Northwest Cuisine Creations Pizzeria Style Wrap w/Pesto: From the Grocery Store

al desko /al ˈdɛskəʊ/While working at one’s desk in an office (with reference to the consumption of food or meals)1

Ah, the wrap. The burrito’s straight-edge and often bland sibling. Cold2, too. But give it to Northwest Cuisine Creations: They are not afraid to sneer conformity in the face. A Pizzeria Style Wrap w/Pesto makes for a bold statement. Bold, but ultimately empty.

This wrap is a bit like the anonymous kid in high-school who all of a sudden shows up dressed in a leather jacket. Yes, it makes a statement, but unwrap the layers, and you find the same bland kid.

The Pizzeria Style… is neither as bold nor as edgy as the name would suggest. I would not have associated it with a pizza had it not been for the label. It’s not uncommon to find olives and pepperoni in a wrap these days — they have already served their duty. Cream cheese is the staple it has always been, and in that sense, the wrap is just another face in the crowd.

I suppose bland doesn’t always have to be bad, and in its defense, the cream cheese did give the wrap a mild oomph. It was the one respectable showing in an alarmingly long ingredients list consisting of preservatives and lower shelf fixings.

Yeah, I get it. I’m being unreasonable. I doubt Northwest Cuisine set out to change the world with Pizzeria Style…. Their marketing got to me, and I was expecting something that was not to be. It did fill me up at least. I’ve had worse.

Throwing together a wrap for yourself in the morning is as always the better way to go, but you could probably do worse than grabbing a Pizzeria Style Wrap w/Pesto from the grocery store if you’re in a serious fit of tortilla desperation.

1 Source: Oxford Dictionaries.

2 Most of the time, at any rate.

Rating is based on the Grocery Store Curve™
Score: 1 out of 4 stars

Vegan, oil-free, nut free, sweet potato tacos

Sometimes one needs to take care of oneself, and a tortilla-enthusiast can fully take a week-long, whole food, vegan reset without foregoing a good taco. I mean, that’d be downright inhumane. A reset like this is not only good for the cholesterol and blood pressure, but also for the soul.

Here at Tortillaphilia Syndicate™ we have gone an even stricter route, also cutting out sugar, oil, and nuts for the week. Hey, we’re all about challenges. Here is a sweet potato recipe that’ll make your day just a little bit easier if you attempt this reset, and it’s also an excellent taco in its own right:

The tortillas

Many store-bought tortillas are produced with oil, but purely corn-based ones can be found, too. We went with Mi Rancho, available from many haughty markets. An even better alternative would, of course, be to make your own, but let’s not go too crazy here.

For an added twist, prepare the tortillas shell-style: Set oven to 375°, while microwaving the corn tortillas in between a cloth or paper towels for 30 seconds. When ready, drape each tortilla over two rails of the oven rack (illustration at the bottom of this post). Bake for 8-10 minutes, and marvel over the wonders of science.

The avocado sauce

Reduce or add to amounts depending on how many tacos you are making. This should be enough for 8 servings.

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 generous handfuls of cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno (less if you don’t like the spicy stuff)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk (or alternatively water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients into a Cuisinart (or an equivalent), and run on high speed until the consistency is saucy. Add more water if needed.


Again, adjust amounts as needed.

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 chopped pineapple (or can of chunks)
  • 1 can of black beans (rinsed)
  • 1 can of sweet corn kernels (rinsed)
  • Cilantro for garnish

Cut sweet potato into one-inch thick slices, and bake at 425°, until soft. About 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool, and cut into taco-friendly cubes.

Put sweet potatoes and the rest of ingredients, sans cilantro, into a pan over medium heat, and toss until heated.

The Tortillaing

Stuff shell with toppings and avocado sauce. Toss some cilantro leaves on top. For added presentation, serve on a bed of lettuce.

And then feel good about taking care of yourself while not sacrificing your lifestyle.

My Fresh Basket: Burrito

There are few things more disappointing than being let down by a breakfast burrito, even more so when it comes from a place of otherwise high standards. The twist of the knife is when the burrito is just within reach of the quality one would expect from such a spot. Case in point is My Fresh Basket, a new highfalutin Spokane market which delivers on many levels, but is sadly missing its inner tortillaphilia glow.

Maybe I went in with too high of expectations. The burritos are not prepared on-the-spot like at PCC, which I’d otherwise compare to My Fresh Basket. Here we get tinfoil wrapped cylinders in a heating tray, and that brings with it some hard questions. When was the burrito prepared? How long has it been in the tray? Was it prepared by a trained burrito professional? Valid questions, but I have enjoyed pre-prepared burritos before, and My Fresh Basket seemed like a pretty safe bet.

The issues presented themselves straight at unwrapping time. Trying to remove the tinfoil Mission-style was an exercise in futility. Small pieces had to be torn off in increments, making the dining experience unnecessarily slow. Hey, I’m not an impatient man, but when that burrito is in front of me, I very much want to enjoy it on my own time.

Faring better were the fillings, which consisted of high-quality ingredients. Cheddar and sausage? A respectable, classic combination, particularly when paired with green and red peppers. The eggs were there, as one would expect from any self-respecting breakfast burrito. And the potatoes… Oh, the potatoes.

