MADRE Boutique Taqueria & Firestone Walker

MADRE Boutique Taqueria & Firestone Walker
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This pairing is dedicated to my Madre, y su Madre! We love you!

MADRE Boutique Taqueria was part-highly recommended, part-stumbled upon. My wife, Karla, had a conversation with Craig Strong, the Executive Chef and Owner of Ocean at Main (the best restaurant in Laguna Beach, California) and she mentioned our blog. Craig was intrigued and excited about our project and said, “If you ever get a chance to go to Boise Idaho, you HAVE to go check out my friend’s restaurant: MADRE Boutique Taqueria, they make the BEST tacos, you’ll love it!” After hearing the enthusiasm in Craig’s voice, we were SO EXCITED; we packed our bags and hopped on the next plane flight out to Boise, Idaho. Madre, here we come!!

Just kidding… Coincidentally, it just so happened that the following week we were attending the annual Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference, which in 2019 would be hosted in Boise, Idaho. This was perfect! Although we had a full schedule and little free time, when a Michelin rated Chef tells you to go visit a taqueria, you HAVE TO visit the taqueria. We had never been to Boise before so we didn’t know how far MADRE was from our hotel and conference and if it would even be feasible. As destiny would have it, all it took was an 8-minute Uber ride. We had an eventful, content-rich, three-day conference ahead of us, so if we wanted to visit MADRE, we had to make an executive decision. With our appetites and camera in-hand we snuck away from the 1st conference day a little early and headed over to MADRE. It was Taco Tuesday, give us a break…

There is always so much anticipation whenever we visit a new restaurant or brewery. We usually don’t know what to expect, except for what’s portrayed on Instagram and Yelp. Many times, the pictures and reviews don’t do them justice, and sometimes, they do them too much justice. That to say, MADRE Boutique Taqueria did not disappoint. The owners, John and Julie Cuevas, did a fantastic job designing a quaint and inviting ambiance.  Classic rock filled the comfortable space, and when I walked into MADRE, I felt like I was walking into a coastal, Southern California, beach-city restaurant. John, the owner, was incognito behind the counter and politely interjected into our conversation and inquired about my Tacos and Cold Ones shirt. Unaware he was the owner, my wife introduced herself and asked if he was the owner, and to our surprise, he was indeed. John spent the next 30 minutes talking to us about Madre, Tacos and Cold Ones, and our mutual friend: Craig Strong.

The menu was nothing short of impressive, which is a blessing and a curse because, unfortunately, you can’t eat all the tacos. I love restaurants whose menu is so enticing it becomes a challenge to decide what to order. MADRE Boutique Taqueria was a master at creating paralysis by analysis. I had to choose one, so I selected the first taco that caught my eye, the Pineapple Al Pastor. Shockingly, I passed-up their savory protein filled tacos for a vegetarian taco; however, I’ve never had a Pineapple taco before, so why not? The Pineapple Al Pastor is served on a flour tortilla, coated with a house blend of melted, slightly-toasted Oaxaca and Pepper Jack Cheese, and filled with plump, mojo-marinated pineapples, roasted poblano pepper strips (marinated with onions), fresh avocado, rich blue cheese, and a splash of cilantro.

The beer menu was just as impressive. What I found interesting about the selection of craft beers is that the owners made the decision to only serve craft beer from breweries outside of Idaho. This decision further distinguishes the MADRE Boutique Taqueria brand and allows them to offer unique food and drink, in a unique environment, for a unique experience. So, what better beer to pair than one that comes from the coast of California, Firestone Walker’s Mind Haze IPA, a beer I was recently introduced to and tasted a few weeks prior. Mind Haze IPA is a refreshing, juicy, well-balanced Hazy IPA, with tropical fruit notes, a lingering bitterness, and round, yet effervescent on the pallet.

Although John wasn’t taking orders, he was quick to serve his guests and immediately brought our drinks to the table. Not only was I impressed by the hospitality; I was also impressed by the choice of glassware he served our respective beers in. No craft beer menu is complete without the proper glassware, and MADRE has that dialed in. The Mind Haze IPA was presented in my favorite beer glass, and suitable for an IPA, a stemmed tulip: cloudy, light-goldish yellow with a bright-white, persistent head. Prominent tropical hops aromas of citrus and pine aroused my senses and prepared my pallet for my bittersweet treat. Shortly after, my Pineapple Al Pastor taco arrived, and it looks just as colorful, savory, and authentic as it sounds.

The sharp, rich aromas from the concoction of cheese and toasty tortilla provoked my childhood memories of my grandmothers’ homemade quesadillas. It was a distinct aroma, one that brought back moments of bliss. I couldn’t help but smile. The first bite is always the best. The warm flakes of the toasty flour tortilla met my tongue, followed by a burst of sweet and savory pineapple. Then I took a sip of the hazy IPA and savored the flavor interactions on my palate. The fusion of flavors was euphoric. The hoppy bitterness of the IPA canceled out the musty, sharpness of the blue cheese while allowing the creaminess to resonate across the tongue. The carbonation cut the fatty, rich blended Oaxaca and spicy pepper jack cheese, heightening the spicy pepper notes. The bitterness of the beer also enhanced the mild-chili spice of the roasted poblano peppers, giving it a subtle pop to complement the sweet pineapple. A gush of juicy pineapple was elevated by tropical fruity notes of the Mind Haze IPA and balanced by its hoppy bitterness. The tropical citrus notes of the beer abated the subtle bitterness of the cilantro while allowing the citric herbal notes to be enhanced. The Mind Haze IPA provides just enough tingle to reduce the lingering aftertaste of the funky cheeses and cleanses the palate in preparation for the next bite, which is perfect because one bite just isn’t enough.

If you would have asked me a week prior if I thought I’d be enjoying a vegetarian Pineapple Al Pastor taco with a refreshing hazy IPA at an up-scale taqueria in Boise, Idaho, the answer would have been no. The best experiences in life are those that are unplanned and unexpected. As phenomenal as the pairing was, it was the experience and ambiance at MADRE Boutique Taqueria that will bring me back again one day soon. Besides, there are many more tacos I still need to try!

Steven