I was invited to a media tasting for Chipotle’s Latham, NY store opening by Katherine of KNS Promotion, Inc. I’m pretty sure she said she’s opened 33 Chipotle stores this year! Impressive!
And so, last night I dressed up and headed out to 2 Wade Road, Latham, NY. I’ve never been to a Chipotle before, but have heard good things. I don’t drive up to Wilton, NY, um, ever, so I haven’t been to that Chipotle. I was intrigued by the all natural meats, and the thought of another burrito/tex-mex place in the area.
It was a pretty small turnout of three: Daniel B, Kristi G (of the Times Union), and me, but we were still given a very comprehensive tour of the place.
I won’t get into the semantics of the building, suffice it to say, it was built as “Green”ly as possible, and the layout is simple, open, and minimalist. I liked it.
Now on to the food!
We got samples of everything behind the line on metal platters, and with papers underneath saying what we were eating. Katherine also explained everything and answered all of our questions. Daniel B was quite the tiger that night – spitting out questions about production, etc, left and right. I’ll leave him to explain all of that. He’s much better at it than I am.
Here’s what we got to taste, in order:
Cilantro-Lime Rice. It’s long grain rice that has a bright, lightly tangy flavor. The cilantro and lime are in really nice proportions and make the rice taste a bit different, but not too much flavor of one or the other. Salty in a good way. There’s soy oil in it. I thought it was butter – it tasted so buttery. So this is actually vegan. I’m not a big rice fan, but I was wondering if I could just eat a side of this… really good.
Beans! Black Beans are vegetarian, cooked with some adobo, which made them nicely smoky with a bit of a kick. Soft and creamy, these are pre-soaked for 24 hours ahead of time (the store gets them pre-soaked as there’s not enough space to do so here) and then cooked in the store.
The pinto beans, Mr. Dave, you are going to love. Bacony goodness. These are definitely not vegetarian as there’s bacon cooked with them, and you can certainly taste it. There was a little bit of a tangy aftertaste. Slightly smoky, and very creamy in texture.
Peppers & Onions. I don’t think these were bell peppers – I think they were poblanos. Can you guys back me up on this one? Either way, they were cut in the store, and lightly grilled with a little oregano, salt, and pepper. I loved it. They were so lightly cooked – with just a char so they were still crunchy-crisp and juicy. Even the peppers tasted good, and I usually hate peppers of all kinds.
Meats! All of the meats in New York State are naturally raised, and fed on a vegetarian diet.
Grilled Chicken. Made with all dark meat, this store receives thigh/leg meat from Bell Evans. It’s marinated in store and was very tender and juicy. It was a little smoky and nicely charred from the grill. Serving wise, it was cut into cubes, not shredded. This was my favorite meat of the night. I can’t even believe that. I’m usually a pork girl. It was just. So. Good.
Carnitas – shredded pork and was mildly spicy. I wasn’t as big of a fan of this. Something in the seasonings just didn’t really hit me the way the chicken did. Don’t get me wrong, it was still incredibly moist and definitely worth a try.
Barbacoa. Shredded beef. Slightly spicy with enough kick to keep you going back for more. The juices had a little bit of fat in it. I couldn’t help but think that this was a leaner and slightly better tasting version of something at Capital Q.
Grilled Steak. HOLY MAMA, SPICY. That’s for us spice-wusses. The rest of you mortals should be able to handle it. While it was spicy, I didn’t just taste heat. The steak itself was really tender and juicy (it was served cut up into a dice / square bits). I realized after a little while that it was because the steaks were reddish in the center! Yes folks, Chipotle said they try to pull the steaks when they reach medium-rare and keep it around medium to serve. Sometimes it cooks a little more in the serving/heat trays, and if you want your meat cooked well done, they’ll do that too. Me? Oh, sign me up for any place that cooks their beef below medium.
Salsas. We got four of them to try:
Fresh Tomato was a mild, simple salsa. Just diced tomatoes, cilantro, lemon and lime juices, and some salt. Cooling, simple, tasty. No spiciness or heat at all.
Green Tomatillo was supposedly medium heat, but damn! Something in there really blasted my tongue with heat. It was just hot, hot, hot to me. A huge step up from mild. This was a chunky liquid.
Corn Salsa was nice and refreshing. Nowhere near as spicy as the green tomatillo, but still had a little kick from the roasted poblano peppers. The corn were very sweet and popped in your mouth. They get them flash frozen year round from when the corn is picked at its peak. If this is what frozen means, then sign me up. This frozen corn has nothing on the baggies you see in the freezer aisle of the grocery store. This was corn and peppers, no liquid in this salsa.
Red Tomatillo was listed as hot. It was really hot, but it also had a nice tanginess and brightness that helped cut the heat and round it out. It was a liquid salsa with seeds in it. Tasted very fresh to me. It also had chiles de arbol in it. There was no citrus or vinegar in it. Surprising, but I really liked this. One of the folks said his favorite way to eat it was to mix it with sour cream to dip chips in. Excellent idea. Even though it was very spicy, I kept eating more of it.
At that point I was pretty sure I’d become hot sauce-drunk, and I was surprised I hadn’t broken into a sweat. Thankfully, the dairy round was next.
Cheeses – their cheese mix was cheddar and monterey jack. They’re shredded in the store from a block and they actually taste rich and cheesey. All three of us liked that, since a lot of the time that you get cheese at take-out places you see it, but it doesn’t really have any flavor.
Sour Cream. Theirs is whipped/aerated to make it thinner. You might think it’s watery, but it’s really good. It’s not like the stuff from the grocery store, which can be very thick and tangy-tart. This was closer to a creama, a table cream, something like that. Primarily, it was creamy and cheesey, followed by rich and a little bit of tangy. Refreshing and not overwhelming in the least.
Finally, we got cups of guacamole and chipotle-honey vinaigrette.
The Guac – Yum! There were chunks of avocado in the guacamole and was it ever creamy. Onions, cilantro, pepper were also in it, but the main star was the avocado. They’ve got some tortilla chips that have just a hint of lime on them. You can taste the lime a bit eating the chips plain, but with the guacamole it was just flat out crunchy, creamy goodness.
The vinaigrette was smoky, spicy, sweet, and peppery. No real competition between the flavors – they all balanced pretty well. I’m not a fan of sweet dressings, but if you are you will probably like it.
After tasting everything on the menu, we got to order some food for ourselves from the counter.
I opted for a burrito with rice, chicken, pinto beans, hot salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese. They don’t have extra toppings on the side like a Moe’s, just the salsas. Otherwise I probably would have added some onions since I lurve onions.
HOLY MOLY. Burrito love. The burrito shell was nice and chewy, and surely enough the hot sauce was cut by all of the other ingredients (and the sour cream really made everything creamy). It was awesome, delectable, hot flavor without the pain. The chicken. Oh man, this chicken. It just tasted so chicken-y and good. I couldn’t not eat it. This was a delicious spicy burrito. Oh my gosh. I want another one RIGHT FREAKING NOW. I think they’ll be $6.10 once they officially open.
Sadly, I was bested by the last quarter of this burrito. I blame it on the hot sauces and sampling that took place prior.
Oh and guess what? Free Burrito Day is November 5th, 11 am – 8 pm. Free burrito and fountain drink. November 4th they’re open from 5 pm – 8 pm. $5 donation to Shaker High’s Key Club gets you a burrito, bowl, tacos, or salad, and a free drink.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to be going back on the 5th. Ohhhh, yes.