Alagua – Mazatlán – Aguachile de Camarón

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This is a wonderful ceviche dish that I just discovered recently. Alagua is one of the best seafood restaurants in Mazatlán, and they do a spectacular version of the famous Sinaloa dish.

The freshest of shrimp are shelled raw, “cooked” in lime juice and served with chopped cucmbers, onion and a jalapeño purée.There couldn’t be a more perfect dish to eat right at the beach with the warm breeze on your face.

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The Conga Room – “Espino” Cocktail

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At the AltaMed event last Friday night, I had the pleasure of meeting Milan from the great downtown LA club The Conga Room.He made me one of his signature cocktails, the Espino.

Made from pomegranate and lime juice, and a jalapeño reduction, it was a wonderful surprise. The pomegranate and lime balanced each other perfectly, and the jalapeño not only added a fruity richness, but also a comfortingly warm finish. I had the alcohol-free version, so I’m pretty sure it only gets better when served exactly the way Milan designed it.

Here’s the website: http://www.congaroom.com/

Lotería Grill – Santa Monica – Carnitas en Salsa Morita

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I was disappointed some time ago when the Gaucho Grill closed on the Santa Monica Promenade, but I instantly forgave them when it was replaced by Lotería Grill. I used to go to their original location when I lived near the Farmers Market on Third Street, but this is a much more inviting restaurant, and the food is every bit a good as it always was.

A long-time favorite has been the carnitas burrito with salsa morita, but this was the first time I had the entire “platillo.” Morita chiles are smoked, red-ripe jalapeño peppers, like chipotle peppers, except they are smoked for a shorter time. Interestingly, Lotería’s salsa packs more of a punch than I would have expected from a jalapeño. The rich, almost fruity flavor goes beautifully with the perfectly cooked pork, and the sides of rice and black beans provide a nice balance.

Here’s the website: http://loteriagrill.com/about-us