Sunday, July 10, 2011

Criollo Latin Kitchen

So we have been here twice. Once back in December, which I totally failed at blogging about. The second was in June for our anniversary. I know, I know! I have been slacking. But I am here now and I promise to be better about updating. As things are leveling out and we are slowly turning this apartment into a home, I am able to plan these posts better while juggling everything else.

Criollo is located in downtown Flagstaff right on North San Francisco. The building had been used several different businesses throughout the years and several different things. Walking in, I was excited to see the space opened up and having a whole new look. Most notably is the clean yet exposed feeling of it. Part of that look is the pine wood throughout. It is beautiful pine and to be honest, my heart somewhat sank until I learned that all of their pine is locally harvested from Beetle Kill and salvage from the Rodeo-Chediski. All the wood was locally milled as well. Big Props!Criollo also utilizes locally grown and sustainably raised products that become the base of their menus. Use of local growers and farms allows for the staff to create some of the highest quality dishes for a fair price. This emphasis is also incorporated in house drinks as well.

In December, I ordered the Pork Belly Tacos. The menu described the dish as "Slow roasted pork belly, cabbage, house pickles, mild salsa, and jalapeno glaze" served on corn tortillas. These tacos blew my mind! The pork belly was prepared perfectly and was fully complemented by the other ingredients of the taco. Many times people add extras as a common filler. This time even the pickles served a purpose!

On the June visit we both ordered the Fish Tacos. Berkeley got them back in December and I had totally forgotten how delicious they really were. Certified sustainably farmed catfish, cabbage, avocado, ancho crema, mild salsa, and jalapeno glaze over corn tortillas.

The fish was fried, which is typical for fish tacos. But these were different. To me, the batter was light and did not over power the clean flavor of the fish. Personally, catfish is a favorite, but it is also easy to ruin it with over cooking, or over seasoning. Not here. The fish was tender and moist as it should be. Again, every secondary ingredient in the taco had a purpose. Whether it was layer of flavor or a complimentary texture. By far, these are the best fish tacos in my existence.

Since it was our anniversary we celebrated with some drinks. We both ordered margaritas. Criollo offers seasonal margaritas depending on the produce available for each season. I had Strawberry Rhubarb and Berkeley went with Cranberry. Most of the time when you order a fruit drink, it is a syrup that has been made commercially and bottled. These had real chunks of fresh fruit in the drink. Once again, another example of the Criollo staff creating a balanced and perfectly blended mixture of the ingredients and resulting flavors. The tequila was matched with fruits that weren't overly sweet or sour.

For the quality of the meal and drinks, we were expecting a lunch that totaled well over $50 before the tax and tip. We spent less than $40. While the lunch put dents in our waistlines, it didn't in our wallets. Yet another reason to invest back into your local economy!

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