Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tequila Expo Tijuana 2008

Tres Tonos, from Amatitan, Jalisco
Tequila con Vibora, para curar sus infermos

El Tesoro de Don Felipe

Los Chamucos,"Si Amenece, Nos Vamos!!!!"

Alma de Mujer, Adrenalina, and Cava de Oro, a great tasting at the Expo.

The Tequila Expo in Tijuana has been calling for the past couple of years and finally, I made it out.I ran through twice in between engagements these past two weekends, tasted over 35 brands, had between 50-60 tastes of platas, reposados, and anejos; drank tequila con vivora(tequila with floating dead rattle snake), chased with beers, ate foods from Oaxaca and D.F.,enthusiastically sampled Fresca, and socialized with the fine tequila industry people on La Revo in front of the Fronton Jai Alai.

First of all, the Expo has a $60.00 peso cover charge, less than $6USD, for an all you can sample bacchanalia of tequila.Surprizingly,everyone was well behaved.As you know, these days TJ is pretty quiet, so the Expo had a crowd, but it wasn't full both times I went.The event was well attended by locals, out of towners from Mexicali to Guadalajara, and some US tourists.Once inside, two tents stretching from 7th to 8th were packed with booths of single product tequila producers, and companies with a full roster of brands.There were some food and specialty beverage booths, but the majority of them were all about tequila. Some mariachis were present to evoke the other spirit of Jalisco.

The tequila region includes 5 states:Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan,Tamaulipas, and Nayarit, with the latter being the only one that grows the agaves but doesn't make tequila.Over 95% of tequila is produced in the state of Jalisco, from agave azul grown in the region.Mezcal is made using other agaves in a stubbornly more traditional process in Oaxaca, Michoacan, and Guerrero.The only offering here for this elegant spirit at the Expo was the stomach turning tourist hallucinagenic, Gusano Rojo.Other agave plant spirits in Mexico include Bacanora from Sonora,Sotol from Chihuahua,Agave Azul from Sinaloa(used to be tequila until the DOM was established excluding Sinaloa), and the moonshine Raicilla, recently bottled and sold legitimately, also made in Jalisco among other places.

This year's Expo was exciting to see and know some new brands and talk to the representatives of my favorite producers, and to learn a thing or two about my favorite pastime.I'm up to about 50 bottles in my collection.Most were eager to talk and share information about their tequilas, and the prices were right.Wholesale prices are across the board at the Expo.So, come with a wad of cash and a smuggler's compartment in your car.

These are almost all the tequila brands I tasted in the two days and the city and state in which the agaves grow.Anejos(1 year of more in roble blanco-white oak), Reposados(3mos. to under a year in roble blaco), Platas(silver) and Blancos(white), no Oros(gold) or jovens(young) were tasted, or around as far as I could tell.

Oro y Plata
Tierra Azul
Tres Mujeres
Tres Tonos
Atotonilco El Alto,Jal.
Caballito Cerrero
Don Anastacio
El Tesoro
El Arenal,Jal.
Alma de Mujer
Cava de Oro
Don Valente
Volcan de Mi Tierra
Caballito Cerrero
Don Anselmo
Corralejo(Cd. Abasolo)
Quita Penas(Cd. Abasolo)Crema de tequila
El Agave(select agaves from the highlands of Jalisco)
Jesus Maria,Jal.
Clase Azul
Los Altos,Jal.
Oro Azul
Chinaco(Cd. Gonzalez)
Gran Jubileo
Oro Azul
Pura Sangre
Con Orgullo
No Information
Molino Rojo
Territorio Azul(organic)
Los Osuna 100%Agave Azul

The outstanding tequilas were Tres Tonos anejo and reposado,Don Anastacio anejo,Arette anejo, blanco and reposado,El Agave anejo and reposado,Corralejo anejo,Clase Azul anejo and reposado, AhaToro anejo and reposado,Cava de Oro anejo,Gran Jubileo anejo, and Alma de Mujer anejo in the high end category.

