WAY back in elementary school, Greg Blotsky watched another kid demonstrate carving a grapefruit into a simple fruit basket. He remembers it to this day as his first nudge toward the food business.
sizzle to mealtime
But it wasn't until he was in semi-retirement, after a successful career in real estate, that the idea resurfaced, when he came across an ad for a neighborhood restaurant for sale. He and partner Martha Harding took on Sylvester's in Kailua -- "a neighborhood bar, burger, evening entertainment place."
A few years later, though, the real story starts. After a fire in the restaurant two doors down, the owner moved on and the landlord encouraged Blotsky and Harding to take over the space as a Mexican eatery.
"I didn't know a taco from a hole in the wall -- neither did Martha," Blotsky says. But the opportunity was good, so he started studying. "X amount of time later, we had a Mexican restaurant."
They called the place Cisco's (asked where the name came from, Blotsky pantomimes flipping a coin). An experienced Mexican chef was hired and he and Blotsky collaborated on the dishes. "Mine were too mild, his were too hot, so we compromised on something in the middle."
Cisco's menu is Mexican standards, and Blotsky says his customers don't care for it when he goes too far "over the border." Mole sauce, for example. Even ceviche didn't sell. "Anything beyond your taco or enchilada is over the border for some people."
Still, he has brought creativity to the menu, using crab and kalua pig in his nachos, rellenos and enchiladas.
Blotsky has yet to carve a grapefruit, but 20 years of strong, steady business for Cisco's have not gone unnoticed. Two weeks ago, he and Harding were named Small Business Persons of the Year by Small Business Hawaii.
Opening your own restaurant may sound like a pleasant fantasy, but it involves lots of risk, Blotsky says. Success comes from "a smiling face and a keep-at-it attitude, even when your sales are down and you're getting beat up from one side to another."
Among his very steady customers is Charmaine DeCosta, who enjoys a skillet of Chicken Fajitas with her husband every other week, if not more often. "The seasoning is spicy, but tasty," she says. "Some spicy dishes are spicy, as in hot, but that doesn't mean flavorful. Cisco's fajita delivers great taste ... and they don't skimp on the seasonings, so that you can stir up the goodies in the skillet to ensure you incorporate as much of the seasonings as possible."
Cisco's serves the fajitas in sizzling cast-iron skillets. Customers make them up at the table with flour tortillas, guacamole, beans and other fixings.
Recreate that sizzle at home by carrying the skillet to the table hot off the stove, then pouring in a bit of wine. And stand back.
Chicken Fajitas3 pounds skinned and boned chicken breast
4 tablespoons chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon white pepper
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1-1/2 tablespoons crushed chile pepper
1 tablespoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted chicken base
1 red bell pepper, in strips
1 yellow bell pepper, in strips
1 red onion, in strips
1/4 cup white wine
6 8-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup guacamole
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup refried beans
Trim chicken and cut diagonally into strips. Mix with spices. Add oil and mix well. Cover and marinate.
Heat skillet. Stir-fry meat; when almost done add vegetables and wine. Remove from heat. Vegetables should remain crisp. It's best to work in 3-4 batches instead of putting everything in the pan at once. Wrap meat in tortillas and garnish as desired. Serves 8.
Nutritional information unavailable.*
Anybody ever heard of a macaroni salad made with cabbage? DeCosta, our fajita lover, is also looking for this dish on behalf of a correspondent on the mainland who refers to it as Hawaiian Macaroni Salad. Perhaps this just involves tossing some cabbage into a mac salad, but just in case, I thought I'd ask.
Can you help?
Aileen Sato is looking for a tried-and-true recipe for an pan.
Food Stuffs: Morsels
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