Nachomission test kitchen, San Francisco bay area, CA

Happy National Nacho day peeps! (Wait. Is it National Nacho day or National Nachos day? I’ve seen it both ways all over twitter and have spent some time questioning which is grammatically correct to no avail. But I digress…). Did you get your nacho on today?

In honor of this wonderful occasion, I decided to write up something a little different today for your reading pleasure. It’s really easy to be a critic – to sit back and critique what someone else has done – so this time I put myself to the nacho test. That’s right. I whipped up my own batch of nachos at home and will now share with you both the positives and negatives of that experience. I learned a few things, and am anxious to try again soon with the wisdom of experience in my pocket. On one hand, I have a new respect for restaurants who make nachos because sheesh, it isn’t really all that easy to get them just right. But on the other hand, I feel even more qualified to maintain a high standard with my reviews. I believe that with just a few tweaks, my nachomission test kitchen nachos would be every bit as good as anything I’ve had in a restaurant.

First, I had to decide on the ingredients. A no brainer given that I have clear preferences for my nacho basics and toppings. I chose: extra thick chips (you need a good solid chip that won’t give under the weight of the beans and cheese), refried pinto beans, whole black beans (as a vegetarian, I picked two proteins. Why not? Most nachos with meat also include beans so there is nothing to stop me from getting my double protein on), shredded cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, green onions (of course), black olives (of course, again) and shredded lettuce (a somewhat rare but awesome nacho topping that provides the perfect combination of coolness and crunch).

Nachomission test kitchen, precook

Nachomission test kitchen, pre-cook

First, I assembled the chips, beans (both kinds) and cheese in an oven-safe dish. Layer chips, beans, cheese. Repeat. Repeat again. It’s so important to integrate the beans and cheese throughout the chips so every bite contains tasty goodness. There is nothing worse than a sad, dry, empty chip.

After baking for about 15 minutes, the cheese was bubbling and the beans were sizzling. I was so excited to now pile on the nacho toppings. First, I sprinkled on the green onions. They are most tasty when just slightly warm and they settled nicely into the piles of melted cheese. Next, I scattered the sliced black olives, also better when a little warm. Next in line was the shredded lettuce. And finally, the topping trifecta – pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. I positioned them in an almost triangular fashion with generous scoops of each oozing into one another. And……Voila!

Nachomission test kitchen, post cook

Nachomission test kitchen, post-cook

Now, regarding the things I learned and would do differently next time, do you see the problem with this picture? I used a rather deep dish pyrex dish and the edges were so high, that I had a hard time getting at the chips. Note to self has been taken – use a dish with low sides next time.

But don’t you fret, my nacho readers, it would take a lot more than high dish sides to keep me from diving into these nachos head first. And, if I do say so myself, they were super tasty! The flavors blended nicely and I was really pleased with the combination of both refried pinto and whole black beans in the same bite. The toppings were all incredible and the pico de gallo provided quite a spice punch. I didn’t second guess my decision to omit jalapenos for a second. I’m about as happy as I can get when I have a mouthful of nachos covered in green onions, black olives, guacamole and pico de gallo.

Nachomission test kitchen, post cook close-up

Nachomission test kitchen, post-cook close-up

A couple of additional learnings – somehow I used cheese that wasn’t full fat and that was all kinds of wrong. You need full fat, stringy, gooey, greasy cheese for nacho perfection. Believe you me, I won’t make that mistake again. In addition, the top layer of refried pinto beans got a little dry while in the oven. The piles underneath were more moist and the proper consistency but the top layer had problems. Perhaps they need to be in the bottom layers only? Or, they need to be covered in that gooey cheese to stay moist. I’ll be making some modifications in this area on my next attempt.

Well, there you go, my friends. Considering it was my first homemade attempt – not bad! Could they be improved? Absolutely. But did my nacho loving co-eaters and I devour every last one of them? You better believe it. Stay tuned for Nachomission test kitchen’s second attempt at some point in the not so distant future.

And again, Happy National Nacho(s) day. I never need an excuse to eat nachos but if you do, you have the perfect one today. Enjoy! And if you find an especially tasty nacho spot, don’t keep it all to yourself. Let me in on it!

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Take 2! – Tied House Brewery & Cafe, Mountain View, CA

My nacho friends, you are witnessing history. This is my first ever “Take 2” review. A “re-review”, if you will. And in summary, let me say: Yay! You go, Tied House!

Some of you may remember my first review of Tied House nachos. Although they were full of promise, they didn’t quite measure up. I previously took issue with the fact that Tied House nacho toppings were literally that – some tastiness sitting on top of the chips, but not interlaced well enough within and throughout the pile.

Yesterday I found myself at Tied House’s happy hour once again. And am I ever glad I gave their nachos a second chance! Now I don’t know if it was just coincidental that I had a much better plate of nachos served to me this time or whether they have made some nacho building policy changes. And I don’t care. I was just glad I was there to enjoy them.

Tied House nachos

Tied House nachos, Take 2!

