June 19, 2015

Little Hotties

Little Hotties

!!Picosssitos!!  Ayy Mami!

For those of you who don’t know, picoso means very hot, and anything with the suffix -ito is little, so picossito means “Little Hotties”!  By now, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

A “picosssito” is a salty, sour, spicy corn flour chip from Mexico.  You know, the ones that are full of chemical-laden-shit-ingredients that no respectable chef would ingest normally, but is secretly addicted to at their favorite taco dive? Yes, they’re the ones that stain your fingers nuclear red.

If you know me, you know I have a special fondness for all things from Mexico.  I love their food, music, folk art, attitudes, and mostly their people!  I’m sure the finest chefs in Mexico would stab me with their sharpest cuchillo if they thought I was promoting junk food as the pride of their homeland, so let me make it abundantly clear that I am not!   The only reason I even mentioned the “picosssitos” is because there is a left over bag on my desk, reminding me of how much I love mi amigos south of the border.  The depth of flavor captured in the cuisine of Mexico is truly remarkable.  Mexico, for me, represents a history of pride, love, and tradition that can be tasted in every dish.  Mexico is an experience.  I am so thankful that I get to experience that in my own home town!

Not too long ago, I was the Executive Chef for a resort in a tiny dessert town called Lajitas, Texas.  I lived in a small apartment with the kind of gorgeous sunset view that would literally leave you breathless.  The arroyos, mountains, and canyons left such an impression on my mind that I am often carried back there in my fondest daydreams.  The nature was my Mexican love at first sight!

My second love was even more profound but not as immediate.  When I started working in Lajitas, only one of the cooks spoke English.  A few others attempted spanglish, but mostly we communicated through hand signals and Google translate.  I found myself completely immersed in a language and culture that was totally new to me (besides Spanish class in middle school).  There is something to be said about a group of people who endure many hardships in life.  They are strong together, they support each other so much!  They are joyful and hardworking.  They smile, I mean REALLY SMILE, laugh deeply, and embrace one another!   If I mentioned in passing that I needed a new kitchen table, there would be one on the loading dock the following day!  Once I told a friend Vidal that I wanted a live chicken, and the next day it was there.  Thankfully, Vidal’s cousin was a chicken farmer!  You should have seen the hotel guests reaction when they drove past my apartment and found me outside killing chickens (wearing shorts, no shirt, and cowboy boots of course)!  As I worked next to these people every day, I realized that they have a way of living that every person in the world could learn from!  I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, LOVE Mexican people!

For me, I feel that love EVERY TIME I walk through the door at Ruiz Taqueria in Imlay City.  It is not fine dining.  It is not gourmet. It is not over the top service and I’m glad its not.  Ruiz Taqueria is about the pork fat wafting in the air, the smell of chilies burning, and the masa permeating your nostrils.  Its AUTHENTIC, REAL, and DELICIOUS!  Don’t expect a salad, or guacamole, or cheese.  Its only tacos with cilantro, onion, and lime, salsa roja and salsa verde.  It always needs a shake of salt, but then they’re fantastic!  For the love of god, do not try to order a burrito!  Order the tripas, the lengua, or the cabeza and if you have a weak mind, don’t ask what it is! It’s cuisine with grit. It feels like the streets of Mexico and it’s the only restaurant I eat at in town.   In fact, my team and I have a tradition of eating here every Tuesday, taco Tuesday!

I invite you all to come to Imlay City for the day.  Start with lunch at Ruiz and tell them your amigos from The Mulefoot sent you.  After lunch, go north to Charlie Mann’s strawberry farm and show your children that berries don’t grow in plastic clam shells on the shelf at Kroger.  Finish with dinner and a cocktail at The Mulefoot.  Come to my town and experience the cultural diversity and flavors of the people here!  Oh, and by the way, if you are a craftsman/artisan and produce something with care, we’d love it if you’d stay!

I love you all, and I look forward to seeing you soon!


Michael Romine

Executive Chef

The Mulefoot Gastropub

About theJake Romine
Jake is The Marking Guy and Older Brother to Chef Mike and Chef Matt.

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