5.23.2021

Bee Taqueria and Taquero Alex Carrasco in Los Angeles

I fell in love in February 2021. Just as dawn was breaking over the landscape of the Pandemic horror. A writers group I'm in (contains a number of chefs and discerning palettes) kept recommending a taco place. Being the know-it-all Taco Maven that I am, I thought they were saying Bea's Tacos. Of course I know Bea's! Al and Bea's? Is it an offshoot of the best bean and cheese burrito place EVER?

Nope not that Bea's. BEES, as in bumble, buzzing, honey bees. Turns out to be an amazing metaphor for a taquero-chef who has a rad bee tattoo on his calf and a whole hive of bees inhabiting the space he chose for his first L.A. Taco venture. The bees bring the magic, make the honey, pollinate the flowers; and so does Alex.

Alex Carrasco is one of a kind: He's funny, friendly, charming, highly skilled, dedicated, spiritual and tireless. When he was invited to attend an Omakase seminar via Zoom last year with a number of famous chefs including Josiah Citrin of Mélisse renown, he was humbled to be included. He had to laugh when his virtual background was a graffitied wall and a tiny kitchen inside what looks like a trailer against the stainless steel, fancy kitchens of many of the other participants.

I was excited to try Bee's, especially when my friend Adam said, "He must be a serious chef, his tacos are just too good to be random." Oh he's serious alright. Alex shared part of his journey with us on my first visit to Bee Taqueria. It was a rainy Wednesday. I didn't care. I was going. A few others were able to hop on to the Bee Train. Once I decide I need to try a taco,  nothing will stop me, even in a Pandemic. Thank God his place is outdoors.

Chef Alex is from Mexico City. He has graced many a venerable L.A. kitchen as a line cook including Osteria Mozza. He was living and working in Vegas when he was offered a chance to helm his own place. What he quickly realized is that he wanted to keep it real, reach the most amount of people at a fair price, and not be in debt up to his ears for the next 5 years. Alex is a guy who follows his heart and his instincts and opening at the end of 2019, before a global crisis struck, made it even smarter that he chose to start small.

He took over an old BBQ joint at the corner of W. Adams and Slauson. It took a bit of work to modernize the kitchen and update the property. Part of that required having a bee whisperer come out to decide what to do about the hive living in a rusted out flagpole, next to the kitchen. Alex decided to ask the bees nicely not to bother his customers and then he planted a bunch of lavender for them and that's how the restaurant got its name! More or less!

Seriously, I know... enough stories and move on to the tacos already! I will! But part of the taco magic comes from the magic of Alex. It really does. The tacos are great. Try them all! Vegan, non-vegan, try every damn thing and go often. Seriously. That's my review. Even the churros are a work of art. Dreamy, delicious, skinny, crispy, and fresh with innovations like a drizzle of green tea creme anglaise,  wrapped in a shisho leaf with a fresh pansy for garnish?! Yeah, Alex is not effing around. His bright  yellow business card says "chingon" on one side and "El Padre de los Tacos" on the other. I'm thinking of framing it. I want to bee a badass like Alex.

In my "taco" opinion, he's right up there with Taco Maria for innovation and flavor.

I was all ready to do my blog post back in late February, but then I learned that Alex does a 7-8? course Taco Omakase dinner (by reservation and cash only) for $75 per person. Insanely underpriced for the amount of food, the quality of the food, and the fun conversations you get to have with him. All this while he's serving you plate after plate of astounding seafood and other inspired taco combinations. It really can't be described... I mean... it could be, but better if you go and have the experience. You get to sit at a rustic wooden table next to the kitchen and BYOB. It's MAGIC, puramente mágico! Like wtf, if I didn't take pictures I would maybe think it never happened. Truly. Unlike Father's Office (no burger modifications for 20+ years) Alex will take a few of your limitations into consideration. Just a few, don't go driving him crazy though with a bunch of "Harry met Sally" nonsense! Do you promise?

Jonathan Gold (RIP) would have loved Alex and his tacos and would have been championing him via his review outlets. Read this great article by L.A. Taco who wrote about Alex in August of 2019. They give a lot more food detail than I do! Honestly, it's all about Alex. Just trust him. Eat what he says, leave a big tip and go often.

Alex also does private parties for the Omakase. So you can have him come to your house and work his magic in your backyard. It does mean that sometimes he has to close the restaurant while away for one of these events, but hopefully with the pandemic lifting he will have more customers, more help and can really find his bee wings and fly high in the sky over L.A. 



Bee Taqueria
5754 W. Adams Los Angeles 90016
Instagram: @beetaqueria
323 452 9575

Holbox Tacos at Mercado La Paloma Downtown, Los Angeles

These fine folks have been working hard since around 2016 I believe, making incredible fish tacos, cocteles and ceviche. I'm not sure how I missed them! (Insert finger wagging here). Maybe because the name doesn't have taco in it? Maybe because I'd just moved back from Mexico and was busy eating tacos in Pasadena? There's no excuse really.

