Jeff Smith 6 p.m., Feb. 27
Oasis in Escondido
I look for reasons to drive all the way up north and east to Escondido, because I know that right off the Centre City Parkway exit, a haven from the modern world awaits. Hacienda de Vega is a 1930s residence-turned-restaurant. And every time I step through the old house and onto the back patio (there is no indoor dining here), I feel like I'm stepping out of "real-life" and entering a fantasy land, where water flows into a pond from off of a rooftop, and vibrant flowers are visited by chirping birds, and the clear blue sky is framed only by foliage.
Aside from the long breaths my body lets go upon entering the space, my favorite thing about this spot is the Hacienda Margarita: blended with tamarindo and served in a chile-salt rimmed glass with a slice of lime and fresh jicama, it's refreshing, spicy, and, of course, intoxicating. This is the only place I know of that serves such a beverage (if you find another, please let me know).
I was disappointed to arrive for one of my afternoon sojourns and find that the tacos de lechuga had been removed from the menu. In fact, it looks like the entire thing has been simplified, but I was happy to discover some of my old favorites are still on there. Fortunately, I have an old photo of the lettuce wraps, which were filled with shredded pork, mandarin oranges, raisins, and nuts, and topped with a very spicy and sweet sauce.
Served once you sit are fresh chips and four types of salsa.
David and I both love the sopes, "campesino tortillas" covered with your choice of different combinations, such as potato and chorizo.
My favorite entree is the Sabana Invierno, "thinly sliced beef tenderloin, grilled and covered with refried beans, hot red sauce, and melted manchego cheese." The meat is always tender and delicate, and the manchego is an excellent flavor complement. Sorry this picture is so terrible, the red of our umbrella had its way.
David got the carnitas, and ate every bite.
So that you can see and hopefully feel what it's like to sit where I sat, here's a short video from my recent visit: