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Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> restaurants

Ceviche from the Hotel California

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Las Aguilas

Las Aguilas, or the Mexican Eagles, on the roof of the Hotel California in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, proving once again that Mexicans have a great sense of humor.  The rumor that Don Henley stayed at the hotel and wrote his famous song there is just not true.  "I can tell you unequivocally that neither myself nor any of the other band members have had any sort of association--business or pleasure--with that establishment," Henley wrote to travel writer Joe Cummings.  No matter, the restaurant there is excellent and Chef Dany Lamote shared his recipe for ceviche with me.

Classic Ceviche

Classic Ceviche

 This is a classic dish all over Mexico. The fish of choice on the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula is the sierra, or Spanish mackerel, but you can substitute snapper or grouper. For a smoother-tasting ceviche, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil just before serving. I often serve this as an appetizer in a martini glass.


1 pound Spanish mackerel, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 serrano chiles, minced
6 Mexican limes, juiced, seeds removed, or more to taste
1 ounce Hotel California Tequila
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients is a bowl and marinate at room temperatures for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. Serve with unsalted corn tortillas.

Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer
Heat Scale: Medium

Break an EggAt this fairly new restaurant, the idea and decor are better than the food.  But what a great idea!  The name is a pun on that stage encouragement, "Break a leg," so the restaurant (breakfast and lunch only) has a movie theme.  Film strips decorate the walls, along with movie posters and TVs showing classic films.  When I ate there with Kristina Martinez of the NMSU Library, they were showing "The King and I," which has nice spectacle but doesn't fit the theme.  "The Egg and I" (Fred MacMurry, 1947), "Breakfast at Tiffany's,"  "Humpty Dumpty" (1935), or anything starring Kevin Bacon would have been better to show.  "The Amazing Omelette" (2005) would have been perfect because every actor wears pancake makeup!  Its menu is a "script" with numerous "acts," like "Egg-Cademy Award Winners," "Scene Stealers," and "Box Office Hits."  There are an incredible number of breakfast options with titles like "The Gaffer" (Eggs Florentine) and "The Cinematographer" (Eggs Rellenos).  They have a separate Southwest menu, and I had the "Machaca Skillet," but it was quite ordinary pulled beef with a mysterious-looking sauce that was spicy without having much flavor.  Even their coffee is just average.  That said, their pecan muffins were great.  I would rate it an "A" for decor and a "C" for food quality.  It's at 201 South Solano in Las Cruces, 575-647-300.

Ciudad Juárez Then and Now

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: restaurants

Waiters and Chefs at Martino's, 2003.  Photo by Bobby Byrd.I used to spend a lot of time in Juárez back when it was one of my favorite Mexican cities. Back in the late '70s, I was producing custom car shows at the El Paso Civic Center, and in the '80s I was visiting NMSU a lot to research chile peppers, so a trip across the border was not only commonplace, it was a lot of fun. There was a great mercado, my favorite tile shop, a very nice furniture store, and of course the La Florida Bar and one of my favorite restaurants, Martino's on Avenida de Juárez. Mary Jane and I took our first trip together when we visited El Paso and Juárez in 1984, and of course we had to dine at the romantic Martino's, which was like a trip back to another century, with waiters in tuxes, elegant service, gourmet food, and a wonderful menu including Boquilla Black Bass, a delicacy from Lake Boquilla in Chihuahua. I remember getting nearly drunk because of bar-hopping with Doug Kane, and when my brother Rick visited, I warned him that the margaritas at La Florida were very potent. He didn't listen and I caught him when he passed out and fell off the bar stool.


After Mexican Mafia thugs sprayed Martino's with a hail of bullets and slaughtered the customers and waiters in late 2007, the restaurant sadly closed after more than 80 years in business. With soldiers from Ft. Bliss in El Paso banned from going there, and students from New Mexico State University strongly advised to stay away, tourism in Juárez is dead. In October 2008, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported, “The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory on Tuesday, warning Americans of daylight shootings at shopping centers in Juárez and suggesting applicants for U.S. visas at the consulate in Juárez not pay in cash to avoid getting mugged while in line.” That year, more than 2,000 people were murdered in that border city.

Juárez Today

“What's Up,” the El Paso entertainment blog, commented: “The drug war in Mexico has taken 800 lives so far this year (2010) along with another casualty: the Avenida de Juarez. The once-thriving stretch of bars and nightclubs known by El Pasoans, especially teenagers, as the Juarez Strip has become a ghost town and a symbol of the estrangement between El Paso and Juárez, two communities once closely bound by commerce, culture, family and yes, fun.”  All of this is incredibly sad to me.

Red Chile Sauce, photo by Wes NamanI never imagined that a single red chile enchilada could burn me out. After all, I've been eating New Mexican red chile enchiladas for 35 years, and although some red chile sauces are hotter than others, they usually run medium-hot at the hottest. But yesterday, Lois (the SuperSite editor and art director) and I had a business lunch at Abuelita's Restaurant at 6083 Isleta Boulevard in Albuquerque's South Valley, about three miles from my house. Fall was in the air, so I had a bowl of green chile stew plus a red chile enchilada a la carte. The stew was tasty and medium in heat. But it took me ten minutes to finish that single enchilada. It was just killer hot and I had to wait between bites for capsaicin dispersal. I called the server over and asked her if the chef had put habaneros in the red chile. Nope, she replied, it was just that last year's dried red chile crop they purchased was unusually hot. It was a perfect storm of the right combination of capsaicin genes colliding with some stress on those particular plants that produced an abnormally high amount of capsaicin. And I tried to wolf down that enchilada only to find that I had to treat it with extreme respect.

Exploding HabaneroThe consumption of spices in the United States has exploded almost three times as fast as the population over the past several decades, data from the USDA reveals. Some of that spicy increase is due to the changing demographics of America—immigrant populations fom Mexico, the Far East, Southeast Asia and India. Immigration has resulted in more ethnic restaurants while food blogs and television cooking shows have inspired more home cooking using all kinds of chile peppers. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show big gains in Americans’ spice consumption since the 1970s, including 600 percent more chile pepper, 300 percent more cumin, and a whopping 1,600 percent more ginger.

McCormick, the world’s largest spice and seasoning company, produces more than one billionChipotle Chiles bottles of spices and seasonings annually in its Hunt Valley, MD, plant, nicknamed “Spiceville.” The company’s net sales in 2009 topped $3 billion. With the help of some 40,000 consumer testers, the company has decided that there’s a market for such spices. The company’s chipotle chile pepper has seen a 70 percent increase in sales since its launch five years ago. And sales of smoked paprika have jumped 300 percent since its launch three years ago.

McCormick is not the only spice company seeing growth. Penzeys Spices began as a mail-order business in 1986. It opened its first walk-in store in 1994 and now has 45 stores in 24 states, with plans to open five more this year.

Spicy Italia 1

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Italian RainbowWhen we arrived in northern Italy, we were not expecting torrential rains and flooding, so we were relieved when the rains ended and we were greeted with a rainbow of color which symbolized a new direction for our travel: dry and warm.

Our trip was organized by Marco Del Freo, a food lover and chilehead who came out to the Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show and invited us to visit his haunts and witness how Italians were learning to love everything hot and spicy.  First we visited the wine country of Lombardy, where we stayed in

AgriTurismo B&Ban "AgriTurismo" B&B and nearly got flooded out when the rains hit the area hard.  The first night, we and 60 other foodies attended a launch party for two new products developed by Marco that features spiced-up dishes that included seafood, rissoto, and even dessert.  With Marco translating, I gave a brief address to the diners at the restaurant associated with the Il Montu winery and grapperia.  Based on their applause, I could tell that not only were they impressed with the food, but with the products themselves.  Nettare Habanero, or Habanero Nectar, is a first pressing of olive oil and habaneros to create an aromatic and medium-hot olive oil that is used to dress foods such as salads, breads, and even grilled meats.  Spirit of Habanero is a delicious, award-winning grappa infused with

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil and Grappahabaneros by soaking them until a medium heat level was achieved to make a delicious--and spicy--cordial or liqueur.  You will see them at the left in an informal photo taken on Marco's dining room table.

Of course, while in this area, we were surrounded by vineyards.  Lombardy has the highest concentration of vineyards in the entire country, and although it was too wet to walk through them, they were truly beautiful right after the rain.  I particularly enjoyed the fruits of these vineyards in the form of an Il Montu Bonarda, a tasty and dry red wine.  After two nights at the B&B, we moved on to Marco's house and the rainbow.  Marco and his wife Maggie live on top of a small mountain near Parma in the agricultural village known as Salsomaggiore and their view is the valley called Bellacavalle, know for its incredibly tasty Parmesan cheese.  To be continued....

Lombardy Vineyards

Pat ChapmanSoon we will be in London for another event with Pat Chapman, England's King of Curries, on May 15 (read all about it, here).  Pat and I go back a long ways.  He's come to Albuquerque several times to make appearances at the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show and once created (with wife Dominique) a gigantic Indian feast at our house for about a dozen friends.  They still talk about that night.  Mary Jane can't forget it because she had to clean every Turban Davepot, pan, dish, and utensil in our house!  Then, we took a culinary tour of India led by the Chapmans, which involved about a dozen Brits, two Yanks, a bus, and some of the best food we've ever eaten.  There was also the incident of me in a turban and a camel.  You can read about that trip here. Then, on a trip to England to visit the Chapmans, Pat, a former RAF jet pilot, drove us around Cornwall at nearly supersonic speeds on the left hand side of the road, which is always disconcerting to Americans.  We went to Land's End, the Eden Project, Mousehole (pronounced "Moussel"), and stayed at some great B&Bs with wonderful food (lamb shanks in wine and currant sauce, yum).  We might have had a few beers and some scotch--I forget!  And then there were the Indian restaurants.  Pat, as The King, was comped at every single one of these he took us to, and they were spectacular--the decor as well as the food.  Read all about that trip here.  So you can imagine how much we anticipate our upcoming visit.

