Cactus and Sweet Potato Flan

After such a beautiful day here in DC yesterday, I was not expecting to be freezing when I walked out the door this morning. Sigh. I guess it’s still winter. I used to absolutely love winter but it’s definitely wearing on me these days. I am ready for a change in season. Walking around without layers after months of wearing what feels like all of the layers is such a freeing feeling! Even though it wasn’t that warm and only around 50 degrees yesterday, I could just feel spring trying to come through. Birds were chirping on my lunch break and the sun was shining. Break through the cold, spring, break through the cold! I know you can do it!

Moving on. In honor of Abe Lincoln’s Birthday, Mardi Gras, the State of the Union, me being a food lover, last night I participated in my first restaurant week dinner experience with my friend Sarah at a wicked cool Mexican place downtown called Oyamel.

P1000440I’ve walked by this place many times on 7th Street near Chinatown and was always intrigued. They have always had interesting decor up in the windows. The restaurant it pretty close to Protein Bar and regular readers know I love Protein Bar. Oyamel is owned by José Andrés who is the man behind the Jaleo restaurants (I went to Jaleo last Friday for lunch as part of restaurant week!) among a handful of other places.

Jaleo was a beautiful restaurant when I went and the food presentations were really pretty so I should have expected that from Oyamel. The restaurant was gorgeous! And there were butterflies everywhere. Perfect for a celebrating a spring like day in February in DC. I didn’t want to look like a huge freak and take a bajillion pictures BUT lucky for me they have some up on their website:

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These hanging butterflies could be seen throughout the restaurant.

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This is actually the little corner that Sarah and I sat in!

For a Tuesday night it was pretty packed (nothing like the picture above)- lots of restaurant week goers! I couldn’t get over how cool everything looked. Oyamel was definitely warm, inviting, and fun.

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I snapped this picture of some of the decor in the bathroom he he. No one else was in there- no worries.

Now on to the most important part of the evening… the food. We each got to pick five different tapas (small plates of food), which included dessert. (thank God). I couldn’t order in Spanish or even pronounce the menu items (like the silly American that I am)… so much for those years of Spanish in middle school and high school. To be fair– I took Russian at American University which sort of broke my Spanish because it took so much of my mental capacity to learn. Sarah sounded like a pro as she ordered the menu items by their names. To be fair– she studied abroad in Spain.

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I started with their Ceviche Verde “El Bajío” mahi with avocado, tomatillo, green olives, and jalapeño chiles, which was quickly followed by their Nopalitos baby cactus salad with tomatoes in a lime dressing. Yep you read that correctly- CACTUS. It wasn’t one of the better choices out of the options available BUT I wanted to say that I had tried cactus. I was intrigued as to what it would taste like- what can I say. And no, it didn’t come served with all the prickly parts 😉

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The avocado/mahi ceviche was DELICIOUS. The cactus salad? Eh not so much. It was good but nothing really all that special. I was disappointed. I don’t know what I thought the cactus would taste like but it looked like chopped green peppers and didn’t taste like anything that unique. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone- unless you’re a curious cat like me.

Next came the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever had in my life. Yep. I said it. That’s a pretty big statement to make, I know. The dish was called Col de Bruselas Estilio San Quintín and it was crispy brussels sprouts with an árbol chile sauce, pumpkin seeds, peanuts and lime. Next time I make brussels, I am going to roast the crap out of them because now I know how much better they taste with a little charred crisp on the outside.

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Holy crap were these good. But actually- get them if you go. You will not regret it.

Around the time the brussels came out, it was also taco time. I didn’t get to snap a picture of mine but it was called the Taco Norteño and it was a house-made corn tortilla stuffed with shredded beef in an ancho chile and cumin sauce with a salsa Mexicana of tomatoes, cilantro, onion and serrano chiles. YUM. The shredded beef was delicious.