I was waiting to try to coordinate with friends but last night the moment was nigh and I ordered over the phone and drove 8 miles or so down Jefferson Blvd. to Grand (from Culver City) to have my experience.

I had never heard of the MERCADO LA PALOMA either. A very cool neighborhood revitalization project that houses CHICHEN ITZA along with a Vegan Ethiopian restaurant and other tacos; 9 Restaurants total plus a few shops. I recommend getting on their mailing list, which you can do on their website.

HOW WERE THE TACOS? Muy excelente! The scallop taco was my favorite. The scallops were seared and juicy, really fresh and flavorful. I was given several salsas and crema, 4 in total for my array of tacos but I gotta say, the scallop taco needed nothing. It was friggin' perfect. It did have some mild chiles included. Seriously? PERFECT.

A word about their corn tortillas. Nutty, chewy yet thin enough that they don't dominate the taco in a way where you feel carbed out, if you get the kernel of what I'm sayin'. Not soggy either, no breakage. A nice bend but so thin I didn't feel overly stuffed after eating 3 tacos in total. The Taco Maven is 5'.1" and on a wee bit of a diet (lost 10+ lbs on Noom since January). It's hard being an aging Taco Maven but staying slim. Holbox tacos, especially the ones that aren't fried, are very friendly in this arena.

I tried both the battered shrimp and fish tacos. They were a little oily because THEY'RE FRIED. I knew that. The batter was light. Somewhere between tempura and a heavier wheat-based batter. Lots of flavor, light golden brown, artful. Not down and dirty or extra dark and crispy but still good! I would probably stick with non-fried items on subsequent visits and get my fried taco fix at Marisco Jalisco or the Ricky's Fish Taco Truck.

But for top notch seafood, sophisticated yet classic, fresh and flavorful modern fare, support these Taco Artisans and get your booty down to Grand Ave. for some HOLBOX. The dove will set you free.

P.S. Why is it called that? Perhaps named for the island in Mexico off of the Yucatan Peninsula where the fish must be very fresh and delicious. It also means "black hole" perhaps your stomach when you're hungry or their tiny square setup. It's pronounced Hole-bosh in Mayan.

Holbox at Mercado La Paloma 
3655 S. Grand Ave (Figueroa Corridor)
Space #C9
11:30AM - 8PM (Closed MONDAY)
www.holboxla.com

1.13.2021

Chuy's Tacos Dorados, Los Angeles

 

Hello Taco World,

It's been a minute. More like a year and a half! What the... While I'm grateful I kept eating tacos in 2020 and haven't gotten Covid yet, I wasn't able to blog. But I learned, as I think we all did, that it's the little things that bring the most joy. Little crunchy things in my case... salt & vinegar potato chips, any kind of chip really, and CRISPY TACOS.

2020 was the year I discovered Chuy's Tacos Dorados one of the best potato tacos I have eaten, ever. Seriously, EVER. It helped me and many of my local friends get through the darkest days of the pandemic and it's still helping. Over Xmas, we met in the parking lot of the Van Nuys Chuy's, ordered our tacos and stood outside our cars, 6 feet apart and ate and talked with masks on.

I started eating weekly at the one in Van Nuys before the 'shutdown' in March. Everything inside is white; the tiles, the floor, the countertop and it's one of the cleanest restaurants I've been in. Seriously, like sparkling with stars everywhere. The staff is delightfully cheerful and proud to be serving these amazing tacos. Also polite, always efficient, always clean, always wearing gloves and masks.

DTLA Location

After the shutdown I discovered that Chuy's is actually a DRIVE-THRU. WHAT? Yes! A drive-thru for bitchen-ass crispy tacos people. Are you hearing me? 'Welcome to Chuy's, can I take your order?" You sure can! I favor the potato tacos but the shredded beef are good too. A friend that I hipped to Chuy's is a fan of their burritos and quesadillas. Yum-Yum. It's ALL good. Even the rice, which I think my old sidekick 'Side 'o Rice' would appreciate.

The best part about the potato taco is the warm, red salsa. Sort of like a tomato broth and a tradition for crispy potato tacos but one that few people bother to follow. It's not spicy, just crazy flavorful in some mad addictive way. Is it the oregano?  It's almost like a dipping sauce. Buy extra. Trust me! 

They've started doing this wonderful desert which isn't on their online menu. It's a variation of a Flan but it's less jiggly. It's regional. They make it in Jalisco and Guadalajara. It's called JERICALLA. It's a cross between flan and creme brulee. Chuy's makes it in a lovely JAR you get to take home and keep! Big enough for 2. Yes! It's very smooth and tasty, not too eggy like a lot of flans can be. Definitely give it a try. You won't be sorry, just a little full.

