Is this salsa from a can?
Ed and I got a babysitter Friday so that we could go to my friend Steve's 40th birthday bash. I hadn't seen Steve for years so I was excited, and it's always fun to have a night out with Ed. So we decided to head to Madison Park, see if we could find a place to eat outside, then head to the bar for the party.
We walked around, looked at the menu at Sostanza (which I love, but we weren't in the mood) and decided on Cactus. Of course there was a wait for their tiny patio, so we went across the street to Impromptu for a glass of wine. Pretty interesting wine-by-the-glass list; I had the Excelsior Chardonnay from South Africa, which was really nice, summery and not full of oak. But the menu was a little odd: one of the specials was Morrocoan lamb stew. Sorry, but lamb stew in August? Come on, we have plenty of opportunities to eat lamb stew when it's crapola outside.
So we finished our drinks and went over to Cactus. I'll just start this out by saying I've never been a huge fan of this place, but the patio was calling and the idea of margaritas had us hooked. Plus, sometimes Ed and I get so caught up in trying to find a "perfect" place for dinner when we have a rare night to ourselves that we spend way too long searching and it kind of takes the fun out of it. So I went with it. Hey, maybe it'd be better than I remembered?
Well, let's just say that any place that charges for chips and salsa should NOT be using canned salsa (jazzed up with fresh cilantro, but does this fool anyone?) Especially when tomatoes are in season! And yes, you can actually make decent salsa with canned tomatoes. I've done it. This salsa sucked, though. We thought about getting guacamole but it was $6 and since it was just the two of us that seemed silly.
We ordered the grilled jalapenos to start. Stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in bacon and set on the grill, these things were awesome. The grill gave the peppers a nice char and a smokey flavor, and the bacon and goat cheese--it all just worked. Yum. I'd go back for these.
Then I had the carnitas and Ed had the Negro Modelo-braised short ribs. I was thinking Ed's were going to take the prize, but while the meat was tender and the sides--yummy pepper-flecked corn bread-- were good, there was something really lacking in the flavor department. It was just a big plate of bland meat. A bummer.
My carnitas were really good, though.
They were served with a sweet-spicy peach salsa, fresh cilantro and pickled red onions. Spicy, tart, savory. Great.
Ed was smart and opted for a margarita. I was feeling date-happy and decided to order a girly drink. The chi-chi was supposed to be their updated version of a pina colada, and it sounded good: cranberry vodka, coconut, soda, something else... What ended up being served to me was basically frilly panties in a glass: it was pepto-bismal pink, kind of foamy, and came with sugared coconut on top. I drank half and then got wise and ordered a Negro Modelo. Good lord.
So Cactus: Not in a hurry to go back. The grilled jalapenos are great, but I'll probably just make them at home if I get a craving.