Heroes in a Half Shell: 9 Unique Tacos for #TacoTuesday (or Any Day)

Tacos are so awesome that they get a day of the week – Taco Tuesdays. This means there are dozens of days a year when you’re practically required to down a taco (or five; we won’t judge). But why content yourself with shells packed with the usual suspects, like pollo asado or ground beef? Chefs are filling their freshly griddled tortillas with far more interesting ingredients – from duck and Wagyu steak to vindaloo sausage and grasshoppers (really). Here are 9 unique tacos you won’t find on the menu at your local Chipotle.

Johnny Sánchez, New Orleans, Louisiana
Remember make your own taco night? Your mom or dad would put all the components out on the dining room table and you got to play taco chef? Chefs John Besh and Aarón Sánchez have created a similar setup for this DIY dish. Starring fire-roasted amberjack served whole, it arrives with charred avocados, crispy sweet potatoes tossed in jalapeño vinaigrette, and more, so you can make yours just the way you like it. Make a reservation at Johnny Sánchez.

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Nacional 27, Chicago, Illinois
Hawaiian poke – raw fish salad – is having a moment. This secret off-menu taco features tuna poke dressed up with oil, red wine vinegar, ginger, and chipotle powder. It’s topped off with avocado and jicama salsa and served in a gyoza shell. Make a reservation at Nacional 27.

Unique Tacos

Sushi Garage, Miami Beach, Florida
The Far East meets South of the Border in this inventive taco. Chef Sunny Oh uses a perilla (sesame leaf) instead of the traditional tortilla. He folds into it minced toro, kizami wasabi salsa, and sushi rice mixed with crispy shallots. It’s both delicioso and oishii. Make a reservation at Sushi Garage.

Unique Tacos

Kuro, Hollywood, Florida
Chef Alex Becker didn’t want to use your average Angus in his tacos. So, he upped the ante by subbing in Wagyu instead. They’re brightened with spicy cilantro, soy shallots, and aji amarillo aioli. Guests can squeeze on some fresh lime juice to add an acidic pop. Make a reservation at Kuro.

Unique Tacos

Oyamel, Washington, D.C.
Trust José Andrés to come up with a taco that defies stateside convention. He piles a corn tortilla high with chapulines, which sounds dainty and delightful when you say it in Spanish. Before you take a bite, let us translate. It means “grasshoppers.” Let us reassure you though, the crunchy insects taste like what they’ve been sautéed with – shallots, chipotle purée, and tequila – more than anything else. Also, if you were in Mexico, downing a few of these tacos would be no big deal as they’ve been enjoying the little hoppers for centuries. Make a reservation at Oyamel.

Unique Tacos

Kachina Southwestern Grill, Westminster, Colorado
The kitchen crew found inspiration in Native American cuisine when they conceived the Mojave Navajo tacos. Rich duck confit, crispy duck skin, and Manchego cheese get a lift from pickled cactus and spicy sweet chipotle agave. In keeping with the theme, the taco forgoes a tortilla for housemade fry bread. Make a reservation at Kachina Southwestern Grill.

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Perfect Pairings: Chefs Share Their Favorite Craft Beers #CraftBeerWeek

American Craft Beer Week 2016

Beer – it’s what’s for dinner. These days, more chefs want diners to pair pints with their food rather than a bottle of wine. But what brew goes best with what bite? In honor of American Craft Beer Week 2016, we sat down with four beer-loving toques to have them pair their favorite craft beers with their favorite dishes.

Peter Smith, The Sovereign, Washington, D.C.
“I like sour beers. The super hoppy stuff doesn’t do it for me. I love Cantillon’s Gueuze. The tartness and the lemon go well with our mussels, especially the ones I prepare with saffron, smoked sausage, roasted garlic, and fennel. The beer cuts right through the spice. Bitterballen are basically croquettes filled with shredded short rib and chicken liver, breaded with pumpernickel and sourdough crumbs, and fried. I like them with De Ranke’s XX Bitter. It has a toasty note that goes well with the fried dough, it pairs well with the beef, and adds a little funk to the liver. If I’m having the Liegeoise salad, I go with Blaugies’ Saison d’Epeautre. It’s a little on the bitter side, but it’s still yeasty and bright. It cuts through the fat of the poached egg yolk and cuts off the sharpness of the vinaigrette.” Make a reservation at The Sovereign.

American Craft Beer Week 2016

John Critchley, Brine, Fairfax, Virginia
“My ideal meal is a burger, a dozen oysters, and a beer. When I was first talking to restaurateur Travis Croxton who owns Brine, I said, ‘We have to have a raw bar, a wood grill, and good beer.’ We have all three. I had never paid too much attention to Guinness or other nitro beers, but I love Flying Dog’s Bloodline, a blood orange IPA. I like the aroma and the creaminess that comes from the nitro. It goes down well with our house burger, which is dusted with vegetable ash, seared on the plancha, and then topped with sweet and vinegary red onion marmalade, Honeysuckle cheddar, and a lettuce slaw featuring a ‘Big Mac’ style sauce. Feed the Monkey, an orange hefeweizen from Jailbreak Brewing Company in Maryland, is another favorite. It’s a crisp, fruit forward wheat beer. I have that with our lambs and clams dish featuring merguez sausage, harissa, and crushed chilies. The beer cuts right through the spiciness. If I’m just having raw oysters, I have a Port City Optimal Wit. It’s clean and crisp with a lot of aromas of wheat and citrus. I could drink that beer anytime.” Make a reservation at Brine.