First of all, the chips seemed fresher. They were still the store bought type, but they didn’t have that stale-ish crunch that I encountered last time.

And more importantly, there were layers and layers and layers of melted stringy cheese and yummy beans through and through this piled up nacho assemblage.

All of the other tasty parts that I enjoyed last time were still present. The guacamole was once again good as was the salsa fresca. And you know, even the cheese seemed more flavorful this time but perhaps I was so overjoyed with the layered experience that I transferred this positive bias onto the cheese. I don’t know and again, I don’t care. I was up to my elbows in scrumptious nachos and loving every minute of it.

And I may have mentioned it last time, but I feel the need to give props once again to the half priced nachos at happy hour. I don’t find this to be all that common. And at Tied House, they will serve you a huge, full order of nachos for only about $5.

I’m thrilled to report that I can now happily recommend Tied House to anyone in the Mountain View area wanting to get their nacho on. This time around, I’m giving them 4 out of 5 smiling nachos. Thanks for the yummy nacho goodness, Tied House!

Smiling nachoSmiling nachoSmiling nachoSmiling nacho

Rock Bottom Brewery, Campbell, CA

Dear Rock Bottom Brewery, your nachos are a mixed bag. Love, Nachomission

“Brewery nachos” at Rock Bottom are listed with the following description on the menu: “Housemade tortilla chips with black beans, melted Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheese, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro and red onions. Served with salsa. Add guacamole, chicken or beef.”

Now you *know* I love a housemade tortilla chip so this was a great leadoff in the description. The idea of pepper jack was intriguing and I’m always on board with black beans. But wait, “add guacamole”? You know, guacamole really should be standard. Afterall, it is core to the goodness. Foundational, if you will. And it should be non-negotiable.

I arrived at Happy Hour time, around 4pm on a weekday, and took my seat at a table outside. My cheery mood quickly faded however when I found out there was no special on the nachos. They were $9.50. And I had to pay $1.25 more for the guacamole. What the….? And to make matters worse, as I was still simmering to a low boil over the lack of happy hour discount, I encountered a totally sticky table. And then something wet dripped on my leg from under the table. I don’t know what it was but it was blackish in color. I’m afraid this knocked my opinion down several pegs before even being served.

As I sat trying to get over the sticky, dirty liquid situation I found myself in, I was served my nachos. It was a presentation that is unparalleled. I have never seen anything quite like it. There was a large rectangle cutting board with parchment paper on top and a huge
Rock Bottom nachos

Rock Bottom Brewery nachos

amount of nachos topping that. These nachos were wrapped around a bowl of salsa like some sort of festive, colorful, tasty, culinary wreath.

The crispy homemade chips were indeed very tasty. They had the right crunch factor. The cheese was tasty, but it was pretty standard. There was some pepperjack but I couldn’t identify it in taste. It may just have been jack, actually, because I didn’t see any pepper pieces or taste any tang. I just noted some melted white along with the orange cheese. And regarding the cheese, there just wasn’t enough. Let’s face it – you are never, ever going to read a review of mine that reads “there was too much cheese”. As long as it is good cheese, the more the better!

The black beans were good but they suffered from the same issue as the cheese – they were few and far between. They were sprinkled rather than piled. Peppered rather than scooped. Every bite of these nachos was spicy and I suspect the beans for this fiery goodness even though there were also jalapenos. I’m going to guess the beans were cooked with chili powder as I took note of some red specs on them. Bold and tasty!

The guacamole was good but again there was a major stinginess factor here. 2 small scoops? Really, Rock Bottom?? That’s all

Rock Bottom Brewery nachos close-up

I get for paying $1.25 extra? I would have expected more than that if it had come complimentary. Especially considering the proportion to this large, cutting board slab of nachos. Only a few lucky bites involved a dip in the guacamole before it was gone.

Now let’s get to the salsa in the middle. I’m not going to sugar coat it – I didn’t like the flavor at all. I couldn’t place the initial taste but it wasn’t good. Fruity? Sweet? I don’t know. I had two dips in an attempt to identify it and decided I wasn’t subjecting myself to any more dips to place the flavor. I’m willing to do a lot for my readers but that’s where I draw the line. I will gladly say that the salsa fresca sprinkled onto the pile itself was quite good and head and shoulders above what was in the bowl.

Now I wouldn’t be the nacho reviewer you’ve come to love if I didn’t make one more comment regarding this experience. As previously mentioned, I sat outside. And let me tell you, there were flies. Many, many flies. They were everywhere! Constantly swarming, and attempting to land on the nachos themselves! The horror!!

Overall, these nachos were tasty but they could use a few improvements. The portion was huge overall but the toppings were not proportional. And, in the end, I just couldn’t overcome the ambiance issues. Shoo-ing away flies while my elbow sticks to the table and drops of black liquid drip onto my leg somehow made the experience less enjoyable. Go figure.

 I give them 2 out of 5 smiling nachos.

Smiling nachoSmiling nacho

Rock Bottom Brewery, 1875 South Bascom Ave., Campbell, CA 95008