Have you ever been frying some eggs in a pan, added cheese, and then had the cheese melt and drip off onto the pan. It quickly burns hard, and, if you're like me, these tasty little nuggets are a special treat for the cook - they don't make it to the table.
Well, imagine a thick sheet of cheese almost a foot square, pressed into a chalupa shape and then deep-fried for a moment (to get it to freeze in the chalupa shape). That's what Bumble Bee is using as a lo-carb substitute for tostadas in his new Lo-Carb Chalupa.
I'd read about these in last week's Santa Fe Reporter, and I called to order one for carryout just now. I ordered mine with chicken (mahi-mahi and giant shrimp are the other options), and was a bit stunned when the total for this one-item order was announced: "$9.07."
Me: "NINE OH SEVEN?"
Me: "For a CHALUPA?"
BB: "Well, it's eight-fifty plus tax."
Well, everything I've had at Bumble Bee's Baja Grill (301 Jefferson, Santa Fe, (505) 820-2862, at the intersection of Jefferson and N. Guadalupe Streets) has been good, so . . . why not roll with the homies, knock on wood, and see what I get? "Fine," I told the guy on the phone.
When I arrived to pick up my chalupa ten minutes later, I was handed a fairly sizeable box (6"x4"x7.5") in one of Bumble Bee's giant shopping-sized takeout bags (along with a free Bumble Bee advertisement pen! - "Fresh is Good!"). I loaded up three of the little plastic containers at the salsa bar with cilantro, mild roasted tomato salsa and lime-y hot tomatillo salsa, and went back to my office to see what my $9.07 had bought me.
The chalupa was sizable, and heavy. I weighed it: 20 ounces (a pound and a quarter of food!) before the salsas went on. The fried cheese bowl was about six inches across and deep, and was scalloped (so there was lots of surface area to break off and scoop with). It was filled with healthy portions of shredded cooked chicken with spices and black beans (pintos were, of course, an option, as well) sitting on a bed of fancy salad greens. There was a garnish of tomatoes and cabbage, as well as a middling-generous amount of sour cream and a downright generous amount of guacamole.
It was good, like everything I've had at Bumble Bee's. No, it was very good. The chicken was lightly flavored in and of itself, the beans were perfectly done, and the salsas and guacamole were wonderful. The cheese was actually a bit saltier than I would have liked, but it was a HUGE quantity of cheese - so that may have had something to do with it. The tissue paper lined cardboard box kept the juices from soaking through to my desk, and I have ended up quite full and happy.
So . . . was the chalupa WORTH nine dollars (plus the tip for the counter guy)? Well, it IS Santa Fe, and it WAS very good, and it was a heck of a lot of food. So, I guess it was. I suspect this will not be a frequent carry-out lo-carb lunch for me (easier on the wallet to get the $4 half-pounder green chile cheeseburger at Bert's Burger Bowl and throw away the bun), but I'm sure I'll have it again because it was pretty darn good. And I'm glad to see that Bumble Bee has a low carb option (which makes his restaurant now a place I can go back to with friends at lunch) on the menu.
Plus, the fried-cheese shell was a really creative solution to the question of "how does one make a chalupa lo-carb"! :-)