Thirteen years ago, I fell in love with Chico's Tacos in El Paso, Texas. But I hadn't had them since. So when I heard family members were going to pass through El Paso on a road trip, I begged them to bring it back. That's how I recently ate Chico's in New York — deconstructed, and brought back in Tupperware that cost more than the tacos ($1.83 per order).
Sauce gently warmed on the stove, flautas thawed from the freezer where they'd been stored, then flash-fried, placed in the lovingly transported boat, covered with cheese, broth, and jalapeño sauce — I paused to appreciate a dish I'd built up for more than a decade, wondering, "Would it live up to the memory?"
Bite after bite of that crisp, cheesy, spicy mess did. No, I couldn't feel the hot El Paso sun, and New York's skyline didn't disappear — but that sense of satisfaction, comfort, the feeling of finding some secret culinary home to luxuriate in, that was there. And for these reasons this dish made my list of most memorable meals of 2011.