Category Archives: Noe’s Food Window

World Vegan Month in Las Vegas

For some it’s a choice, for others a moral issue and for some it’s simply a health concern. Either way, the option to dine out as vegan, vegetarian or gluten free is not always so simple.

I grew up in Boston, MA with a firm belief in the All-American steak and potatoes diet that would make us all big and strong. We had eggs and bacon for breakfast, turkey breast for lunch and steak tips or spaghetti with meatballs for dinner. And how could I forget the meatloaf. Just like the Brady Bunch, we had our fair share of ground beef. My better half grew up in Eastern Europe where the four-course meal consisted of pork tenderloin, sausage, potatoes and a side of sausage. Needless to say, we were both bred to eat meat. How could we ever consider diverting from everything we were told? Anything without meat was bland and tasted like cardboard. To not eat meat was sacrilege.

I have been in the restaurant business my entire life. When someone would come in and say they were vegan or vegetarian, a server would just roll their eyes and the kitchen would scream profanities in frustration. Now I understand the kitchen’s annoyance. They were taught to cook with butter, milk, sour cream, lard, and the list goes on. You want a good steak? Cook it in butter. You want good toast? Slather it in butter. You all know what I mean. I was taught the same thing. But the world has changed, and so are the offerings of the food we eat.

Human beings have been using herbs and spices for eons. They not only enhance flavors, but they are vital in a healthy diet. When mixed with vegetables, legumes and fruit, a meal becomes robust and tantalizing. You feel full but not bloated. I personally feel great and energized. It was an experience I did not expect. All I had known about eating vegan or anything close was that it was tasteless. Snacks tasted like cardboard and everyone I saw that was vegan looked emaciated and unhealthy. That was all I really knew. After some exposure to new ideas, it was time to learn more.

Our journey together began approximately 3 years ago. As the years rolled by, we began eating less meat. It didn’t seem like it was by choice. It just kind of started removing itself from our meals. What once was the cornerstone of our protein rich diet was quickly becoming the furthest thing from our minds. We began learning that protein is found in many renewable resources such as beans, quinoa and broccoli to name a few. On their own, they may sound boring, but with the proper concoction, the flavors were explosive!

I have been blessed with an amazing woman in my life. She keeps me alive. While living on very little, she would make meals that were just amazing and nutrient rich. She would take classics she knew how to make and challenge herself to convert them to taste just as good or better and remove all animal product from them. The result was almost always just great food that anyone would like. Even her Eastern European family has been treated to her meals, and to their surprise, it was GOOD!

We continued to learn about the different options. It didn’t sound easy, but we were considering removing all animal products from our diets, but we loved cheese and baguette. Brie cheese and grapes? Mmmm! We enjoyed pizza and sandwiches. We loved baked potatoes with sour cream, butter and chives. It wasn’t going to be easy. Then we saw a movie called Forks Over Knives, and we decided to give a plant based diet a shot after learning about the connection between animal proteins and cancer cells. We call ourselves vegans instead of having to explain our motivations all the time. We enjoy honey, beer and wine (often not considered “vegan” items), but we avoid all products that are derived from anything with a face. No meat, poultry, fish or dairy. We avoid fake sweeteners, high processed food, high fructose corn syrup and anything with ingredients we can’t pronounce. It’s tough. HFCS is in everything, but we avoid it like the plague. There’s a lot we choose not eat, but contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot we can.

We used to really enjoy dining out. The experience of trying new concoctions and a great bottle of wine was just so fun. It has been a part of our lives for the last 20 years. But after making the decision to change our eating habits, dining outside of our home wasn’t so fun anymore. We got a few eye rolls from servers, but mostly, everyone’s options are a salad of some sort. After creating what was possible at home, we knew better, and we wanted to affect change.

