York Blvd. for Tacos in Highland Park

I live in Eagle Rock. Right at the top of Figueroa near Colorado. I love it out here. I especially love all the E-Z opportunities for taco tasting.

I decided to take a walk on Monday and check out two of the places that have made the top 8 in the LA TACO MADNESS 2011 contest; La Estrella and El Huarache Azteca.

La Estrella is a Los Angeles taco institution and has 3 trucks and 2 permanent taco shops. I tried their place in a strip mall in E. Pasadena area and I thought it was really mediocre. I heard it was a husband and wife team that split up but I'm not sure how their spots are now divided or who makes the better tacos. Our Taco Talk producer Lloyd swears by the permanent truck on York so off I went.

a different, mobile Estrella truck

I had a pastor and an asada. Both were fine. I liked the asada a bit better. Neither would I stand in line or go out of my way for. The way they have the truck up on blocks, up higher than street level on the sidewalk really makes ordering uncomfortable. It's like sitting in the front row of at a Imax movie theater. It made me dizzy and I felt like I was ordering from a mile away and having to shout over the traffic. Ok. Sure. I'm only 5ft tall, but it still bugged.

I walked a bit further down the street and went to the El Pique truck. The word 'pique' in Spanish means grudge or rivalry. Veeeeeery interesting. I didn't try their tacos but went instead for the veggie burrito which I thought was TERRIFIC. They were very nice, had a big group of teenagers hanging around and were actually friendlier than the gal at La Estrella. I also thought their truck signage art was awesome whereas the Estrella sign had totally peeled away and you could barely read it to see what they have and what it costs.

I walked literally another short block and found myself at El Huarache Azteca, one of the places Jonathan Gold says you MUST eat at before you die. The thing to get is the Huarache, a sandal-shaped masa platform loaded with either meat, mushrooms or corn fungus, your choice. It is indeed the same sandal mispronounced by the Beach Boys in 'Surfin' USA'. Of course I had to opt for the tacos. I ordered pastor and suadero but they were out of suadero and didn't say anything, they just gave me 2 pastors instead for $1 each. No prob. They were great. The place is super funky and authentic inside. Definitely felt like I was in Mexico and I was the only 'white girl' in there. Go, get cozy and get your fungus on!

On the way back to my car I noticed another place, Antojitos Guerrero. It was cool looking and they seemed super nice. I ordered a fish taco in Side' o Rice's honor as he couldn't be there to taste with me and I liked it. They have a TON of mariscos and breakfasts and other fun stuff. Not really a 'to go' place. Took a very long time for the food but if I had been chillin' in the hood with a friend I wouldn't have cared.

All in all, York Blvd. was a delight. It has other wonderful tasty treats such as the Galco's Soda Pop Stop, Johnny's Bar (pool AND foosball!!!!) and The York on York for craft beer and gastropub fare.


Taco Talk Episode #21


Some very fun banter and on camera voting for Taco Madness 2011. Two great videos and a live taste test of Panchos Tacos. I really want to order a silk-screened tortilla!


Las Perlas Mezcal y Tequila Bar


What a fantastic place. Dark and moody yet mysterious and somewhat spiritual, the whole place is dedicated to style and gourmet drinks.

Super hot bartenders with a very professional attitude who seemingly never tire of answering the question... 'um... what's the difference between tequila and mezcal?' Location, location, location and smoke. Most mezcal is made in Oaxaca and is 'melted' or smoked rather than steamed.

Mezcal also often has a higher alcohol content than tequila. I find the buzz to be very stony and psychedelic as if I've eaten Peyote... although I have never eaten Peyote so I have no idea what I'm talking about!

I wish they had chips and salsa but it's ok. I absolutely LOVED my drink which was called 400 Rabbits (a myriad of ingredients including port syrup and pinot and other delights, garnished with flowers.)

Like me they seem to love rabbits, but instead of being cuddly, their rabbits look like they took some peyote. Las Perlas means 'the pearls' so I'm not sure where the rabbits (conejos or liebres) figure in, but I LIKE it.

My friend got the Spicy Margarita which was a beautiful pale frothy green and included both jalapenos and cucumbers.

Definitely a great place for a movie premiere or private party - especially if you could bring in food to go with those fancy drinks.

Located on 6th street, just S. of Main, across the street from Cole's and Varnish.


Screen Printed Tacos?!

First we pressed some flowers in the tortillas. Now some people in St. Louis are screen printing directly onto a tortilla! Dios mio! Sounds grand. Check out the video.

Taco Night at The Oaks!

What an amazing place. They already made the LA Weekly's 30 burgers in 30 days. They have more gourmet food items squeezed into a tiny space than I have ever seen. One stop shopping for cheese, wine, beer, soda, sandwiches, burgers and yes, TACOS!!!!!!!

