Things I’ve Written This Week - An Illustrated History of Ramen [First We Feast] Delicious Meats On Sticks In Los Angeles [KCET] Best Taco Joints in Los Angeles [Food Network]
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Taco Task Force: Potato Tacos, the Reason My Belly Aches
What do these people and the Taco Task Force have in common, you ask? A shared appetite for pain,inane acts, and suffering. We have both committed a gross misappropriation of the potato, the vegetable that once saved civilization, the noble tuber that has enriched the cuisines of Colombia and Peru with its varieties, flavors, and textures.
As president and CEO of the Taco Task Force, I must confess that this was not my idea, nor my planning. But, as any other president, I must accept my responsibilty.....and blame someone. The culprit......my blood brother, Javier Cabral.
I was moving forward with a barbacoa run when Javier and Matt started on with their more "progressive" taco runs. "How about a fusion taco mission?" "How about a vegetarian option?" "What about potato tacos", Javier gestured. Potato tacos? Who cares about that? I never ordered the things, always something better on the menu. A friend has been bugging me forever to go with her to El Atacor and I've always weasled out of it. I had potatoes in tacos when I was younger, I mean, my abuelita would sometimes make mashed potatoes and we'd put them in tortillas with beans. Those were great. "OK, I GUESS, but Javier, this one is YOUR baby." You pick the places, plan the route......I'll be damned if your gonna park my barbacoa run in favor of this......fool's mission, then make me do all the work. Heeeelllll no.
We finally picked a date. The only smart member of the team, Cathy Danh, was out of town for this one, and Matt had some vague reason he couldn't make it. So, it would be just Josh, Javier, and I. Matt would have to do this on his own at a later date.
The night before this ill-fated journey I was partying 'til the wee hours, burning it at both ends as seems to be the routine these days. At about 2AM I get a text from Javier."Dude, I'm wasted....I'm going to crash at my friends and catch up wth you guys half way through, or something." I fired back,"I don't think so!" "Josh and I will see you at 9AM at Cacao." Oh, did you know Javier just turned 21? YEAH!
Scoring Key:B=Bill,Jo=Josh,M=Matt, and Ja=Javier
STOP #1: Cacao Mexicatessen
1576 Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock, 323 478 2791
A disheveled Javier Cabral showed up with Josh a little after 9AM at Cacao Mexicatessen, where I attempted to revive myself with a little of their tasty expresso, a double of course. After I gave Javier an acerbic applause for showing up, the potato tacoing commenced.
Cacao's version was one of the two atypical potato tacos on our run down. The tortilla is made of blue corn, and red potatoes are used mixed with poblano chile strips. The flavor was mild, not the snacky goodness I was expecting. Cotija cheese was sprinkled atop the taco, it was dressed with iceburg lettuce, and a tomatillo and chile de arbol salsa.
From this very first taco, I started to doubt this mission. It was uninteresting, despite its attractive presentation. I mean, there are the duck carnitas, and the chocolate and bacon taco here. Why would I ever order this?
Grade of Key Ingredient:Jo 3, B 2.5, Ja 3, M 2 AVERAGE 2.625/5
Condiment/Tortilla:Jo 2.5, B 2.5, Ja 3, M 2.5 AVERAGE 2.625/5
Overall Flavor:Jo 2.5, B 1.5, Ja 2, M 2 AVERAGE 1.875/5
Cooking:Jo 3, B 2.5, Ja 3.5, M 3 AVERAGE 3/5
OVERALL CACAO MEXICATESSEN TACO SCORE: 2.53125/5
STOP #2: My Taco
6300 York Boulevard, Highland Park, 323 256 2698
The potato taco at My Taco wasn't offensive but decidedly bland. I think it was at this point that Josh and I were beginning to detest this taco run.
I was very Taco Bellish, without the fast-food-formula FLAVOR.
Grade of Key Ingredient:Jo 2, B 2, Ja 3, M 3 AVERAGE 2.5/5
Condiment/Tortilla:Jo 2, B 2, Ja 2.5, M 3 AVERAGE 2.375/5
Overall Flavor:Jo 2, B 2, Ja 3.5, M 3.5 AVERAGE 2.75/5
Cooking:Jo 2, B 2, Ja 3, M 3 AVERAGE 2.5/5
OVERALL MY TACO TACO SCORE: 2.53125/5
STOP #3: EL ATACOR #11
2622 North Figueroa Avenue, Cypress Park, 323 832 9263
When we arrived at El Atacor, the only real legitimate stop on our crawl that day, I mean, this place is known for these things and specializes in them. The rest of our stops didn't fall under the specialist model of previous runs.