This is where everything fell flat. You cannot have undercooked potatoes in a burrito. It’s just not done. It’s unseemly. Biting into something overly firm and quasi-cold stands in such stark contrast with otherwise piping-hot fillings. It’s enough to ruin one’s morning, which is even worse when the tortilla featured solid flavors.

The good can’t compensate for the bad when the bad literally blocks the good. Getting through those potatoes took effort. The poor wrap-job directly stopped me from getting to the actual burrito.

It was all very sad, nigh tragic. I had expected more, and I almost did get what I had hoped for. This time, though, almost wasn’t enough.

But, I will be back. Search their souls, and My Fresh Basket could very well give a tortillaphile what a tortillaphile wants.

Remi’s rating…
Score: 2 out of 4 stars

Visit them…
1030 W Summit Pkwy, Spokane, WA 99201

… or talk to them… 509-558-2100

… or socialize with them… the web Facebook Twitter Instagram

El Guanaco: Pupusa

Think tortilla and many incorrigibly think of Mexico as its country of origin. Hey, it’s an understandable misconception, prolific as that cuisine is, but the tortilla’s history started with the Aztecs, thus making it Mesoamerican.

The Salvadorian variety used with their pupusa is a Tortillaphilia favorite, and here in Olympia, Wash. you can find some very decent ones at El Guanaco. The downtown spot dishes up fourteen different variations, with fillings ranging from zucchini to crushed chicken. I sampled the latter, in addition to one stuffed with cheese and pork. The combination plate was rounded out with a pork tamale, because why would anyone not have a tamale when presented with the opportunity?

Served steaming hot, pupusas are pure comfort food. The tortillas are thick, though El Guanaco’s weren’t quite as fluffy as those I’ve had in Belize. That is unfortunate, though they were still within the margin of what a tortillaphile would consider common decency. Not too dense, in other words.

The fillings held up very well, and the chicken, in particular, had a good zing to it. The spice combination gave the palate just a tinge of chile-smoke.

A tamale can, in my experience, be either good or bad — rarely do you find anything in between.1 El Guanaco’s were firmly in the good category, with delicate masa and a spicy pork stuffing. In all its simplicity, few things are more satisfying than a good tamale, particularly when the rain or snow is pounding the ground as often is the case during the season we’re facing.

And a special shout-out to the beans. The lard-base will make it a non-starter for vegetarians, but omnivores will be treated to a perfect amount of salt in a good semi-soft consistency.

Would I walk through the aforementioned rain or snow to enjoy a good El Guanaco pupusa? Maybe not the snow, but I’d certainly brave the rain. El Guanaco is a good and affordable spot, and while they might not serve the best pupusa I’ve ever had, it is still of high quality, particularly when paired with a good tamale.

1 Although I suppose great, good, or bad would be more accurate.

Remi’s rating…
Score: 3 out of 4 stars

Visit them…
415 Water St SW, Olympia, WA 98501

… or talk to them… 360-352-5759

… or socialize with them… the web Facebook Twitter

We take the One Chip Challenge; Paqui Tortilla Chip reviewed

It might have made Shaq cry, but here at the Tortillaphilia Syndicate, we can hold our own as far as spice goes. We’ve even hosted spicy food contests. Thus, when the One Chip Challenge — or #onechipchallenge as the kids say — was thrown at us, we scoffed in its face, accepted it, and conquered it. As we are wont to do.

To wit…

Spicy for sure, but you, the devoted tortillaphile, will undoubtedly be more concerned with the important part: How did the chip actually taste? Was it just a smack in the face? Was it created solely as a gimmick?

For the latter: probably. For the former: not at all.

The $5 Chest of Horror contains only one chip which, while no bargain, is quite tasty. Yes, you will have to endure an un-subsiding five-minute burn, but that’s what kefir and tears are for.

The chip is based on the Carolina Reaper pepper — until recently the hottest in the world — which has more in common with the Ghost pepper than the Red Habanero1. I’ve never loved the flavor of Habanero. It’s kind of sickeningly sweet. Ghost pepper, on the other hand, has a smoky depth to it, and it makes this chip taste almost like an upscale Dorito.

Again, the joy of the flavor is short-lived as the burn starts after about a minute. Those sixty seconds are glorious, though, and you should live in that moment when all that matters is the one well-seasoned, perfectly crunchy, smokychip.

And then it burns, and it hurts, but it was all worth it.

You cannot buy the chip from Paqui’s website at the time of writing. You can, however, pick up some of their regular Ghost pepper chips, which feature codes where you have a chance to win2 one. These chips have all the flavor of the Carolina variety, but minimal burn. They’re very respectable by themselves.

As for the Chest of Horror, it’s a challenge worth taking, but I can’t with good conscience give the chip a perfect score. The fire burns too hot even for a veteran spice lover for that.

The feeling before, though? Heavenly.

1 The two were crossed to make this Frankenpepper.

2 Allegedly. A fellow tortillaphile bought 13 bags with no dice. It makes one wonder if the every 10 bag a winner claim is particularly trustworthy.

Remi’s rating…
Score: 3 out of 4 stars