I’ve decided that date night doesn’t necessarily have to involve a new restaurant every time, so I have now expanded it to include restaurants that I haven’t been to in a while. So tonight we went out to Agua Verde.

I really like Agua Verde, especially on sunny days when you can sit outside on the deck and watch the newbie kayakers trying to get into their boats. Agua Verde is a great, casual place that is bright and loud. I don’t always love the food, as it can be hit or miss, but it’s one of those places where I always have a great time. Plus they have really good margaritas.

We started out with chips and salsa. The chips were extra salty (just the way I like them) and Agua Verde has a salsa bar that is fantastic. Zach ordered the carne tacos which are marinated flank steak sautéed with chilies and onions, topped with cotija cheese on flour tortillas. They were really good, but I wanted more of the marinade sauce as the meat seemed just a touch dry.

I had the el antiguo presidente torta: shredded pork with tomato, red onion, lettuce, chipotle mayo and guacamole on a bolillo roll. I had ordered this once before and it was fantastic, so I’ve been dreaming about this sandwich for the past year. Maybe when you fantasize about something for that long you’re bound to be let down, but I think that I may not have received the exact sandwich that I ordered. The torta was loaded down with pork, but it was still in chunks, not shredded. The meat was tender, but not the kind of tender you get when you stew something for an entire day, which is how I remember it being. I actually suspect that they ran out of the usual filling and just threw some leftover pork in there.

All in all, the meal was not as good as I had hoped it would be, but maybe it serves me right for waiting a year between visits and building it up in my head. Or maybe it was just an off night. Either way, I will still go back.

On a side note: I learned about the Shrimposium being hosted at Agua Verde to benefit FORKS (Fields Oceans Ranches Kitchens Stewards). FORKS is a group that exists to work with local food economies and artisan food producers to sustain the long-term health of our food system—always a good thing. The symposium covers the state of shrimp and the shrimp farming industry, which to me actually sounds interesting, so this may be the perfect excuse to return.

After dinner we went to a mah johg / house warming / Chinese new year / deep fry party that a friend of Zach’s was throwing. I need to get on the ball and start planning my parties for the new year, because everyone keeps beating me to the party ideas. Although, it was actually an enlightening experience on how not to host a deep fry party…

The mah johg set never showed up, so I spent my time hanging around the deep fryer and asking way too many questions. Deep frying is a mystical thing to me and I’m amazed that people do it. I’m a little scared of hot oil and I HATE the smell of frying oil and the way it permeates through every fiber of your clothing, hair and skin.

I was glad to see that they were using one of those self-contained deep fryers that looks like a giant crock-pot. The bad thing was that the fryer was set up in a corner behind a door that opened in and the house was packed—probably about eighty people showed up. So you had to wedge yourself between the door and counter and have someone hold the door for you so you didn’t get knocked into the fry pot.

People had brought some weird stuff to fry, like pickles and store bought bags of onion rings that were supposed to be baked. Someone was making catfish that was breaded in cap’n crunch. I was appalled, but of course curious. I tasted it when it came out of the fryer and I have to say, it was freaking delicious. I grilled him about the recipe, which was really simple: just a quick dip in a batter made from beer, flour and baking soda and then rolled in crushed cap’n crunch cereal.

I brought shrimp chips because Zach had never seen them made before and they’re so fun to watch. Most people don’t believe you when you tell them that shrimp chips start out looking like translucent beach glass. When you toss them in the oil nothing happens for the first few seconds, but then they start making a loud crackling noise and look like they’re blooming in the oil. On the first try I put in WAY too many and they were literally coming up and out of the fryer like popcorn in an air popper—except there was no shoot for them to go down and they were covered in hot oil. We quickly adapted to a system of only putting in four or five chips at a time and scooping them out with a slotted spoon (the basket was useless for this, although a pair of tongs might have worked the best), and then laying them on paper towels for a few seconds to drain.

For my party, I am DEFINITELY having at least two fry stations at separate tables and will put them all outside. I think a lot of people have a similar fear and fascination with deep frying, because it was amazing how many wanted to watch the food fry. I will also have the stations fully stocked with paper towels, racks for draining, utensils and food platters. It was creeping me out watching people with greasy hands root around in all the cupboards looking for stuff. The clean up the next day must have been a nightmare, as when we left (quite early), there was already an oil slick on the counter that was heading for the floor.

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