4.17.2015

Wes Avila and the current state of the TACO!


I have had my eye on this LA native taco genius since 2012 when he opened at Handsome Coffee Roasters. I was living nearby and tried at least 20 times to find him and eat his tacos. Alas...

At the same time I was packing up my LA life to leave for a vida nueva in Mexico. I kept missing the window.

Every time I came back to visit it was the same. He was first on my list but on the day he was in Culver City I was at the other end of the city. On the day he was downtown I was on the tarmac returning to Baja.


I read. I watched. People began raving and never stopped raving about his creative taco acumen and they were right. Yesterday, FINALLY, I partook.

I had to sneak him in between Westside Dr.'s appointments. My best pal since high school days and fellow food maestro picked me up on a street corner in Beverly Hills at 12:05pm. I had to be back at that same corner by 2pm.

A mere 11 miles, LA traffic was typically hellish and conspired against us. Google Maps conspired against us too and took us to the wrong address. Finally by 1:00pm we were sprinting out of the car to order. "We'll take it all!" Oh no, they were out of 2/3 of the daily tacos. "We'll take whatever you got!"


The wait was manageable. Maybe 20 minutes. Lots of amazing window shopping to be done at both Blacktop Coffee and the cute Alchemy Works store right in front of the Guerilla Truck parked at 826 E. 3rd Street. There is also a fresh cold-pressed juice vendor.

Both Thurs and Fri at that location from 9-2 you can find him there. I had no idea he opened so early. Of course by 1pm he was out. Be informed! I WANT MORE GUERILLA TACOS.

So how were the tacos? Well.... I only had the Sweet Potato Feta taco, which this ARTICLE tells me he created as a breakfast taco. It was effin' great. I also had the Quesadilla which was a cheese-filled flour tortilla topped with some kind of air-dried beef, broccolini and Oaxacan cheese. I folded it like a taco or like a piece of NY Pizza (which it miraculously resembled) and inhaled that sucker.


We had the Scallop Ceviche Tostada which was fresh and tasty. Sauced with a nice Jalapeno emulsion, the scallops were like butter. The crispy tortilla tasted like the bagged Ceviche stand variety. Traditional but I would have preferred a crispy lettuce cup or some crazy shite like that.


I saw this whole Fried Mackerel going by. I obnoxiously asked to take a foto. Really I felt like a true tourist. The schwanky new method of taking my moolah ($30 for 4 items and 2 Pellegrinos) was an iPad device. The man in charge was firm but friendly. I do think I have been away too long.

When I started blogging about tacos in 2010 the scene was very different. The cheap taco was KING. I have always been a fan of the gourmet fusion upscale taco. I honestly believe that the taco is a superb format for any kind of food experimentation and judging by the popularity of this superlative gourmet taco truck, it looks like I'm right. Be sure to check in with Wes regularly as each day his menu is brilliantly varied. Today: Oxtail and Foie Gras tacos. Tomorrow?

On a side note, kudos to Bill Esparza. He has flown to new foodie journalism heights on the wings of his passion for Latin food and the absolute expertise of his knowledge of our city streets. I am loving his TACOPEDIA and his recent article for LA Magazine on the state of Latin Food in the U.S. of A.

Just for good measure and because they are THAT good, we stopped at Mariscos Jalisco #2 on E. 10th St, near Towne (a bit closer to Downtown) for a $2 crispy piece of shrimpy perfection on the way back. We arrived in Beverly Hills at 2:09. Andale Taco Express!

God Bless the Americas. And God bless the Taco.

PS I just saw surfing around after I posted this that Guerilla Tacos won the Taco Madness competition for 2015! Congratulations! Mariscos Jalisco came in 2nd. Do I have my finger on the pulse or WHAT? Ja Ja.

1.25.2015

Las Mariscadas, Cabo San Lucas B.C.S.



Hello Taco Fans,

It's been quite a while since I've been inspired enough to do a blog post - busy living the small cafe owner life in Mexico - mostly eating my favorite local tacos over and over and not traveling as much as I would like.

BUT... a few weeks ago I had a couple of tacos that stopped me in my tracks so here I am on a rainy Sunday morning to tell you all about them.

One of my favorite Baja friends, the co-owner of Hierbabuena Hortiliza, a fabulous garden to plate restaurant in Pescadero, B.C.S., claims this as her most favorite casual seafood place in all of Cabo. (There's lots 'o seafood in Cabo.)

It happens to be right near one of my regular restaurant supply stops, Pro-San, so on a lucky Saturday we stopped for lunch.

Sushi Chef on Hand

Fresh Tuna Sashimi Tostada

I was immediately impressed by the service, the cute 'under the sea' decor and the variety on the menu. I ordered a few tacos, the house salsa and chips were great, they have WIFI just for fun and so you can post your food fotos right away.

The most surprising and wonderful item on the menu was the tortillas. They claim they are pure corn with less water than the usual tortilla and also pressed a tad harder so they are thinner. They make them in secret in a back room. They were so perfect and amazing... thin, a bit chewy, nutty but they did not sog-out OR break. How did they not break???? They were so damn thin... very yellow as well vs. the normal whitish corn tortillas that are common down here. They also had a nice toasted quality without all the grill marks.

I loved the Octopus taco and I had a grilled shrimp and a battered fish taco plus the Tostada marvel pictured above. I also ordered a side of rice, in honor of my old Taco Talk partner and it too was tasty. My friend had her go-to Shrimp Fajitas pictured below. DELICIOUS.



During our meal someone delivered these huge bags that I thought were the secret corn flour but instead they were giant bags filled with smaller wrapped pouches of pre-made corn tortillas. These they use for the chips. The chips are nice and thick and fresh, as they should be ALWAYS but often ARE NOT at other places.


The owner is always around and is a very elegant man. Kudos y saludos a Las Mariscadas, which translates to "Seafood Meals." I don't think you can make a wrong turn on this well-varied menu but of course I recommend the tacos!

Located on Cabo San Lucas which is a one-way street headed down toward the Marina - just around the corner from Pro-San about 3 blocks up from the Marina area. Hours are currently 1pm to 10pm.

Here is their Trip Advisor Page. Very few people use Yelp down here and most just have Facebook pages and not websites.

Viva el Taco!
Hasta Pronto.

6.09.2014

Tacos El Sinaloense, Todos Santos B.C.S.


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.