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22 Catt. 4: The Salsa Room Quesadillas and Empanadas

2013 July 31

Opinion of CHIEF JUSTICE JEREMY, in chambers.

I granted cartiorari to The Salsa Room (TSR) Quesadillas and Empanadas (TSRQAE), a mobile offshoot of Columbia Pike’s The Salsa Room, purveying, well, quesadillas and empanadas. Or salteñas, rather, which may or may not even be empanadas at all. A salteña is Bolivian, it is baked, and, I gather, its filling is more soup- or stew-like than that of a more familiar empanada. Forced to choose between the two (sequestration affects even the halls of justice), I opted for a salteña. One of the chorizo variety, to be precise.

TSR Quesadillas & Empanadas

TSR Quesadillas & Empanadas

As an initial matter, I must determine whether a salteña is “street food” and therefore entitled to the presumption of affirmance. While the case of DC Empanadas, Catt. 3 (2011), predates our Eat Wonky test for determining whether a given foodstuff is “street food,” the logic of that case makes clear that an empanada is properly considered street food. While there is some uncertainty surrounding whether a salteña is or is not an empanada, legally the two are similar enough concepts that a salteña, too, must be considered “street food” and therefore entitled to the presumption of affirmance.

Visually, TSRQAE’s chorizo salteña is stunning. It is a perfect mound of golden dough — a rather sizable mound at that (and, at $4, something of a steal) — with a thick, shimmering braid along is crest and two red dots, two hypnotic eyes luring you in. It is served with a spoon — which, I am informed, is for salteña posers — and a diminutive vat of a thin hot sauce.

Chorizo Empanada

Chorizo empanada

One bite into the salteña reveals its stew-like innards and therein the trickiness of its consumption. My clerk was quick to inform of an unfortunate incident in which an empanada, or what must have been a salteña, ruined a perfectly fine seersucker suit. (N.B. We of the Cart cannot be understood to condone the wearing of seersucker.) Apparently the way to consume a salteña is as follows:

The way I learned to eat saltenas . . . was to hold the pastry upright in one hand and bite off the top. You can drink the liquid immediately, if you’d like, or just nibble down the edges of the saltena, sucking the stew along the way. You’re trying to achieve the perfect balance of pastry and filling with each bite.

Tim Carman, “Immigrant’s Table extra: The Salsa Room truck,” WASH. POST, October 23, 2012. I did not have the benefit of Mr. Carman’s advice at the time though I seemed to have arrived independently at his second method (i.e., nibbling and sucking). In this way, my robes managed to remain unblemished.

Chorizo empanada with hot sauce

Chorizo empanada with hot sauce

The dough itself was rich and a tad sweet, which complimented the salty, comfortably spicy filling of loose chorizo and assorted vegetable. That the dough held up to the stew-like filling was a marvel of pastry engineering. This was not the most complicated or innovative of dishes, but it didn’t really have to be. It was a terrific empanada — er, salteña — and a perfect example of street food done right.

AFFIRMED. It is so ordered.

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