May 5, 2010

Salsa de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Celebrate with a fiesta in your mouth courtesy of salsa.
Salsa is the number one condiment in the US. It overtook catsup a few years back and for good reason. It’s so versatile and can bounce the taste of even boring food up a notch. The best salsas are in themselves a feast of flavor. The perfect combination of tomatoes, onions, peppers and other fresh ingredients create a fiesta in your mouth worthy of celebrating this Cinco de Mayo or any other day really. Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy salsas in Flagstaff.

Salsa Brava
2220 East Route 66
How could a story about salsa not begin with this famous Route 66 restaurant. The salsa bar is the best in town with flavors that spin your taste buds through a savorlicious journey.
Habanero pineapple, pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa verde. They have them all here and they are all done right. My fav is to combine the pico with the regular then alternate chip dips between that and the tanginess of the verde and sweet punch of the pineapple.
All are good and none give more fire than a trained mouth can handle. A must visit for every salsa connoisseur.

Las Gorditas Mexican Restaurant
2900 N. West St, Suite 4 (near Cedar)
This hidden gem family run restaurant has been open four years. It’s home to six salsas, all made by "mom" Santana. Some recipes are her own. Others have been passed down for generations from family in Jalisco.
The guacamole salsa is an avocado infused delight. Nothing like your typical guac yet it beckons you to take another bite. It’s a touch creamy with a bold flavor, much more like a typical salsa than guacamole. The salsa verde is drinkable. It has a peppery taste that I swear hints to star of anise. I asked but the recipe is top secret. Only mom knows what's in there. It is sure to cure sinus congestion. There are also three types of red sauces to boot.

Cafe Ole
121 S San Francisco
The salsa at café ole has a different edge then others in town. There’s a fire-roasted zing that drives the uniqueness. It comes off spicy but goes down so smoothly. It’s one to savor. You’ll want to add it to anything and everything on the menu. But never fear, it’ll satisfy with just chips along side a nice marg or mojito.

Criollo Latin Kitchen
16 N San Francisco
Criollo’s Latin-inspired salsas take chips and dips to a whole new level. The veggies in all three of the salsas here are all Arizona grown organically and sustainably. An order comes with all three of their handcrafted, made fresh daily salsas: pico de gallo, a tangy, tart tomatillo salsa verde (perfect to compliment fish tacos) and mesquite smoked chili with the triple threat of serranos, jalapeños and habaneros.
The mesquite smoked is surprisingly sweet at first taste but goes on to light up in the back of your mouth with spiced up smoky rich fire essence. A standout in the hot “hot sauces” of the city.

Black Bean Burrito Bar and Salsa Co.
12 E Route 66 (In the square across from Flagstaff Brewing Company)
The Black Bean is known for burritos and hand crafted salsas. The sauces here have the coolest names and range on the heat scale from mild to hotter.
The chili de arbol Red Hotty tops the scale along side Habanero Heaven (pineapple with habaneros). Next down the scale is the three star hot Garlipeno which adds fresh garlic's uniqueness. Then comes my Black Bean favorite - the tropical Mango Pineapple with fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle chilis. Rounding out the scale at the mild end are the traditional Casa Roja and Pico de Gallo plus Smoked Sweet Tomato, which feels more Italian than Mexican and is a nice change of pace for a salsa.

Also worth a mention…
Burritos Fiesta (1530 S Riordan Ranch St # 405C, next door to Bookmans) This place is always packed and has a lot of people sitting at their tables with satisfied grins on their faces. The salsa options here are just hot or mild. Both are winning choices.
Tacos Locos (2 S. Beaver St. Suite 170 on the Phoenix Ave. side of the building). Tacos Locos has several special-crafted homemade salsas, which include a salsa verde, traditional salsa and a spicy “chile de arbol” sauce.

*This article was originally written for Flagstaff Live's April 29, 2010 issue*


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