Kicking back at El Corazon Del Maguey mezcal bar in Coyoacan, Mexico City in the year of the bicentennial.What a time is was?
There are many things to be thankful this year.I've traveled to my beloved Colombia, about 25-30 trips to Mexico lindo, at least five trips have been to Mexico City, and including new states:Hidalgo, and San Luis Potosi. To date, I've traveled extensively through 24 states in Mexico, and hope to see all 31 by the end of 2012.
It was a little slow for music but I did get to work with the legendary Wailers maan, and got to perform in my family's hometown Aguascalientes, at the largest fair in Mexico.The year was full of adventures throughout Mexico. The low light of course was backing up Nguyen of Starry Kitchen at Test Kitchen playing the viral internet hit, the Rapist song.But, I love Nguyen and Thi, I'd do it again.
I've met even more amazing people in the food community, and have enjoyed night after night of adventure, laughter, cuisine, wine and spirits, revelry, and cheer.2011 will be even better, but let me just share some of the highlights of 2010.
LA Street Food Fest
The first big break of the year came after meeting Shawna Dawson of Artisanal LA for lunch at Saap's Coffee Shop.We got off famously and then it was off for a personal snapshot of the Los Angeles street food scene, our city is truly amazing if you just veer off the beaten paths.
I was recruited to bring some of the traditional street vendors we visited to the first LA Street Food Fest, which turned out to be perhaps the largest food event LA has ever seen.This was in February. I was promoted to judge on the follow up Summer Tasting Event at the Rose Bowl with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,Walter Manzke,Susan Feniger,Rene Lynch,and actor Jesse Williams, but more importantly, Shawna has become one of the most important people in my life.
In early May I led John Sedlar of Rivera Restaurant,the great Barbara Hansen, my friends Tomoko and Brian on a Great Chefs of Baja Tour I had arranged with the chefs. Between Tijuana, the Valle de Guadalupe, and Ensenada, we feasted on extraordinary cuisine. Out of this trip came inspiration for Rivera's new menus that would be realized later in the year, and more inspiration for the new Playa Rivera restaurant set to open soon in the former Grace location. While we were there, I delivered invitations to baja vintners to attend the 2010 East LA Meets Napa, which was a success. Some of the top Baja wines made it to the event.And, I introduced Javier Plascencia on this and some previous trips to Test Kitchen, in which Javier Plascencia's run would turn out to be the finest performance at the star studded pop-up restaurant. One of my missions is to share the culinary treasures of Mexico and Latin America with friends, 2010 provided many opportunities, 2011 will be even greater.
Upon dropping John off, I received a call a bit later in which he informed me that I was mentioned in Travel and Leisure. It was on his porch when we got back.It turns out that the writer Peter J. Lindberg had been devouring my Baja blog posts and old Chowhound posts which he used to snag locations for his article.Ever the gentleman, Peter mentioned me in the article, and even suggested Baja put me on retainer. Uh, not going to happen, but a novel proposition.
The cast of Top Chef Masters, Season 2,Episode 6-Scary Surf and Turf
Top Chef Masters
My television debut came, well, at the TOP.Where do you go from here? On May 12th, I appeared on Top Chef Masters, Season 2, Episode 6 Scary Surf and Turf with Andrew Zimmern, with my blood brother from a Taiwanese mother, Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining.I had taken Eddie to Baja on that infamous media trip back in 2009, so he returned the favor and dropped my name in the hat for this show, and.......I got the call.In case you missed us, there is a video clip extra where Andrew discusses the strangest thing he's ever eaten. I think my contribution to this bit was drinking wine! Well, if you can find the actual episode somewhere on the net you'll see that Eddie and I held our own with the big boys. We had a fabulous evening viewing the episode while close friends and supporters watched with us at the Edison. Huge thanks to Dan Cox for that one.
I even scored a date with fellow judge, Gael Greene, who has referred to me as the guru of street food. Not bad,eh?
I was a judge on the first LA Vendy Awards, where I met my great friend Evan Kleiman, and Vinny and Jon of Animal. From of this event, Evan and I went on to start Street Food Mondays, a street food pop-up with the goal of bringing street food culture to the West Side. Vinny and Jon, the chefs of the hit restaurant Animal, also hit me up for a street food crawl, but, we upped the stakes and the boys joined me on another epic Baja journey of the senses. It was a a great time eating and drinking with those guys. All I can say is....Dirty Chicken!!
In between all this madness, in early June, I was invited by my dear brothers, Jaime and Ramiro of top LA Mexican restaurant La Casita, to attend a cooking demo by Marcela Valladolid, who has become another special person in my life. Marcela is the only latina on the Food Network, and is a Baja native. Keep an eye out for her, and for Mexican Made Easy on Saturday mornings on the Food Network.
Tintin and Patricia, the LA Boobs.
