jam, crema, microgreen salad. Perfectly fried and cheesy. A creamy delight. 

Three taco favorites of mine:

■ The al pastor taco — spit roast pork loin, green tomato salsa, radish pico, queso fresco and rhubarb! The crispy tender pork with such a unique blending of flavors made us groan with pleasure. As Fred said, “I am not sure what this is, but the taste is awesome and I want it again!” 

■ The bison flatbread – blueberry and sour beer braised, endive, tomato salsa, corn/miso puree and queso fresco! It had Fred and me, as well the couple next to us, falling over ourselves, exclaiming how good it was.

■ Taco Party taco: roast pork shoulder, ricotta salata, watermelon, radish pico, queso fresco, and chili oil. You might say, “Really?” Just wait until you taste.

Those are followed by the grilled hanger steak taco, mushroom confit taco and the fish taco, all bringing flavor magic. Happiness. How do they do this?

Top it off with beet soft serve ice cream — so delicious and light. “You finally found a way to get me to eat beets,” Fred acknowledged.


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