Having been involved in food professionally for the last 25 years, it has always been an excuse to eat out as often as possible, to try new things in new places. But sometimes, and all of us feel this way, we want to go back to something familiar. Thus the massive resurgence of so-called ‘comfort’ foods. Gussied up versions of the type of food mom served or that you could get at the local diner, that trend has now morphed into streetfood, simple foods done well.
In 2001, just after the 9/11 tragedy, I found myself stuck in Germany with no chance of getting stateside any time soon. It was an odd feeling being American and working in a European Hotel where the news of 9/11 was a brief mention in passing conversation. I was angered at what was happening as I sat and watched CNN, with no sound in the staff dining room, I wanted, needed people to be angry with me.
The hotel was in St. Moritz, Switzerland, beautiful and perfect in every way, from the narrow cobblestone streets, to the shops and markets to the town square with a large copper plaque in the shape of the US, and a star in the center denoting Vail, CO as its sister city. Whenever I felt a little homesick, I would take a walk to the square, pick up a USA Today and head over to see the plaque. After 9/11, the plaque no longer gave me comfort. It was as if things were changing back home, which they were, without me and I felt even more disconnected.
Once my contract for the summer season was up, I decided to head home. But getting home was going to be no easy task, airports were closed and travel was grounded. A German girl, Stephanie, I worked with offered me a place to stay with her family until I could arrange a flight (I would end up marrying that girl, in case you were wondering). It took about a month to be able to secure a flight back, in the meantime, I was glued to CNN, I wanted to be home more and more every day. Stephanie mentioned that she had worked at a Mexican restaurant as a hostess and wanted to know if I was interested. Needing something familiar I was game, besides, all the restaurants we had been to featuring other ethnic cuisines had been fabulous, and Mexican food seemed the easiest of all, how wrong I was.
The only saving grace for that trip to ‘Chili’s’ was the Dos Equis, the food was barely edible, but Stephanie, having believed this was Mexican food, enjoyed it. When Stephanie came stateside in 2002, she tried and fell in love with guacamole. She would buy the bland pureed versions at the grocer and go to town. I forget how it happened, but one day I made guacamole at home. Fresh, chunky, spicy and bright, I think we were having friends over for drinks and apps. She still hasn’t forgiven me for allowing her to eat that premade crap at the grocer for so long.Here is that guacamole recipe…
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and miced
½ cup onion, minced
½ cup cilantro, chiffonade
Juice of 2 limes, 3 if you like it more tart
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1. Starting at the top, run your knife around the entire circumference of the avocado.
2. Twist the two halves in opposite directions to separate.
3. Remove the seed with a knife (if your confident) or a spoon (if your not).
4. Holding the avocado in your hand, gently run your knife through the flesh of the avocado 3-4 times vertically and then horizontally, gentle enough not to go through the skin, yours or the avocadoes.
5. Scoop the avocado into a bowl.
6. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a fork, allowing the avocado to to break up in the bowl.
7. You can serve immediately but the guacamole get better after a few hours.
You can substitute the cayenne for any type of chili powder you like, sometimes I’ll use chipotle powder instead.