Chips, Salsa and a Side of Fries
My favorite food, no doubt, is chips and salsa. Cut into me and I bleed blood type S+. The “S” is for salsa and the “+” is for positively spicy. I’m not picky or a snob about it either. I enjoy the free stuff put out at any Mexican food restaurant, will admit my homemade recipe is good but not the “best ever” and scoop up whatever is in that dip bowl at parties. I love it all. There is a nirvana in the clash of salty tortilla chips and flavor variety that comes in a bite of salsa. It is a snack that is both complex and simple at the same time. What could possible make chips and salsa any better you might ask? Well, drinking of course.
In Phoenix, secluded from any major streets is the Clarendon Hotel. While I’ve never stayed there the place seems perfect for a weekend staycation or for someone visiting the city and wanting a hotel with more character then the larger corporate ones around town. Acting as the hotel restaurant is Cafe Tranquilo. It features Latin American food, signature cocktails and, to the delight of my brother who I am with, breakfast all day.
There is a bar and lounge area for those wanting just to watch TV and drink while they wait for the proper “going out” hour to arrive. Adjacent to this is the dining room area. Tables with comfortable leather chairs are placed well apart from each other, resting in a calm and quiet atmosphere.
I order their Pisco Mule, a variation of a Moscow mule but with cucumber, mint and elderflower liquor in addition to using Pisco brandy instead of vodka. My brother goes with a classic mojito. For food we put in an order of chips and salsa (duh), as well as a plate of Papas Fritas con Queso.
The chips and salsa are the first to arrive. It is the tale of four salsas, starting with a red and hot chili salsa. It hits you first with heat and next with a roasted chili pepper taste, it is the hottest of the four. Then a tomatillo salsa that has just a little bit of heat and a rich salsa verde taste. Next is a very interesting looking avocado and jalapeno salsa. A light green paste with only a little heat as the avocado balances out the strong jalapeno. The last is a bowl of pico de gallo featuring the fresh taste of tomato, onion and cilantro. It is perfect with the salty corn chips. My favorite though, the hot chili salsa, and that’s only because I like the heat.
Our drinks arrive, my mule is exactly what I need at the moment to cool my mouth down. The ginger beer mixed with liquor and cucumber and mint is light and refreshing, perfect with the fresh taste of our salsas.
The Papas Fritas arrive. French fries topped with pepper jack cheese, salsa, jalapenos, olives and avocado. It is best described as nachos with french fries instead of chips- a perfect finger food. And for moments when you grab a fry that has little cheese or toppings on it, just take it over to that salsa tray and dip away.
The bliss of drinking while eating salty and spicy snacks kicks in. This is not a meal meant for nourishment, this is 100% pure necessary indulgence.
We both order another drink and let the bowl of chips dwindle down. Soon all that is left is a handful of crumbs and our once plate full of fries is wiped clean. With our bill paid we leave the restaurant, heading into the night a little drunk and very high on carbs, salt and salsa euphoria.