1.08.2014

A Taco Friend is a Friend for Life

 
Yesterday was just another day, working hard at my cozy little cafe down in Southern Baja, California.

I look up and all of a sudden I see a friendly, familiar face. A face I know from the LA Taco Scene (and Facebook.) The face of one of the nicest and most talented people I have ever met.

I was thrilled, dumbfounded, surprised. WHAT THE...... Esdras Ochoa, partner in the wonderous Mexicali Taco Co. had come to visit. He was actually staying in Cabo but he made the effort to drive over an hour up the coast to our tiny town. He said he would come one day to visit and he actually did!

I was a little bummed I didn't get advance notice because I would have busted out a special taco for him, probably even some balloons. He was right to just surprise me.



It was so fun serving him our humble daily classics: crispy pancakes, breakfast sandwich, combo plate of Mediterranean salads... I gave him some visitor's tips - always fun... and sent him on his way.

The whole day I kept smiling and shaking my head.... WOW.

It made me realize how much I do miss eating in LA and how we that love tacos and especially those of us who can cook a taco, share a warmth and a bond that is lasting.

I heart.
ox

10.25.2013

Tacos Punta Cabras


 
I'd been wanting to try these tacos since they opened, but I pretty much left for my life in Mexico about a month after they opened. I continued to read the rave reviews and it stayed at the top of my 'to try' list until this last visit when I finally made it there.

I must preface my review by saying that the Taco Maven is not a hater and it causes her great stress to have to post a somewhat negative review on a place that Yelp gives 4.5 stars. But I also feel that I have to be truthful about my experience. It was just one day and a few tacos. People have off days... clearly for the most part these guys put out a good product that people love but I did not love this place, the service or the tacos.

Granted we were the first ones there, at 11am on a weekday. Everybody looked and acted hungover like they couldn't be bothered to explain how you have to fill out your own form to order tacos. No explanation, just two pieces of paper handed to us.

 

So we filled them out. A few people came in five minutes after us and got their tacos right away. We waited what seemed like a long time for a few tacos in a not crowded place. When we finally got our tacos, they were mostly cold and soggy. The fish taco was just weak all around... soggy batter, no zing. The tortilla was good, the salsas were pretty typical - red/green in a mild/med/hot division. VERY non-plussed.

I was so happy before the food came.
 
Cauliflower Ceviche - So pretty but no Zing

I also ordered the cauliflower ceviche tostada. It was raw in keeping with the ceviche concept of raw fish with a strong flavor of vinegar but not much else. It could have used some olive oil, garlic, seasoning. The tostada itself was the typical store bought affair, and had a mealy texture. I was foolishly hoping the cauliflower would be caramelized but it was 'ceviche' after all.

The shrimp taco was much better than the fish in that it was warmer and a bit more toward crispy instead of soggy. But it lacked flavor. These guys need to take another trip to Baja where I assume they've been since they named their place after a surf point in Ensenada. At first I had trouble remembering the name... Goat Point tacos? But it's a fish only place? Hmmmmmm.....


The best taco I ate that day was the tofu taco. It was delicious. Deep fried in the batter. Hot, crispy. It worked for me though I don't really love tofu or tofu tacos. Toward the end of our visit, one of the managers made an effort to be cordial but it was too little too late. Until that point, every request we made was met with a supressed sigh and a slight eye roll.

 
At one point one of the cooks came out to the front counter area and screamed out a few song lyrics and then walked back to the kitchen. It was a bizarre experience all around.

I'm going to chalk it up to young hipsters with a hangover who got in a little late that day and didn't have time to get the oil up to temperature or the motivation to be nice to a couple of people that were too old (40's) to fit into their uber carelessly hip matrix.

PS. They get high marks for hip with regard to decor (especially the Lucha Libre bottle-opener) but their off white bench cushions were smudged and dirty looking.

Taco Maven out.

9.22.2013

Project Taco Gourmet Snack Shop



Guest Blog Post by James Michael Longton

Greetings Fellow Tacophiles!

I hope you are happy and eating tacos. I am living down in Mexico and can't always rush off to the nearest Taco Hotspot. But luckily I have friends who are willing to act as my taco spy.

My good friend James Longton, who lives in Hermosa Beach, alerted me to the opening of a new taco place that specializes in offbeat tacos including 3 varieties of breakfast tacos. The breakfast taco is something they really get into in Tejas (Texas) but not so much here.

Breakfast Taco w/ Goat Cheese and Guacamole

These look worthy of a test drive. Even the Lox taco! Please see his review below.

When word got out that a new place had opened on the Hermosa Promenade called ‘Project Taco Gourmet Snack Shop,’ I was naturally intrigued. 

Upon arrival, I was immediately taken by the eclectic diversity of their menu. With several interesting options available, I decided to start with something somewhat traditional, and ordered the chicken and avocado taco with pineapple habanero salsa.

Chicken Habanero Taco
 
After a couple bites, the first thing to grab my attention was the tortilla. “That’s a blend of white corn and whole wheat,” said owner and renowned local chef Nick Fontova.“It was important to me from the beginning to keep our tortillas healthy as well as tasty, and with these we don’t have to use any oil.”

