A Classic Mexican Platter in Ohio

Last summer I had a chance to visit Beachwood and Cleveland, in Ohio; my husband was driving there for business, and had a suite booked at a nice hotel, so he invited me to come along.  I started to orchestrate the whole operation: Maybe my dear friend could dog-sit; the girls were still home for summer break, they would like Ohio for sure, and … “hold on, hold on”, said my husband, “I am inviting you; the girls can look after the dog” … as I was engaging in a soliloquy while walking towards the girls’ bedrooms, trying to find a way to tell them, I overheard their conversation; they were already dividing chores, planning a sleepover with friends, and when they saw me, they just gave me a doe-eyed look and said: “have fun, mom!”

All I was hoping for was a reasonably deterged room with fast Wi-Fi, and maybe a visit to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (awesome place!), but I also had a chance to explore the USS Cod Submarine Memorial (also amazing), docked just next to the Hall; I met some of my husband’s co-workers, and had a lovely chat with one of them, who is also a long time friend; and I even tried some excellent Latin American and Mexican food! Calamari with Jicama & Mango Salsa, Cuban Sandwich with Fries, and Fish with Tropical Salad were some of the delicious dishes we enjoyed:

The biggest surprise was when we stopped for gas at a corner station, wondering where we could find a nice place to eat, and weirdly enough, we turned our heads around and there it was, a full service Mexican restaurant called “Tres Potrillos”:

Restaurante tres potrillos

The sign also looked like it did not belong there, all written in Spanish (meaning “Three Colts, Mexican Restaurant”), and facing the gas station; since we were so hungry, we decided to give it a try.  This platter was my choice:

Labelled carnitas platter

At first, it looked like any other combo of a meat item with a salsa-rice-bean side. The Mexican style rice, refried beans, guacamole and pickled jalapeños were nice and well seasoned, but nothing extraordinary; I have posted my own recipes for all of these items (they may be reviewed by clicking on the highlighted names.)  When I almost experienced a little epiphany, however, was when I focused on the carnitas, which were different from what is usually served at Mexican restaurants outside Mexico; they reminded me of how they are really supposed to taste and look. Carnitas are not the same as pulled pork; they are fried and cooked slowly, but not shredded.  The chunks of pork meat should have a crispy and almost reddish exterior, and be very moist and flavourful inside.

Back at home, that carnitas platter from an unexpected Mexican restaurant next to a random gas station in Beachwood, Ohio, made me feel like I needed to try cooking carnitas – chunky, and juicy and … maybe without deep frying? The wheels were turning now … I will be reporting soon about the results of my new quest. 

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