Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Ultimate Guide to Regional Mexican Cuisine in L.A. on First We Feast

Ever since Pulitzer Prize winning L.A. Times Food Critic, Jonathan Gold, wrote in a 2007 LA Weekly post that L.A. practically has every region in Mexico represented with the exception of Chiapas, many other writers around the country have assumed this to be gospel. This was never true, and at the time, the article even mentioned regions that were not represented at all, as some of the restaurants counted were not regional restaurants.

So, from this day forward, consider the record corrected in The Essential Guide to Regional Mexican Food in Los Angeles, a post I recently did for First We Feast. And while we don't have all regions represented, our depth goes beyond provincial dishes, making Los Angeles second to none in the U.S.

East L.A. Independence Day Parade

I hope you enjoy the guide and get a chance to dig in to all these delicious regional gems in Los Angeles, the second largest Mexican city in the world.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Donde Comer, September 18-20: Tacos La Carreta, Compton, CA

L.A.'s first legit northern Mexican taco cart

It just doesn't stop here in L.A.We are gaining new traditional, regional vendors each week, whether they've been around a month like Tacos La Carreta, or 15 years, hidden from mainstream food media.

As a writer for Los Angeles Magazine, restaurant consultant, fixer for food television and editor of this blog, it has been my job to find great shit. Whether it be the streets of L.A., Mexico, Brasil, Guatemala, or anywhere else in Latin America, I find shit, professionally.

These past few years have seen increased activity as many jobs that come up, as well as for my beat at L.A. Magazine, require me to find new places, constantly. And, to the petty food critic out there who has begun to trivialize my contributions to you diners, all I have to say is, what is your job? Apparently, to not find shit.

2 Generations of badness, Jose Morales Jr. and Sr.

My latest find I just published in Los Angeles Magazine's Digest is about Compton's Tacos La Carreta, and it's one of the best, a real carne asada vendor doing special tacos from Mazatlan, Sinaloa. And, this is my pick for you to explore this Sunday, as that's currently the only day they're out.

True carne asada is cooked over mesquite

Finding great Latin American food only helps to lift up Los Angeles as a dining destination and to reinforce its status as the best city for Latin American dining in the U.S., especially for Mexican cuisine. So, that's what we're going to keep on doing. I find shit.

On that note, let me welcome my new contributors, Juan Ismerio and Cerpa Rodion, who took these fantastic photos, and will be helping me update Street Gourmet LA more often and allow Street Gourmet LA to be in more than one place at a time. Scouts are for louts, no, these talented young Latinos aren't scouts, but they'll be contributing in a number of ways including an upgrade to a real website, attending events I can't make, and shooting much better quality pictures.

This past week we were able to attend events in Brasil, Los Angeles: the L.A. Times Taste event, Alex's Lemonade, the Festival Chileno in Camarillo and this top notch taco cart, Tacos La Carreta in Compton, as a team.

Chorreadas, Mazatlan-style vampiros spiked with a splash of hot, unrefined lard

These chorreadas, vampiros, tacos and quesadillas are game changers; do yourself a flavor and pay them a visit this Sunday.

Tacos La Carreta, 413 N. Wilmington Ave., Compton, Sundays only from 3:30pm to 9:30 p.m.

Monday, September 14, 2015

On the Road: Menudo Blanco, Estilo San Juan de Abajo, Nayarit in Montecito Heights

On the Road is a weekly series here on Street Gourmet LA, where we share a favorite bite from our travels, domestic and abroad, in the finest dining rooms around the world and at the most humble of urban and rural stands as well as people's homes.

This week was just another typical week around the office, Michelin star restaurants in Jardins and Vila Medeiros, São Paulo as well as delicious pasteís (pastries) in Liberdade (São Paulo's Japanese neighborhood); Los Angeles Time's Taste event, Alex's Lemonade Stand, the Festival Chileno in Camarillo for completos (Chilean hot dogs) and pisco sours, Sinaloan-style tacos (exciting new post coming soon on Los Angeles Magazine) and a bowl of homemade menudo blanco by a family from San Juan de Abajo, Nayarit.

Chava and his wife, Hildelisa, cook up a light and tasty white menudo from southern Nayarit, influenced by the nearby state of Jalisco. While this wasn't the greatest dish of this rather substantial week in food, it was a reminder of how nice it is to sit down with a family and enjoy simple, delicious and thoughtful cooking.

The delicate stock is different from most white menudos I've encountered--transparent and light in flavor until chopped onions, jalapeños, yerba buena (as is typical in Jalisco) and menudo mix spices are layered to taste. The ample cuts of beef include al dente book tripe, beef tendon, and a marrow rich lower leg bone draped in crunchy bits of cartilage.

The family is the best of the many houses preparing menudo blanco, all from San Juan de Abajo, in Lincoln Heights and Montecito Heights where snack kings Raspados Nayarit do business. It's another example of the regional enclaves that exist in L.A. (and why L.A. has the best Mexican food in the country), where everyone knows each other, and each year and few more from their home town show up ready to work, but not until they've had a hot bowl of menudo blanco from San Juan de Abajo.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Enchiladas: Mexican Food Explained!

1) All-American baked enchiladas

This time on Mexican Food Explained, a photo essay to unlock the mysteries surrounding the debates about what's Mexican, what's Mexican-American, and what's All-American, as we tackle enchiladas, a dish beloved by all. 

Think of enchiladas as being the opposite of tacos, where the sauce is what's most important, and the filling is simple, usually chicken or cheese. They can be baked, fried to order, and either rolled or doubled over before the covering sauce is ladled on top. In America, it's melted cheese and in Mexico it's a dressing of cream, salty cheese, raw vegetables, fried potatoes and carrots, pork rinds and whole chicken legs on the side. 

Because the sauce or mole is so important, the main element, the sauce or mole is homemade in traditional Mexican enchiladas, as opposed to the Mexican-American or American, where melted cheese and the sides: rice and beans, play a bigger role. 

Whichever your fancy, you'll find this photo essay handy in knowing what style of enchiladas are on your plate. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

My Ultimate Guide to Mole in L.A. for Los Angeles Magazine's Digest

Moles at the Mercado Benito Juarez in Oaxaca

Mole is easy to find in L.A., but often is misunderstood by fans of mole north of the border. Mole is the dish, that's it, everything else is there for eating mole: the rice, the vegetables the beans the tortillas and the proteins. No, we never braise the meat in mole, no mole is not a sauce and yes there should be more mole on the plate than anything else. I'm talking to you chef, who only took one lesson on mole zacatecano and then put a dot of mole on the plate; I'm talking to you Yelper, who complained about the chicken--who cares about the chicken, it's about the mole.

Oaxaca and Puebla are most famous for their moles, and no doubt Oaxaca has more moles that any other state, but that doesn't make them the best moles, or the most important. Moles are in practically every state, and while some states have only a few or one typical mole, states like Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Guerrero, Michoacan and more have amazing moles. Zacatecas has a few including their sweet asado de boda, which is as good as any in Mexico. Oaxaca and Puebla are just very good at mole PR, and food tourism in general.

Elevate you mole knowledge with my Ultimate Guide to Mole in L.A., in this week's Los Angeles Magazine Disgest blog. Provecho!