Category Archives: Taco Week

An Interview With L.A. Taco’s Blazedale

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When it comes to taco hot spots in the United States, there is no spot more incandescent than Southern California, with Los Angeles as its bright center where every type of taco is seemingly within reach and where the taco’s boldface proselytizers congregate. Among them is the crew behind L.A. Taco, a website established in 2005 to shine the spotlight on all that is great in LA via the taco and taco lifestyle. The mission has resulted in a vibrant mix of urban photography, interviews with artists, musicians and writers. The latter has included taco scribes Bill Esparza, Gustavo Arellano and Jeffrey M. Pilcher. Along the way there has been plenty of fun, including a mascot, bracket-style competition Taco Madness and the contest’s subsequent taco festival.

That festival took place on April 20—the same day as the Taco Trail co-founded North Texas Taco Festival in Dallas, Texas. In the run up to our shindigs, L.A. Taco’s Blazedale and I struck up a correspondence.

We caught up with Blazedale again this week for a Taco Week interview.

Taco Trail: What was the inspiration for L.A. Taco?

L.A. Taco: L.A. is such a diverse city and while there are thousands of things which unite different communities, there are fewer which bring the city together. By far the tastiest of these is the taco. We wanted to create a place to document our favorite unsung parts of the city such as street art, dive bars, and of course tacos. At that time, these things weren’t nearly as celebrated as they are today.

TT: L.A. Taco supports the taco lifestyle. What is the taco lifestyle?

LAT: To us the taco lifestyle is about getting out of the house and exploring your city. Checking out a new bar, an art show, live music, or hunting for a new taco spot you’ve never tried before. Finishing up a great night out with a taco is really the best thing ever, and an experience that is quintessential Los Angeles.

TT: L.A. is the taco capital of the United States. What are your thoughts on the rise of the taco across the country? Continue reading

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Filed under California, interviews, Lengua Sessions, Los Angeles, Taco Week

Recipe: Driftwood Chef Omar Flores’ Carnitas and Chicharrón Tacos

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TacoWeekBannerIn honor of tomorrow’s big announcement, we give a recipe originally published by our friends at Entree Dallas. It’s a winner of a taco, being the creation that earned Driftwood executive chef Omar Flores first place in the inaugural North Texas Taco Festival Taco Throwdown.

Speaking of which who thinks they can beat Omar in 2014? Continue reading

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Filed under Bishop Arts District, Dallas, Oak Cliff, Recipes, Taco Week

An Interview With Steve Sando, Owner of Rancho Gordo

Steve Knows Beans

Photo Credit: Israel Valencia

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I first met Steve Sando online.  His passion for Mexican food was apparent.  I didn’t need to look into his eyes to see it. The love of Mexican culture and Mexico itself spilled onto the screen. I met him in person for the first time at the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco. He was hawking beans and I’d been given requests by Portlanders aplenty to mule some back north.

Since then, Steve has taken the lowly bean from a neglected legume to superstar-status ingredient. Sando’s company, Rancho Gordo, grows, imports and promotes heirloom and heritage varieties while working directly with consumers and chefs like Thomas Keller, Deborah Madison, Paula Wolfert and David Kinch.

Sando’s seed saving, bean production, and marketing efforts provide professional and home chefs with heirloom beans that would otherwise have been lost to history. The beans, along with corn, chiles, and tomatoes, have become key ingredients in the new American food revolution centered in Sando’s native San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, Sando and Rancho Gordo were named number two on Saveur magazine’s “The Saveur 100 list for 2008.” Bon Appetit magazine declared Sando one of the Hot 10 in the food world of 2009. Food + Wine magazine placed Steve “at the forefront of the current seed-saving movement.”  Steve’s two books are  Heirloom Beans and The Rancho Gordo Bean Growers Guide.

He now grows more than 25 varieties in California and works with small indigenous farmers in Mexico to import their heirloom beans for the U.S. market. He lives in Napa and travels frequently throughout the Americas.

