Jen & Dan Summer Tour 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And we're back

We made it home safe and sound late yesterday afternoon. It was a long flight back, though we got back before we left, thanks to the international date line. We actually managed to sleep OK last night, though we were up and about with coffee going by 4:30 AM, so I think it will take a few days to firmly readjust.

While I hope that this blog has been enjoyable to those of you who have kept up with our adventures this summer we have been inspired to try to leave something more here than simply a record of our journey. About the only thing that we consistently did in each country (besides butchering the local language) was fervently search for Mexican food in any form. If an establishment had tacos or even nachos on the menu Jen and I would be drawn in and would, in the name of international relations, try the food. I mean you would expect a country to be good at making their local food (which was really some of the best we had wherever we went), but the true measure of the gastronomic skills of a population should be measured using a consistent barometer. Therefore, I humbly submit for your review:

Jen and Dan’s Guide to the Quality of Mexican Food in Several Foreign Countries, Abridged

Bali (Indonesia) – While we had to search down several alleys to find TJ’s Mexican Restaurant we were rewarded for our diligence. The salsa had a mango-y taste to it, but the cheese was authentic and the vegetables in the fajitas were cooked just right. Grade: A-
Botswana – We were actually fed several times a day (like eight), while on safari so we never felt the grumbling in our stomachs that drove us to search out a restaurante. Grade: N/A
Cambodia – We were excited to find a Mexican joint on the main Pub street and made it our first stop. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it past the chips and salsa. The good news is that I think the chips were authentic, as in actually made in Mexico. The bad news is I think they were sent to Cambodia by slow boat, possibly under sail. Grade: C-
China – We were about one week without salsa when we first spotted nachos on a menu, so I would have expected our analysis to be more biased. While they got good marks on the quality of the salsa, the pollo tasted a little more like gato, so we said, “no mas” and skipped the burritos. Grade: C-
England – While at this point we had been salsa-less for nearly three weeks the little taco shop we found in Cambridge really wasn’t very good no matter how much we sat there and tried to pretend otherwise. The owners had obviously visited a Chipotle in the U.S. and got points for trying to recreate the magic on the other side of the pond, but really the food was terrible. At least the chips were really chips and not french fries. Grade: C
Hong Kong – Like New York, you really can get anything here, so it was of little surprise when we found a fantastic Mexican food joint in the heart of the city. The chips and guac were outstanding and the tacos had some of the best chicken we had tasted in quite some time. The margaritas were sweet and juicy and combined with the good selection of Mexican beer were enough to fuel a hangover the next morning, which, though possibly unfair to the establishment, influenced the judge’s scoring decision. Grade: B-
Japan – We did not find or try Mexican food while in Japan. It could have been because we were only a few days away from our known haunts back in Chicago or because we enjoyed the local food so much, but regardless, we fell down on our duties in this country, and we apologize. Grade: N/A
Macau – Surprisingly we were in this Special Administrative Region of China for an entire three hours and didn’t seek out a Mexican restaurant. Perhaps we were becoming seasoned travelers by this point in the trip. Grade: N/A
South Africa – I imagine that there has to be some nachos somewhere in this country, but we failed to find it. To be fair we were at the start of our trip so we were a little less inspired (read: the cold sweats of withdrawals had yet to start). Grade: N/A
Thailand – On a drive to the city from the airport Jen saw a sign for Sunrise Tacos from a cab going 60 MPH in the driving rain – such is our dedication (or obsession) Making a note of the tall buildings in the area we commenced our search the next day to find the advertised eatery. We were rewarded by the best Mexican food in all of Asia. Run by an American ex-pat from Florida, Greg Barnes, Sunrise boasted real guacamole, a fresh salsa bar, and tortilla chips made on sight. As a portly gentleman, Mr. Barnes had to squeeze to fit through the door and I knew that if anyone could appreciate how to get an enchilada just right it would be him. Yes, we ate there twice in one day. Grade: A
Vietnam – While I am usually leery of restaurants that advertise “The Best Mexican Food in the World” next to a sign that says “The Best Italian Food in the World,” Al Fresco’s Restaurant in Hanoi was a welcome relief of chipotle goodness. The Fajitas came on an authentic looking skillet and were even sizzling at the table. We were so impressed that we sought out the sister property in Ho Chi Min City to test if the magic could cross the former DMZ zone. The chain was consistent, though the margaritas left something to be desired, tasting more like sprite and rubbing alcohol mixed together then spiked with green food coloring. Of course, we finished the whole pitcher. Grade: B
Zimbabwe – The only non-local fare was to be found at the British-run Victoria Hotel which, shockingly, had menu absent of anything tasting good, I mean, tasting like Mexican food. Grade: N/A


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