On Friday nights starting at 6pm they bust out some serious taco moves. Different tacos every week. Last night they had pork belly tacos, shrimp, carne asada, lamb and tofu. You can pick any 2 for $8.95 or go up from there with various taco and sides combinations.

I had the lamb and the tofu. The lamb was tender, flavorful and delicious. The tofu had an amazing green cilantro sauce that I would put on everything for the rest of my life. Taco Garnish Patrol would have added mint and maybe a pinch of feta to the lamb and something green to the tofu one as well. But really those are just fine tuning comments. The tacos were great.

Super fun way to start your Hollywood bound Friday evening.

They have a nice big communal table inside and cute tables outside.

They took over what used to be the world's oldest diviest liquor store, I think. Back in 1985 I was a starving wannabe actress living in Beachwood Canyon with Jane Leeves (of Fraiser fame). I used to go there for chips. Madonna and Sean Penn lived a few doors up from us, but I never saw them. I fell in love with the area then and it's always fun to go back.

The Oaks Gourmet Market is located on the corner of Bronson and Franklin right near Beachwood Canyon.

Taco night is every Friday. They have other fun 'food nights' as well so follow them on Twitter!


Oaks Gourmet Market on Urbanspoon


Taco Talk Episode #20

Happy St. Patty's Day. This is the Taco Brawl episode.
Can it really be 20 episodes? My how the taco time flies. Check out our video of Hot's Kitchen in this episode as well as live taste testing of a Jogusaki burrito AND some crazy taco brawls.

What is it about tacos that make people fight on camera?!?!?!

The shrimp tacos came from this truck ::  Super nice people. Really tasty healthy tacos.


Fiesta Martin Mexican Grill

I heard about this place and I was super skeptical. Tacos in Inglewood? Is it an old divey place? How could it be THAT good. Yelpers go wild for it.

Located at 1330 N. La Brea, S. of Slauson, it's a total charmer with comfortable seating, fun decor, nice TV's and killer tacos.

They have only been open 10 months. I can see that they have a loyal following and they are working on their liquor license for wine & beer.

Every night is 'Taco Night' with a killer soft taco bar from 7pm to 12am. Lots of choices, lots of salsas. Good looking soups too. On Tuesday, the happy hour extends to included crispy tacos as well. I could get in trouble here with or without my friends.

Mmmmmm... so fresh and crispy and tasty. Excellent service too.

Don't be afraid to give it a try. Go straight down La Brea for about 5 miles S. of the 10 or if you are on the Westside just take Slauson straight over to La Brea and make a right. Go just a few blocks South and you will see them all cheerful and bright on the East side of the street at the corner of 64th and La Brea

Fiesta Martin Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon


Taco Talk Episode #19


Some great news of the weird and a trip to Plaza Mexico in Lynwood, CA. Plus Xoia and Henry's Tacos.



Jonathan Sedlar & Playa

As I said on this week's show (#18) I have been hearing about this man and his food since 1987. My ex-inlaws were huge fans and even had the cookbook. I can still see that Navajo Blanket Jicama Beet Salad in my mind's eye. They have eaten at ALL of his restaurants. I haven't made it even to one, usually for financial reasons.

I had heard that he was pressing flowers into tortillas at his downtown restaurant Rivera. I had some success with my own immitation on Valentine's Day but I didn't realize I was supposed to use waxpaper with the tortilla press! Double Doh and Duh.

Here is a great instructional video on how to make your own fancy schmancy tortillas with flowers in them. I used lavendar and rosemary flowers and some geraniums. Gelson's usually has some edible flowers for sale near the salad and herbs. Bristol Farms probably does too.

Now he's gone and opened Playa. http://www.playarivera.com/

It looks like so much fun, including the high end complicated cocktails. I am DYING to go. Maybe for my birthday in June.

Here also is a great link to all of the LA Weekly articles about him.

Older Bio can be found here.


Norma's Tacos

Breezing down Green St. in Pasadena I saw the most brake screeching sight! Tacos! In a vintage gas station! What in the world is this? Well... the Maven was a little late to this taco party. The place opened last year and was called the Taco Station. Recently they changed their name to Norma's Tacos in honor of the chef and recipe provider.

She is quite beautiful and she has sass. She is a little skinny minny and she eats tacos every day! What is her secret???

She took one look at my business card and basically said, "You know nothing about tacos. You put the word rice in the same sentence as 'taco'." (referring to Side 'o Rice, my co-host being listed on our Taco Talk biz card) In Mexico, a taco never has rice inside it nor does a burrito apparently.

