11.30.2010

An Opiniated List of Taco Places and Burritos in San Francisco

biting into a 'super taco' for $4 from Los Hermanos

A Note about Tacos in SF. On one of my first trips, in search of a crispy taco, I came upon Nick’s Crispy Tacos. That place is beyond awful. In the daylight you can see the barf stains on the carpet by the bar and it smells bad. The tacos were crappy too.

On that same trip I had some pretty decent crispies at La Canasta. Old women silently frowning over a hot grill. Nice people. Good prices.

Of course everyone loves the Mission. La Taqueria and La Cumbre being 2 of the authentico hotspots. I haven’t hit those yet, but  I will.

A visiting Frenchmen told me about Papito, but he pronounced it Pah-pee-teau with the emphasis on the 'teau' and it sounded very French. I took a look at their menu and I’m not sure what I feel or think about it, but people seem to like it. I am just an upscale fusion taco biatch. No way around it.

People also recommended Mamasita on Chesnut, but I didn't have a chance to try. That will probably be my first stop next time.
We tried to find the mysterious weird fish taco bike , but I think they are on hiatus.
I had a GREAT taco experience at Tacolicious on Chestnut Street. Sure, the Filet Mignon taco was $6.50, but it was goooooooooooood. So was my Pomegranate Margarita. 
Across the street from Tacolicious was a cool old neon sign that said Los Hermanos.  I thought it was a dark bar/restaurant that would have good crispy old school tacos, but when we went over there it was actually a bright hole-in-the-wall fast food place next to a cool old divey bar. 

I said to myself, ‘self, if they don’t have a crispy taco we are so outta here’. But they did have one. Their ‘super taco’ with ground beef, guacamole, sour cream, yellow cheese and lettuce in pre-baked shell was a tasty 1970's flashback. I had to take it home to eat it because I was pretty full, but it held up and tasted great in my friend's kitchen. YUM.

PS Just for your reading pleasure... here is a list of the Best Burritos in SF... up for debate apparently!

11.23.2010

A Mexican Thanksgiving Feast with Recipes!




I am a person who sometimes needs a 'theme' to keep things interesting. Take Thanksgiving for instance, Turkey, stuffing, cranberries... yeah yeah... Sometimes a creative cook can get bored. One year, 2005 I believe, inspired by a Bon Appetit issue I had been hoarding since 1994, I convinced my friend to do a Mexican infused Thanksgiving Dinner. This recipe for Achiote Turkey w/ Ancho Chile Gravy was the centerpiece and boy was it crazy crazy good.

Mexican Turkey Recipe

I believe we accompanied it with corn pudding, mexican rice, calabasa, salad with jicima, avocado and tangerines etc. You could also serve spanish rice, tortillas and even pumpkin flan for desert. OR you could just try this turkey on a special Sunday between now and Xmas. Or even apply it to a roast chicken. It's an AWESOME recipe.

Another favorite alternative to the usual pie suspects, is this pumpkin layer cake. Cakes are fun. I never bake as I live in a city surrounded by excellent bakers and usually prefer to pick something up rather than suffer through the exacting alchemy of baking.  But once a year.... or maybe twice. :)

Pumpkin Layer Cake

You can spice up your favorite CRANBERRY recipe by adding these ingredients...

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon chipotle hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For a fun starter, try this pumpkin soup with Mexican crema and toasted pumpkin seeds. Add less broth than they say and look to reviewers notes for tweaks. Speaking of  pumpkin seeds, I was thinking that a PIPPIAN sauce would work great on a slab of salmon if you don't eat turkey!

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

I can't really think of a way to sneak a taco in on this day, but you can always run out for one the day before while you are cooking!

11.19.2010

Burritos are not Tacos. Why the Taco Maven Prefers Tacos


http://www.greattacohunt.com/2010/11/top-10-bean-and-cheese-burritos-in-la.html

We taco sluts have to take a break from time to time and eat something else at the local stand. But what? Well... I guess a burrito is the next best thing. El Bandini has been eating tacos and blogging about it for 5 years, so of course he needs to take a break every now and then.

When he told me he was going to do a bean and cheese burrito post, all of a sudden I couldn't stop thinking about bean and cheese burritos. I am not a huge fan of the burrito because in 'America' they are too huge - like some kind of nightmare porn penis - WHAT THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH THAT?!?!?! "Eat me. Bitchez."

My very best friend in all the world is still a devotee of BAJA BUD'S veggie burrito. It always looks so tasty when she eats it, but that's because she's a friggin supermodel Shewould look good eating a shoe and make you want to eat that shoe too.

Basically, I need crunch and burritos are soft and soggy. I guess all those mushy beans and melted cheese could constitute comfort food, sort of like savory ice cream or mac and cheese. Can you tell I'm not convinced.

