Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fun Fact: The Origin of Nachos!

The other day, I was once again thinking, "Wow, nachos really do rule.  I wonder who invented them?"  After a quick look at Wikipedia and a Google search for references to back it up, I found a pretty interesting story about where this delightful food came from.  Read and enjoy!

(Paraphrased from Wikipedia and an article written by Karen Haram for the San Antonio Express in Texas)

Back in 1943, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya assembled the first plate of nachos.  At that time, he had no idea that 60 years later, this appetizer would make his nickname a household word.  At the time, señior Anaya was working at the 'Victory Club', a restaurant owned by Rudolfo De Los Santos in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico, just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.  As Igancio's son, Ignacio Jr. recalls the story, a woman named Mamie Finan and a group of 10 to 12 officers’ wives, whose husbands were stationed at Texas' Fort Duncan Air Base, traveled across the border to eat at the Victory Club. When Señior Anaya couldn’t find the cook, he sprung into action.  Anaya, a maitre d’ at the time said, "Let me go quick and fix something for you." He went into the kitchen, picked up tostados (chips), grated some cheese on them, and put them under the "Salamander" (a broiling unit that quickly browns the top of foods). He pulled them out after a couple minutes, all melted, and added some slices of jalapeño.  The name of the snack, Anaya Jr. says, came from Mamie Finan, who called the plate of cheese- and pepper-topped chips Nacho’s Especiales. The name was later shortened to simply “nachos.”

References for this blog post:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Taco Bravo (Campbell, CA): Super Nachos with Jalapeños

Those of you who know of Taco Bravo knew this was coming.  A Silicon Valley institution (meaning that if you eat here often, you should be institutionalized), Taco Bravo has, at their 4 locations, served cheap,  yummy "Mexican" food that strangely has had a cult following for the past 20+ years.  I may get hate mail for saying this, but really, Taco Bravo is just a small step above Taco Bell, and their menu - recently(?) changed from a generic slatted white,  snap-on-lettered sign to a nifty yellow, red, and black plexiglass one - is much smaller.
The nachos?  Not wanting to get anything but the gnarliest pile of processed goodness I could, I ordered their Super Nachos, composed of pretty much everything they have behind their takeout counter...
- Chips (cheap and crispy)
- Ground Beef (I'll bet it's at least 50% beef - take that Taco Bell!)
- Queso (or "plastic cheese" as I like to call it)
- Grated Cheese (what? queso and real cheese?  wow!)
- Sour Cream
- Diced Tomatoes
- Sliced Jalapeños (against my better judgement, but it just seemed right - this is Taco Bravo for God's sake!)
These are also available as "Mini Super Nachos", but what fun would that be?  Eat 'til it hurts, I say!
These are really tasty in such a different way than the usual taqueria nachos I eat.   No carefully seasoned chicken and freshly made Guacamole or pico de gallo - just a big pile of all the stuff you love but know you shouldn't!  Yes, they're terrible for you and going to stick in your digestive system for the next week, but they're just so good!  Did I eat them all?  No, but I surely ate more than I should have. 
Rating: 3 out of 5
Rating Notes: 3 out of 5?  Yeah - I do have standards so that's as high as I could go, but I'd totally eat these again - plus it's only 5 minutes from my office.
Other Notes:  These are the first nachos I've eaten with a spork (see photo)!
Map to Location:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Burrito Factory (San Jose, CA): "Nachos Con Carne" with Chicken

Ahhh - eating nachos outside on a beautiful, 80 degree day in June…  it doesn't get any better than that!  This taqueria is about 5 minutes from my work (yes, as you may have noticed by now, I work in a very "taqueria-heavy" area) and had been on the list of places to try for a while.  How about the nachos?  Usually, when I go to a chain taqueria, even a small chain like the The Burrito Factory, I have low expectations.  This time those low expectations were unwarranted.  These are some excellent nachos!  Nice presentation, not too much cheese, a pretty pattern of sour cream, and a generous heap of guacamole on top.  The shredded chicken was tender and flavorful as well - a very important factor in my ratings.  And even though I'm pretty sure those lively red and green chips have stuff in them that may give me cancer, they sure made for a pretty plate!
The down side(s)?  Relatively speaking, this was not a very generous portion for $7 plus tax, even though it was more than I could eat, and what's with that sneaky layer of beans underneath everything that you kind of have to scoop out and place on the nachos separately?  Weird presentation choice indeed.
Other goodies?  If you get to this taqueria, be sure to try their mango pico de gallo.  It has the usual fresh flavor of pico de gallo with a nicely integrated sweetness from the mangos - an excellent compliment to the nachos!  They also have 3 or 4 other kinds of salsa, all of which were pretty tasty.
Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: Would have been a 4 if not for that sneaky, "interestingly" flavored layer of beans underneath.
Map to Location:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mad River "Vacation Nachos" (Thanks M & D!)

Last week I went on a great vacation with some close family friends in Mad River, CA, about 100 miles from anywhere that would serve a plate of nachos, so what did I do?  Improvise!  The first night were there, our friends made an amazing, but cheap and simple tortilla soup.  The "tortillas" for the soup were corn chips that you'd mix in, and the soup would soften them up, then you'd add cheese and sour cream on top.  Sounds pretty close to nachos to me, so I laid down a nice stack of chips, topped it with soup (lots of meat, beans, olives, etc...), added some cheese and sour cream to the top and viola - vacation nachos!
Rating: 3½ out of 5
Rating Notes: (not really a true plate of nachos, but I gave extra points because food improvisation is fun and everything tastes better when you're on vacation!  ;-)
Map to Location: You wish!  It's a secret!