>> 11/9/09

271 Crown Street
New Haven, CT 06511
(203) 777-7700

Connecticut. For a state that is alleged to be the wealthiest in the country, its cities are... pretty bad. Let's not beat around the bush about this, they're slums. Like Waterbury and Bridgeport, New Haven's downtown is ringed by decrepit and crumbling apartment buildings, vacant lots and a depressed and depressing population of the pitiful and poor. What separates New Haven from Waterbury and Bridgeport is that, thanks to Yale University and some key businesses that have set up a regional headquarters there, you can wander around all day without noticing, so long as you stay within the Green Zone. After dark, Yale apparently tells its students not to walk around outside. That sounds bad even to me, and I went to school in glamorous Poughkeepsie. A key result of the Yale population's residence here is that there just so happen to be quite a few of some truly very good restaurants.

Anyway, I was in the general vicinity of New Haven when I decided to hang out with Operagirl, who lives there now. She explained how New Haven has a reputation for amazing pizza. We tried it, it was good, but come on, let's get some real food. The pizza we didn't finish was tossed into my car so I could eat it on the road (PS - it fell out of the box later while I was driving and got all over the seat. I ate it anyway). And thus did we stumble randomly onto Geronimo, a Mexican/Southwestern restaurant-cum-tequila lounge.

Geronimo has a ton of outdoor seats, heated for the winter, but we chose to go inside anyway. We were shown a tall table in the corner by the bar, where we decided that since we just had pizza, we should stick to the appetizers. To start the meal off, however, we asked to try the Anejo Tequila Flight, three anejo tequilas, each growing in potency and smoothness and served with a virgin bloody mary-style drink to cleanse the palate. I know absolutely nothing about tequila, so this was fun to do. And strong. We split theses three very large shots and couldn't finish them. But I'm tempted to return. I don't like my liquor getting the better of me.

When the four dishes we ordered began arriving in random order, we quickly learned that this was no ordinary Mexican restaurant. Most people, when they think Mexican food, conjure up images of places like Blockheads, where Corona is served by the gallon and the food's so greasy it should come with a bib. No, this is gourmet Mexican food. The first two to arrive were the Quinoa Relleno, a poblano pepper stuffed with quinoa, served with Sierra Nevada black beans and a smoked tomato sauce (it looks almost like a clown fish swimming in a black sea), and the Smoked Trout Fry Bread, smoked trout with red jalapeno goat cheese, capers and red onions, on a toasted Navajo fry bread. Both of these were simply outstanding. The Quinoa Relleno is a sweet and smooth vegetarian dish. It's not spicy, though plenty of spices are used. The smoked trout fry bread may not appeal to those who dislike fishy-tasting fish. But for those who either don't care or are willing to take the plunge and try it anyway, you get rewarded with a tangy fish appetizer that was begging be ordered alongside a sharp, sweet Riesling.

Another vegetarian appetizer that we tried was the Posole Portabella, a portobella mushroom stuffed with hominy, poblano peppers, caramelized onions, toasted pine nuts, scallions, and cornbread crumbs, topped with a yellow pepper sauce and melted Chihuahua cheese. It's hard to explain how many flavors there were in this dish alone, between the mushroom, the peppers, the sweetness from the caramelized onions, the nuttiness of the pine nuts, and the cheese, it was a madhouse. But an incredibly well organized one. Each flavor worked with and complimented the last. Finally, the Grilled Hangar Steak Quesadilla, a quesadilla stuffed with grilled steak, black beans, sauteed mushrooms, onions and Chihuahua cheese. It was the most standard, common dish we tried, and it was perfect, too. It's nice to have a comfort food option thrown in among the new creations, if for nothing else than as an anchor. After all, if they can't do this right... but they did.

The tequila flight, one cocktail and the quesadilla and three appetizers, plus tax and tip came to $78 even.

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