2020 was a very difficult year for the food service industry. As a former restaurant owner, caterer, kitchen witch, etc. I tried to support local spots in any way I could. Chuy's made it easy! They're Instagram feed is the best kind of food porn and their photos are magical. Thank you Chuy's for kicking ass and taking names and making my favorite kind of taco, AND making it really easy and safe for me to buy one and eat it! Te amo muchisimo!

7.07.2019

Carne Asada Grilled Steak Tacos Recipe


It's been too long. A whole year, plus. I just broke my own record for not blogging about tacos. But I'm still eating tacos on a weekly basis, thinking about tacos and talking about tacos, this I assure you.

I've tried a few new places, but none of them floored me enough to create a blog post. I find that the cream of the crop places from two years ago are still on top. For me that is Guerilla Tacos - gourmet, fusion tacos, now in a brick and mortar space in the Arts District (DTLA) and Sonoratown for sublime steak tacos, also in DTLA. As my favorite crispy shrimp tacos, Mariscos Jalisco , are also in DTLA - it's a bit of a trifecta. You can't do much better than that, especially if you are a visiting taco lover.

I also enjoy cooking, as you know from my catalog of awesome recipes, right there in the right margin. I recently feel I've perfected the carne asada taco, including the marinade, maybe the most important part.

I do think that 'smoke matters' but I'll leave the bbq tricks up to the griller and talk mostly about the cut of meat and the marinade.

After living in Mexico (Baja, California Sur) for 6 years, I'm back in L.A. in the exact same guest house I lived in 7 years ago. The best part about sweating it out in the Valley is that I live near Carniceria Don Juan! Located at 14103 Victory Blvd. in Van Nuys, in a Mini Mall on the corner of Victory and Hazeltine. 818 901 8971.

It's a taco shop and a mini tienda market and a meat market. They sell the thinly sliced 'asada' meat which is traditionally made from sirloin butt aka 'flap meat.' It's not Hangar steak or Flank steak in Mexico. That might be the way an upscale, gourmet restaurant does it, but this is a cheap cut of meat, maybe $5 a pound.

They also sell good tortillas - especially Diana's street taco-sized corn. Hard to find in a 'regular' supermarket. Last time I made my own flour tortillas because I haven't found a boutique place making really high quality, translucent not tough, flour tortillas. I wish Sonoratown would open a tortilleria but I know they have to drive all the way to Sonora to get their flour and it's hard enough keeping up with their taco success let alone selling tortillas to the 'stay at home' chefs.


Back to the tacos! Sure, this recipe will work with grass-fed beef from Whole Foods. I tried, but they had trouble slicing the meat thin enough and it tasted tough. That is really the key. the thinness and the flavor, of course. At Don Juan's, you can get the beef seasoned or plain. For this recipe, buy plain but feel free to do a taste test between the two.

NOW for some extra bling (I have Esdras Ochoa to thank for this tip) buy the cut they call Diesmillo. I don't know why they call it that... because it's worth 10x more? Because it tastes like a million bucks? No idea, just buy it. It's usually $2 more per pound. This is the cut that they call 'chuck' what they often use for hamburgers. The topmost part of the forequarter in case you're cutting up your own cow. :)



Best if that steak marinates overnight or at least start in the early morning the same day of the afternoon barbecue. Minimum 6 hours. Garnish with grilled scallions, chiles, avocado, and/or the delicious Emma's Salsa - so easy to make!

MARINADE INGREDIENTS (for 2.5 lbs. of meat)

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar or malt vinegar – (no sulfates) I used Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Vinegar
1/4 cup Water
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil (Grapeseed) not olive oil for smoking factor at high heat! 
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
2 Tbsp Orange Juice (use tangerine if like me you find orange to be too acidic)
2 Tbsp Chopped Cilantro (leave out if you have allergic friends - use parsley instead)
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic (or  pure organic garlic powder with no crap or anti-caking agents)
3/4 Tbsp high quality FINE Sea Salt
1/2 Tbsp White Pepper
1/2 Tbsp Cumin
1/2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/2 Tbsp White Sesame Seeds (optional but also fun)
1/2 Tbsp 'Mexican' Oregano which is actually Marjoram
1/8 Tsp Ground Cloves (really just a pinch or a pisca, as I like to say)
1 Orange Sliced – Blood Orange? Anything but a dumb ole regular juice orange!!!!!! 
(I'm semi-allergic. I apologize for my disgruntled Orange aggression.)






COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Add all the ingredients (except the meat and orange slices) to a medium size bowl and stir until blended.

Add the steak and use a fork to flip and coat each entire piece of meat evenly, both sides sloshing in the marinade.

Using a glass baking dish, lay those thinly sliced oranges down first and then lay the meat on top in one layer. Transfer any remaining liquid from your bowl to the baking dish.