Taco Trail: I use your beans at Mi Mero Mole, as you know, for frijoles charros. One time I ran out and tried regular pinto beans. I ended up giving the soup away rather than selling it because it was so much worse. It doesn’t even seem to matter which bean of yours I use for the soup.  It turns out great with every variety I’ve tried.  Why in the hell are your beans so damn good?

Steve Sando: My first guess would be that they’re fresh, as in less than a year old. I don’t want to tell you how old some commercial beans are. It’s not right. There are variations within pinto beans, but they are a very light colored bean and only get darker as they get older. You really want to eat them within two years if you can.

This will sound ridiculous, but most everyone at Rancho Gordo loves beans and none of us would tolerate an inferior product at this point. If there were problems, or even if beans were lackluster, bells would go off long before the problem got to me, let alone the consumer.

TT: Is there a region of Mexico with especially interesting or diverse beans? If so, what are some favorites and why? Continue reading

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Filed under California, interviews, Taco Week

An Interview With Chef Antonio Marquez of Lazaranda Modern Kitchen & Tequila

Chef Antonio Marquez

TacoWeekBannerI love Lazaranda‘s sweet, rice-and-beans layered lobster taco, an homage to the resort town of Rosarito Beach in Baja California. But the Dallas-area restaurant—co-owned by Mario Letayf and chef Antonio Marquez, partners in other restaurants Mexico—offers more than tacos. Its name refers to the restaurant’s specialty—grilling—and the preferred tool—la zaranda (a grilling basket). During a week-long visit from Mexico, Marquez, who ditched economics for culinary school in Paris, took time to answer some of our questions.

Taco Trail: Lazaranda specializes in grilling with a zaranda. Why did you and your business partners decide to go with that concept?

Antonio Marquez: The advantage of that implement is that you can cook in the grill any type of food using it, some food direct to the grill whit the basting, marination’s and sauces, will be difficult to handle in the direct grill, small pieces too are very easy to work with the zaranda.

TT: How did it influence what dishes were put on the menu?

AM: Monterrey is a grill-lovers city, the families and friends every weekend or event, meet in patios or terraces with all the different types of grilling equipment, they share their recepies and secrets. So using the zaranda gives diners that type of taste experience.

TT: When it came to adding tacos to the Lazaranda menu? Were there tacos you insisted be available? How did you decide what tacos to offer?

AM: First of all, grilled tacos, that’s because the grilled corn tortilla get’s a better flavor. They are easier to handle and last longer before getting soaked and the tortilla start to break. We can do all types of tacos. Remember that the tortilla becomes a plate to taste the flavors inside it. And I always try to put flavors and techniques for all the different customer preferences, grilled items, roasted, barbecue, fried, etc. Continue reading

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Lower Rio Grande Valley Tacos Illustrated

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TacoWeekBannerThe populist nature of tacos lends itself to lightheartedness and (sometimes bawdy) humor—just think of the latest taco meme or anthropomorphic tacos, L.A. Taco’s Taco Man. The editors and author of La Tacopedia understand this. That book is jammed with clever cartoons and art. Taqueria walls and facades are just as illustrated. Here is a selection of photos showcasing some of the taco art in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  Continue reading

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Filed under Brownsville, Rio Grande Valley, Taco Week, Tacos Illustrated, Texas

An Interview With Claire Weissbluth, Director of “Lonche: A Tale of Two Taco Trucks”

Claire Weissbluth

TacoWeekBannerIf you read this blog, odds are you have a favorite food truck, taco or otherwise. It might be a lonchera, a taco or catering truck, or it might be a slick, gourmet rig. And that’s fantastic. In most cases, you’re supporting a small business. These mom and pop operations deserve support. We at the Taco Trail, we’re partial to immigrant-owned concerns. Documentary filmmaker Claire Weissbluth shares our passion and sees beyond the quick-service tacos and kimchee fries. She sees the people. She see their stories, stories paved with sacrifice on the road toward the American Dream. Her latest project, Lonche: A Tale of Two Taco Trucks, features a truck servicing field laborers and a first-generation American immigrant’s  gussied up take on Mexican cuisine. It’s a stirring short that doesn’t take the easy way out.Weissbluth, who also goes by the moniker La Osa (The Bear), took time between film festivals to answer our questions.