IF, and that is a big IF, I am going to have a been and cheese burrito, I like 'em skinny and firm. I don't want to get too full and I don't want to have to eat it fast before it falls apart and get a stomach ache. In Mexico at the OXO which is like their 7-Eleven, they sell AWESOME bean and cheese cigar style burritos. When you order them for breakfast, you get three skinnies instead of one pregnant gordo roll-up.

If this is your thing and you don't know about El Bandini, check out his very thorough and well-thought-out top ten bean and cheese burrito list. It definitely has me thinking... so much so that at Whole Foods today I bought a 'kid's' bean and cheese burrito to go for like $2. It was all yellow gooey cheese after I baked it for 10 minutes, but at least it was small and firm!

Tacotacotacotacotacotacotacotaco...

11.17.2010

Tacos El Caminero, Mexico City and Taco's Chester Recipe



The sign says 'el' but the menu says 'del' it's all the same really. The food is still great. Caminar is the verb' to walk', so literally, the man who walks... but the idiom is some kind of road worker or laborer. A guy who works hard all day and then needs a really good taco.

My gourmedar did not fail me. I was walking around this great neighborhood where all the streets are named after rivers, right behind the gold angel. I saw a lot of taco stands etc. but this one called to me.

Very simple place. I was drawn to the Tacos Chile Chester. Invented by some guy in the kitchen, not sure how long ago. I ordered 3 tacos and a got a plate full of this wonderful mixture with 8 tortillas on top. It was easily enough for two.

I was so inspired by this tastiness that I decided to recreate the recipe at home as best I could. See recipe below... came out pretty nicely. YUM-EEEEEEEE.

Serves 4.

1 lb of sausage mix. Great if it's chorizo but I used mild italian. (if it comes in casing, squeeze it out)
1 large pasilla chile chopped finely
1 white onion chopped finely
4 slices of bacon, chopped into small bits
1/4 tsp of cumin, corriander, cinnamon, smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste

saute onions and peppers first until they soften and start to caramelize.
add the bacon and let it brown
add the sausage do the same
cook over medium heat
let it all get good and brown and greasy... about 25 min.

Just before serving, sprinkly 1/2 to 3/4 cup of white (jack or manchego) cheese over the top. It will melt. Turn off heat right away but don't stir. You will load this mixture into your warmed tortilla right from the pan cheese side up.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, avocado (if you like) and a big spoonful of your favorite salsa.

DELISH

Tacos Gus in La Condesa, Mexico City



The ultimate in Mexico style tacos. Gus is the brother or relative of the people at Tacos Hola. He decided to bust a move and open his own place. He is young and has lots of ideas. His place is very very very HIP. He is so so so nice and all his workers are nice too.

He literally has 20 kinds of tacos which you can see in the video. Lots of veggie options too... zuchinni squash, cauliflower, chile relleno etc.

His salsas are wonderful and he even has a bowl of pineapple to put on the pastor. Now to be fair, I only tried 6 tacos... and the only weak link of the 6 was the pastor, I think because his trompo was very small and they cut it off and fried it on the grill.

For some reason it just didn't have the right texture or flavor. No way can it beat Cueva Leon, because that is basically all they do over there. But really, who needs pastor when you have all these other amazing things all for about $1.25.

I can't say enough how great this is and how you must must must MUST go there!!!!!!

Tacos Hola and Cueva Leon. Great Tacos in Mexico City!



This first video represents two places. The first place is pretty much a hole in the wall on Amsterdam Ave. where I had two amazing things there I never had before. The ALAMBRE taco is indeed related to the word alambre which means 'wire'. The meat is cooked on a shish-kabob. The metal stick being thought of as a type of wire. More Arabian influence. After it's cooked it's chopped up into a delicious mixture of meat, onions and peppers.

The second amazing taco was just called LONGANIZA. I learned that this is a special kind of sausage, different from chorizo in that it is less spicy and must have anise seeds in it. Popular in Portugal and Puerto Rico and even the Phillipines! VERY interesting. I really liked the sweetness and the mix had lots of caramelized onions in it too.

They really know their shite here. So so so so so FUN being a global jet setting taco reporter.

PS. Here is a great youtube video of Don Gueros. They are very well known and popular. I walked by their cart but this must be their restaurant...

11.12.2010

Eating in and Around Mexico City. Food Heaven in La Condesa


Yes it's true. I am here al centro de tacos en DF, aka Mexico City. I am focusing only on tacos and doing a bit of salsa dancing. I am not going to any museums (gasp). And I am not shopping.

So far I have eaten....

