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Thursday, January 19, 2017

El Cabo Verde: A Passion Project

by Blair Loup

The first time I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Gabriel Balderas, local food legend Chris Jay was taking us on a culinary dream tour around the Shreveport-Bossier area.

People always laugh when I tell them how much I love Shreveport, but it’s no joke. We found Chef Gabriel cooking some of the most amazing tamales I’ve ever had at Flying Heart brewery in Bossier City.

Instead of cooking them in corn husks, Chef Gabriel cased his tamles in banana leaves... and my life changed. Everything I didn’t really like about tamales before (dry & crumbly masa) seemed to be remedied by the moisture from the banana leaf. That’s the moment I knew Gabriel was onto some next level stuff.

We’ve kept in touch with Gabriel and watched the success of the El Cabo Verde name. Sure enough, Chef Gabriel was named one of 2016’s Chefs to Watch by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine.

Reserved, but passionate, I could listen to him talk about food and ingredients all day. His dedication to the craft is serious and it shows on every plate he puts in front of you.

Fresh corn tortillas, chips, queso, salsa and salsa verde
Fresh corn tortillas, chips, queso, salsa and salsa verde


Here’s a look at some of the dishes we had the chance to taste at his brand new brick and mortar:


Guacamole

Guacamole with fried plantains and radish
Guacamole with fried plantains and radish


I find there’s always a fine line that separates good guac from bad guac. Too much of this or too little of that could make or break a guacamole’s reputation, and this one is made of the right stuff.


Quesadillas

Pork quesadillas
Pork quesadillas 


A traditional quesadilla is the stuff dreams are made of. Creamy, melted queso enveloped around tenderly braised meat between a homemade corn tortilla is hard to beat. This is the snack of champions.


Chicken Tamales

Banana leaf tamales with chile de arbor salsa
Banana leaf tamales with chile de arbor salsa


These are as legendary as I remember them. Covered in a tangy salsa verde, these flavorful pockets of masa combined with a side of spicy chile de arbol salsa are a must-try.


Cricket Tacos 

Crunchy cricket tacos with guacamole on a fresh corn tortilla
Crunchy cricket tacos with guacamole on a fresh corn tortilla

As a very special treat, Chef Gabriel prepared a special off-menu item for our team. I’m probably the most adventurous eater out of the group, so I was super stoked when he put this cricket taco in front of me. The flavor is unique and flavorful with hints of lime. While this may not be something you can always find, I think it’s indicative of Chef Gabriel’s passion and culture. I know I enjoyed it and I can't wait to go back for more!