Cover with plastic but use some kind of earth-friend bio-degradable cooking plastic. Or put vegetable bags from the supermarket over the glass dish and tie them off to make the whole shebang airtight.

Refrigerate (overnight or at least 6 hours) Before grilling, remove from the refrigerator up to an hour in advance to allow the meat to come to room temperature.

Pre-heat your grill to 'medium high'. Place meat directly on greased grate for 7-8 minutes. You don't want it to be dry and tough but you don't want it 'rare.' Just juicy, seared, grill-striped etc. Adjust to your grill and preference.

Flip and grill for an additional 5-6 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

YUM.

ox Taco Maven

5.17.2018

Los Tres Potrillos for Tacos - Phoenix Oregon near Ashland

                         The Three Ponies Talking About Tacos
While on a trip to Ashland in  S. Oregon, to visit my mom for her 75th birthday, I had a serendipitous foodhist experience.

There are many Mexican food restaurants, cafes, etc. in the state of Oregon. Some of them famous, many of them authentic. Very different from the Cali-Mex or Gourmet-Mex of places like LA and San Francisco (still favoring Burritos! - forehead slap)

I've been excited to try a few new places on prior visits, but the Mother of the Mother of Tacos does not enjoy Mexican food! Her favorite food is salad. Is that a food? Well... sometimes there's lettuce on a taco, so.... To be fair, she's extremely healthy and peppy for her age!

Still, I felt the need to drag her to something 'hip' and so we found ourselves in a tiny, boutique, authentically DELICIOUS, Indonesian restaurant early on a Friday night. Blue Toba reminds me of my very own Bistro Magico because it's tiny and it's pretty much a one-man-band of a cool dude cooking up creative, clean, affordable food. The dude and a helper, that's it. 3 tables. I wonder if Jonathan Gold has eaten here.

Pastor Taco with Crudite Salsa
Wait... isn't this a taco review? It is! I promise. We enter Blue Toba at 5:30pm on a Friday, we are a party of 3. Two tables are taken and the third is for 2 people only. What to do. The two guys at the bigger table were very friendly, shared their table, their food and their taco tips! It turns out they are two actors from LA up in Ashland performing at the OSF - the big theatrical attraction to this tiny town 12 miles N. of the California-Oregon border!

I could tell from talking with Christopher Salazar that he knew his tacos. Like me, he wasn't terribly impressed with the stuff near the theater, but he recommended Los Tres Potrillos which happened to be on the way to the airport in Medford. He explained that potrillos means ponies; a word I'd never come across in 5 years of studying Spanish and 5 years of living in Mexico and I'm a total horse lover and recently wrote a YA Novel about horses! What the heck. HAD to go and so I did.

It was raining on the way to the airport. The unassuming taco joint was on a very short main drag of the 99 that goes through Phoenix. It's on the corner, well-marked and plenty of parking! I got my food to go and could only order two items on the run but I loved what I had.

Undressed Pastor - Lots of tender meat
The pastor wasn't your traditional LA/Baja trompo with pineapple affair which I truly adore. It was very tender, nicely grilled pork - it wasn't red, I'm not even sure there was any achiote present, but it was still so fresh and tasty. Tortillas, fresh and tasty. Price: $1.35. The revelation was the salsa bar. I actually saw a salsa I've never seen before! What? Yup. I'm calling it Taco Salsa de Verduras in Spanish and Crudites Salsa in French/English.

The salsa was a finely chopped mix of carrots, radishes, peeled cucumbers, tomato and cilantro. I'm pretty sure there was no onion...  but you could add onions and chiles for a spicy version. It was fresh and crunchy but not marinated in that vinegar way at all - maybe some lemon, oil and salt. Delicious on carne asada as well. I'm working to perfect the recipe and when I do, you'll see it here.

Tasty Tostada of Carne Molida
The second item I ordered was a comfort food indulgence - a ground beef tostada. Look mom! It's a salad. I was trying to create a crispy taco vibe - it got soggy pretty fast and the tortilla tasted a little funky and was probably too thin BUT the rest of the ingredients - very fresh.

Honestly - judge a place by it's tacos. Very clean and comfy inside. Extensive menu plus breakfast all day. Lots of people have blogged and written about this place but it's also a popular name for a taco spot so check to be sure which one you're reading about!

The day after we met the boys, my mom and her cousin saw the other actor at the table, Eduardo Enrikez in Destiny of Desire. He was so humble at dinner, he did not boast that he was one of the leads. Extra bonus, extremely cute AND had his shirt off for some of the show - making two 75-year-olds giggle and say 'We know him!!!!'

Wherever you may roam, follow the authentic food and/or the tacos! You will always have an adventure and meet wonderful people.

Los Tres Potrillos
102 S. Main Street, Phoenix, Oregon 97535
Open Everyday 8am - 9pm
541-897-4373