Amazing Pastor Tacos (La Cueva del Leon)
Crazy Good Alhambre Tacos (@ Tacos Hola)
Revelatory Longaniza Taco (sausage, onions, magic @ Tacos Hola)
Falafelito (little mini balls in mini bread. It was GREAT)
Delicious thin crust prosciutto w/ fig pizza (From Pizza Amore)
The Best Tacos in The World (Tacos Gus)
Lip Smacking Celery Salad (Delirio)
Gyro style tacos (Tacos Greco)
Tasty Gourmet (Gulie)
Perfect French Onion Soup (Rojo Bistro)
Innovative Cardammom Roll (Fresh, by Diego)
Decadent Tacos Chester (Tacos El Caminero)

I am only here for 5 days but sweating it all off at one of the most beautiful yoga studios I have ever seen at Bikram Yoga on Campeche in La Condesa.

Life is goooooooooooooooooooood.

Here is my journey through the Reforma area, right behind the big famous statue of the golden angel. The statue commemorates heroes from their fight for independence from Spain and was started in 1902. It really is very cool and worth seeing.

Taqueria El Greco, Mexico City, La Condesa



The sign alone is priceless. The man in the blue shirt to the left is the proud owner. He is not Middle Eastern, but rather Russian. There is definitely some Middle Eastern culture hanging around here, especially Lebanese.

As we know from our history lesson, the Moors influenced Spain and Spain influenced Mexico.

I am told that the Pastor style taco was brought to this city in the 1950's. But this is not traditional Mexican pastor. They do use pork, but you have the option of pita bread and the spices are definitely 'Greco' or estilo Griega. I absolutely ADORED their pita taco with melted cheese. They also make good looking hamburgers and also steak tacos NOT from the spit, at your request.

Very inexpensive. Very popular. The owner really was a delight. The picture of the food is on a plate back where I am staying. It was crazy busy there, so we got it to go. Great salsas too.


 Ave. Michoacán No.54, Cuauhtémoc, Hipódromo, 06100 Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico

11.08.2010

Yuca's on Hillhurst. A Popular Classic Taco Shack


Well... I knew I wasn't going to love this place. I love their story and their history, but the food is a taco of a different color.

Thus far, I have not mentioned my  Gourmetdar. I forget exactly which friend coined the phrase, but I have a knack for picking out the gem spot without any prior knowledge. I seem to be drawn to the little foodie locations, only to read about them later, after they have been officially discovered. The most recent example of this was Guisados in Boyle Heights.

I've driven by Yuca's a million times and my Gourmetdar was so quiet I didn't even notice it. I forced myself to go today because I am twiddling my taco thumbs with my week off from Taco Talk. People RAVE about this place,.It makes every 'Best Of' list, every tour guide book, every everything. Why?!?!?!

Here's the cute part... A husband and wife from Mexico took some insurance money and opened a taco shack in the 1970's. Eventually the LA Times 'discovered' them and they became so successful, they put their daughter through Brown University and won the James Beard Award for being an American Classic (serving Mexican food!) in 2005.

They have been slinging their particular brand of 'hash' for over 30 years. That is indeed impressive. And I'm also guessing the food style was rarer and more impressive back in the 70's, when Taco Bell was KING.


Also impressive are the prices. DIRT cheap. $3 for a burrito, $2.25 for a plain hamburger, $2 for tacos. I LOVE the way they write your order and your name on either the paper plate or the paper bag (if you get the food to go.) However, if you DO get the food to go, you will not be getting any salsa with your meal.

RIDICULOUS. These tacos are not good enough to survive without salsa. Just a mediocre slightly tired tasting pico de gallo. Bleck.

Let's talk about the name for a minute. I guess the family is from the Yucatan. Yhey don't serve yuca, which is more Cuban perhaps. Maybe they never conceived the English permutations that would cause people to exclaim 'Yuck-a' after trying some of their menu items. Okay... that was mean... let's try to focus on the positive.

The best thing was the Hamburger. Sort of like if White Castle and In-n-Out had a baby. The White Castle vibe came from the fried smell and the onions. The size was about on par with In-n-Out. A friend of mine goes on a regular basis and he says his daughter LOVES the burger. She won't touch a taco though. Always listen to kids when it comes to cheap food!


The carne asada was tough and chewy... very little flavor, just so uninteresting. It wasn't for lack of grease, because when I tried to wash off the meat 30 min. later to give some to my dog, my hands were thoroughly lubed with pasty whiteness. Yeah. Gross.

The Pibil taco was better, but it still had chunky flavorless pico de gallo on it... just NOT want you want on that kind of taco. The tortillas were fine... Whatev.



The bean and cheese burrito was solid. But alas, aghast, I believe they use Kraft American Cheese slices. I am not kidding!

A gentlemen I know, who goes by the name of Rock Candy, is addicted to the stuff. He would be ecstatic. But for the rest of us, who think that shite taste like rubber, no go. But the beans! The beans were yummy. Why the burrito was put together like a flat package and not rolled I can not divine.  It made it very hard to eat, but I loved the flavor of the beans.A lot.

