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EAT, DRINK & PLAY   -   THE DISH
The Dish!
Great Mexican Food For Cinco de Mayo and Beyond
May, 2008 - Issue #43
Tres Enchiladas Plate
Tres Enchiladas Plate
We gringos love a reason to party. How else do you explain the popularity of Cinco de Mayo, a holiday commemorating an obscure battle in Mexico, that is celebrated with great vigor in the U.S.?

Though unintentional, it was particularly thoughtful of our friends to the south to provide those of us here in El Norte with an excuse to drink beer (and margaritas) and break up the long dry spell between St. Patrick's Day and the Fourth of July.

Speaking of independence, let's get something straight. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day. That falls on September 16. Instead, Cinco de Mayo celebrates an epic Mexican victory over the French in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. And it happened on May 5, in case your high school Spanish is a little rusty.

The whole story is predictably complex, but here's the short, over-simplified version that can be easily recalled after three shots of tequila: Ragtag army of machete-wielding peasants takes on well-equipped European army and wins.

So now that you know what Cinco de Mayo is, it's time to decide where to celebrate. You could decorate your living room with red, white and green streamers and dirty your own blender. But why?

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day and the pub pilgrimages it inspires, head for a local establishment serving the appropriate food and beverages and celebrate in style with friends both old and new.

Presidente Mexican Grill in Saugus is just such a place. We paid a visit one recent Friday night and found it offers everything you could need for a proper Cinco de Mayo celebration. With a comfortable dining room and spacious bar, you can choose which aspect of the holiday you'd like to emphasize - food or drink.

Whichever route you take, be sure to order a plate of fresh guacamole from the appetizer menu. Served on a small plate, the mound of creamy goodness is accented with tomato slices and is topped with a dollop of sour cream and grated jack cheese. Four different colored tortilla chips wedged into the arrangement stood tall and proud as I am sure the victorious French-defeating peasants must have done 146 years ago. It was the perfect consistency, with just the right amount of spice. We devoured it quickly, in between sips of April's margarita and my cold Pacifico.

We took our time perusing the menu and I suggest you do the same. Like all good Mexican restaurants, Presidente offers a wide selection of burritos, tostadas, tacos and other classics. But for those looking for something more, consider the seafood, like Halibut de Casillas, which is a fillet sauteed in butter, then finished in the oven with mushrooms and olives, or Camarones Conquistadores, jumbo shrimp bathed in spiced batter and deep fried. Presidente's signature dishes include Parrillada, a hearty platter of Mexican-style steak, marinated chicken breast, scampi-style shrimp and char-broiled baby back pork ribs with a garlic herb sauce, and Carne Tamiquena, a New York steak butterflied and stuffed with mild sauteed peppers, tomatoes, ham and Mexican spices, wrapped in bacon, then broiled and topped with Mexicana sauce.
"Presidente's signature dishes include PARRILLADA, a hearty platter of Mexican-style steak, marinated chicken breast, scampi-style shrimp and char-broiled baby back pork ribs with a garlic herb sauce."

The Tres Enchiladas plate caught my eye. Included in the trio were a cheese enchilada with a red chile sauce, a chicken enchilada with rich sour cream sauce, and a tender pork enchilada accented with a chili verde sauce. Rice, beans and guacamole rounded out the dish. I over-indulged on the guacamole appetizer, so I wasn't too hungry when dinner arrived. But when I sampled the enchiladas, I couldn't help myself. One bite led to another, and before long there was no need for a take-home box.

April went the fin and feather route, ordering the grilled chicken and shrimp fajitas. Her sizzling skillet was piled high with tangy chicken, big, tender shrimp, and plenty of peppers and onions. She also found the food too tasty to stop eating.

Although we were both beyond full, we couldn't say no when tempted with the dessert tray. We succumbed to the apple burrito, which is a crispy flour tortilla dusted with cinnamon and packed with a sweet apple filling. It is served warm with chocolate sauce, and I recommend asking for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I doubt the victorious peasants from that first Cinco de Mayo would recognize an apple burrito. But it embodies what the day has become. Two cultural staples blended together to form something new, with the end result being something fun we can all enjoy.

Presidente Mexican Grill is located at 26625 Bouquet Canyon Road in Santa Clarita. Call 297-7244 for more information.
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