Fortunately, I’m in a position to affect change. Diners who are vegan, vegetarian or gluten free are almost 10% of diners and they deserve to have more choices than just a salad. We have just started the process, but I am proud to say we have options that few people offer. At Hussong’s Cantina we offer vegan Mexican rice and beans as well as vegan burritos, quesadillas and tacos to name a few. At Slice of Vegas Pizza you can get a vegan pizza with Daiya cheese, a vegan burger, vegan Panini, gluten free pasta among the options. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In November of 2012, in honor of World Vegan Month, we are launching menus that have numerous options. This is not only to honor vegans. It’s also to create awareness that things can taste good and be healthy alternatives to what we’ve been eating our entire lives.

We are vegan hybrids that still enjoy life and try to avoid synthetic foods. We believe in fresh healthy alternatives, and so do our chefs. In honor of a month dedicated to those who choose or have no choice to be vegan, vegetarian or gluten free, try the new alternative and be surprised. Who knows, maybe there’s a vegan hybrid inside you. At least you can say you tried it.

Live-Love-Eat,

MJ

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Ceviche ~ Done Our Way

Our Ceviche here at Hussong’s Las Vegas has been a controversial item on our menu. Some visit our restaurant repeatedly to appreciate the freshness and seeming simplicity of our recipe. Others hate it. We’ve heard people describe it as “the best Ceviche I’ve ever tried”, but we also been told: “This ceviche is crap!”. Often times, such split reviews are caused by taking something that’s known to many in a certain way (let’s call this way the standard) and making it – well, outside of this standard. Since we really haven’t received any middle of the road responses to this traditional Mexican dish, and in all honesty the positive feedback has been equal to the negative (which makes it difficult), we decided to look into the history of ceviche to see if maybe some data check could shed a light on this bi-polar reaction to what is (basically) marinated shrimp (or fish), with sometimes fruits and always veggies.


Ceviche  (also spelled cebiche or seviche)  is a very popular dish in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America. The dish dates back over 2000 years. At this day, ceviche is still loved and as popular as ever from its origins in coastal towns of South America to new locations where the dish is still fresh and considered new. Many things about ceviche can be disputed, such as the exact location of its origin or the exact ingredients to use. There are small to severe differences in the preparation and ingredient line-up of Ceviche based on which part of the world its maker originates from. There is only one unifying concept of Ceviche is (also the only fair contender for an objective judgment criteria) – its freshness.

Ceviche in Central and South America
In Peru, ceviche is traditionally served with corn on the cob or cold sweet potatoes. This ceviche is made with chunks of raw fish marinated in lemon juice, lime juice or bitter orange juice. Chili, sliced onion, salt and pepper are often added and maybe some garlic, chili rocoto or olive oil. This ceviche is marinated for several hours and then served at room temperature. Shark, sole, or sea bass feature in many Peruvian ceviche recipes.
In Panama, it is made with white sea bass and comes in small pastry shells. Other Panama ceviche recipes feature shrimp, squid, or octopus. Ceviche in Panama is made with onion, celery, salt, habanero pepper, and lime juice. The Ecuadorians enjoy their ceviche with thinly sliced plantains or corn nuts and they use tomato sauce and shrimps. Sometimes clams are used in Ecuador to make ceviche, as well as crab, octopus or sea bass.
Chilean ceviche recipes are made with Patagonian toothfish or halibut. Lime and grapefruit juices are used for the marinade and minced chilies and garlic are added too. Cilantro and fresh mint are other popular ingredients. Cuban ceviche is made using mahi mahi, salt, green bell pepper, allspice, habanero pepper, onion, and lime juice. Tuna and squid feature in some Cuban ceviche recipes.
Costa Rican ceviche is spiced with salt, pepper, onions, minced peppers, cilantro and lime juice. It comes with lettuce and soda crackers. Tabasco sauce and ketchup might also be served with it. Corvina, tilapia, marlin, shark, and mahi mahi are popular in Costa Rica. Hawaiian ceviche is made with shrimp, lobster or crab, lime juice, chilies, soy sauce, candlenuts and seaweed.