The whole place is really running with its 'shack & dive' image. The canopy is fraying, they have big Xmas ornaments hanging up already and because they looked a little sad, I assumed that maybe they were never taken down from last year. Or from the 70's even!

Alas, this food would be perfect after midnight, seriously drunk, but they are only open until 6pm....

11.05.2010

Ricky's Fish Tacos. A Genius Taquero in Hollywood, CA



Ricky is a delightful retired florist who is bringing an authentic and delicious Baja style fish taco to the Hollywood area on a daily basis. He is followed on Twitter by 2500 people and he has one of the highest scores on Yelp with nearly a 90%+ approval rating.

My adventure to Ricky's Fish Taco Paradise was on one of the hottest November days of all time. Yet still, by 12:05 PM, there were at least a dozen people crowding around to buy a fish taco. Ricky makes his own special batter and don't misunderstand me when I say it's as complex, rich and flavorful as Kentucky Fried Chicken! Addictive even.

There is a lot going on in there. It has that extra savory burst of flavor that makes you smack your lips and want to order more. The only thing Ricky would tell me was that he uses oregano and no beer. As the batter is yellowish I thought maybe he had some achiote in there, but he said no. So maybe it was cumin or curry and a handful of other secretos.

Once they have been dunked in the thick, secret batter, Ricky fries up fish and shrimp to golden brown perfection. You can purchase a fish taco for $2.50, a shrimp taco for $3.00 or a combo 'Ricky's Special' taco with fish and shrimp.

He dresses the tacos with cabbage and pico de gallo, and you can do the rest with crema, salsa verde, salsa roja and a smokey dark salsa. There is plenty of shade to eat under and he always seems to have an agua fresca available (yesterday it was jamaica).

His parents live in Ensenada but his mother was born in San Jose del Cabo which is a charming place near Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the Baja Peninsula. She visits a few times a year and has been known to tweak his batter recipe with her expertise.

Ricky's father is from Tijuana. He has a sticker on his deep fryer that says Hussong's, Ensenada. I did a little Googling and learned it is the oldest restaurant in Baja, started by Germans and dating back to 1892.  You can at least check it out virtually at http://www.cantinahussongs.com/

Thank you Ricky, for your warm spirit and cooking expertise! Viva el taco de pescado!

More PRESS for Ricky.

And More!

11.04.2010

Tito's Tacos


Oh Tito. How you inspire devotion among some, and dissension among other crispy taco fans everywhere. I should love you, right? All the elements are there... and yet... something is just not right at Tito's. But we do have a long and fond history as I have often lived within  2 miles of your 'since 1959' popular taco establishment.

Taco Memory #1. When I was a young lass, fresh out of UCLA and living in Venice by the Boardwalk, my ex-husband and I used to have weekly games of  'Oh Shit'. An amazing card game requiring 4 players, 1 deck of cards and about 4 hours to play it right.

I believe it was Marc C. who lived down South who would always use our Venice location as an excuse to hit up Tito's on the way to our house. He would show up with that little grease-stained cardboard box filled with neat little rows of crispy madness...

Usually he arrived with about 12 tacos... easily eating 5 himself, but alas, as my hubby and I were non red meat eaters at the time, we never partook. Even Marc used to joke that it was really called Tito's Kitty Tacos because who knew what the hell was in there.


Fast foward 14 years. I am now divorced and working for a Cuban family. The mom, darling Olga Barrios age 75, has a thing for Tito's. I think she tries to keep it a secret because Cubans don't like to admit they like Mexican food.

Whenever she came to visit from Florida, it was my job to go wait in line and score her some Tito's. It was cute how much she loved them. She died a few years ago, but I have no doubt she is chowing down on Tito's in heaven along with some plantains, white rice and black beans.

So how many times have I actually been to or eaten at Tito's? Maybe 5 times I want to say.... MAYBE 6. I really do hate waiting in line. That totally KILLS it for me, but whatever, grow up Taco Maven.

I do get nervous about the meat. It has a weird shreddy quality... definitely not ground... The cheese is cool but they give you WAY too much and it's very coarse and a little rubbery. Lettuce fine. Shell tastes like they bake once a day... actually not greasy enough if that makes any sense. The salsa is too ketchup-like.

Kind of thinking the bean/cheese burrito might be something to get there....

I have no real beef with Tito's. I just don't dig it enough to stand in line and sing its praises, but I always appreciate taco celebrity. Check out their website where they actually have a song about their tacos! WTF?????  http://www.titostacos.com/

11.03.2010

Foamy the Squirrel Likes Tacos and Mexico!



Foamy the Squirrel is a hilarious little fellow who knows alot about alot of things.

He is a fan of the taco. That's what's really important!!!!