Um... well... ok. She seemed partly bored and partly amused by my taco enthusiasm. I would love to have her on the show, but she won't do it by phone and she can't come in the middle of the day for the live show when she is busy making some darn delicious tacos!

Ok. Ok. I'll just be content hitting this place up whenever I'm not tasting some new and exciting OTHER taco.

I really like what I had. A nice crispy potato taco with great marinated onions, full of flavor. She also has several veggie options. The soy taco was a liitle bare, just a big serving of the filling and nothing else. The bean & cheese taco was a little sloppy-looking but it tasted awesome. Sausage is used to flavor the beans (as in chorizo)

I find it interesting that there is such a varied repsonse on Yelp. A lot of people love it, but the other half complain about the prices and small servings. I never mind if a taco is small. I thought these were about average in size and price as they are def. more gourmet than the usual taco truck fare.

Speaking of taco trucks, the space she has to cook in is about the size of a food truck. Not too much room. The outside is lovely. They were just written up in the Wall St. Journal and they have real Mexican coke made with sugar and not corn syrup! That stuff is like CRACK. I just wish they had some Penafiel or Perrier or other bubbly mineral water. That wouldn't be hard to add now would it?

Here is the link to the Wall St. Journal article on taco stands in old gas stations.


1265 E. Green St. @ Chester (near Hill St.)


Taco Talk Episode #18


Filled with fun taco info! Gilbert's, Benny's, Gerlach's and a Jonathan Sedlar tribute.

I love the little taco robot. Here is the link on Etsy... CLICK ME

Best Tacos in SF's Mission District?

Serious Eats has done some Serious Research.

It makes me realize how much I do NOT love the typical soft taco...I'm not really excited about ANY of these... but I guess I'd better try a few on my next trip.



Oscar Tacos!

This year's Oscar gathering featured of course..... TACOS! I took my first stab at crispy potato tacos and I was happy with the results. The hard part is that I never like to write things down and I can barely remember what the heck I did!

It must have been the drink pictured below... It was called the 'Black Swan' and featured Gin, Brandy, Grapefruit juice and other mystical tweaks.

The first course was NACHOS, but not just any nachos. These were nouvelle nachos with almost an Italian feel.

I used Chipotle corn chips which were pinkish red. Over the chips on a cookie sheet I drizzled sliced fresh mozzarella, small white beans (rinsed) delicious mango salsa made by Santa Barbara Salsa, a handful of sauteed onions, chopped cilantro, sauteed chopped jalepeno (2 mild chiles) a sprinkle of good shredded cheddar and about 1 cup of pan fried chorizo. It was a nice mild (not red) chorizo squeezed out of the casing. No avocado and no sour cream. SUPER TASTY.

For the potato tacos I boiled 3 large russet potatoes weighing almost 3 lbs. Then I sauteed one chopped onion and 1 chopped anaheim chile. Add half a can of ortega chopped jalapenos, 1 cup of victoria salsa ranchera, and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. All of these you mash together once the potatoes are ready. Peel the skin off with your fingers first. I also added generous squirts of both the tubed cilantro and tubed 'Mexican Spices' that you can find near the salad at the market. They are herbs in an emulsion and they add a lot of flavor without any work. Salt to taste!  You will prob need several teaspoons.

The worst mistake in a potato taco is that the filling has no bling, no flavah, no love. It's important to get a really tasty interesting mixture. Add mushrooms! Add bacon! Add roasted garlic and poblano chiles. Add something!

Put 2 heaping Tbl of filling into a corn tortilla. Gently fold in half and fry in a pan until brown on both sides. Don't worry if the tortilla rips a little... If they are super fresh it shouldn't but it will all be fixed in the pan fry. Use vegetable oil. Garnish with shredded lettuce, cotija (or parmesan) cheese and your favorite salsa. I still love Herdez Salsa Casera and now they make a 'hot' one.

The sausage taco below was a little more laborious. I was lucky enough to find some true Longaniza at a place in the boonies called Harmony Farms. I made a salsa out of 1 white onion, 2 jalapenos, 1 serrano chile and 4 tomatoes. Blend in food processor and saute in oil for 20 min. Add salt. This become almost like an onion relish to spread on the taco.

I sliced my sausage and pan fried it with slices of anaheim chile, chopped cilantro, 2 pieces of chopped bacon and a little chopped tomato. I put it all in a warmed, pan fried corn tortila and garnished with avocado, cilantro and a schmear of the relish. Very clean and simple yet full of flavor.

I love the chance to cook for my friends and they love the chance to eat homemade tacos.

Everybody wins!

The Taco Maven Loves Gilbert's

Ancient classic. SO GOOD. Also a bit lardy and overpriced but fun as hell. I really really love the Indian statue in the back.