by Susan Hamilton and Ann M. Colford & r & & r & The Real Deal FAST FOOD & r & Authentic -- it's a word that's tossed around lightly, especially in the food world. So how do you know if something is the real deal? Your sense of smell and taste buds won't let you down.
As soon as I walked into the recently opened Durango Taco Shop, tucked in a strip mall in the burgeoning Lincoln Heights shopping area, I knew it. The spicy aroma of simmering meat -- could it be pork? -- not to mention the tang of homemade salsa, filled the bright shop with the savory scents of the authentic Mexican food proclaimed on Durango's sign.
While I studied the menu in Spanish and English posted over a large window leading into the kitchen, where all the delicious aromas were emanating from, customers lined up at the counter. Some had trouble pronouncing the items they wanted. Others quickly rolled off their orders in Spanish. It was so busy, even mid-afternoon on a weekday, that owners Jesus and Maria Soto barely had time to stop and chat.
"We cook for Durango the way we cook at home," Maria says. "We use all fresh meats and vegetables -- nothing is frozen -- and we get a lot of our special ingredients from Pasco."
Durango carries much more than tacos (which are even available with a tender, south-of-the-border specialty -- tongue). Burritos come with steak, marinated pork, chicken, shredded beef and chorizo (pork sausage). Tostadas and quesadillas are available with chicken and beef. Chimichangas (fried burritos) and tortas (sandwiches) are filled with steak, marinated pork, chicken or shredded beef.
But that's not all. Durango also serves flautas, a corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling (in this case, chicken) that's fried until it's crisp. Then there are fajitas and nachos with beef, pork or chicken. If that doesn't have your head spinning, try the special of the day. When I stopped by, it was chicken in chipotle cream sauce. Do try one of the Mexican specialty drinks -- horchata (rice with a hint of cinnamon) and jamaica (hibiscus tea). By the time you finish your meal, you'll know you've eaten some authentic Mexican fare. -- Susan Hamilton
Durango Taco Shop, 2812 E. 30th Ave., is open Tues-Sat 11 am-7 pm. Call 230-7630.
The Joy of Veggies SHOPPING & r & When spring showers and sunshine roll in, my friend Jean and I inevitably do our veggie dance whenever we meet. No, it's not some kind of bizarre equinox ritual for middle-aged women -- we just can't contain our excitement that CSA season is almost upon us.
Curious? CSA is community-supported agriculture, a model for small-acreage farming where customers buy a share in a farm at the beginning of the season and receive a weekly box of freshly picked produce, usually organic. CSA allows small farmers to pre-sell much of their harvest and gain much-needed cash early in the season. Customers share the risks with the farmers and reap the bounty accordingly. Plus, as a CSA member, you know where your food came from.
Early in the season, greens dominate -- several varieties of lettuce, plus spinach, kale, mustard greens and the wonderfully delicate orach, a tender small green leaf that's delicious either raw or steamed. And it doesn't take long for the rest of the good stuff to come rolling in: strawberries, raspberries, peas and baby vegetables lead into the full bounty of summer.
One of the joys of a CSA share is learning about vegetables that you may have never tried before: fava beans, garlic tops, spaghetti squash. Members receive a weekly newsletter that includes recipes highlighting the products in the box.
In Spokane, CSA shares are available from Tolstoy Farms, north of Davenport. From June through September, the folks from Tolstoy deliver boxes of organic produce to CSA customers at the Spokane Farmers' Market on Second at Division. Each share provides enough veggies (and some fruit) to satisfy two to three people. This year, a veggie share costs $450 and translates into about 17 weeks of produce; fruit shares are also available for an additional fee. In Sandpoint, Greentree Naturals has delivered CSA shares to local homes for 10 years; this year, a season share runs $392, with options available to add eggs, bread or flowers. But don't wait -- if you want to get in on the veggie dance, the time to act is now. -- Ann M. Colford
For information about Tolstoy Farms' CSA program, call (509) 725-FARM. In Sandpoint, call Greentree Naturals at (208) 263-8957 or visit www.greentreenaturals.com.