American Craft Beer Week 2016

Kyle Bailey, Sixth Engine, Washington, D.C.
“I used to hate beer when I was in high school because we’d drink the worst beers. I’d wonder, ‘What’s the point of this?’ The first time I had Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery, that’s when I finally got beer. Now I love it. Ocelot Brewing Company out of Sterling, Virginia, has a great IPA called Vandals. It’s hoppy, grassy, and herbal. I pair it with our goat cheese tortellini with ramp pesto accompanied by carrots braised in orange juice and crispy housemade pancetta. These are big, bold, a touch heavy flavors but still springtime tastes. The beer’s hoppy, grassy notes go well with the black pepper rich ramp pesto and the goat cheese with its creamy tartness. DC Brau’s Zehn von Zehn, a collaboration with Port City Brewing, is malty and delicious. I drink it with our butter-poached shrimp featuring a Romesco sauce made with red pepper, tomato, almond, and bread. It comes with Israeli couscous, salt-roasted sunchokes, and seared spring onions. The brininess of the shrimp and the bread in the Romesco go well with the maltiness of the beer. Lastly, I love 3 Stars Brewing Company’s Peppercorn Saison. It has a little bit of spice, but it’s bright and clean. I pair that with our deviled eggs topped with fried oyster and smoked trout roe. The bright, clean effervescence of the saison cuts through the dish – especially the Old Bay seasoning the yolks.” Make a reservation at Sixth Engine.

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Dig Your Claws Into 7 of the Best Crab Dishes in Maryland

In scientific circles, Maryland’s famed blue crab is referred to as Callinectes sapidus. Roughly translated, the Latin name means “beautiful swimmer that is savory.” These incomparably tasty crustaceans thrive in the brackish waters of the picturesque Chesapeake Bay, where they are harvested annually from roughly April until November. Because more than 50 percent of all the blue crab fished in this country comes from this stretch of the Atlantic, the Old Line State has rightfully earned a reputation as the go-to place to enjoy crabs. Here are seven of the best crab dishes you must try the next time you visit.

Wit & Wisdom, Baltimore
Whenever we walk into a restaurant and they have multiple iterations of blue crab, we always find ourselves torn. Do we go with the traditional cakes or try something else? Decisions, decisions! They make it easy at this waterfront eatery overlooking Baltimore’s much-Instagrammed harbor by offering a trio of preparations: crab cake with charred corn succotash, crispy soft shell with marinated cherry tomatoes and avocado, and a spicy tomato stew. Make a reservation at Wit & Wisdom.

Best Crab Dishes in Maryland

Iron Rooster, Annapolis
We love pancakes. We adore fried green tomatoes. And we have a lifelong passion for crab cakes. So this Cakes on Cakes dinner entrée is pretty much heaven for us. Jumbo lump crab cakes lightly seasoned with Dijon, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sautéed onions, and garlic sit atop cornmeal-crusted fried green tomatoes, which rest on cornmeal pancakes. The glorious triple stack is drenched with chipotle hollandaise and arrives with stalks of grilled asparagus. Make a reservation at Iron Rooster.

Best Crab Dishes in Maryland

City Café, Baltimore
For fans of blue crabs, soft shells are considered the greatest of delicacies. Having just molted their hard shell, they have a tender exterior, so the crab can be eaten in their entirety. This can be a little disconcerting for first timers, but let us assure you – they’re delicious. When you bite into the soft shell, it crackles and cracks like a potato chip with just the slightest bit of chew. Chef Jennings encrusts one with macadamia nuts and garnishes it with a lemon basil-accented tomato-avocado salad. It rests atop a hillock of buttery mashed potatoes. Make a reservation at City Café.

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Chef Michael Schlow on His New Restaurant, Peruvian Fusion + Why Boston Is So Beyond Clam Chowder

The savory, crispy chip made from hazelnuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano that chef Michael Schlow was toiling to get just right for this month’s opening of his third outpost of Alta Strada in Washington, D.C., may be his very latest culinary triumph. But, in a larger sense, Schlow, a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef in the Northeast, has helped change the dining profile of what are considered two of the seaboard’s stodgiest cities. With a recent ninth feather in his toque that also includes Latin cuisine at Tico restaurants in D.C. and his adopted hometown of Boston, his newly opened Greek restaurant, Doretta, and a cutting-edge late-night fusion menu, he’s come a long way from cracking eggs as a kid.

michael schlow headshot

What’s your earliest cooking memory?
My mother allowing me to cook omelets for my brother and sister. She would be at work, and I would “experiment” on them with my cooking, making horrible concoctions and then forcing them to eat the omelets, no matter how gross.

You’re from Brooklyn — and New York is one of the world’s culinary epicenters — why stay based in Boston?
Boston has been home for more than 20 years, and I love living here; we have great friends, a terrific food community, and the city has so many amazing attributes that I can’t really imagine living anywhere else.

You obviously witnessed a local culinary evolution of sorts; do you think Bostonians are more adventurous these days?
Bostonians are definitely into their food and their chefs — the days of cod, baked beans, and chowder defining Boston cuisine are over for sure! We have so many diverse and interesting restaurants to choose from now that it’s a world-class food destination with some of the best chefs in the country.

Speaking of diversity, how do you transition to different types of cuisine given the fact that you have Italian, Latin, Greek restaurants … do you have a favorite?
I don’t have a favorite, but if you were to come to our house, I’d probably serve simple Italian food.

alta strada spaghetti and clams

Can you give us a sneak peek of something you may be up to — Peruvian, perhaps?
We are working on a few really fun things right now. I’m excited about the Nikkei late-night menu that’s a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese at Tico Boston. It’s really interesting food and totally cures any late-night cravings. [Served 10PM-1AM Thursday-Saturday, recent offerings include crispy short rib gyoza with panca, toasted onion, and sesame.]Continue Reading