Boobs 4 Food
On June 6, completely giddy knowing my Bizarre Foods episode was coming up, I had to keep busy, or would have gone nuts. My girls, yes they are my girls, at Boobs 4 Food had sent me an invite to volunteer for an event that turned out to be the Taste of the Nation.Really?I didn't realize that's what I was doing 'til I saw the tweets. Anyways, myself and others kicked ass that day at Wine Bingo, completely selling out.Boobs 4 Food is a volunteer organization based in Los Angeles and San Francisco dedicated to fighting hunger, I love these girls.I don't know why they've taken a liking to me, but I guess I'm just lucky that way.
I recently volunteered with Boobs 4 Food to prepare meals for the West Hollywood Angel Food Project, which delivers meals to those homebound or disabled by HIV/AIDS or other illnesses.
In June 13th I appeared on Bizarre Foods Baja, an episode in which I also was a location scout, fixer, and the primary source of the show's content.Working with Andrew was inspirational, a great guy who is a consummate pro, in every sense of the word. His production company, director, and location crew are all people that I'll never forget.You'll never know how much I fought to keep Tijuana in this show, combating all the negative press and misconceptions about Tijuana, but in the end, all things fell into place, and the Bizarre Foods people consider it one of the best episodes of the season. This was the highest of honors to participate in the making of this show.
Our Jo.Jo Stougaard of My Last Bite,the sole owner of a Street Gourmet LA dot com t-shirt.She had it made for the Bizarre Foods Baja viewing party. So far, only chef Ludovic Lefebvre and I have earned this privilege. I love you,Jo.What do I do to deserve such wonderful people like you? Greater than any award or recognition are the people we love, and who love us back.
I wrote about this incredible experience in a three part series. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. We had a blowout viewing party at Guelaguetza restaurant in Koreatown in which around 100 friends and members of the food loving community showed up to eat grasshoppers, drink mezcal, and.....occasionally watch the broadcast. You can read about this soiree on It's More Than Just Eating, by another new and special friend from 2010, Oanh Nguyen.
The Last Samba
Well, the year had been amazing to this point, and I decided to help Rio Brazil Cafe, the little restaurant that ALMOST could, throw an Anniversary party. Friends came out for a special night of music, samba dancers, and carioca cuisine. Well, owner Luciene Peck probably didn't have the heart to tell me that evening, but after a year of struggling, she would close the restaurant shortly after this party. So, it ended up being a farewell party. I'm so thankful to all that came out that day, and for the Camarena tequila guys for supplying the booze.
Like Matt Kang of Scoops Westside, Sam Kim, Fiona Chandra, and other members of the food lover community in the area, I was really looking forward to the Rio Brazil Cafe for dinner, and Scoops for dessert combo.Oh well. We love our restaurants, but it's not a business for everyone, not in these times.Here is a little cheer from that day.
Sambistas Camila and Soraiya tantalize the twitterati.
Patricia, Allan, Maya, and Sam Kim grabbing the last orders taken at Rio Brazil, and surrounded by Camarena Tequila. It was caipitequila time!Yes it's a real drink.
Justin and Mist O. relaxin' carioca style.
Tina of Boobs for Food with her Camarena tequila swag. They wrapped the gifts like burritos.
It's Carnaval at Rio Brazil Cafe with Camila and Soraiya.
Boyz Nite Out and La Descarga
Around mid-July a little gathering of cigar smokers and spirit aficionados I started with just Brian Saltsburg and Ben Bailly present, blew up in the twitterverse and moved into La Descarga and opened Test Kitchen.La Descarga just happens to be my favorite watering hole in the States, so it was amazing to move this event into their bar, which I first fell in love with earlier in the year.This is a regular stop for me, Steve Livigni(manager) and Pablo Moix(mixologist)of La Descarga have become great friends one shot of rum and one puff of a cigar at a time. There is no greater bar in town, or outta town.
Burger King - Rick Bayless - (2003) 0:30 (USA)
I'd rather eat this Southwest chicken sandwich by Rick Bayless from Burger King than go back to Red O.
In August I experienced my worst meal of 2010, and felt justified in lighting up a false representative of Mexican cuisine, Mr. Rick Bayless, since he offended the latino chefs and restaurateurs in Los Angeles by claiming to be bringing authentic Mexican to Los Angeles. This post about Red O would be the first spark in a national media frenzy that was set off because Jonathan Gold was quoted poking fun at Rick Bayless's outrageous assumption by Gustavo Arellano, the Food Editor for the OC Weekly, and author of the Ask a Mexican column, at a Latino Journalists event Jonathan Gold was addressing.
Rick attacked Jonathan Gold on twitter, and the OC Weekly's piece went viral. Jonathan Gold and Rick Bayless kissed and made up, and Jonathan Gold did a, well....mixed review of Red O the following month. See what Jonathan Gold has to say about Red O, Rick Bayless, and yours truly in his review titled Back to Bayless.
