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The Prickly Pear Cantina, Danville CA

Clayton is a Seasoning And Salt reader as well as a friend from well over a decade ago, who took up Zach’s offer to pick an eating challenge to tackle.  Zach would pay if Clayton didn’t complete whatever challenge of his choosing, but hopefully Clayton would win the glory and Zach’s wallet would be unaffected.  No matter the outcome, Clayton let us document his attempt for this article, and we got to enjoy our own entrees at The Prickly Pear Cantina while cheering him on.  We were excited for the evening, not just for Clayton but also to try Chef Rodney Worth’s take on Mexican fare.

Clayton is, by no means, a professional eater.  We only set this up about a day before it happened, and in inviting his friends to be witnesses, three managed to make it on short notice.  He did what he could to prepare for the El Jefe Burrito Challenge, such as drinking as much water as possible to keep his stomach from shrinking without the calorie intake.  In the first few minutes we all thought, including the managers, that Clayton would be the fourth to win out of the 100 or so people who have tried this challenge.

jalapeño chimichangas

jalapeño chimichangas

While watching Clayton eat so quickly, the rest of the table thought he would finish before any of our food came out!  We were wrong, though, and we got to nibble on two tasty appetizers.  First was the chimichangas, which were totally different from the style we had the other day.  These were tortillas with a smooth cream cheese filling and roasted jalapeños, fried and served with cilantro crema (essentially a Mexican-style ranch dip).  The flavor of the jalapeños was stronger than their mild heat, so even those with sensitive palates can enjoy these chimichangas.  From the frying process, the tortillas became slightly flaky and crispy yet still tender and easy to bite through.  The cilantro crema provided an extra creamy coolness and refreshing cilantro aftertaste that completed the plate.

carnitas bean dip

carnitas bean dip

A crispy tortilla bowl is the clever carrier for the cheesy bean dip with pork carnitas.  Bean dips are fairly familiar and known for the creaminess, but the carnitas brought a little meaty tenderness, plus it acted like a thickener so that the beans didn’t just dribble off the fresh, home made chips.  The dip was very creamy, cheesy, gooey, and above all rich.  A savory and deep red sauce was blended into the dip, and some diners couldn’t get enough.

almost done!

almost done!

Checking back in with Clayton, somehow he had managed to consume roughly 75% of the burrito in about 20 minutes!  He surely had this in the bag, since to win the challenge one needs to eat the whole plate in 45 minutes.

taco salad

taco salad

The ingredients for August’s taco salad seemed completely benign: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, pinto beans, sour cream, avocado, shredded jack cheese, cilantro ranch dressing, and in this picture chicken for the meat.  It was the proportion and presentation that blew away the people at the table.  The thin, crispy, airy tortilla shell was somehow shaped and then mounted on a spoonful of refried beans to keep it in place, cradling the mounds of fresh vegetables, cheese, and other fixings.  The chicken was very moist and flavorful, as it was spiced but not spicy.  This is a taco salad to serve as a comparison for future taco salads for a long time.

the mexican flag enchilada platter

the mexican flag enchilada platter

Who doesn’t love a cheesy, gooey enchilada?  How can it get much better than having three kinds, each with its own sauce?  The green on the left was a salsa verde with a chicken and cheese filling; to the right was the red sauce with shredded beef; and sandwiched in the center was plain cheese with mole.  The green enchilada was very bright, tangy, and refreshing with a blend of cilantro and tomatillo.  The red enchilada was “super cheese filled,” with tender and well-spiced beef in a mildly spicy sauce.  The mole had a hint of sweetness with a rich toasted sesame flavor.  Whole sesames were supposed to be sprinkled all over this dish but Zach had to request it without.  The mole, though, was so finely blended that the texture was creamy and smooth with no sesame chunks for Zach to worry about.  Since he can’t have whole nuts and seeds, it was nice to enjoy the flavor of toasted sesame seeds in this form.  This is an ideal item an indecisive diner who would like to try un poco de todo.

churro fritters

churro fritters

We didn’t check the menu for desserts when we first sat and made our appetizer and entree orders, since we were so jazzed for Clayton.  After having the dinner dishes cleared, our server listed off the various sweet items and churro fritters stood out in August’s mind.  She asked the server what the most signature and popular dessert was, and when the server said churro fritters, that sealed the deal and we had to try them.  We’re so glad we did, too, because they were a hit at the table.  About a dozen perfectly bite-size fried dough, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, sat amidst dark caramel and Mexican chocolate sauces with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.  With many arms reaching across the table, this dessert disappeared rapidly.

One of those reaching arms was Clayton’s.  He only went about three bites past the last picture you saw up there.  Even with nearly 10 minutes remaining, he could not finish the burrito.  In describing the challenge, he said that it got to the point that “it hurt, like a third through it hurt, but then I got half way and it was like the same pain… Each bite hurt the same until the very end, then it got a little worse” but that was just enough to have to call it quits.  We heartily applaud his efforts, because he accomplished so much more than anyone else in the dining room could fathom – there were plenty of well-wishing onlookers rooting for him, but we all understood that it is a tough challenge to take on 1 lb. of carnitas, 1/2 lb. of chicken, 1 lb. of rice, 1 lb. of beans, 1/2 lb. of jack cheese, rolled in five tortillas, with enchilada sauce, sour cream, and guacamole.  Here’s to Clayton, who braved El Jefe; may he join us again for another challenge soon.

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Posted on June 11, 2013, in Restaurants and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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