Friday, August 7, 2015

Food News: Costa Vida Sneak Peek and Giveaway!

This past week, Brandy had the chance to visit the brand new Costa Vida location, the first of its kind in the Midwest, and find out exactly what sets this fast service Mexican restaurant apart from its competition.

The recently opened restaurant is the first out of the West Coast and features a variety of Baja inspired entrees, snacks, and desserts that put the focus on freshness.  Nothing in the restaurant is ever frozen, and in fact nothing can be, as the locations don't keep any freezers on site.  All of the meats are prepared fresh on the grill or slow cooked, all of the veggies are chopped by hand, and even the tortillas (which come in both corn and flour varieties) are made fresh by hand to order.  Indeed, the toasty smell of the tortillas cooking was the first thing that pulled Brandy in.  "This is most certainly what I like to see in my Mexican food," she commented, hypnotized by the spinning tortilla cooker, "A little bit of extra effort goes a long way to making deliciousness!"

The menu at Costa Vida is fairly simple, but infinitely customizable.  Entrees include items like Burritos, Enchiladas, Tacos, Salads, and Nachos, but diners can design their meals in almost any way they see fit, from their protein choices to the sauces to what kind of beans they want, and of course which of the freshly made tortillas they would like.  This means that not only will carnivores be pleased with the offerings, but everyone else from vegetarian to pescitarians to gluten free eaters will also have plenty to choose from.  The cuisine is authentically Baja inspired, meaning the dishes aren't overloaded with needless heat and feature lots of fresh produce.  Fans of more American style Mexican food won't be disappointed either, as traditional staples like rice and beans, guaccamole, and salsa and chips are served as well, but here they are given fresh twists (like adding cilantro and lime juice to the rice or mango to the salsa) and prepared with the kind of care one doesn't often see in similar chains.

The signature meats consist of things like the Sweet Pork (shredded slow cooked pork in a tangy, fruity sauce), the Raspberry Chipotle Chicken, and Shredded Beef with slight up charges for Grilled Steak and Baja Shrimp.  The variety of sauce and dressings was truly a thing to see, with choices including Roasted Green Chili, Tomatillo Cilantro, and smokey Red Enchilada for hot entrees and Mango Salsa, Tomatillo Ranch, or Cilantro Lime and Raspberry Chipotle Vinagrettes for cold entrees.  Brandy had great fun mixing and matching some of the different flavors, but she found in the end that the staff really were the best resource when it came to picking winning combinations.  In fact, when she ordered up a Steak Enchilada with a corn tortilla and some red sauce, one of the workers behind the counter asked if he might make one of her enchiladas "his way" with the green chili sauce, and though she was loath to admit someone else had been right, Brandy had to say that his suggestion had been the better of the two.

Happily. there are also several desserts on the menu at Costa Vida that help to round out any meal.  The Cinnamon Tortilla is exactly what it sounds like; a warm tortilla dusted with cinnamon and sugar and rolled up to create a sweet, spicy, and chewy treat that goes especially well with the house horchata.  The trio of signature desserts (Tres Leches Cake, Key Lime Pie, and Flan) all came served with a generous swirl of real whipped cream and some fruit for garnish.  While the Key Lime was sufficiently sweet and sour and the flan was amazingly creamy and delicious, Brandy's favorite was the Tres Leches cake, which was moist, sweet, and sumptuous.

Has your interest been sufficiently peeked in Costa Vida's fresh and tasty cuisine?  Then you're in luck!  Brandy has arranged a give away of a Costa Vida Silver card that will entitled its own to one free entree once a month for a year!  That means you'll have plenty of opportunities to experiment with all of the components in order to create the perfect dish!  Only Chicago residents can enter, as the card is only good at the Chicago location on Lake Street.  Giveaway will run Friday 8/7 through 11:00 PM CST 8/13 with the winner being announced on 8/14.  The winner will have 24 hours after being notified to send their shipping address, otherwise another winner will be chosen.  Good luck, brunch fans!

The writers of this blog were invited by the restaurant to sample to menu and provided with materials for the giveaway at no charge in order to facilitate the writing of this post.

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