Whenever I go out to eat I feel slightly guilty for snapping pictures. Sometimes when I go out I’ll decide to just not take pictures and live my life in the moment. I want to eat my food when it’s delivered to the table- not take a bajillion pictures of it. Enjoying my food and the company I’m with is important to me- I don’t want to be just a foodie:

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Ben: And Tom considers himself a foodie, which apparently means taking Instagrams of food instead of eating it (Parks and Recreation)

No worries guys- I don’t just take pictures of food- I devour it as well. But the blogger in me wants me to take pictures of everything of course so I feel slight blogger guilt when I’m not taking pictures. My apologies to the Taco Norteño for not snapping its photo.

I did manage to snag a picture of my dessert though (aka the best part of any meal). Are you ready to hear what I ordered? I don’t think you are. It was called Flan de Camote and it was a sweet potato flan with honeycrisp apple sorbet and tamarind sauce. SWEET POTATO FLAN! As a huge freak for sweet potatoes I was so so so excited to try out this bad boy. Plus, honeycrisp apples are my favorite type of apples so I was just as pumped to try it in a sorbet form.

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Revisiting this picture now and talking about the dessert is making me want to go back and eat like twenty more dishes of just this. Hello heaven on a plate. Each element of the dessert strongly tasted like its namesake (don’t you hate when you order something flavored and the flavor isn’t really that strong or what you were hoping it would be? THIS was not one of those situations). There were even little pieces of chopped honeycrisp underneath the sorbet.

It was a lot of food- the perfect way to spend fat tuesday, am I right? ;)I didn’t feel overly full or anything though- ah the joy of tapas. While I’m a bigger fan of getting my one main dish at a restaurant (and not sharing), I like the idea of getting smaller portions of food because then you get to try more things.

After a beautiful walk home from Oyamel (it was still so nice outside when we left!), I did a little investigating to find out why all the butterflies in the restaurant. I knew they couldn’t just be random decor. I was assuming it had something to do with the name and I was right! On their website under “FAQ” they answered the question: What does Oyamel mean?

Every year, millions of monarch butterflies leave their homes in the US and Canada and migrate south to spend their winter in the mountains of Michoacán. The butterflies seek refuge in the oyamel tree, considered a sacred fir native to central Mexico. The forest appears to be draped in gold thanks to the thousands of butterflies covering the trees. Adding to the otherworldly quality of the place is the “shhhhhh” sound from the butterflies flapping their wings to stay warm. The locals welcome back the returning butterflies, which, because they appear about the time of Day of the Dead, they believe bear the spirits of their departed.

So beautiful! This description made me love the restaurant even more. José Andrés really knows what he is doing when it comes to restaurants.It felt so random to go out to eat on a Tuesday night but it was great to indulge, catch up with my friend Sarah, and try out a restaurant in DC that has been on my list of one’s to try.

Before I sign off, I want to wish everyone a Happy Galentines Day! For all you Parks and Recreation fans- you know what I’m talking about. If you’re out of the Parks and Rec loop:

galentinesTake the time today to show your lady friends some love 🙂 Valentines Day isn’t just about significant others- it’s about loving on all the special people in your life. Inform all the women in your life of Galentines Day and spread the word! Better yet- find a way to celebrate. I know last year I went out to dinner with my good friend Alex and then afterwards nommed on some cupcakes with my friends Rachel, Katherine, and Eliza. This whole slew of people in my life are big Parks and Rec fans like me so they were totally on board with embracing the CRAP out of Galentines Day.

Whether the first half of your week was good or bad- we’re at the halfway point people- let’s make the next half of the week great.

Keep it wicked healthy xoxo

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6 thoughts on “Cactus and Sweet Potato Flan

  1. Hi Allison,

    I’ve tried cactus many times, also in the form of liquid called Aqua de Nopales. It’s really tasty and so good for you. I lived in Mexico many years ago, and the migration of the butterflies gave me a sense of nostalgia. You got some lovely pictures of the restaurant, and reading about your tacos Noteno made me use my imagination.

  2. Pingback: Thursday Treasures | Wicked Healthy Washingtonian

  3. Pingback: Thursday Treasures | Wicked Healthy Washingtonian

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