Friday, September 16, 2011
Pieday: Key Lime at Rolando's
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, all my entries right now are focusing on places that have cheese dip on the menu. Technically, this is not the case for Rolando’s, since what you read on the menu is “Queso Flamado.” And that, my friends, bears little similarity to native Arkansas cheese dip. Doesn’t mean it isn’t good…
The pie, though, bears special mention.
I have to say, I love and adore Rolando’s. I usually over-order just so I have something to take home with me. I could easily just sit and enjoy the El Plato Cubano ($7.25 at lunch), billed as Castro’s favorite with just rice and beans and cheese and guacamole — and be happy as a clam. But I usually get the same dish every time. Sad of me?
Well, if you’ve ever tried Rolando’s Quesadillas de Chivo ($7.95 lunch, $14.95 dinner) you would understand why. This beautiful dish is… well, beautiful. Goat cheese quesadillas. Oh my oh my oh my. The almost tart, always fresh goat cheese pressed between two flour tortillas is simply fantastic. I paid a buck more and had chicken added and I don’t know why — because while the chicken was good, it was completely unnecessary. The real secret to the goodness behind the dish is the complex flavors brought on by drizzles of a chimichurri style green Argentinian sauce and a pureed mango salsa. The triangles of quesadilla are served up with a big pile of vegetation — corn and beans and rice and some tomatoes and a lot of sour cream and more of the sauces — and some beautiful red tortilla chips.
My companion, completely overwhelmed with the choices, decided to give the Plato de Aventura ($9.25 lunch, $18.95 dinner) a spin… and was greeted with so many different variations. There was of course a tamale on top, fat and cornhusk wrapped, savory and delicious. There were plump highly seasoned shrimp, a delicate chicken enchilada, a goat cheese quesadilla wedge, guacamole, black beans, rice, corn, pickled onions and a grilled chicken breast. Way too much good food and all of it just splendid.
Now, that “cheese dip.” We’d ordered a half order of the Queso Flamado without the chorizo (since I can’t have the pork) and were greeted with a tortilla-lined bowl of soft, fragrant melted cheese — which was set aflame when it came to the table. The flames didn’t last long, and neither did the cheese. It was… well, it wasn’t much of being dip-able. I ate it with a fork, pulling off bits and stuffing them into soft flour tortillas while my dining companion did the same with his corn tortilla chips.
It’s queso cheese… it’s good cheese, and it has magnificent pull. What sort of pull? THIS sort of pull. As in able to stand up and walk upstairs and still carry on this string of cheese pull. Amazing. Tasty.
So, I was going to tell you about this pie. Now, mind you, our drop-in on Rolando’s came in the middle of a pie trip to the Hot Springs area, and we’d already eaten four pies that day (and would have another three before the afternoon was over). Each of these pies (except the one at Red Oak Fillin Station) we’d take a single bite of, rate and then put in a box.
We sorta did that. The entire time we were sampling this pie we were arguing over how much we should eat. It was fabulous.
I’m not much on thick crust pies, but I was able to overlook the overenthusiastic graham cracker crust with this one — because the custard within was so good. Fresh key limes, very tart, made not just the traditional custard base but also the whipped layer above, giving two entirely different texture sensations. It was topped with generous dollops of whipped cream and a nice counterpoint drizzle of raspberry couli that somehow wasn’t as tart as this pie.
We ate most of it. Some went in the box, sure, but it was hard to stop. Still walked out of there with three big take-out boxes of food.
Ah, here’s the thing. We went to the Hot Springs location… and there’s this patio. It was way to dang hot to sit on the patio that day but today would be perfect for it. It’s a grand oasis away from Bathhouse Row and Central Avenue, and you should enjoy it. Sometimes there’s live music. Always there’s great food.
You’ll find this Rolando’s at 210 Central Avenue in Hot Springs. There are also locations in Fort Smith and Rogers. Go check out the website.