Sunday, 2 June 2013

Chipotle Away!



tear the lid off the sucka!
You've seen that episode of South Park, right? The one where Billy Mays endorses Chipotle Away, a product that changed Eric Cartman's life, enabling him to carry on scoffing his favourite fast food without worrying about the cost of replacement underpants??  A 'chip-oat-lay' is a smoked Jalepeno chile pepper, but Chipotle Mexican Grill is a 'fast casual' dining concept that launched two decades ago in Colorado - South Park (not South Wark) Country -  and has grown into a behemoth that now includes five London locations

Chipotle's USP, supposedly, is the quality of its ingredients and freshness of preparation, theoretically making 'food that's richer and more sophisticated'. Mullie's London burrito blog was inspired by the Chipotle she sampled on a work trip to NYC a couple or three years ago: 'They are fat and juicy and delicious with the perfect balance of lime and coriander (or ‘cilantro ’) rice,  black beans, salsa, cheese, lettuce, meat and sour cream.'

I tried a vegetarian burrito - roast veg. rather than meat - at the Chipotle in St. Martins Lane, late in the evening following a beer in The Salisbury, and found it better than OK, if not exactly out of this world.  I am glad to report that no rectal bleeding ensued.  (Although I cannot vouch for my meaty mate, who is staunchly Arsenal.) Poncho No.8, however, claims to wear the crown as Best Burrito in London and what kind of a food blogger would I be if I didn't verify that for myself?

I celebrated the first available sunshine one Spring lunchtime by riding my especially-adapted amputee's bike 1.73 miles to  Poncho8 St.Pauls, dismounting to cross the Millennium Bridge from Bankside. There, legions of City workers were basking & feeding. The queue at London's  allegedly best burrito shop went twice round its premises & down the street. Doh! So, I came back at 3 o'clock when the place was empty, but by then their roast veg. was looking tired and their burrito was OK but no better than that. Its chipotle salsa, in particular, lacked verve.

I wonder why London's best-rated burrito shops - incl. Adobo & Donkey Dave's, not to mention the latest Poncho8 outlet that's pioneering the breakfast burrito - are clustered around the edges of The City? No doubt for valid economic reasons. Can it be a coincidence that the burrito craze that raged through London a few years ago came at the same time as the second dip of the interminable recession? It has left hordes of forlorn finance workers, desperately clinging to dreams of prosperity while lunching on designer sandwich wraps that offer the illusion of freshness & choice.

A tomotle!
I'm getting off the point, which is not iffy burritos, but chipotle. Not the dining concept, but the flavour. The smoky, lip-smacking sweet gentle heat that elevates its Black bean, corn & chipotle soup head and shoulders above any other variety in Tesco's Finest range. A jigger of chipotle sauce transforms humble cream o' tomato soup and negates the need to buy Heinz (which, sadly, is a Monsanto brand). As you're going to modify its flavour with a serious splash of hot sauce, own brand will do. In fact, I find tomato soup an ideal medium to assess any hot sauce. Question is, what sauce?

Hot Headz offers a range chipotle sauces, but you will notice that CaJohn's commands a premium price. This is because it truly is, as billed, 'Killer'. Your Jalepeno is not an especially hot pepper and many chipotle sauces lack bite, which may be why it's sometimes blended with hotter peppers, as in Who Dares Burns! Naga & Chipotle,  where the smokiness of the chipotle comes through after the blast of naga heat. To get that heat which chile heads crave into a bottle, many manufacturers resort to using capsaicin (cap-say-ah-sin) extracts, but CaJohn has apparently developed a chemical process that boosts the heat to much higher levels without their use.

While over at Hot Headz, don't miss their Chipotle ketchup, which is every bit as good as this enthusiastic review suggests, and do check out the chipotle-inflected refried beans, as seen at the top of the page. I couldn't resist, despite the can lacking a ring-pull, which presented me with a problem, having only one hand. I solved it by wedging the can opener, locked onto the can, into my counter top grabber and opening it with the can parallel to the counter. I won't be doing that again, not because it was messy but because having cans of beans delivered by post is a mite decadent. It's cheap 'n' easy enough to soak and boil up pinto beans and blend 'em with chipotle ketchup. Be daft not to.

My current hot sauce selection includes 3 chipotles.