I'm happy to say that Rick has been a little more humble in his public speaking as of recent and when his chef left Red O recently, a Latino chef took his place. I'm calling this the Street Gourmet LA effect.I even hear he's looking to Baja now for inspiration,hmmm.Think he's been reading the blog?
The latest with Red O? GQ Magazine's Alan Richman just called Red O the most annoying restaurant of 2010, and said that Rick should be placed under "hacienda arrest", for crimes against Mexican cuisine.
I'd still like to see an apology to the talented latino chefs of LA for the comments made on the Feast interview, and for Rick to spend a little time getting to know the authentic Mexican restaurants and chefs of Los Angeles.What do you say Mr. Bayless?A New Year's resolution?
Los Angeles Magazine
After running around Los Angeles with Lesley Barger Suter, the Food Editor of Los Angeles Magazine, and a couple of brainstorming sessions, the Ultimate Guide to Mexican Food in LA was revealed in the November 2010 issue of Los Angeles Magazine. Here I was featured in a taco crawl with Lesley, fun, and was the sole consultant for the Mexican Food in LA feature. This was such a pleasure. I loved working with Los Angeles Magazine, and Lesley is amazing. I think this is their best Mexican food edition ever!
My greatest single dining experience of 2010 was having barbacoa in Tezontepec, Hidalgo. It was dream like, an outer body experience. I can recall every sensorial experience that day. Put this on the list of things to do before you die.
I look forward to dining with you in 2011, and sharing. Let's dine, raise our glasses, but please, let's talk about something other than food! It's a bore to talk about where you've been eating, or to weigh in on the meal...while you're EATING.Enjoy the meal and let me do the same. It's like making love to a woman while talking about your ex.And please, don't shut your eyes and tell me the flavors you're getting, it's ridiculous. Here are some topics:music,politics, sports, modern dance, travel, tequila(I like this one), your favorite samba school, or even some juicy gossip.Oh, this was for CERTAIN bloggers, by the way.This is supposed to be fun, not an academic exercise my young friends!!
Still got nothing to talk about at dinner?Let me share a little Meaning of Life clip with you from the brilliant Monty Python players, about dinner conversation.Maybe you need........conversation cards?
The other big change in 2011? If your going to suggest we drop a C Note to try SOME chef doing SOMETHING different, out of his/her element, you can count me out.I'm talking pop-ups, restaurants, special tastings, or whatever the venue.This was the year I found countless blissful bites under $10, almost everytime I spent $100 on dinner I was left disappointed.It had better be worth it. I don't just want to like a few dishes, I want to be wowed.I'm sick and tired of chefs who can't get it up for $100.No more, we're in a recession my friends.
And, the ordering everything on the menu? STOP already. How about, as Frank the Tank said in Old School..."how about we get together for a whole meal of food sometime?" An appetizer, a main, a dessert is okay every now and then, isn't it? Am I the only one that thinks it's weird to eat the whole menu? It's OCD dining.
Another resolution. I promise to stop leaving a mess on the table after every frickin' meal, demonios! I hate it!! Your area is spotless, and mine is a mess. No more, not a drop in 2011.
Happy New Year to All.And,Love and success to all types of food writers, food lovers, bon vivants, chefs, restaurateurs, bartenders, valets, cooks,organizations, waiters, hosts/hostesses, and all the other passionate people that support dining out, living the good life, and great cuisine in the New Year.
Special thanks to Josh Lurie, Jo Stougaard,Eddie Lin, John Sedlar,Evan Kleiman,Shawna Dawson,Tomoko Kurokawa,Barbara Hansen,Harriet Ells,Javier Plascenica, Benito Molina,Miguel Angel Guerrero,Andrew Zimmern,Andre Guerrero, Julie Wolfson,Nastassia Johnson,Sarah Gebeke,Gael Greene,Ricardo Zarate,Stephane Bombet,Esther Tseng,Zach Brooks,Rodrigo Oliveira,Cathy Danh,Nguyen and Thi Tran,Chuy Tovar, Josie Mora,Steve Livigni, Pablo Moix,Jaime Martin del Campo,Ramiro Arvizu,Abby Abanes, Fiona Chandra,Matthew Kang, Pat Saperstein,David Lieberman,Julian Cox,Connie Cossio,David Haskell,Boobs 4 Food,Jahdiel Vargas,Bill Chait, Brian Saltsburg, Bricia Lopez,Dan Cox, Javier Cabral, and the cooks, chefs,and people of Baja California,Mexico,Latin America and Los Angeles for your friendship, sustenance, and support in 2010.
Thanks to you all in the over 100 countries and territories who stopped by the blog in 2010!
Happy New Year!!! May 2011 bring joy and deliciousness to all of your dining tables.