Other high end tequilas that were enjoyable but didn't excite were the Oro Azul anejo,Tres Mujeres anejo, Lapis anejo,and Chinaco anejo.These are tequilas that I like, but for the price there are many better.I would probably get the Chinaco just to have something from the state of Tamaulipas in my collection.

In the mid-range priced tequilas: Volcan de mi Tierra(Mex. only) knocked me out(bought a bottle),Adrenalina reposado,San Anselmo(Mex. only) anejo and reposado,Pura Sangre and the plain bottle of Tres Mujeres anejo.Without the fancy bottle, this tequila is affordable and a little more interesting in its new price range.Los Osuna's agave azul from the state of Sinaloa was already in my collection, but it was nice to see how well it stood up to the big names.I recommend Los Osuna, highly.

Interesting low end tequilas: the Caballito Cerrero reposado is good to drink straight, and affordable enough to use for palomas, margaritas, and other cocktails.

Tequilas gone bad, yuck! La Duena reposado was unpleasant and harsh for such a fine looking bottle,I couldn't finish the Real de Mexico reposado or the Oro y Plata reposado, they were Cuervo Gold quality.

Best slogan:Los Chamucos(The devils), a good tequila in its own right has flying devils on the label with the phrase,"Si Amanece, Nos Vamos" translation"If the sun come up, we're outta here!"

Best new distillery(new to me):LETICIA HERMOSILLO RAVELERO, with Alma de Mujer, Adrenalina, and Cava de Oro.All these tequilas were great with attractive bottles and the substance to back them up.The Adrenalina is a real Mexican style with sweet flavor and just enough burn to remind you what you're dealing with.The more smooth Alma de Mujer had orange peel flavors and makes a sippin' tequila for the US market, but also for the sofisticados of Mexico.

Most different tequila:Territorio Azul is an all organic tequila that has an interesting flavor that set it apart from everything else I tasted.Could it be the way tequila used to taste before modernization?I want to drink this a few more times to understand it better, but I'm very intrigued.

Best of the day:The first day, Tres Tonos anejo which came home with me, and the second Saturday my friend and I agreed on Don Anastacio, both with dark, nutty, and varied flavors bouncing on the tongue.The flavors held through the finish on both.

If you haven't tried tequila con vivora(dead rattler), you are missing a thrill.A powerful blend of cheap tequilas with heat and a leathery taste that will push you over the edge if you aren't there already.

Hottest booth:Fresca, with their cool refreshing grapefruit soft drink, and muchas curvas to make you thirsty.
Best apertif:Quita Pena's crema de tequilas is amazing, great for your girlfriend or wife who doesn't like tequila.Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman.

It has been a great year in tequila for me, but this brought it to new heights.My favorites of the year are the AhaToro anejo for my go to sipper, Esperanto for a beautiful bottle and a serious tequila to fill it, and Bracero, the $25 anejo that will amaze.I'm also enjoying 300 Anos reposado Bacanora from Sonora with its Mezcal like notes.Don Eduardo anejo is drinking well for me lately, and is very easy to replace.Haven't found a silver to out shine my Tapatio blanco, though.In general, the tequilas of the highlands of Jalisco, especially Arandas are consistentlythe best.

All I can say is, where were all of you?Did anyone else go?KR, stopped by for a minute but couldn't stick around.The food was great, the mariachis, and the tequilas,Uf!I've been crossing the border every other week practically and am happy to say that the scariest thing I encountered was the Oro y Plata tasting, for those with apprehension over recent news.Walking across has been pretty speedy I might add.

