This week, we’re taking a short break from our regular scheduled content to honor the greatest holiday ever: Halloween. I just couldn’t let Spooky Season pass by without a seasonally themed column.
This year, I decided to explore another day of sweets and skeletons: Día de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.” On Día de los Muertos, families honor their deceased loved ones by creating an ofrenda, or “offering,” of pictures and treats that welcomes their loved ones back to visit the world of the living once a year. The Day of the Dead is filled with tons of festivities and yummy treats like sugar skulls and pan de muerto. On the ofrendas, families may leave their deceased loved ones’ favorite foods, so I decided to explore Mexican food in general to figure out what my personal favorites might be ー you know, just in case I die suddenly and you’d like to welcome me home on a future Día de los Muertos.
La Casa is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants here in Rochester, so I thought that would be a great place to seek out some culinary inspiration. To start, we had the chips and salsa that they bring to every table, plus some guacamole, which we just couldn’t resist. The chips had a perfect crispy texture and came out nice and hot, which is a big plus, but the dips were the real stunners here. The salsa was packed with flavor. It was refreshing and cool with a great medium level of spice. The guacamole was a great balance between creamy and chunky, with a smooth texture, acidic taste, and bites of sweet avocado and tomato throughout. Overall, I felt that everything could have been a little saltier, but they were still definitely a fantastic start to a fantastic meal.
For the first entree, I tried out the chicken enchiladas. I actually ordered these by accident in a huge brain fart moment, randomly thinking they were something else for no identifiable reason. But when they came out, it turned into a fantastic surprise. These enchiladas were absolutely delicious. The pulled chicken inside was tender and flavorful with just a hint of spice. It’s honestly difficult to slather something with as much sauce and cheese as La Casa did and have it look beautiful, but they managed. The salsa roja was slightly spicy and perfectly balanced the cool, tangy crema.The copious cheese lended itself to some pretty aesthetic cheese pulls. I’d definitely say that my first encounter with enchiladas was a whopping success.
Another overall winner were the sopes, which I decided to try out after discovering through my research that people love to indulge in these hearty masa cakes during Día de los Muertos festivities. The masa cake was definitely more flavorful than I expected. I thought it would taste like a polenta cake — just sort of cornmealy — but it was very well seasoned It was fried perfectly, which created a nice crisp exterior that served to support the weight of the copious toppings adorning the masa cakes. The refried beans on top were smokey and salty and paired very nicely with the tangy salsa verde. The bits of red onion and tomato perfectly brightened this rich and slightly spicy dish.
Topping off this meal of way more food than is ever necessary, I present to you the tres puercos tacos, which offer thrice the pork and, therefore, thrice the fun. Salty bacon, beautifully juicy and tender pulled pork, and chorizo were balanced out with sweet caramelized onions and a tangy, rich sauce. This taco was positively succulent. Once again, we have a dish with a smart balance of flavors and textures because the rich, heavy meats were topped off with just the right amount of lettuce and red onion. The light side salad was nice and refreshing as well.
At the end of this meal, we were incredibly full and also had enough leftovers to completely feed us for the next few days. The portions are generous and come with oh-so-many sides.
I have to take a sharp turn to discuss the phenomenal atmosphere of the restaurant.. The interior is gorgeous with a cozy, colorful feel, and the outdoor patio is super fun with a sunny deck, lots of bright colors, and loud Latin music.
I can confidently say that I would gladly accept any La Casa dish on a Día de los Muertos ofrenda. As someone who isn’t anywhere close to an expert on Mexican food or culture, I can’t determine how traditionally accurate La Casa’s food is. But as someone who does have a lot of general expertise on food, I can easily say that it is traditionally delicious.”