TWIN PICANTES

Again the chips let us down. They're buttered and hard. A cheese crisp is definitely the way to go. It's greasy and crunchy, but topped with loads of jack-longhorn cheese.

The rest of our order is out soon, delivered on a tiered metal cart. A Navajo taco is really a taco salad in a fry bread shell. I'm disappointed. However, a cheese enchilada is great: low to the plate and tasting of roasted cheese and white onion.

I'm not enthusiastic about a red beef tamale. It's airy and heavy on the beef, but I should have known. Josie Cuca, who owns La Casita, is related to the owners of Casa Reynoso. The two recipes are obviously derived from the same source.

A half-and-half plate of red chili and refrieds is pretty good. Our waitress urges me to "get right over it" while I'm eating. It's good advice. An excellent buttered flour tortilla helps me in my effort. The chili is full flavored but mild, and full of small cubes of beef. A nice pinto-bean flavor swirls through the creamy refrieds.

La Paloma is a hard act to follow. We leave more food behind at La Casita than anywhere else we've eaten. Of the four restaurants we've visited, I'd rank it fourth.

We return to the Cloud Nine and watch Lethal Weapon 2. Uggh. As we head back to Phoenix the next day, I try to summarize what I've learned about about Globe-Miami-style Mexican food. Butter seems to be a key ingredient--it's everywhere. Green chiles are beloved and cooked with respect. On the whole, the food seems to be plainer, the sauces simpler and thinner. The chips are awful. Everything is served on doubled plates.

Beyond these basic observations, I confess I'm still trying to dope out what it is that makes mountain-style Mexican food so good. In the words of Judas Priest, "you've got another thing comin'" if you think this case is closed. I plan to work on this one for oh, say, five more pounds. I think there might be subliminals punched into the cymbal crashes on "Bloodstone."

Casa Reynoso, 3138 South Mill, Tempe, 966-0776. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m., Sunday.

La Paloma Cafe, 722 Sullivan Street, Miami, 473-9910. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

El Rey Cafe, 999 North Broad Street, Globe, 425-6601. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

La Casita Cafe, 470 North Broad Street, Globe, 425-8462. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Closed Tuesday.

Cafe Reynoso

The following morning I call Governor Rose Mofford to see if she can describe her hometown's Mexican food. El Rey Cafe

Here it is Saturday night and families are out together, even the older kids. Kinda reminds me of the small town I grew up in. Sniff.

La Casita

Stranded without my Judas Priest records for guidance, I am hoping tonight's dinner will make things clearer.

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