6.26.2012

Melody's Mexican Kitchen


The Taco Maven goes to Melody's Mexican Kitchen (AKA how some stoners sent me here and I ate two crispy tacos in less than 2 seconds.)

Victory and Vanowen? Isn't that in the "Parallel Universe?" This is what I have called the West Valley since Highschool. I think my ex-husband lives somewhere near this place. He calls his neighborhood "Rencino."

Really it was maybe 5 miles from my new temp stomping grounds in (yawn) Sherman Oaks. I went straight down Burbank, turned right on Victory and there it was.


Adorable spot. Lots of "home cookin'" and nice peeps. I went straight for the crispy chicken taco as instructed. Seeing they also had a crispy potato taco, I got one of those too. I got flan for a friend and chile relleno burrito to bring to a dinner as an appetizer.


REALLY GOOD FOOD. People in the area know about this place. There is a Gelson's less than a mile from here, so clearly this is a neighborhood with a few pennies. My tacos cost $2.20. The salsa bar was GREAT. Lots of toasty roasty options.


It's actually a fun place to sit and stay. Cozy and colorful inside. I of course ate in the car and set a new record for INHALATION.

The same family owns SEVERAL restaurants including Las Fuentes down the street.

Is this any way to expect to wear a bikini? Probably not. But DANG those tacos were goooooooooood and had me instantly singing the praises of Melody.

San Francisco Tacos


Land of the Burrito. True. But I have no problem hunting down tacos when I am there. Sometimes the taco finds are UNEXPECTED. But so far, everything I have tried had merit.

It was getting to the point where my friend's kids were starting to groan every time we went out. "Mooooooooom. Do we have to have tacos AGAIN?" Of course they didn't.

This is why we wound up in a food court at a mall where they ate pizza and I ate a great crispy chicken tinga style taco at Andale. I think there is an accent on the A. I don't do written accents, only spoken ones. They are a chain with 3 SFO Airport stations in addition to the Westfield Mall.

Crispy Chicken Taco at Andale

The people were so nice there. Really sweet and the taco was delish. I especially liked the chicken meat which was saucy but not sloppy and very tender. I'm still not sure how they got the corn taco shell to look like a wanton. Super hot oil? But the crunch was nice.

Of course the tots immediately threw aside their pizza for a bite of my taco!

The next day we went to North Beach, which is an Italian neighborhood. They are known for their pizza not their tacos. "Really kids, pizza AGAIN?" I instead sought out this really cute place called Don Pisto's. They get great YELP, 4.5 stars with over 600 reviews.

A 'pisto' is an alcoholic drink. The place is tiny but stylish and totally hidden. No sign. Why no sign? Don't know, but it's no wonder my friend had never accidentally come across it in her travels.

Don Pisto Shrimp Taco

Their lunch menu is limited, but the pastor and shrimp taocs we had were SOLID. They also make drinks with agave wine, including a fun shot called "Baby, don't be like that" or something cheeky I can't remember. It's made with pineapple juice and jalapeno. It could have been spicier, but it was tasty.

Tacos run around $10 for two. NOT a Mission street gritty taco joint. It's more gourmet and upscale, but I think it's worth a try.

Sonora style taco on a flour tortilla. HUGE and $9

After lunch we walked around and came across Nico's Tacos. Wow, this Italian neighborhood is full of Mexican food! But more like fusion Mexican really. This adorable spot features a Chicken' n Waffle Taco. Why has no one tried this in LA?

Do I need to call Roscoe's Chicken 'n Waffle right now? I think I do. There was NO WAY I could try one of these right after lunch, but next time they will be my first stop because all of their tacos looked really good.


Viva el taco! And viva San Fran.

6.19.2012

Albondigas Soup


AKA Mexican Meatball Soup. Please don't go anywhere and order this as albonDIgas soup. You must say alBONdigas to win the respect of your Latin waiter.

I love this soup. It's so warming and delicious. Even bad it's ok. The worst is when it has become gummy from too many boiled potatoes and when the meatball is 80% rice.

I flew up to SF to celebrate Father's Day and my birthday with some friends and 2 hours after I arrived we were chowing down on this. It easily fed about 6 people. There was enough leftover to feed 2 additional neighbors who were having a bad day. So really, you can count on 8 if it's a first course. Maybe 4 if that's all you're serving.

FOR THE MEATBALLS (makes about 20)

1/2 lb. ground turkey or chicken
1/2 lb. pork sausage filling (get what you like and squeeze out of casing)
** any variation possible here incl. ground beef and chicken sausage
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup stale baguette smashed up or 1/2 cup white rice (make sure rice is not too wet or gluey)
** use panko breadcrumbs if you are feeling lazy
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground pepper & salt
pinch of dried oregano (if you wish)

Mash it all together, mix well and form cute little meatballs. They will shrink a tad. Best size is about a big inch across.