See you next October

UPDATE: Rocio No Longer at this Restaurant: The art of Rocio Camacho at Moles La Tia

Update: Rocio Camacho is no longer at Moles la Tia******as of September 2009***

The ancho chile flan
India Paxcana, nopales with panela cheese

Pistachio mole at La Tia

The pride of the Mixteca region, mancha manteles(table-cloth stainer mole)

Tortillas de maiz, made with the hands of Rocio Camacho

I first read about Moles La Tia here by a poster who steered me to Javier's blog, a Pleasure Palate member known as the Teenage Glutster.Then Abby went down with her Pleasure Palate group and did an excellent right up, which I also kept in my head.When Javier mentioned mancha manteles(table-cloth stainer) was served at La Tia,one of the 7 sacred moles of Oaxaca and of the Mixteca region. I had to come ASAP and tonight I got my chance.Thanks Javier and Abby for the find and the reporting.

I brought a group out tonight for a taste of La Tia.Rocio Camacho is Mixteca, a native group that ruled areas of Puebla, Guerrero, and the highlands of Oaxaca.A fierce and independent people that resisted the Mexica ruled Aztec empire, and later held off the Spaniards until they got help to brutally put down the Mixtecas.These proud and artful people recently were behind the teacher uprising in Oaxaca and have given us Lila Downs.True to her Mixteca blood, Rocio is independent, artistic, soulful, and deeply rooted in her heritage.

Above all, Rocio is dedicated to cooking with real ingredients and evokes profound flavor from all she touches.Mixteca is about chiles and grains, says Rocio.She considers mole the first food of Mexico, when the native ingredients and traditions blended with those of the Spanish, realized in a convent in Puebla, the birthplace of mole poblano.

We started with a tasting of the moles available today, she is always changing.
Traditional moles:moles found in different parts of Mexico, but with Rocio's own take.
Mole Principal ingredients
Vela de Novia-white chile, white wine,and pine nuts
Pipian Rojo-pumpkin seed in red chile mole
Pipian Verde-pumpkin seeds in green chile mole
Rocio's originalsTequila-Lime
Espina de Rosa-beet, red wine, and jamaica
Frutas Dulces-passionfruit

The aguas frescas of the day were pepino(cucumber) and horchata(rice), both all natural and among the best I've had either side or the border.Rocio's flavor shines in every aspect of her food from agua fresca to moles.A pure of chayote was the starter, a soup with chayote flavors so profound and perfectly seasoned.I love the chayote and have had it many ways, but this is an all time best.Each mole we tasted was inventive and unique in flavoring, I adored them all, but mancha manteles was on the mind.

I ordered a nopales salad with grilled panela to start, the India Paxcana, a cool cactus salad with a light vinagrete, and the elegant panela to make the perfect salad.Rocio left a little of the natural texture of the nopal to give it extra sheen and a pulque like sensation in texture.Then, the mancha manteles, imported chihuasqle chiles from Oaxaca, with smoky, dense flavors I've not encountered in these parts, served with rice , pineapple, and plantain, as tradition beseeches.This dish is off the charts.Additionally, a friend ordered the mole poblano, Rocio's nod to the original mole of Mexico.

The presentation was beautiful, everyone loved this place, and Rocio has the warmth and passion to match her incredible gift.On another note, oh, she just makes the best corn tortillas in town, from scratch.I haven't seen a bright yellow corn tortilla ever in LA, only when I go to Mexico.You can eat these things by themselves, the only reason you don't is because the food is too good.These tortillas are so good that if I brought them to my Mexican grandmother she'd slap me.

The dessert! Flan infused with ancho chile, just tingles the tongue with the subtle flavor of ancho chile beneath the delicious sweetness of a crafted flan.The flan de cafe was excellent, too.
Rocio told me that she is making a special mole for Dia de Los Muertos, and in two weeks, a mole made with huitlacoche!!!!! I will be back for this.I will be back for the mancha manteles, the tortillas, the sabor mixteca, and the skill and magic of Rocio Camacho.This is the best Oaxacan restaurant in LA, this is alta cocina, this is your mole dreams come true.The art of Oaxacan and Mixteca cuisine has a champion in Rocio, and if the other Oaxacan chefs in LA come by for a visit they will either retreat in shame, or be inspired to raise their standards.

