Thursday, April 16, 2015

OC Register's Anti-Taco Critic, Brad Johnson Strikes Out Again

The best tacos come with comfy chairs and Kenny G

The problem with Mexican cuisine in the United States--outside of Los Angeles, and the OC Weekly--is an unprepared group of bloggers and writers--the national trend is towards Asian and Latin-American cuisine, and it's either get informed or come off sounding like a Brad Johnson, the food critic of the OC Register. In Los Angeles, even your basic blogger can put together a pretty damn good taco list--all the major publications, the LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Eater LA, and the publication I write for, Los Angeles Magazine, have credible taco coverage. Hell, even Zagat can crank out a solid taco list--take that Brad Johnson!

OC Register critic, Brad Johnson's ideal taco lounge

In the OC, editor and compa, Gustavo Arellano, and his band of crack food reporters are sharp shooters in all cuisines, and have doctorates in taco journalism. San Diego pubs are doing a good job, mostly. Out there in NYC, the fine dining critics are scrambling to hit the streets and taquerias, but are they're clueless and inexperienced when it comes to Mexican cuisine (just like Johnson), aside from table side guacamole--something that would be right up Brad Johnson's alley. Johnson has showed his lack of knowledge and respect for Mexican cuisine since day one. I remember the idiotic ideal he put out there when he first started at the Register, that he'd be judging Mexican restaurants by their chips and salsa? Estupidez!

As Gustavo Arellano pointed out in his OC Weekly post titled, What Kind of "Best Tacos" List Bans Food Trucks? Why, the OC Register's, of Course, Johnson set down a narrow criteria specifying that tacos on his list would only be from places where he could sit down. It's anti-taco culture, lazy and makes no sense. Taco culture and tradition has its strongest expressions at the street stands, fondas and carts in Mexico; in L.A. it's a combination of street stands and food trucks. If Johnson were here, Guerrilla Tacos wouldn't be on his list, even though the ingredients are plenty fancy enough for the OC's lead hotel restaurant critic. We enjoy sitting down, too, but the tacos should be exceptional for a taco quest for the best taco.

What's even more shoddy is Johnson's poorly researched treatment of each vendor, the odd categories he created for the list, and complete ignorance of Mexican cuisine. In the 80's, there were other cuisines for a good critic to know: French, Italian, and California's emerging cuisine. Times have changed, and if you can't vet the Googled sources you find, Mr. Johnson, you'd best get some help--try Zagat, and then go from there.

The taco categories of chicken, lengua (lengua is a category?), seafood and barbacoa de res aren't categories--there are no chicken tacos in Mexican cuisine (they are common in Mexican-American cuisine, but unremarkable), outside of Mexicali; tongue is served at tacos de fritanga vendors at their steam stations, and at steamed beef head specialists--barbacoa de res is a guisado. The carne asada on Johnson's list isn't cooked over mesquite and therefore isn't even carne asada. Seafood tacos at a carnitas joint--who does that? Real carnitas vendors should only do regional carnitas; they're not competent when it comes to seafood. And those al vapor tacos from La Especial aren't Mexico City style tacos de canasta; the fillings are different, there's no lettuce used in D.F., and they wouldn't be called tacos al vapor.

Not to mention, these taquerias aren't the best of what the OC has to offer and they're not likely the best tacos you can eat while sitting down in a hotel courtyard listening to Kenny G, either. Ultimately, it exposes a lack of conviction by Johnson, at least when it comes to Mexican cuisine, and  a failure to serve OC readers, not to mention the restaurants and people working hard to make great tacos, whether in a truck, a stand or taqueria.

But it's not their fault, the restaurants--that would be dilettante critic Brad Johnson, who takes tacos and Mexican cuisine about as serious Dick Cheney regards civil rights and international law. Stick to the papas francesas (try some salchipulpos, though, you're going to love 'em) and the Fairmont Hotel brunch, comepapas. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Latinoamérica en Manzanilla on March 28 in my Latest for OC Weekly Food's Tijuana Si!

This is where I will be on Saturday, Latinoamérica en Manzanilla for the opportunity to dine at Colombia's Criterion; Argentina's Pura Tierra, Cafe San Juan and Floreria Atlantico; Guatemala's 7 Caldos in one place, along with host chefs Benito Molina and Solange Muris. Read more about the event on my post here at OC Weekly Food's Stick a Fork in It.