Taco Trail:How did you come to be a documentary filmmaker?

Claire Weissbluth: I think I became really interested around 2004 when all these Iraq war documentaries started coming out. Although I was only in high school at the time, they made a big impact on me. I appreciated the critical perspective that they presented that I wasn’t getting through other mainstream media outlets. I went on to study Film and Latin American & Latino Studies at Hampshire College, and I became fascinated by using film as a medium to tell stories and to shed light on social issues.

TT: Your films show a love and respect for Latin American culture. What’s the source?

CW: Well, growing up in California it’s hard not to acknowledge and respect Latino culture because it is just so present everywhere and so vibrant. I live in the Mission District of San Francisco, which is full of amazing colorful murals and street art, not to mention so many great restaurants and taquerias. Often the first time that people are introduced to other cultures is through food, and in my case that’s definitely true. Although I’ve never been to Central or South America I’ve come to love pupusas, ceviche, empanadas, etc. I have been to Mexico a couple of times and was so touched by the warmth and generosity of the people I met. I also spent time in Cuba making my last documentary and I was very impressed by their creativity and resilience.

TT: From Lonche‘s trailer alone, the viewer gets and get a sense of the picture’s power and passion. Why did you want to share this story? Continue reading

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El Globo Taqueria

El Globo Front

TacoWeekBannerI headed to Dallas for the weekend with two things in mind: seeing my family and taking a trip to El Globo Taqueria in the heart of North Oak Cliff.

The 28 years El Globo has operated really say something about the quality of its tacos. The tacos here are adorned with cilantro and chopped onions on either flour or yellow corn tortillas. The corn tortilla tacos are served with two tortillas that have been lightly warmed on an oiled skillet, and come with three kinds of salsas: tomatillo and jalapeño, chile de arbol and tomato, and avocado with jalapeño.

The carne asada was tasty and was best complemented by the tomatillo and jalapeño salsa.

The barbacoa was moist, soft and appeared to have been cooked in its own fat. Frankly, you can’t go wrong with meat that increases its own tastiness. Continue reading

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A National Taco Day Taqueria List

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Come National Taco Day, Friday, you’ll be required to eat a plethora of tacos. You’ll be overwhelmed with choices. So, we thought we’d offer a few choices. The following selections were compiled with the help of fellow taco enthusiasts across the United States. If your city is mentioned below, these joints are where you grab a taco or nine, especially if you haven’t visited it. Adventure is an integral component of the enjoyment of tacos.

California

Colonia Taco Lounge, 13030 E. Valley Blvd., La Puente, CA 91746, 626-363-4691, Facebook. Coliflor with a caper salsa on tortillas molded by ex-Bouchon head baker’s hands (te la puedes imaginar), taco de chayote with calabacita succotash, pork and kabocha squash pumpkin carnitas with a salsa seca

Diablo Steak

Diablo Taco, 3129 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026, 323-666-4666, Facebook, Twitter, www.diablotaco.com. Coca-Cola asada, caramelized onions and white bacon beans (pictured) or the maple-fried chicken and kale.

El Faisan y El Venado, 231 N. Ave. 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042, 323-257-1770. Escabeche Oriental Continue reading

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Filed under California, Canada, Florida, Illinois, National Taco Day, Oregon, Taco Week, Texas

Welcome to a Special Taco Week at the Taco Trail

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The corporate-manufactured holiday National Taco Day, October 4, offers us a greater opportunity to share our love of tacos and the taco life. Today through Saturday (when we’ll offer our Taco Internet roundup), the Taco Trail will feature interviews with culinary professionals, bloggers, writers and a documentary filmmaker. We’ll offer a grandote taqueria list, drop some tacos illustrated, post a review and make an announcement. Of course, we can’t forgot the Oct. 2 Tacos & Beer Dinner at Urban Taco Uptown (RSVP here) as well as deals from your favorite taco shop (Taco Cabana’s Oct. 1 offer comes to mind). Taco Day’s got nothing on Taco Week.

Catch up on Taco Week posts.

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