Thursday, May 23, 2013

Choo Choo and Zoo Too: Birria


Have I mentioned Thatbaby's obsession with trains?  He adores them.  He loves playing with his toy trains.  He loves watching the real trains go by, and he loves riding on train rides. 

I came across a petting zoo in Orange County that mentioned it was right across from the train station.  I thought it sounded like a really fun day to take the train from San Diego to Orange County and spend some time at the petting zoo.  It would allow Thatbaby to ride on a REAL train and spend some time with animals.  I contacted Myrtle, since I hadn't seen her in a while and she lives in Orange County.  I thought it would be a great meeting up point.  And she agreed.

Thatbaby was SO excited that he was going on a train.  He kept pointing to the tracks while we were waiting saying "choo choo."  But the reality of the situation was a little more than he could handle.

It took him a little bit to calm down.  Lap cuddles certainly helped.  As was being able to look out the window.  It wasn't too long until he decided that train travel was his favorite way to go.

At every stop he would turn to us and say "more? more?" and we were happy to oblige.  He even warmed up enough to move to his very own seat.

When we got to Orange County we headed to get something to eat, and then met up with Myrtle and her family.  We all made our way to the petting zoo.  We got all the kids a tray of food to feed the animals, and Thatbaby wasted no time in getting started.  He decided this alpaca was his favorite and he fed her (him?) all his grapes.

And then we headed into area with rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens.  Myrtle made herself right at home - she's quite the bunny whisperer. And she helped Thatbaby with his first up close rabbit encounter.

Thatbaby also got some time with some guinea pigs.

 We then moved to the goat corral.

The goats were a little pushy, so Thatboy took over the feeding at this point in time, while Thatbaby ran around pointing and laughing at his new goat friends.

Thatbaby also enjoyed a little quality time with some pigs.  I think he liked the fact that they actually made the noise that he says a pig makes.

 The petting zoo also had a play area for the kids, and Thatbaby took advantage of running through the doors and sliding down the slides again and again and again.

 All in all, it was a pretty successful day!

 Our lunch before the petting zoo was at a Mexican restaurant one of Thatboy's coworkers recommended.  I'm so grateful to live in Southern California where good Mexican food is in abundance.  It's a cuisine I never tire of.  And I think part of the reason I love it so much, is because growing up on the East Coast, or version of Mexican food was completely different.  The only "Mexican" in the town I grew up in was Taco Bell.  And the next closest (45 minutes away) wasn't that much better.  Mexican food was pretty much tacos.

But there's so much more to Mexican food than tacos!  This Birria is a Mexican stew that I've never seen on a menu growing up, but makes use of fabulous Mexican flavors and meats.  If you have a carneseria near you, I highly recommend picking up your meat there.

4 dried guajillo chiles
4 dried ancho chiles
1 cup hot water
1 lb stew meat, cut into bite sized pieces
1 lb beef ribs
2 1/2 quarts water
1 onion
8 garlic cloves
2 fresh bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp chipotle chile powder
  1. Toast chiles in skillet for 30 seconds on each side.  
  2. Cover with 1 cup hot water and let sit for 20 minutes.  Pour mixture into a blender and puree.
  3. Combine the stew meat, ribs, water, onion, and 6 garlic cloves in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour.
  4. Add the bay leaves, thyme, chile puree, cumin, and oregano and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. While simmering, combine the remaining garlic, vinegar and chile powder in a blender.
  6. Serve the stew with the chipotle sauce on the side.


  1. It sound like a fun and exhausting day Thatgirl. You tired the boys out completely!!! We finally have at least one authentic Mexican restaurant here but I usually go south into Washington State even to buy ingredients.

  2. Aww such a fun day all around! You really wore the little guy out!

  3. What a great way to spend the day! Awesome.


  4. I love the train & zoo idea!

  5. What fun fun day! If ThatBaby is anything like my lil guy, the train obsession isn't going to stop anytime soon :) And your birria? I'm craving a bowl of that with some rice right about now!