Place in baking dish (can be close together) and bake at 350 for 35 min. You can turn them halfway for even browning.

FOR THE SOUP

4-6 cups of Chicken Broth (with salt and fat please) 1 carton plus half a cup more is what I used
1 stalk of celery (finely chopped)
1/2 cup cilantro (chopped)
1/2 a cup of olive oil
1 can of diced stewed tomatoes (drain very very well - no liquid)
1 large carrot (finely chopped)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
2 large cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 large russet potato (diced)
1 small zucchini (diced)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of paprika
*** if you like HEAT do a tsp of cayenne - yehaw

Start with the potato. Saute in olive oil until browned. Add the onions, keep stirring until brown. Add the carrots about halfway through the onions. By now add a little more oil. Then the WELL-DRAINED tomatoes. Give them a chance to brown a little too.Then the celery. Lastly, the garlic and the cilantro. You should now have a great looking browned up mix of veggies. Your potatoes should be tender. Add your broth and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are completely soft.

Some like to add Avocado. Go ahead.

By now your meatballs look brown and delish and there is some fat/sugar glazing your baking dish. There will be more sugar residue if you used a sweeter pork sausage. Put the meatballs and all the goop into the simmering soup. Simmer for another 5 min. and serve.

We do NOT want a roiling boil here. Be gentle.

Serve in a nice soup bowl with a sprinkle of either cotija cheese or pre-shredded mexi blend cheese. Use both if you are feeling cheesy. A little sprinkle of green never hurt anyone. Hello cilantro garnish.

YUM.

I think I prefer the meatballs with breadcrumbs, but rice is more traditional.

Some people like HUGE meatballs. Not me!



6.12.2012

Manny's Sherman Oaks


Or is it in Studio City? No matter. It's on Woodman just one short block N. of Ventura Blvd. and it's GREAT.

The sign says tacos, burgers and beer. I'm down with that. I got that feeling about Manny's.... that it would be great, but it took me a few months to actually drive up and go in.



Glad I did. I had a very excellent crispy shredded beef taco and also a delicious pasilla chile taco with cheese on a flour tortilla. I saw burgers and breakfast burritos go by. They all looked terrific. They have $2.50 beer all day and TV's for sport viewing. Comfy inside, excellent service, great prices.

The fries were excellent and creeeeespeeeeee.

Blistered strips of chile and cheese.

Chorizo breakfast burrito. Andale!

The biggest endorsement is that the hilarious guys from the Potcast are regulars and they know their tacos! Next stop will be Melody's at Vanowen and Reseda, recommend by the 420's for a great crispy chicken taco. I am so THERE.

Peace out.

6.09.2012

Tony's Mexican Grill


Serving healthy Mexican food in Studio City since 1995! I've driven by the corner that it's on at least 25 times in the last 6 months. I do believe I noticed the sign but thought it looked like a Baja Fresh or something.

Someone mentioned it to me this weekend AND they mentioned the magic phrase, "They have crispy tacos" so off I went.

HEALTHY. That's the word they seem most proud of. No lard (has it's drawbacks.) No MSG (well it's not Chinese Food so of course.) No to a bunch of other things (see photo for the list.) The NICEST people. Helpful, cheerful, professional, etc. CROWDED. Packed in fact on a Tuesday night at 7:30pm. They do breakfast too.



I asked about the crispy taco options and the guy said, "Anything you want." That confused me because normally a place will have a few crispy options and that's it. I was afraid he didn't know what 'crispy' meant but of course he did. That's just the kind of accomodating customer friendly place that Tony's is. SO, I settled on a grilled Mahi Mahi fish taco in a crispy shell. I was suspicious... "Is the shell pre-baked or something?" "Nope," he answered, "We fry 'em ourselves" OK. OK. I'll try one.



I also got an order of steak fajitas because they smelled AMAZING as they floated by me on the way to a table. I have never had grilled fish in a crispy shell. I've had crispy battered fish in a soft shell but this was intriguing.

The verdict: Great place to go for grilled fish and fresh veggies. They  have 3 bean options; black, whole pinto and refried. Their flour tortillas were great even though they had no lard in them! I loved the Fajitas. I loved both the roasted salsa they give you with chips and the paler red blended tomato salsa in the salsa bar.

Dessert! Fresh fruit with some kind of vanilla sauce.

The taco was a little odd. Tasty, but the shell was too thin. The shell didn't really taste deep-fried. It wasn't greasy and it fell apart instantly. The chips were the same, too thin. I really like a thick, crispy chip. These tended to crumble and fade away rather quickly. But really that's my only complaint. I'll stick with a flour tortilla grilled fish taco and be very, very happy.

Tony mi amor, I will be back. Especially when I want to impress someone who like to eat healthily!

PS I have no idea who Tony is.

:)