Latinoamérica en Mazanilla, Saturday March 28, 8p.m. @ Manzanilla, Recinto Portuario, Teniente Azueta 139, Ensenada, $1600.00 MXP ($105.00 USD), for reservations call 011-52-646-175-7073 or email:,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What The Economist Got Wrong About Latinos and Chilies in This Week's Los Angeles Magazine's Digest Blog

While maybe were offended, I just found the recent cover of the Economist just plain ridiculous, and another sign that we need other voices up in the mix at publications like this misguided magazine. All those muy, muy caliente Latinos and their hot peppers! But, it gave me an opportunity to share the truth about chiles and Latinos--check out my latest post for Los Angeles Magazine's Digest and find out which Latinos like it hot.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cuy Alert! Chef Walther Adrianzen's "Fried Peruvian Cuy" Pop-Up is Tomorrow, Sunday, March 15 in Rosemead

Andrew Zimmern is always ready for some cuy

Cuy (guinea pig) was a ceremonial Andean dish that's now available for the common folk of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia--tomorrow it will be in Rosemead for a special Fried Peruvian Cuy pop-up by Chef Walther Adrianzen of C-v-chē Restaurant.

You'd have to head to South America, or jackass all over the Ecuadorean community haunts in New York to find this, but it's a rare treat in Los Angeles--something you'll not want to miss.

The details

Cuy is a cultural dish in Peru, Ecuador too, and it's fine dining at Astrid y Gaston by chef Gaston Acurio

Cuy in Peru, and on Sunday, March 15, 2015, it's coming to Rosemead, CA

Cuy Pop-Up with Chef Walther Adrianzen of C-V-CHE, Sunday March 15, 9061 Marshall St., Rosemead, Starts at 2pm, reservations:, prices: $25-$60 cash only

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tacolandia Pre-Sale Starts Now Until March 8--Get Your Tickets Now!

I'm happy to announce L.A. Weekly's the 3rd Annual Tacolandia on June, 16, 2015 at El Pueblo de Los Angeles (Olvera Street), to you all,  and I even have a pre-sale code to share with you that you can use now until March 8th. This year we'll feature 80 of the best taco and street food vendors in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, and 3 states in Mexico: Baja California, Sonora and Nuevo Leon. 

This year, the Vendy's Cup will be at Tacolandia, and yes, lot's of great tequila, beer and more to enjoy with your tacos.

Go to this TicketFly link and use the code: TACOBILL to unlock the ticket types, yes, that's right, TACOBILL.  

We've sold out our previous 2 years a week before the event, so, I recommend striking while the plancha is hot. Can't wait to taco with you on June, 6th.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Back to Back Game Changing Regional Mexican Restaurants, Burritos La Palma and Las Molenderas in the Same Week at Los Angeles Magazine

Burritos La Palma in El Monte 

 Mexican burritos have arrived

The Real Enchirito, El Platillo Especial at Burritos La Palma

Well, it is said that lightening never strikes twice but in one weekend day I found not one, and not two, but three restaurants, two of which were on my wish list. So, lightening strikes trice!

I had been searching in vain for northern burritos in Los Angeles ever since I can remember, even settling for Gorditas La Norteña back in 2009--I stopped in again in the last year and took a few apathetic bites of a burrito that lacked any appeal the moment it was place din front of me. The quality had gone down, but it was never that great to begin with (guess that's why I hadn't been back since 2009) ; it was just the closest thing we had in L.A.

In walks Burritos La Palma, an actual outpost of a famous burrito franchise from Zacatecas that makes their own flour tortillas, has delicious guisados, and the ultimate wet burrito to end all wet burritos, an actual cross between a burrito and an enchilada--it's the enchirito.

Read about Burritos La Palma in my latest Essential T for Los Angeles Magazine's Digest Blog.

Eggs and Mole Poblano at Las Molenderas

While searching for another place I had in my notes I came across a banner that read "Pipian Rojo", it's just not something you come across in Boyle Heights. Las Molenderas is traditional, yet is a neighborhood spot, serving mole in a way that's perfect for the third generation Mexican-Americans in Boyle Heights, and fit for mole aficionados like you and I.

The third spot was an Aguascalientes-style birrieria which I'll link in another post. Amazed to find these places and inspired to dig deeper--just when I begin to think that the truest gems have already been mined, I find a trio of very special places.

I do many things these days and have found a second career which is why I rarely do original posts here, but this, the finds, I do for you, those who read. Enjoy these restaurants with my sincerest endorsement, the kind I only give to the very best.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Guatemala, the Pearl of the Mayan World is One of the Best Dining Destinations in Latin America

Guatemala is the Mayan Center of the World with a population of around 50% Maya

Guatemala had been on my mind in recent years, of all the Central American cuisine represented in Los Angeles, it’s cuisine showed the greatest potential. I had traveled to Honduras, Belize and El Salvador, and spent plenty of time in L.A. hunting down local Central-American eateries, but several visits to Rinconcito Guatemalteco (it has since changed owners and is no longer a destination) sparked a curiosity—I had to go visit Guatemala soon, and I just happened to hook up with Inguat at the end of this past summer for an unforgettable FAM that would lead me through 13 towns in just 8 days.