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Restaurant Reviews

The Habanero Salsa from Miriam Cocina Latina Ruined My Diet

It's all their fault.

The brown habanero salsa from Miriam Cocina Latina ruined my diet. More specifically, the tortilla chips, the vehicles that transported the salsa to my mouth, ruined my diet. (OK, fine. I ruined my own damn diet.) It happened yesterday during lunch. Shannon Wynne’s new restaurant, which blends Tex-Mex and Mex-Mex in the old LARK on the Park space, was busy. The dining room was full around 12:30 and there was one available seat at the bar. I took it.

Within minutes three salsas were slid in front of me. Green, yellow, and red. And then, a tiny metallic bowl heaping with tortilla chips.

I’d been in ketosis for 12 days. I know this because I have these strips that I use to count the ketones in my body. No, I did not consult a doctor before going on the ketogenic diet. I haven’t had time to make an appointment. (And my best doctor friend is currently in Spain backpacking the Camino de Santiago.) But I have been reading up on it. Plus, Kourtney Kardashian swears by the keto diet. And I trust her. I think.

Without getting into the specifics—those who are interested can read more here—the diet makes you refrain from carbs. Instead of burning carbohydrates as fuel, your body burns fat as fuel. It hasn’t been too difficult. I mean, things can get dicey when you drink a glass or two of wine at a work meeting, and the booze hits you harder than a dove against a living room window. (Lesson learned.) But if you eat meat, enjoy leafy green vegetables, and refrain from alcohol during professional situations, it’s fine.

Well, tortilla chips are carbs. On this diet you can consume a very limited amount of carbs, which means a very limited portion of tortilla chips. (Really, you shouldn’t be eating tortilla chips at all.) But it’s my job to eat. I took a chip and broke it into small pieces and dipped the shards into the salsas.

The red one was a refreshing blend of Roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, and thick hunks of onion. Yes.

The yellow one was a piquant and flavor-packed mix of red tomatoes, green tomatoes, Puya chiles, and onions. Yes, yes.

The green one was tangy and blended green tomatillo with cilantro and avocado. Yes, yes, yes!

I could feel my inner gormandizer awaken but was able to lull her back to slumber by reminding myself of how good I’ve been doing. And how disciplined I’ve been. And how amazing I’m going to feel after a few more weeks of refraining from fistfuls of biscuits and buckets of frozen margaritas.

“You like salsa, señorita?” a server asked from behind the bar.

Duh, I like salsa.

Before I could answer he reached behind him and pulled out a plastic jug filled with brown sludge.

“Do you like spicy things?” he asked.

No, duh, I like spicy things.

(I didn’t say that to him. Instead, I smiled and nodded.)

He grabbed a white porcelain ramekin and filled it with a few tablespoons worth of brown salsa. “This is a habanero salsa, and it’s the best in town,” he said while placing the dish in front of me.

I took a fraction of a chip and shoved it into the dip. A string of profanities flashed through my mind, but I held them in. It was the best salsa I’d tasted in a very long time. I broke off another fragment of a chip and dunked it. The mix of Roma tomatoes, green tomatoes, garlic, yellow onions, and habanero peppers was electrifying. It was pungent. And it burned. But it was the kind of slow burn that lingers for a few minutes and then vanishes. It did not ruin my palate for what was to come.

A fraction of a chip became a full chip, which ended up being the entire bowl of chips. The whole bowl? The whole bowl! Another string of profanities flashed across my brain like an LED ticker.

I acknowledged my weak moment and decided to do better next time. (And to also refrain from retuning to Miriam Cocina Latina until my diet is over.)

You, on the other hand, should head there immediately and request the brown habanero salsa.

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