6.09.2014

Tacos El Sinaloense


What makes a truly great fish taco? Everyone will probably answer this question differently. Some people are happy with Rubio's.

I am a Los Angeles ex-pat living in a small town in Baja. Baja California Sur. Mexico. Baja is a long skinny peninsula, surrounded by water on both sides and in many minds can be credited with inventing the battered and fried fish taco.

Capeado. That means battered. It literally means weathered. Fascinating. You can say empanizado but that really means breaded... not the same thing. What you don't want to ask for is an embarazada fish taco, because that word means pregnant. I once made that mistake and got a lot of laughs.

It's all about the batter and the quality of the fish or shrimp of course. But the batter... let's get back to the batter. It should be crispy but not too oily. It should be savory, piquant, it should make your lips smack together and cry for more.

In the tiny town of Todos Santos, there are at least 10 places you can grab a fish taco for an average cost of $2 per taco. In the neighboring town of Pescadero, there are maybe 2-3 more places. The best by far is a humble, palapa-covered stand, on the Truck Bypass in Todos Santos, called El Sinaloense; Named thus because the hardworking owner/operator, Jose, is from Sinaloa.

Sinaloa is right across the 'street' or the straight from Baja. You have to cross the Sea of Cortez and they have a lot of coastline, so it's quite possible the fish taco that Baja is credited with inventing came from Sinaloa. Or perhaps a lonely fisherman from Baja took a trip to Sinaloa and brought his tacos with him.


Either way, the perfect fish taco should be so good, so fresh, that you could eat it plain. I know... I know, that is a BOLD ASS STATEMENT. But there. I'm stating it. The classic toppings are awesome and work well in any combination. Cabbage, Crema, Salsa... Yes. Those things are important. But nothing is as important as the batter.

How to get a great batter? Well.... you have to season the flour. Using beer instead of water helps impart flavor and fluffiness. You have to use enough salt, pepper, even a pinch of chile or cumin and not rely on your salsa or your customer's imagination to do all the work.

That's what Jose does. He also changes his oil EVERY DAY. No recyling. He also orders a very high quality of shrimp that comes over on a ferry from Los Mochis. His restaurant is very clean. His salsas never sit out in the hot sun. His cabbage is fresh and crispy with added carrots and cilantro.

Just because he's classy, he includes a battered guero chile on the plate. A fresh one. Made when your taco is made. And because he knows his town draws in a lot of Americans, some of them skinny and health conscious,  he even offers a simple grilled fish or shrimp taco as an alternative.

I personally have no interest in that healthy alternative most days, but it's great that it's offered.


Thank you Jose for getting up every morning at 6am and working your nalgas off until around 5pm. You are one of the people that make our town great.

Atentamente
Taco Maven

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