Moles La Tia
4619 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90022
Tel. 323 263-7tia(842)
Fax. 323 263-5308
Open from 8:00am to 8:30pm

Friday, October 10, 2008

Closed-SFV gets a regional Mexican restaurant! Don Huarache

Don Huarache, bienvenidos a NoHo

Oye, the barbacoa sign is blocking the expresso machine

sopes de chicharron prensado and tinga de res

The delicacy-chicharron prensado

antojitos estilo D.F.

I happened upon Don Huarache the other day heading towards home on Burbank Bl. when I
saw the grand opening sign and "estilo D.F." ad.I walked in and talked with the chef, a recent arrival from just outside D.F.,to discover that we now have the first serious Mexican food restaurant in the Valley.Homemade chicharron prensado!!!!! That's right.

Don Huarache makes sopes, quesadillas preparadas(real quesadillas),and huaraches estilo D.F.(their specialty) to order with tinga de pollo(spicy chicken), tinga de res(spicy beef), chicharron prensado(pressed chicharron),hongos(mushrooms),picadillo,chorizo, queso y frijol(cheese and bean), and asada.Pambazos, tortas Mexicanas, tortas Cubanas,tacos, and cemitas.They have comida corrida(complete meals with rice, soup,agua fresca,tortillas,and a dessert.Don Huarache makes alambres and has an al a carte menu of classic dishes like bistec encebollado and camarones a la diabla.Breakfasts of real huevo ranchero and other egg classics are $4.25 a plate.On the weekends barbacoa de borrego with salsa borracha and homemade menudo.All of this wonderful food crafted by the gentleman from D.F. from scratch including the chicharron prensado(parts, fat, and chicharrones all pressed together), something I haven't even come across in East LA.

Don Huarache look as though it started out as a Starbuck's or the like, and made a left turn and plastered hand written menus all over the walls, as if to say, yeah, enough of this fresa %$#@, this is street food, man!But, they do serve expresso,coffee, and cappuccino and have some nice machines to deliver this service.How about a sundae?They do that too.An Icee?Right here.

I stopped today for a sope of chicharron prensado and another of tinga de res.The chicharron prensado was unreal, so balanced in flavor and just blended beautifully with the crema, lettuce, beans, and cheese.The tinga was spicy and oozing with complex tastes.I'm officially blown away.The agua de tamarindo was fresh and authentic, for a change.No instant powdered nonsense.

SFV Mexican food lovers rejoice, we now have a true destination for authentic Mexican.Real food made by a chilango that aims for quality and sabor.Joana, a nice Guatemalteca was working today, made my sopes, but she assured me that "el morenito es el cocinero que cocina toda!"These people care about their food and know how to treat their customers.Next, the menudo, the barbacoa, and huevo ranchero that uses ranchero sauce, not the house salsa.Hooray!

Don Huarache
10719 Burbank Bl.(just east of Vineland)
North Hollywood,CA
Mon-Thurs 8-9
Friday-saturday 8-10
Sunday 9-6

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Review w/pics:Captain Beefheart!LA's anticucheria peruana!

Anticucheria Danessi

Anticucho de corazon, papas, y choclo

aji para acompanar

Good hearted family fun

Quick, to the anticucho mobile!

If I were a cow donating my organs to a cause culinaire, I would want Anticucheria Danessi to be the recipient. LA's first anticucheria, as they advertise, has brought peruvian street food indoors in a delightful family restaurant located in Norwalk.To some, a peruvian restaurant dedicated to serving beef organs in a family atmosphere might be as avant garde as the iconic Captain Beefheart, but the beef hearts here are ready for primetime.

