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A Quick Bite with Joy Rachelle Murrieta

Joy Rachelle Murrieta

They say that what you put in your mouth each day could make the difference between a highly productive, fast-paced lifestyle and a slow, listless one. Maybe eating Pollo con Mole from El Patron wasn’t exactly what they had in mind, but for Joy Rachelle Murrieta, that’s the dish that breathes life into her day and kicks off the high energy she needs to pursue her goals as an entrepreneur.

“I grew up with a lot of Mexican traditions in my house – despite being bi-racial – and one of the biggest traditions is involving food,” says Murrieta.

When the Europeans arrived in Mexico in 1517, Mexico’s indigenous people included Aztecs of the central interior, the Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula, and Zapotec in the south. Their diet consisted of mainly corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and herbs. The Spanish explorers introduced livestock and after ruling Mexico for over 300 years, they too left a mark on the culture, people, and cuisine of the indigenous people. Today, Mexican cuisine has become a staple in Murrieta’s family culture and remains at the epicenter of holidays and special occasions.

“My family loves to feast when we get together. Christmas time is the best because we get to feast on homemade enchiladas and play dominoes for hours,” she says. “I feel the strongest sense of home during the holidays because feasting is such a big part of our family dynamic and culture.”

Murrieta is a musician in addition to serving as the co-founder and program director for Main IDEA – a creative non-profit creating a community for children to experience various art forms at no cost during the summer. Both of these roles have led Murrieta to understand the power of food and its invaluable place in society. From working with low-income families to help create balanced meals to getting herself through the day, she understands the constant struggle to eat well. “I can be, kind of a workaholic, and will often find myself forgetting to eat during a busy day,” she says. “When I forget to eat, I am a ravenous force to be reckoned with and I am working on changing that. I am working on creating healthier eating habits, including having meals with more veggies and proteins and less empty carbs and sugar.”

While the goal to make healthier food decisions is one that Murrieta takes seriously, it can be hard to do when Mexican traditions call for delicious dishes like Chilaquiles – a traditional breakfast dish featuring lightly fried corn tortillas topped with green or red salsa, scrambled or fried eggs, and pulled chicken. Or, Tamales – a pocket of corn dough stuffed with either sweet or savory filling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. And, epic desserts like Churros – a cinnamon-sugar, fried treat meant to be dipped in hot chocolate. “I love homemade chicken enchiladas and breakfast burritos,” said Murrieta. “But baking is my favorite winter hobby. I love baking all sorts of things – pies, cakes, muffins, cookies, etc. If I could, I would seriously eat dessert with every meal. I have such a sweet tooth. – see how hard it is to eat healthy?”

“The wonderful thing about eating is that everybody does it. It transcends the boundaries of language and culture because everyone enjoys a satisfying meal,” she said. “I have a big family, so I am used to cooking for a lot of people and if I had a group of friends come over, I would stick to what I know: Mexican food. But, if cooking was not an option and we craved Mexican, then I’d opt for El Patron – the best Mexican food in Worcester, in my opinion. With tamales, sopapillas and mole, you can’t go wrong.”

Although Murrieta is a die-hard, Viva La Raza kind of woman, she doesn’t limit her taste buds to that of only Mexican food. “My boyfriend, Chris, and I love to eat. We enjoy savoring all the good eats in Worcester and make it a priority to try new restaurants and revisit our favorites each month,” she said. “Not in the mood for Mexican? Then I would suggest Lock 50 – especially on a night that I am performing there. There is plenty of seating – both inside and out – and their food and bar are amazing. The ambiance is beautiful and the servers are friendly. They also have the best coffee in Worcester.”

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Postres Churros y Chocolate

Postres Churros y Chocolate

Postres Churros y ChocolateAs another month of Foodies approached, I was excited for the Spanish tapas menu that awaited us at Bocado. As we arrived, we were greeted warmly by a waiter who politely showed us to our designated section for the evening’s event. The best way to start a meal is with a nice cocktail. The red sangria was a nice touch with a bright splash of Spanish red wine, brandy and fresh fruit juices.

As our meal began to come out, we were given a nice cutting board of serrano ham, and manchego cheese. The chese was creamy and firm and added a nice complement to the saltly, thinly sliced cured ham, which is very similar to proscuitto. As our appetizers continued on, the Tortilla Espanola that Bocado offered up was closer to a quiche or a frittata. The scalloped potatoes were combined nicely with a red pepper aioli, with a side of olive tapenade. The tapenade on its own was extremely bitter, however when put together with the potato dish it was a nice offset to the creamy potatoes.

Our next offering was a roasted chicken dish that was extremely tender, to the point where it fell off the bone. It was a stick to your ribs sort of dish that would be perfect for a cold winter evening. The seasoning was perfect with a subtle hint of orange and rosemary. This chicken would be perfect in a homemade chicken soup, like Mom used to make.

Still in our appetizer section, we were treated to fried Calamares Con Ajo with an orange horseradish cream. The Calamares Con Ajo was cooked perfectly and the breading was nice and light. However, I found the sauce a little too acidic. I personally would have liked a little more kick from the horseradish and less of the lemon and orange that seemed to overpower the whole dish.

Our main course consisted of two different paella dishes: Paella Clasica and Paella de Carne. One dish was the meat paella featured chorizo, chicken, duck and veal. This was my personal favorite. The meat provided a really rich flavor to the dish and it was something different. Being an adventurous eater, I liked the unusual meats that you normally wouldn’t try in restaurant circumstances. The other paella was their classic paella offering. This was a rice dish with assorted seafood, calamari, little neck clams, mussels, and chorizo. The only negative thing that I could say about the dish was that it was quite salty. But with that said and knowing that there was a lot of seafood, that didn’t really surprise me.

Next was onto dessert: Postres Churros y Chocolate. A traditional Spanish dessert included a wonderfully fried churro with a chocolate dipping sauce. The churros were nicely dusted with a sugar and the semi-sweet chocolate was not overpowering and a really nice way to end the meal. Needless to say, we left Bocado with a full stomach, in good spirits and with another story to tell. -ED