Mexican Coke

No, this isn’t a post extolling the virtues of some good nose candy from south of the border.

  Some American products are hurt by moving production to Mexico.  John Deere and certain Fender Stratocasters immediately come to memory.  But when it comes to the world’s most recognized brand and the one product that practically symbolizes America, there is no denying it in my mind – Mexico does Coca Cola better.

  Let me say, first off, that I am not a soda or caffeine drinker.  Aside from a once-a-year root beer or a thirsty sip when Vess had a soda, I haven’t had either in close to 15 years.  Regardless, I could not ignore the praises I heard about how great a Mexican Coke was.  What was the big deal?  Supposedly, using sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup was the secret to the better taste.  Could that really make that much of a difference?  I mean, come on.  It was a fucking Coke!  I was curious so I picked a few up for us to try.

Ah, yes. The taste of Mexico.

  All of the Mexican Cokes I have come across have been in a bottle.  That’s ok since everyone knows that a Coke tastes better that way.  I don’t know why.  It just does.  If you disagree with me you are wrong.  I read the ingredients and noticed that the list seemed to be a little shorter.  There was, indeed, sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  I also noticed that there was a continuity problem.  The fonts on the scratched ink were slightly different from bottle to bottle.  Considering they came from a street vendor, I paid it no mind.  It was time to crack them open.

  It tastes like a Coke, but you can tell it’s been tweaked.  That biting sting that sometimes hits your nose is gone.  The syrupy film that settles in the back of your throat after you’ve polished one off is, thankfully, completely absent.  The overly intense sweetness you come to expect is missing and everything is mellower.  I’ve come to notice this with Mexican foods.  Everything from chocolate bars to sweet pastries have less sugar in them and it allows the other flavors to really come through.  Unknowingly, I had stumbled across the best possible beverage to go along with greasy pub food after a night of drinking.  Yes it tastes like a Coke, but it tastes like the best Coke you’ve ever had.

  No, it hasn’t turned me back into a soda hound – but it gave a good run for the money.  If I had to pick a carbonated drink, it would definitely be this one.  On a hot day, it would definitely get the job done for a parched mouth… and if you had a big plate loaded up with spicy tacos and tongue-numbingly hot salsa with chips and beans, even better.

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Grocery List: Sangrita

  I first learned about sangrita after hearing Phil Hendrie sing its praises.  Sangrita (not to be confused with sangria) is a non-alcoholic beverage created to be enjoyed alongside tequila.  Unfortunately, no one in the Southeast had any clue of what I was talking about and tried to give me sangria instead.  That’s ok, I’ve got the internet!  No such luck.  The closest I could find was going to charge me $40 dollars just to ship one $7 bottle.  Ditching that idea, I even found some recipes online.  My results were disastrous – mostly tasting like a badly mixed Bloody Mary.  I had all but given up on ever tasting this strange beverage until I was shopping the other day at the Mexican market.  Like an unexpected surprise, there it was!

Unnaturally neon-red color is included free of charge!

  I quickly grabbed the bottle assuming everyone wanted it like I did (they didn’t) snagged a fifth of silver tequila and headed home.

  I’m sure drinking methods vary, but the most common way I have heard of is: Take a sip of tequila, follow with sangrita, tequila, sangrita, tequila, sangrita… repeat until vomiting or sleep occurs.  The sangrita is supposed to serve as a palate cleanser between sips of tequila, usually a blanco one.

  Before cracking the top, I read the ingredients: water, sugar, salt, hot sauce, citric acid, orange emulsion, then a couple of preservatives and dyes.  Right away I noticed a difference from my homemade version.  Mine had tomato juice – an addition that made the mix taste rather strange.  Hopefully this would taste better.

  The tequila I chose for the experiment was Cuervo silver.  I would have chosen Don Julio, but I can’t afford to roll like that unless it’s a special occasion.  I set up our shots and we each took a sip, drinking about half of the 1.5 oz glass.  Cuervo is Cuervo so there were no surprises there – not exactly rotgut but not primo agave either.  Time to follow with the mysterious sangrita.

  The first thing you notice is the citrus taste.  The texture was a little thicker than water, but without pulp.  It wasn’t like drinking a glass of orange juice, but it definitely tasted of oranges.  It also had a nice hot kick of spice as an aftertaste.  Not sure of the results, I took another sip of tequila and followed once again with the sangrita.  The taste did bring out the fruitiness of the tequila and the heat at the end was a nice complement.  I’ve always liked spicy heat paired with tequila and this was definitely tasty.

  I’m glad I finally got to taste the beverage that I had tried so hard to locate.  I would suggest trying it if you ever happen to see a bottle in the store, if not for the curiousity factor alone.  In hindsight, I don’t necessarily think I was missing out on anything groundbreakingly amazing.  That being said, I wasn’t really drinking it with a tequila that had any nuanced flavors that needed to be brought out.  I’ll definitely hang on to the remainder of the bottle and break it out again if I’m lucky enough for a bottle of Don Julio Blanco to make it into my hands.

Sausage Party

  As we first arrived in Phoenix, we passed a sign on 7th Street that advertised fresh, homemade sausage.  Doing a little research I found that it was a hotspot for local Germans to get their fix when they needed a taste of Deutschland.  Lured by all things pig, I jumped on my bike and decided to check it out!

The house that pork built.

  The name of the place is Schreiner’s Fine Sausage, a mom-and-pop operation located in an unassuming little shack that you could easily pass by without noticing.  This place is tiny.  If more than four or five people are already there (which is often the case, even when it isn’t lunchtime) things can get downright claustrophobic.  The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the smell of smoked meats frying.  Suddenly I realized that I had some serious decisions to make.

Blood tongue, anyone?

They had all varieties of handmade sausage from the questionable (read: boudin) to the tantalizing (sausage kabobs: slices of many of their different meats skewered on one stick and ready for the grill.)  Fresh or smoked, Cajun, German, Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese, Spanish, Mexican – everything was represented here, and at excellent prices.  I know in certain places, shops like this are commonplace (I’m looking at you, sis-in-law living in Germany!) but to me this was an oasis.  After much deliberation, I decided to get six fresh bratwursts, a pound of their house sauerkraut and a pack of German rolls.  I threw my purchase in the basket and pedaled home as fast as I could.

  I decided to parboil them in beer first, then sauté them the rest of the way to give them a crisp, golden skin.  Instantly the apartment smelled of frying porky-goodness and beer. 

♪ Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, Über alles in der Welt! ♫

  I split one of the rolls and slathered it with hot mustard.  I lovingly dropped in the brat and topped it with a good helping of kraut.  Eagerly, I took my first bite.

  The fresh sauerkraut (can anything fermented be considered “fresh”?) was crunchy and tangy, a good sign of a naturally fermented raw kraut as opposed to a cooked one.  It lacked the juniper berries and carraway that I have come to love but It was still tasty.  All of that didn’t really matter as soon as I tasted the bratwurst.  The natural casing was crisp and had a “pop” to it when I bit through.  The inside was tender and juicy and tasted of fresh quality.  I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of fennel, which is something I usually associate with Italian sausage.  The other spices were subtle and complimented the pork perfectly.

  I have never had homemade sausage of this quality before and Schreiner’s totally rocked my face.  I can’t think of a better idea for a fast and cheap dinner in this area that packs as much flavor.  Already I have planned a return trip to try some more of their creations.  Like I said, if you blink you will miss it, and that would be a shame.  It really is a hidden gem.