Anticuchos are made from everything these days, but organs meats are the truest expression of the peruvian skewers.I ordered the anticuchos de corazon(beef hearts), with choclo(corn on the cob)and papas(potatoes).The anticuchos were like Morton's on a stick,tender marinated beef hearts with the classic vinegary and peppery flavor of street anticuchos.Mine were medium, just the perfect amount of pink in the center, mouthful after mouthful loaded with deep flavor..A spicy aji accented so nicely and the Cristal completed this hearty meat,corn and potato celebration.Danessi has grilled pancita(buche),choncholi(tripe),higado(liver) and rachi(honeycomb tripe)too!Gotta come back for that. There are also the saltados, chaufas,picantes,tallarines,ceviches,sudados, and jaleas that we are quite familiar with and a caldo de gallina.It all looked wonderful, and "sonrisas peruanas" were all around.

There was a huge group howling with laughter in the main room, and several families and couples enjoying anticuchos and traditional plates amidst an amusing and homey decor.Their slogan:venga a saborear la pancita,rachi,choncholi, y los mejores anticuchos de California.So, bring the wife and kids out for some skewered organs,you won't regret it.

Anticucheria Danessi
14531 S. Pioneer Bl.
Norwalk, CA 90650
sun-thurs 10-10
fri-sat 10-11:30
closed mondays

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mariscos Jalisco:Not just another mariscos truck

Mariscos Jalisco

The Menu

Tacos dorados de camaron con aguacate(shrimp tacos)

Crispy outside and tender in the middle!

I'd like to thank Abby,Lisa, and Cecilia for alerting me about some mariscos trucks located on Olympic between Evergreen and Dakota.They were on a Pleasure Palate Mexican food crawl weekend before last that I couldn't make.Upon hearing the news about a gathering of mariscos trucks and big crowds, I immediately thought more boring cocteles and uninspired ceviche, but the talk of the hungry mob intrigued me, so I had to stop by on my way out of town.It was slammed at all three trucks, one around the corner on Evergreen, another near the corner of Evergreen and Olympic, and one all the way down near Dakota.I couldn't eat that day, but stopped to do some recon, when I spotted two stands promoting their tacos de camaron.Hmmmm.Well, you know that feeling.Your chowsense just starts kickin' in.When I arrived at Mariscos Jalisco, I was surprized to see that they were in the style of San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco,Eat Nopal country.The northern part of Jalisco that borders Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas.Waiting all week with anticipation I returned this past Saturday afternoon.

Raul, the owner informed me that the recipe from the taco dorado de camaron(deep fried shrimp taco) comes from the taquero he employs, also from San Juan de Los Lagos.The taquero had worked at one of the other trucks until they had his recipe and let him go,so the Mariscos Jalisco truck has the source.

The taco is filled with a mixture of shrimp and vegetables and then deep fried until the taco is golden and crisp, and the filling is dark at the outside.Inside, a glorious softness and combined with the slightly fermented salsa produces a flavor that has an almost Asian tang.These are amazing, and are now my favorite taco in LA.Other offerings included cocteles,ceviches,ostiones(oysters), aguachiles(raw shrimp cooked in lime) in a cup or on a tostada, and tostadas de pescado,camaron,mixtos(mixed seafood), and jaiba(crab).

Ceviche de camaron(shrimp ceviche)

The crowd favorites are the tostadas mixtas, which looked beautiful, and tostadas in general along with the house specialty, tacos dorados de camaron.They have imitation abulon(abulone) as an option, the real thing would be too costly for them, so don't be surprised.Just say "sin abulon, por favor" on your mixta to avoid this.Treat yourself right, have a mixta or tostada de aguachile and 2-3 of those tacos de camaron, and for under $10 you have a regional Mexican seafood festival.The crowd is festive and substantial on the weekends which makes for a good time.

Raul is a pleasure to talk to and is very proud of his food and his family's heritage, as he should be with this serious contribution to the mariscos truck scene and the LA taco palate.

Mariscos Jalisco, al estilo San Juan de Los Lagos

Mon-Sun 9-5

Olympic near Dakota