Jaipur Restaurant in Milton Keynes



Barbados in Zagat

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Dining at Sandy LaneWhen I read that the only Caribbean island with its own Zagat Restaurant Guide is Barbados, I flashed back to our trip to that highly civilized country that is run like a business.  The Barbados Tourist Authority wanted MJ and I to experience the best their country had, so they bought us dinner at the restaurant at the Sandy Lane Resort, one of the most exclusive places in the entire Caribbean.  Needless to say, it was wonderful.  We also ate at less fancy places, where we dined on Caribbean specialties like Fried Flying Fish and Crab Callaloo, a wonderful dark green spicy soup.


The link to our article is here, but in the meantime, try this recipe:

Fried Flying Fish
Flying Fish Engraving

There are a great number of variations on this favorite Bajan specialty. This is probably the favorite version, as described in John Lake’s book, The Culinary Heritage of Barbados. Flying fish is sometimes found frozen in Florida markets; if it’s not available, substitute any mild white fish, such as flounder.

  • 8 small flying fish fillets

  • Bajan Seasoning as needed (see recipe)

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • Bread crumbs and flour, mixed

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • Lime slices and parsley for garnish

  • Bajan hot sauce, such as Windmill or Lottie’s

Rub the fillets with the Bajan Seasoning, then dip them in the beaten eggs, then the bread crumbs and flour. Fry the fillets in the butter until lightly browned, turning once.

Serve garnished with the lime slices and parsely. Sprinkle hot sauce over the fillets to taste.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Varies

Bajan Seasoning

This version of the famous island seasoning is from Ann Marie Whittaker, who noted: "This is found in almost every home and is the secret to the success for many mouth-watering Bajan dishes." One of the favorite uses is to place it between the meat and skin of chicken pieces before grilling, baking, or frying. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

  • 1 pound onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 5 ounces green onion, coarsely chopped

  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 4 bonney peppers, seeds and stems removed, or substitute habaneros

  • 2 ounces fresh thyme

  • 2 ounces fresh parsley

  • 2 ounces fresh marjoram

  • 1 1/2 cups vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauces

  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons salt

In a food processor, combine the onions, green onion, garlic, and bonney peppers and process to a coarse paste.

Remove the leaves from the stems of the thyme, parsely, and marjoram. Place the leaves and the vinegar in a food processor or blender and liquefy.

Combine the onion paste, vinegar mixture, and the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover, transfer to the refrigerator, and allow to sit for 1 week before using. The seasoning will keep in the refrigerator for at least 6 months.

Yield: About 2 to 3 cups

Heat Scale: Hot


Big Flavors in the Big Apple

Posted by: Dave DeWitt



While in New York with Mary Jane, I gave an address about the new book to the Horticultural Society of New York and autographed some copies while everyone was eating spicy burritos. That was fun, of course, but even tastier were some of our restaurant adventures.  I was on a seafood binge at first, dining on grilled octopus and Loup de Mer (wolf of the sea=seabass) at Milos, here, a Greek seafood place on W. 55th.  Later, at a Brittany-style French brasserie, Maison, had a bucket of Prince Edward Island Mussels Provencale, which were incredible.  Last night I switched to Indian food at Bay Leaf Indian Basserie, here, and had a very spicy Lamb Vindaloo while our waiter was warning me: "It's hot, sir, very hot."  I told him not to worry and finished every bite over Rice Pillau--outstanding!  MJ had Chicken Tikka Curry, which also was delicious.  Today we bought curry leaf at Kalustyan's Market, here, probably the most diverse and fascinating international specialty food market ever at Curry Hill in east Manhattan.  And we're not done yet!  On to Philadelphia...to be continued.

James BeckIt's "Fiery Foods Show or Bust" as James Beck and his cohorts drive the Spicy RV from Houston to Albuquerque.  Spicy RV’s first Friday night we descended upon Chunky’s Burgers in San Antonio, Texas. It would be safe to say Chunky’s was catapulted to national fame when Adam Richman from The Travel Channel’s Man vs Food took up the Four Horsemen challenge. James Beck of EatMoreHeat had to throw his hat into the ring and see what this burger was all about.

The Four Horsemen burger is ludicrous....

The story continues here.

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