Finally Visiting Cuchara

Local Spotlight

It's taken me a little while to visit Cuchara — although I had heard good things since it opened, it never sprang to mind to try. I looked online prior to my visit, and the menu had some interesting offerings. The mula de nopal, grilled cactus filet stuffed with panela cheese; the quesadillas de huitlacoche (corn with black mushroom); and the charalitos, deep-fried small lake fish, were certainly interesting enough. I went into Cuchara with an open mind and a curious palate but left rather disappointed. I also confirmed that one should never go to a Mexican restaurant with a Mexican friend who can throw down tamales, posole, mole and everything else in the kitchen like it's nobody's business, because nothing will compare.

The space that Cuchara occupies is prime real estate. The huge windows that open up into the lively streets of Montrose make it a perfect spot to linger over cocktails. And Cuchara really uses this open feel. The beautiful, colorful murals, created by the owner's sister, that adorn the walls, the bar and the ceiling truly add a sense of whimsy to the minimal, almost industrial aesthetics.

They do not take reservations, but our party of seven didn't need them, even though it was a Friday night. We got a coveted spot next to the window. We started with cocktails, most of them tequila-based, and ordered appetizers. The chicharrones ($8) were your standard fried pork rinds but were somehow extra crispy without being at all greasy. The mousse de aguacate ($8), avocado mousse, was light and creamy and just slightly sweet, the queso fresco sprinkled on top adding the perfect salt balance. I did note that the menu said the mousse came with tortilla fritters, but I'm pretty sure that what we got was just run-of-the-mill tortilla chips. And the deep-fried lake fish that I was anticipating were the best thing I had that night ($8). They, too, were perfectly fried, crispy but not greasy, a squeeze of lime and smoky (just enough heat) salsa helping to brighten them up. I popped those suckers whole one after another, enjoying every last crunchy bite. Those at the table who were at first hesitant to try them quickly became converts.

My entrée, however, wasn't nearly as satisfying — the mole verde ($16), green mole with pork tenderloin, was delivered to our table with each component — the mole, beans, rice and white corn puree — in its own miniature pot. The presentation was great, but it did make it very obvious that you weren't getting much for what you were paying. The pork was extremely tender and fell apart as you picked up the pieces, but the mole lacked flavor. I couldn't taste the cumin, and there were no herbal accents. It was just...creamy. The rice was also overcooked, and the beans were nothing special.

While everyone had raved about the appetizers, no one was jumping up and down about their entrées. Dessert was also hit-and-miss; the tres leches was dry, but the spicy chocolate-stuffed fritters with Papantla vanilla ice cream were inspired. The whole evening was a series of highs and lows.

I'm not sure if I would return to Cuchara. There are just far too many places to get amazing Mexican food — my friend's kitchen, for one. Lucy, you've ruined me for all Mexican ­restaurants.


Flat-Belly Breakfast
Make an avocado egg boat.

Molly Dunn

While flipping through the most recent Women's Health magazine, I came across recipes for a flat belly. Usually I disregard them because half the time they don't taste as good as they look, and they usually aren't as easy to prepare as the magazine makes them out to be.

However, my eye stopped on the breakfast recipe with an avocado and an egg — two ingredients I have never paired together. I absolutely love avocados and find every possible way to incorporate them into my meals.

Here's a great way to have a swimsuit-friendly breakfast that's full of healthy fats and tons of flavor.

First halve and pit a large avocado. Use one that's soft; hard avocados won't soften enough when you cook them on the stove. You want to make sure that the hole in the avocado is large enough to hold the egg yolk.

Next slice off the bottom of the fruit so that the hole is exposed to the skillet; you can keep a thin layer of avocado, just as long as it isn't too thick. I tried following the instructions from the magazine, but the egg doesn't cook properly if the avocado is too thick; it separates the egg from the heat too much.

Once you have your avocado prepared, heat your skillet to medium heat, coat the pan with cooking sprayand place the avocado into the pan. Crack an egg into a bowl, then pour it into the avocado hole.

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Truong, Minh T.