Last week I was hanging out on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when I got a call from my pal, filmmaker David Winkfield. He wanted to meet up for dinner and since I never miss a chance to chill with David I suggested we pop into Casa Mezcal, a neighborhood favorite.
Casa Mezcal is – naturally – a temple to mezcal, the smoky cousin of the more well-known tequila. But the chefs at Casa also serve up some delicious and diverse food; for the adventurous, they’ve even got fried grasshoppers. We ordered our cocktails and decided we’d split an order of the queso fundido, a melted cheese fondue-style appetizer. This traditional Mexican dish arrived at our table piping hot: the cheese was bubbly with brown toasted spots on the top, and plenty of warm corn tortillas and a flavorful green sauce were served on the side. The combination was fantastic: the texture of the cheese contrasted the texture of the corn meal and the sauce added a fresh touch. Since we were feeling like we needed extra fortification for the night we plowed through a second order and didn’t regret it in the least!
The day after the fundido triumph I left New York for Atlanta to visit my old friends Ed and Beverly Travis (of tree house fame). Upon my arrival, Ed and I headed over to Krog Street Market in search of some consumables for a day of football watching. We gathered snacks from the food stalls to eat later in the day, but we were feeling peckish and decided to pop into the modern Mexican restaurant Superica to tide us over. I bellied up to the bar and convinced Ed to have a Partida Reposado margarita with me (not much arm-twisting needed), then spotted fundido on the menu yet again and knew what I had to do. Superica’s fundido was made with a mix of Monterey Jack and Chihuahua cheeses and was served with house-made flour tortillas and an avocado green sauce. Their version was perfect in a totally different way than Casa Mezcal’s: spicy, lush and set off flawlessly by the tang of the margarita. Ed and I wolfed it down in what I am sure was a record time. We didn’t go for two rounds like David and I had, but that may have been a bad call on my part.
Around this time of year, I remember why I’m a huge fan of oozy melted cheeses: the heat brings out the flavor of the cheese, the toasted bits add depth and the warmth has a wonderful effect on a cool evening. Add those qualities to a tasty beverage and a great friend and you have one truly memorable experience. This week, I feel pretty darn lucky that I got to have two.