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|October 9-15, 2008
• The wacky world of fake food
Are we headed toward a world of simulated grub?
by Emily Nunn
• Recipe for more energy? Try a vegetarian diet
by Jane Glenn Haas
The fanciest watering hole in town
Cantina Laredo is Boulder’s posh Mexican
by Clay Fong
While a restaurant named Cantina Laredo evokes images of seamy border town watering holes, the reality is this 29th Street Mall eatery’s ambience is more Danish modern than swinging saloon door. Upscale décor consisting of light colored woods, organic curves and dark upholstery provide little clue as to what kind of food one might expect here. It’s not a place where a dying outlaw imparts wisdom to a young cowpoke. It’s more of a place where a successful Dallas plastic surgeon might throw an office party after an especially good year.
Sitting down for lunch in a comfortable banquette, friend Dana and I noticed a couple of avocados perched on our table, a not-so-subliminal advertisement for the $9.49 guacamole prepared tableside. Like a Sam Peckinpah movie character, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Why not?” to this dip. Our amiable server quickly whisked away the fruit, returning with sliced avocado in a heavy cast bowl, along with smaller bowls of seasonings, cilantro, onion and tomato. After mixing these ingredients together, our server gave the mash a final squirt of lime and cleaned the bowl’s rim with the citrus fruit’s remains.
While the guacamole undoubtedly possessed fresh flavor, it benefitted from dashes of salt and could have been improved by the addition of a few jalapeño slices. This avocado starter was on a par with a decent, albeit bland, version that one could make at home. But it wasn’t in the league of the world’s greatest guacamole prepared tableside, available for $8 at Boudro’s on the San Antonio River Walk, and enhanced with orange juice.
Bypassing the typical combination plates of tacos and enchiladas, Dana and I selected two of the house specialties. Dana ordered the $21.48 Camaron Poblano Asada. Imagine a chile relleno with a cover of medium-rare carne asada steak rather than batter and you have a good idea of what this dish is all about. In addition to the melted cheese stuffing expected of this dish, the filling also included a few jumbo shrimp, mushrooms and onion. Alone, the carne asada was on the salty side, although a mouthful of cheese helped balance the flavor. Although the rational part of me thought this entrée was trying to be too many things at once, my impulsive side still found it both hearty and tasty.
I took a calculated risk by ordering the $15.79 sea bass daily special. While this wasn’t an inexpensive lunch, I also figured that given restaurant markups, it was unlikely this entrée was going to consist of the pricey and threatened Chilean sea bass. Although this white fish did have a buttery flavor, in no small part due to the tangy jalapeño beurre blanc, it was flakier than my recollection of the Chilean species. The moist and melt-in-your mouth consistency of this sweet fish represented the meal’s high point.
Although I enjoyed our ample entrées and overall experience, I do have qualms about Cantina Laredo’s prices. It’s understood part of the tab goes towards the luxurious ambience. But I can’t relinquish the feeling I can go to a family-style Mexican restaurant and get a meal nearly as good for much less. Given this nagging concern, one suspects a modest reduction in prices might be in the long-term interest of both the Cantina and the customer.
1680 29th St.,
Clay’s obscurity corner
Director Sam Peckinpah’s groundbreaking 1969 film, The Wild Bunch, tells the story of a band of aging Wild West outlaws turned mercenaries as they make their last stand in revolutionary Mexico. After their employer, the corrupt General Mapache tortures one of their own for stealing guns, the outlaw band decides to seek revenge. The men, led by William Holden, decide to pursue Mapache with a minimum of fanfare; they simply look at one another and say “Why not?” before loading their guns. What follows is a tad violent as the men go down hard in cinema’s most influential shootout.
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