But, Jonathan Gold put El Atacor on the map, and I think is soley responsible for potato taco awareness in LA. Thanks, Jonathan Gold. It's even one of his 99 Things to Eat Before You Die in LA.
I do understand the appeal of this taco, a junk food lover's dream. It's greasy, covered with pre-shredded Jack and Cheddar, and a fast food package grade guacamole tomatillo sauce, and a watery crema. This could be a Taco Bell menu item. Something for cannibas induced munchies at 3AM, or a post High School football game snack for a 16 year old linemen.
It was more flavorful than any potato taco that day, but it wasn't making me feel that great.
The three of us had that constipated look, languid, queasy,as Javier indifferently attempted to bite this taco as it sadly fell apart onto the table. I stared at this bit of lost morsel, and thought, that's where it belongs.
Grade of Key Ingredient:Jo 1.5, B 2, Ja 2, M 3 AVERAGE 2.125/5
Condiment/Tortilla:Jo 1.5, B 1.5, Ja 3, M 2 AVERAGE 2/5
Overall Flavor:Jo 2, B 2.5, Ja 4, M 3 AVERAGE 2.875/5
Cooking:Jo 1.5, B 2, Ja 3.5, M 2.5 AVERAGE 2.375/5
OVERALL EL ATACOR #11 TACO SCORE: 2.34375/5
STOP #4: La Parrilla
2126 Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Boyle Heights, 323 262 3434
Then, we descended into combo plate hell at La Parrilla. Beans, rice, and potato tacos? The beans were the only redeeming thing on the plate. I think somewhere between the last few stops I received another caffeine injection.
This was a rather unpleasant offering of this base taco. Again, lacking any flavor, save for the tomatoes, cheese and lettuce.
Grade of Key Ingredient:Jo 2, B 1.5, Ja 2.5, M 2 AVERAGE 2/5
Condiment/Tortilla:Jo 1.5, B 1.5, Ja 2.5, M 2.5 AVERAGE 2/5
Overall Flavor:Jo 1.5, B 1, Ja 2.5, M 1.5 AVERAGE 1.625/5
Cooking:Jo 1.5, B 1.5, Ja 2.5, M 1 AVERAGE 1.625/5
OVERALL LA PARRILLA TACO SCORE: 1.8125/5
STOP #5: La Casita Mexicana
4030 East Gage Avenue, Bell, 323 773 1898
Needless to say, by the time we got to La Casita, our power trio of taco rockers was feeling like we just played 10 straight nights in Des Moines. I attempted another caffeinated product, Jaime and Ramiro's cafe de la olla. I think I had two to three cups.
La Casita's potato taco was beautiful, of course. Romaine lettuce, vibrant purple onion,fresh sliced tomato,a paired salsa, with small Dutch boiled potatoes. These were the flavors of crisp vegetables, and refinement.
I stared at this taco, and thought about the funky versions we'd encountered earlier and the caffeine just took hold. I started to argue with Josh and Javier that we couldn't really compare these tacos, there were too different. My eyes were widened, my hands trembled, and I was a tad irrational.
The boys sent out some other dishes, which were the first tasty moments of the day. Shrimp torts with with rosemary for lent, and an excellent ceviche. I thought, who would order potato tacos at La Casita with all the great food they have there? Come on. Oh, and what to give up for lent?How about potato tacos?
In La Casita, we found our winner, but the biggest losers? Javier, Josh, Matt(who had to suffer through these places alone), and myself for having to eat these things.
Grade of Key Ingredient:Jo 2.5, B 3, Ja 4, M 3 AVERAGE 3.125/5
Condiment/Tortilla:Jo 3.5, B 3, Ja 3.5, M 3.5 AVERAGE 3.375/5
Overall Flavor:Jo 3, B 2.5, Ja 3.5, M 3 AVERAGE 3/5
Cooking:Jo 3, B 3, Ja 4, M 4 AVERAGE 3.5/5
OVERALL LA CASITA MEXICANA TACO SCORE: 3.28125/5 Winner!
The scores given for this run are reflective of a comprehensive approach to our challenges, rating the different tacos across all the different categories. In other words, a potato taco is going to score lower in general to more complex tacos like our previous birria and fish tacos. Just like degrees of difficulty are awarded higher points in gymnastics.
Anyways, potato tacos? You can have 'em! I'm done.