I’m a big fan of Mexican cuisine, and it’s always fun to see what springs from the mind of a taco chef looking to think outside the box. So next I went with the Thai Peanut Chicken Taco. While it tends to be a favorite of mine, I’d never had Thai peanut in a tortilla. 
 
Garnished with shredded carrot, cucumber, honey, and cilantro…it totally worked, with just enough of a spicy kick to be exciting without being overwhelming. The Blueberry Chicken Taco wasn't too sweet but rather tangy and had a nice crispy topping of a kale and apple coleslaw.

Blueberry BBQ Chicken Taco

“We’re having fun trying new things and seeing what people like,” continued Fontova. “For instance a lot of locals have taken to the Lox Taco,” he said as two young surfers were ordering another round. “We’re trying to create a lifestyle taco place and provide the community with some good healthy options. Something you could grab just before heading out to surf…”

They are also drawing a steady weekend crowd with the growing popularity of the breakfast taco, and still tending to the after hours clientele by keeping their doors open every night until 2am.

With tacos going for $3.50 to $4.00, their prices are reasonable, their ingredients are fresh, and the serving sizes are fair. Located at 34 Pier Ave., I found Project Taco to be well worth the visit. 

It’s always good to see someone passionate about feeding the local folk. 

www.projecttaco.com
http://www.yelp.com/biz/project-taco-hermosa-beach

8.10.2013

Tacos Fish, La Paz

 
Due to the running of a small cafe that rarely makes or sells tacos, my taco tasting days have slowed to a crawl (jaja.)
 
Sure, I live in Mexico currently and I visit LA every other month, but lack of time and also a new fear of amoebas and parasites from street food have slackened my motivation. Bill Esparza, I don't know how you do it, but I'm glad you do because reading about food on your blog is almost as exciting as eating it!

 
That being said, I FINALLY made it to a place I've been hearing about for a while. My good friend Isabel, an incredible Mexican-Lebanese chef and Bed and Breakfast owner speaks highly of this place. "What's it called?", I asked her. "Tacos Fish", she replied. What? That's not a name. Is that the name? Wait... What?
 
"Where is it?" I queried. "Oh you know, somewhere in La Paz, we can never remember where until we are there." Hmmmm.... so uninspired by the name and lack of directions, I pushed it to the back of the 'must try' list. Which I admit is a very short list for me down here.
 
 
As a restaurant owner, I go to La Paz alot more now than I did before. La Paz is the capital city of Baja Sur and sports world class fishing and diving reefs. It's very Mexican. It's no Cabo. They don't speak English readily or cater to retired fools though they do have a Walmart and a Home Depot.
 
Sooooooo.... I accidentally drive by it about 5 times in 2 weeks and my aging, taco-fogged brain goes, "Wait! That place is something! Wait. But the name is dumb but yeah right Isabel's place." Twice I try to go on a Monday, they are closed. Finally I go on a Saturday and guess what? It's effing FANEFFINGTASTIC. Really really REALLY good.
 
 
Crisp, clean, friendly, efficient, cheap, high quality, great salsas. DELISH. Solid, flakey, juicy fish and shrimp tacos AND deep fried crab tacos. Oh yeah. It was almost like being at Mariscos Jalisco. Not quite but almost.
 
"Soooooo goooooood." This is my 'sous chef' Jose Manuel immitating me with a funny American accent (he speaks no English) when I really like something.
 
 
That was his final verdict on these tacos. Mine too. Coming soon to Cabo but until then, this page has directional info for La Paz location. www.tacofish.com
 

6.20.2013

El Fogón, San Jose del Cabo


I have been craving and devouring the AMAZING Pastor tacos at Guacamayas (2 locations) in the Cabo area for 5 years now. I am a big fan. I have NO COMPLAINTS. Not only is their Pastor rocking, the rest of the menu is awesome too.

OK. I have one complaint. They are not open for lunch.

Recently someone told me about an "amazing" Pastor place in San Jose. I assumed they meant Guacamayas, but no, they were talking about a place I'd never heard of: El Fogón, which means "the oven" or "the stove."



I trotted right over there. By trotted I mean that I drove an hour from Todos Santos, where I am currently living, to San Jose.

The verdict. Very good Pastor. Very clean. Very nice people. Open ALL DAY AND NIGHT. Nice Palapa seating too.... BUT.... not as good as Guacamayas in my humble opine. Not caramelized enough. No fun pineapple flipping tricks. No addictive sweet yet 'melt in your mouth' texture. Solid for sure but nothing to drive an hour for or even take a plane 2 hours S. of Los Angeles.

You can't see the Pina in this shot but it is there.

Extra melted cheese with your Pastor.

However, when in San Jose, they provide an excellent lunch or snack, especially during the day when Guacamayas is closed. They are located at the top of a one way street that starts in the Old Town square and goes straight up to the highway. It's the same street as the French Riviera Bakery and is called Manual Doblado. If you take it straight up, right before you get back to the Hwy you will see El Fogon on your right.