Ceviche Outside the Americas
Raw fish is cubed and marinated in calamansi juice or vinegar in the Philippines. Onions, garlic, tomato, peppers, and ginger are added for flavor. A lot of people do not know that ceviche is also popular in the Philippines, although the style is different from the Mexican and South American recipes because of the ginger.
Salmon, turbot, halibut, or sea bass are used to make this dish in Spain and lime juice, olive oil, and chilies add the flavor. You can always adjust the amount of chili when making ceviche. Not everyone likes it really spicy.

Two Types of Mexican Ceviche
The idea of raw seafood with an acid is very popular in all high temperature destinations, but like every great dish there are regional spins on the common dish including everything from spices and ingredients used or whether or not to serve the seafood raw or cooked. There are two ways to prepare Mexican style ceviche. The more “mainstream” approach, made with with shrimp, crab, tuna or another kind of fish and chilies, nopales, different types of tropical fruits and fresh veggies marinated in lime juice, garlic.

Or, there is the way that Chef Noe Alcala has grown up eating and making it with his family; the Baja style. Noe got his start in the kitchen early in life; at age 12 he was helping his mother cook authentic Mexican and deserts for private events. At 18 he started cooking professionally and now is the Executive Chef of Hussong’s Cantina Las Vegas. Noe has been familiar with ceviche his whole life, as it is a very popular dish in the South West region of Mexico where he is from. It’s actually very prevalent along the coast lines or anyplace where there is fresh seafood available.

Noe’s ceviche is as authentic as the ceviche you would eat in his hometown of Southwest Mexico; it is, however different from what most Americans know as traditional ceviche. First the raw shrimp is marinated in fresh lime juice right up until the time the appetizer is ordered. The shrimp is then cooked and the onions, cucumber, carrots and fresh cilantro are added. Lastly the ingredient which makes this dish so unique and authentic is added. That ingredient is the special tomato based sauce that is specifically made just for the ceviche. It’s this tomato base sauce that differentiates itself from local competitors who also serve the dish. The idea of using a tomato base stems from the south part of Mexico where as other regions traditionally will just use an acid (lemon or lime juice) with the vegetables and seafood. The combination of these infused coastal South American flavors with the fresh quality ingredients used is Hussongs’ at its best. Whether you’re a tourist or local, young or experienced with a refined pallet the ceviche dish is a definite must try for all.

As the temperatures outside increase, be sure to remember this truly refreshing appetizer while perusing our menu, deciding what to eat. You will not be disappointed, now that you know exactly what to expect – a fresh, balanced, maybe a little unique, home-made like ceviche by Chef Noe. Keep an open mind; pretend you’ve never heard of ceviche before and taste this delicious treat as if you’ve never tasted a combination of ingredients like that before. Probability is, you haven’t.


This week's special – Skirt Steak Stack Enchiladas with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Carne a la Mexicana stack enchiladas, 3 corn tortillas stacked with our blend of cheese and sautéd skirt steak. Enchiladas are smothered in sautéd mushroom sauce (Portabello & white button), topped with sour cream, queso fresco and pico de gallo. Served with a  side of Mexican red rice and borracho beans, lots of food for $18.92!
 


Rock'n'Pain Burrito to Welcom Ozzy this Friday!

Our Rock'n'Pain Burrito created by our Chef to celebrate Ozzy Osbourne's concert at Mandalay Bay is loaded with protein of choice, Mexican cheese blend, whole black beans, grilled corn, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream, rolled up in a 12" chipotle flour tortilla, topped with a smooth but slightly spicy red bell sauce. All this satisfying combo of great tastes is served over a unique "Mexican Truffle" rice – black Huitlacoche rice. For $15 it's all yours!


This week's special – Milanesa de Pollo (Breaded Chicken Steak)

This ckicken is so tender and the breading is just the right amount and the fresh sald if the perfect combination…SO GOOD! 6 oz. chicken breast, pounded and breaded with panko, topped with a roasted red bell peppers and queso fresco, served with a tomato/cucumber salad, Mexican rice and borracho beans. $16


Weekly Special:

Six Coconut breaded Shrimp over white Mexican rice accompanied with coconut cream sauce, finished with a light drizzle of membrillo/tamarind salsa. $16


4 New Reasons to Come to Hussong's…

as if you needed anymore!


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